Rapier Armor and Equipment Resources

NOTE: None of the vendors below are being endorsed, guaranteed or otherwise recommended by the SCA or it’s subordinate organizations. This list IS incomplete. The businesses listed are solely responsible for the quality and safety of their product. This listing is merely for reference. Some of the information provided at the links below MAY be out of date. Always verify the latest Society and Kingdom Rules before making a purchase.

Orlando Giovanni

Getting Advice

While I try to cover as much about equipment selection here you should always seek the advice of your local experienced fencers. This includes local marshals, White Scarves and Masters of Defense. These folks should either be able assist you or find others who can.

What do you need to participate in Rapier in the SCA?

Well, at first visit your local group should have loaner gear available. You will need to bring your own athletic cup though *chuckle*, and probably long pants and closed toe shoes. If you decide you like rapier you’ll want to get your own kit:

Minimum Requirements:

  • Fencing Mask
  • Gorget (throat and cervical vertebrae protection)
  • Body Armor
  • Hood
  • Gloves
  • Weapon

What should you get first? Do you have to get it all at once?

Depending on your budget you can outfit yourself completely or assemble your kit one piece at a time relying on loaner equipment to fill in the gaps. What you get first will probably depend on what is most difficult to borrow locally and/or what is most difficult to borrow in a size that fits you. Gloves and hoods are the least expensive. Hoods, body armor & gorgets can be made or purchased.

Fencing Mask

The requirement is for a 12kg fencing mask. You can find these on any Olympic fencing equipment site and a few SCA specific ones. I highly recommend getting one with a removable, washable lining/bib. These range in price from a bottom of around $45 to almost $300. They will require some minimal maintenance because they will get minor dents that need pushed out and the coating on the mesh will eventually be worn or scraped here and there requiring rust preventative measures be taken (your breath is quite moist from the perspective of steel *grin*). Stainless versions resist rust better but affect visibility more in bright lighting due to reflection from the mesh. I used to list some vendors here, but it’s easier to search google or amazon.
Or you can always get an SCA Rapier Helm:

Gorget

The requirement is for rigid material covering the throat down to the jugular notch, and covering the cervical vertabrae in the back. Rigid material is defined as material that will not deform under a 12kg pressure (e.g. a mask punchtester), some items that should pass the rigidity test are a. 22 gauge stainless steel (0.8 mm), b. 20 gauge mild steel (1.0 mm), c. 16 gauge aluminum, copper, or brass (1.6 mm) or d. One layer of hardened heavy leather (8 ounce, 4 mm minimum). The following links are to gorgets starting at $45 and up:

Or you can always make your own after talking to your local Rapier Marshal:

Body Armor

The entire torso (the chest, back, abdomen, groin, and sides up to and including the armpits) must be covered with puncture-resistant material. For more explanation of just exactly what “puncture resistant material” is and various options, read “The Rapier Armor Cheat Sheet.” There are various people either local to you or your kingdom, or on sites like Ebay that will sew custom rapier armor for you, but please make sure that they know the requirements of your kingdom.

Make it Yourself Armor

Many parents make armor for their youth fencers. You will see everything from fancy Italian doublets to plain old t-tunics. The important thing is that the garment meet the SCA armor requirements for fencing. You can learn more by looking at the Rapier Armor Cheat Sheet.

Used Armor

The SCA generally prefers adult fencers to wear armor that appears to be “medieval or renaissance” when entering a tournament BUT it is “culturally acceptable” in the SCA for youth fencers to wear modern or less than medieval looking fencing armor. Kids are still growing and it can be expensive to outfit them every time they have a growth sprt. You can usually find modern fencing armor for sale on Ebay or in used sports equipment stores. This armor meets the standards for SCA legal armor and it’s an easy way to outfit your kids quickly.

New Ready to Wear Armor

Warning…these options are going to be expensive! The following links show ready-to-wear body armor that, in some combination or other, will get you out on the field AND possibly looking quite nice:

Or you can always make your own. Check out the Armor Cheat Sheet

Hood

The portion of the head not covered by the fencing mask must be covered with puncture-resistant material. People have met this requirement in various ways. There is the snug fitting hood/coif that covers the head and is worn under the fencing mask (and often under the gorget), the large hood/drape that fits over the mask and head and the permanently attached drape that is connected to the back of the fencing mask and covers the required areas. Every armor provider mentioned above also sells hoods.
Or you can always make your own:

Gloves

Yours hands must be protected by gloves, preferably overlapping significantly with your shirt sleeves. You can buy leather “gauntlet” style gloves that come with a pre-attached long cuff, or you can find a pair of gloves that fit and make and attach a cuff yourself. Gloves do not have to be leather (check locally first though) but strong gloves are required. Many people can find rose style gardening gloves locally that come with a long sturdy cuff. Motorcycle gauntlets are another good source, the insulated ones proving quite useful on chilly days while the unlined ones are nicer in warmer weather. Leather gloves will come in pigskin, cow, goat or deerskin. Pigskin and deerskin are both generally much softer and more flexible than cowhide, although they tend to be less rugged. Goatskin is a good middle ground Nevertheless, I think the improved grip and feel of the deerskin is worth more than the longer lifespan of the cowhide. The following links are affordable gloves with gauntlet style cuffs:

Weapons

Finding weapons for Youth Rapier can be difficult. In Ansteorra each division has it’s own weapon requirements. The divisions are primarily used to determine what weapons are used during competition. Division 1 is restricted to light rapier for tournaments. Division 2 can compete with either light rapier or heavy rapier. Division 3 can compete only with heavy rapier. You find descriptions of each in the Society Fencing Handbook. Divisions are defined in the Ansteorra Marshal’s Handbook and the Youth Rapier Rules Updates.

My NUMBER ONE RECOMMENDATION is to never purchase a weapon without trying out a similar weapon and seeking advice. For instance, if you’d like to purchase a Darkwood starter rapier then find someone with that weapon and try it out first. Youth fencers can always find a used weapon or borrow a weapon from loaner gear.

Considerations When Selecting a Weapon

  • Balance of the Weapon: Many fencers will focus heavily on the balance of a weapon. The balance is point along the blade where the sword “balances” and does not fall forward or backward. Some fencers prefer a slightly tip heavy weapon while others prefer the weapon the balance directly at the ricosso. For most youth fencers I recommend a balance just above the ricosso.
  • Overall Weight of the Weapon: Many fencers neglect to consider the overall weight of a weapon. Most modern epees (light rapier) are 27 to 35 oz. overall weight. In my experience, heavy rapiers have a surprisingly broad range of weights from as light as two pounds to as heavy as five and half. The weight can be from the blade itself or based on the weight and complexity of the hilt and pommel. This also makes most heavy rapiers much heavier than most light rapiers. When considering the overall weight parents need to know their children. Most division 1 kids cannot wield a heavy rapier for any period of time and will initially have a great deal of trouble with light rapiers at first. Division 2 kids vary the most and you may have to work them up to heavy rapier slowly. Healthy division 3 kids will usually have the same problems that adults do with the heavy rapier. They will struggle at first but slowly build strength and stamina. As always, know your kids limits AND check with your doctor if you have any concerns about the weight of the rapier.
  • Length of the Blade: The correct blade length depends on MANY factors that we cannot possibly go over in details here. Length selection is the combination of many factors including the height of the fencer, their preferred weight and balance, and the style of combat they intend to study. Seek out the advice of local marshals, white scarves and Masters of Defense in determining what length of blade your child should choose.
  • Type of Guard: You can find many types of guards. The type of guard you choose affects the protection provided to your primary hand. For youth fencers I highly recommend finding a guard that includes finger rings and quillons at a bare minimum. Also, remember that the guard selection can increase or decrease the overall weight of the weapon AND it can affect the balance as well. For SCA combat, I usually recommend against bell guards. These are extremely protective guards BUT they generally are after the period that the SCA tries to stay in (600CE to 1600CE).

Used Weapons

You can find many used weapons on sites like EBAY and the SCA Trading Post and other sites on Facebook. YOu can also find used weapons for sale in your local group. As always check with local experienced fencers before making any purchase.

Brand New Weapons

For brand new heavy rapiers there are many vendors here are several of them:

Rapier Armor Requirements Cheat Sheet

Rapier Armor Material Reference 

Rigid Material 

Puncture-resistant material that will not significantly flex, spread  apart, or deform under pressure of 12 Kg applied by a standard  mask tester, repeatedly to any single point. Examples of rigid  material are: 

  • 22 gauge stainless steel (0.8 mm) 
  • 20 gauge mild steel (1.0 mm) 
  • 16 gauge aluminum, copper, or brass (1.6 mm) 
  • one layer of hardened heavy leather (8 ounce, 3.18 mm) 

Puncture-resistant material 

Any fabric or combination of fabrics that will predictably withstand  puncture. These materials need only be tested at the marshal’s  discretion, refer to Appendix 1 of the Rapier Handbook on Testing  Standards. PUNCTURE RESISTANT MATERIAL DOES NOT  INCLUDE ANY LAYER OF ELASTIC MATERIAL. 

Examples include, but are not limited to: 

  • four-ounce (1.60 mm) leather 
  • four layers of heavy poplin cloth (trigger) 
  • ballistic nylon rated to at least 550 Newtons 
  • 6.5 oz linen at 3 Layers 
  • commercial fencing clothing rated to at least 550 Newtons 

Abrasion-resistant material  

Material that will withstand normal combat stresses (such as being snagged by an unbroken blade) without tearing. Examples  include, but are not limited to: 

  • broadcloth 
  • a single layer of heavy poplin cloth (35% cotton, 65% polyester;  “trigger” cloth) 
  • sweat pants opaque cotton, poly-cotton or lycra/spandex mix tights

Youth Rapier Rules Updates

The following updates have been submitted to the Earl Marshal for addition to the Ansteorra Marshal’s Handbook. Unless otherwise stated these conventions will be observed by all youth rapier marshals and combatants in Ansteorra until the final version of the handbook is published.

Youth Rapier Combat

Ansteorra shall adhere to Society Youth Combat conventions except as amended below. Many terms used here are already defined in the Society Fencing Manual (i.e. Light Rapier) or the Society Youth Combat Manual. Please be sure to cross reference all applicable rules.

Youth Rapier Authorizations

Ansteorra shall have 3 youth rapier combatant authorizations and 1 youth rapier marshal authorization. Combatant authorizations are defined below in Combatant Divisions. Youth rapier marshal authorizations shall be granted in accordance with the society youth combat handbook.

Youth Rapier Authorizing marshals shall be designated by the Kingdom Youth Rapier Marshal (KYRM) and may conduct authorizations in both combatant and marshal authorizations in accordance with kingdom and society rules.

Youth Rapier Combatant Divisions

Ansteorra shall divide youth rapier combatants, also known as youth fencers, into 3 divisions by age. Each division shall have a separate authorization. In order to compete in youth rapier tournaments, youth fencers must be authorized in the division that matches or is greater than the division they are competing in. All divisions can train with any standard Society off-hand weapon or parry device.

The following table describes each division.

DivisionAgesWeapons Requirements and RestrictionsAuthorization Requirements
16-9Light Rapier required for TournamentsPlastic are allowed only for Practice and outside of KingdomDraw and Push cuts are not legal blowsAn Authorizing marshal must ensure the fencer is safe and can properly calibrate blows with a light rapierObeys holds and other directives from the marshal
210-13Light Rapier and Heavy Rapier allowed in all cases. In tournaments and practice, youth fencers must match weapons. If one fencer wishes to use a light rapier, they both must.Draw and Push cuts may be usedAll Division 1 Requirements and the Authorizing marshal ensures the fencer:understands the armor requirementscan fence safely with a heavy rapier.Can acknowledge blows
314-17Heavy Rapier onlyDraw and Push cuts may be usedAll division 2 requirements apply. Authorization requirements are the same as the Society adult rapier authorization. 

Authorizing in Divisions Below or Above the Combatant’s Age

Some youth fencers may be of larger stature than the average for their age and division. In these cases an authorizing marshal with the consent of the fencer and the fencer’s parent(s) may authorize a fencer in a higher division than their age. With the same restrictions a youth fencer may be authorized in a lower division if they are not already authorized in a higher division.

Youth Rapier Marshal Reporting Requirements

Local Branch marshals are required to file a monthly report to the Kingdom Youth Rapier Marshal, due no later than the 5th day of the following month.

Each regional and principality Youth Rapier Marshal of Ansteorra must submit a report each quarter. Quarterly reports are due no later than the 5th day of March, June, September, December.

Any youth Marshal in Charge at an event must submit an event report to the Kingdom Youth Rapier Marshal no later than 30 after the event.

The format and other details of each report will be published and distributed separately through official channels by the KYRM.

New Vindheim Youth Rapier Marshal

Greetings Ansteorra,
I’m pleased to announce that Master Elric Dracwin (Patrick Swanson) has been selected to be the first Youth Rapier Marshal of Vindheim. He has served as the Weisenfeuer Youth Rapier Marshal for several years and I expect he’ll do an excellent job as the Principality Youth Rapier Marshal.

Maestro Orlando Giovanni
Kingdom Youth Rapier Marshal