Equipment Recommendations

Here is a list of equipment recommended by the Noble Science Academy, categorized by type.

Please contact us if any of the following links are dead, or if you have equipment recommendations not listed below.  Please note that Academy students are not required to purchase any of this gear to train, though most students will wish to purchase certain items.

Weapons
Longsword Wasters

Two kinds of longsword wasters are of high quality and work well in the bind:

The Rawlings synthetic wasters are cheap and good for working on cutting (they provide excellent audio feedback), but they are whippy and perform poorly in the bind and should not be purchased in place of one of the above swords.


Longsword Blunts & Federschwerter

Do not attempt to fence with Feders or (especially) blunts unless and until you have steel-appropriate protective gear (especially high-end gloves).  Two thirds of all injuries in HEMA occur with steel longswords (and most of these to the hands).

There are now so many manufacturers producing decent-quality Feders with which I have such little familiarity that I hesitate to make any recommendations of Feders at all.  If you are interested in getting a Feder, I recommend asking around on the HEMA Alliance forums for advice on what to get, or travel to a major HEMA event (such as SoCal Swordfight or IGX) and check out what people are using for yourself.  There is quite a bit of variety in Feder preferences, however, and you may not prefer what others prefer.  One note:  Although the Albion Meyer looks like a Federschwert, it is both particularly stiff and a bit short, which makes it a poor choice for a Federschwert (but it's a decent blunt).

There are also now quite a few reputable makers putting blunts on the market, many of which I have no experience.  Please note that while blunts are appropriate for drilling, they are generally not tournament-legal, and they are not as safe as Federschwerter.  I will briefly mention two of those with which I am familiar here:

  • The Hanwei Practical Hand-and-a-Half is the cheapest decent longsword blunt on the market.  It's not a great sword, but the balance is good and it handles reasonably well if you can get over the short hilt.
  • The Albion Liechtenauer has a superb reputation as a blunt.  While Albion no longer has the reputation it once did as the only maker of quality blunts at a reasonable price point, it is still one of the best.


Rapiers

A number of rapier manufacturers make good practice rapiers.  Some options:

  • The best rapier option for beginners is the Hanwei 37" Practical Rapier, sold by Kult of Athena
    • These are well-balanced, safe, and affordable.
  • Other reputable rapier makers include:
    • Darkwood Armory:  They have a good reputation as a mid-grade rapier maker.
    • Zen Warrior Armory:  Cheap with decent blades, but their quality control is sometimes lacking.
    • Alchem Inc:  Decent quality, relatively inexpensive, rapier manufacturer with a variety of styles available.
    • Sword Cutlerers (Individuals who fashion custom hilts to blades made by another manufacturer):
      • James the Just:  James is a cutlerer who does custom hilt work on standard blades.

Please note that shorter rapiers (35"-39") are generally preferable to longer rapiers, as longer rapiers make for poor cutting.  Most Academy students will have a 37" blade.

Also note that any rapiers without nails or buttons built into the tip of the blade will need to be tipped appropriately to be safe to use in class.  Do not assume that all rapiers designed for practice are safely tipped.  The opposite is generally true.


Arming Sword Wasters

While there are a few reasonable options for arming sword wasters, one is distinctly better:


Bucklers

Students are welcome to purchase steel bucklers if they prefer, but synthetic ones are generally much cheaper at a decent quality level (some steel bucklers are heavy and poorly balanced).  The following two options are reasonable choices for synthetic:

  • The Cold Steel Medieval Buckler, sold by Amazon
  • Brian Hunt's Buckler:  Brian's buckler is lighter and better balanced than its Cold Steel Counterpart, but is much more expensive.

 

Protective Equipment
Masks

If you want to fence in HEMA tournaments, you will need back-of-the-head protection.  This can be purchased separately from a mask from a number of vendors.  If you want an integrated solution (mask w/ built-in back-of-the-head protection), Absolute Force makes one at a very good value:

Any 3W (3-weapon) rated mask is fine for most HEMA contexts.  In particular, we've have good experiences with the following two brands:

The Academy has a few Large and Extra Large fencing masks available for purchase, as well.  Please contact Michael-Forest for details.

There are a few other high-end HEMA solutions, including:

  • Terry Tindall's Metal Masks
  • Brian Hunt's Sparring Helmet
    • These are beautiful ABS helmets that provide excellent protection (frankly, there's nothing better).  They are not ideal for tournaments, however, because the plastic exterior gets picked up by judges much more readily than a padded exterior, making incidental contact more likely to be called as a valid strike.


Gorgets (Throat Protection)

Any gorget that you can comfortably wear is fine under a mask (especially when combined with a jacket).  Probably the best combination of price, protection, and comfort currently on the market is the Destroyer Modz gorget:

For those interested in a steel gorget, the Stainless Gorget by WinterTree Crafts comes recommended, and is quite affordable.


Fencing Jackets

Any padded jacket or gambeson designed for HEMA should be adequate for tournaments or, though not required, for class.  The following jackets have all been extensively tested and work well:


Gloves

For rapier, any pair of gloves may work, though a lightly padded variety (such as Motocross) is ideal.

For longsword a good pair of lacrosse gloves are adequate for class, though dedicated HEMA gloves are better, and lacrosse gloves are generally not allowed in tournaments.  Dedicated HEMA options include:

  • Red Dragon Gloves, sold by Purpleheart Armory
    • These are more robust than lacrosse gloves, and are a good choice for class.  They are insufficient for work with steel, however (and are not allowed in some tournaments).
    • Also available in Large.
  • The Koning Glove by St Mark (these are on the lighter/less protective end of steel-level gloves)
  • Fechtschule Gdansk Sparring Gloves
  • AF HEMA Deluxe Fighting Gloves
    • These are a cheaper knock off of the Sparring Gloves above.  They're about as protective, but they aren't made as well and fall apart more quickly.
  • SPES Heavy Gloves
    • A mitten-style gauntlet with thick plastic plates.  It is recommended they be used with fingertip protectors.

There are a few other dedicated HEMA gloves on the market, but none of the other gloves I'm aware of are adequate for longsword.


Joint Protection

For synthetic longsword, any hard (and some soft) elbow protection can be fine, and it is common for people to use off-the-shelf solutions designed for other sports, like skating pads.  When combining hard elbow protection with jackets or gambesons, however, these can often restrict mobility.  One of the least restrictive options to wear over a jacket are the Elbow Cops sold by Dark Victory Armory.  Note that their cops come without cords, and will need to be drilled and attached using a cord that can hold up to abuse.  They also are unsuitable for use without a jacket.  Note that tournaments generally require hard elbow protection over (or under) a jacket.

For knee protection (against any weapon), hard construction knee pads can work well.  If you would like shin protection as well (strongly recommended for steel longsword), baseball catcher's shins are the best way to go.  Make sure you get a pair that fit you well.


Other

Cups are always encouraged for men, and required at tournaments.

A few tournaments require chest protection for women, and many fencers are more comfortable with chest protection in general.  Note that many women prefer unisex/men's chest protectors when they can fit into the latter, and those may be marginally safer.

 

Books
Longsword

I generally recommend going with the Wiktenauer for longsword manuals for those who have access to a proper instructor, though there are a few books that are recommended by the Community.

In particular, everyone seems to like the Academy of Historical Arts’ guide to the German Longsword:

For those interested in a hard copy of Fiore's text, Hatcher's translation is very well presented and is quite serviceable (but note that it is English-only):

If you’re looking for a pretty book to show off what we do, Ken Mondschein’s Fiore book works well.  Note that this does not work well as a text to study from, as it does not contain a full translation of the text:

Rapier

For rapier, we’re currently using Giganti’s as the basis of our curriculum:

Tom Leoni's translation may be the superior one, though it is more expensive:

Giganti is easy to understand and work from, and it’s a very sensible system.

His second book (with generally more advanced material) may be found here: