Art of Fencing, Art of Life

The Best Fencing Swords of 2020

Illustration to the Best Fencing Swords 2020 - Olympic Bout in Men's Epee

Where can you find a definitive guide to the best fencing gear ever? You know, a comprehensive, exact list of the best fencing swords that will tell you exactly what you need to purchase for your fencer in a handy dandy blog that you can quickly zip through on your smartphone while you wait for that zoom meeting to start?

Not here. Not anywhere. Such a thing does not exist, because buying the best fencing sword is not that simple. It’s actually simpler than that. 

“Best sellers” can be deceiving

Anyone who has been fencing for a while will tell you that it’s a niche sport. You have to be a fencer in order to understand fencing. Sometimes we’ll run across information online that’s been written by non-fencers who are trying to get some clicks, and that’s frustrating because it’s not reliable and can lead new fencers especially in the wrong direction. 

The gear, the rules, the conventions of fencing, these are specific to our sport and it’s simply not possible to understand them any other way than practicing fencing. 

I recently had the parent of a new fencer come to me after having ventured out into an online shopping spree for her Y10 daughter. She asked me whether she should choose the “best” fencing sword for her daughter, or whether that sword was too advanced for the little girl just yet. The sentiment from the parent was genuine and honest, and it’s important to pause here to appreciate the way that this parent wanted to do the right thing by her child. That’s a great thing. 

I was curious about what she wanted to purchase as I had no clue what she was talking about, so I asked her to send me the URL so that I could check them out and potentially recommend one. She had a few, most from a review site that offers lists of the “best of” everything from toys to mattresses to heart rate monitors to hidden cameras. 

The piece that she’d been reading had some factual looking information. It listed the length of the fencing swords, the type of grip, the material they were made of, their weight, their brand, and a few more seemingly important and legitimate statistics. The write ups about each sword sound professional. 

The first sword she came to me with was a best seller on Amazon in the Fencing Sabre category. It’s called the “Excalibur Color Guard Fencing Saber”, and it’s one of many fencing swords available on Amazon. All of those people who were buying the fencing sabre couldn’t be wrong could they? After all, Amazon is a bastion of modern buying and selling. 

Here’s what the Excalibur Color Guard Fencing Saber looks like on Amazon.

Excalibur Color Guard Fencing Saber - "Best Fencing Sword" 2020

And here’s a picture of it in action from the comments on Amazon.

That’s right, this is not at all a fencing sword – it’s a color guard sword! For those who might not be familiar, color guard (or flag corps) is related to marching band and it’s a form of dance. The dancers spin and twirl flags, imitation rifles, and yes . . . sabres. This was not at all a fencing sword – it was a piece of color guard equipment!

Frankly, when I saw the sword, I didn’t know what my reactions should be. Part of me was blowing up with laughter, and part of me was terrified of what kind of information must be out there. What would happen if some young fencer drew their “best seller sword” in class and charged toward an unsuspecting classmate?

Parents and new fencers, please stay away from “fencing gear review” sites that are not otherwise devoted to fencing gear of fencing sport. 

Finding the right fencing gear

Getting the right fencing equipment that meets all of the criteria, including being robust enough to protect the fencer, having a long life in the use of fencers, and being relatively budget friendly (sorry to disappoint, but equipping a fencer is going to cost a few hundred dollars!) is mission impossible for families new to the sport. 

A while back, I wrote a guide on how to purchase a fencing gear, which has a ton of information about finding the right gear for a fencer. I also recommend this book to many of our new fencers. Almost every time I send this information out, the result is the same. After skimming through the book, parents always ask me to order the fencing equipment for them. Why? It becomes immediately apparent to them that all of these options, configurations, choices, and sizes are too advanced for a newbie to navigate. They realize that they don’t even know which questions to ask. 

There are ways to find the right kind of fencing gear, and it does not have to be hard or overwhelming.

Here are three authorities that you can reliably trust in fencing.

1. Specialty fencing gear companies

Don’t even contemplate purchasing fencing gear from a site that is not a specialty fencing site. Not one piece. 

Stay away from Walmart, from Amazon, even from Big 5 or Dick’s Sporting Goods. None of these are good places to buy fencing specific gear. Non-fencing specific gear is a different story. We can wear standard sports shoes in fencing, which you can get anywhere (you can look here for our guide to fencing shoes). Other non-fencing specific gear would be things like your t-shirt that goes under your uniform, towels, yoga mats, water bottles, etc. 

Any specialized gear, from the glove to the knickers to the fencing mask, etc., should only come from fencing companies. These might be manufacturers like Absolute Fencing Gear, Leon Paul, Negrini, PBT, Allstar and Uhlmann, etc., or they might be distributors like Blue Gauntlet, The Fencing Post, Alliance Fencing Equipment, etc. 

Bottom line – if you see items for another sport being sold on a site, that’s not where you want to buy your gear from.  

2. Your fencing club and fencing coach

Even better than going online for equipment is to go to your fencing club or your fencing coach.

This is your best source of information about where to buy and what to buy, whether they order it for you or not. They will be able to choose the right configuration and pieces for you and your specific needs as a fencer. Depending on the club, they might have it in stock. The bonus of buying through your club (if they offer gear purchase, as some do and some don’t), is that you are supporting your club directly as well. 

3. Your fellow clubmates

Used fencing gear is out there, but it isn’t always easy to come by. Check with your local club members to see if they have gear that they don’t need anymore. Fencers often outgrow equipment while it is still useful, or they might upgrade to better equipment so that their old stuff is still usable. Realize that this is not a guarantee, and so you will likely end up having to go for new equipment. 

Fellow fencers in your club will also be able to tell you where they got their equipment and what their experiences were. Trusted word of mouth is always a plus. The fencing community is a close one, so you can rely on those fencing families to help navigate gear purchases!

Outside of these three methods of getting gear, steer clear. Anywhere else that you go for fencing equipment is likely to get you in trouble, eventually becoming nothing more than a waste of finances and a waste of time, besides being hugely frustrating!

What about getting a good deal on fencing equipment?

I’m sorry to break this to you, but there is no magic place to get a huge discount on fencing gear. It is expensive, and that is just the reality of the sport. Price differences on fencing gear are nominal, whether you order them directly from a manufacturer or through your local club. You might save a dollar or two by going through the manufacturer, but you’ll spend extra time figuring out and fretting over whether you’ve got the right equipment. Used fencing equipment is a viable option, but be wary of buying online. Stick with local club members who you know and can trust. 

Ask the experts, not the internet

The bottom line is that if you want to have a good laugh, click over and read the descriptions of the weapons in this article. There are some real gems in here, and I must applaud the way that a skillful writer could craft such beautiful nonsense about each weapon. I frankly have a very hard time choosing my favorite, and it’s not even April 1st yet. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments! 

I do understand that this whole guide was created as a way to provide links for their popular categories like hockey sticks and gold clubs, but as an expert who is reading the total nonsense about fencing swords, I am not sure I would trust this site in any other categories. Which is a shame, but it is also the reality of the internet. 

When you want to ask what the “best fencing sword” for you to use is, forget the internet and forget any online reviews. The best person to ask this question is your fencing coach. The answer to this will vary from person to person, and from coach to coach. That’s because this is a personal sport, not one size fits all. 

Here are some examples of the variation in fencing sword needs.

  • If your daughter is a 7 year old beginner doing foil, maybe the best weapon for her would be a light french grip foil size #0, with a lightweight guard
  • If you son is a big and physically well-developed advanced fencer that trains a lot, then Uhlmann FIE blade with titanium guard might be the right investment
  • If you child is a 12 year old beginner that does fencing occasionally, say once a week, and is not yet sure where their heart lies, then an entry level weapon would be a good one. For example, one with an STM, non FIE blade

For someone who has been around a lot and knows a thing or two about fencing, then the best thing to do might be to go to the physical store and configure your own weapon by testing different blades for their stiffness and bending points, then configuring the grip to the shape that you want it to be, or ordering the parts online from one of your trusted sources. A fencing weapon is an extension of the fencer, and over time it is important that the fencer embraces that personal relationship to their weapon.

There is no such thing as the “best” fencing sword in the way that there is a “best” blender or a “best” lawn mower. It depends on the place that the fencer is in their fencing journey, their ability, their needs, and their access. The heaviest FIE blade which is best for an Olympian is not the best for a beginner eight year old. 

We should take everything we read online with a grain of salt. Well, except perhaps for this blog. 

Just joking! Take what we say with a heavy sprinkling of salt as well. In fencing, you should let your coach and your fencing club be your guide. We are a close community, with many different opinions. The trouble here was that non-fencers put their two cents into the conversation for perhaps less than pure reasons. 

What’s the best fencing sword of 2020? It’s yours of course. 


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1 Comment

  1. R

    Excellent! I’m always amazed when an eight-year-old comes to the strip outfitted with top-of-the-line that they’ll outgrow in short-shrift. I bought my half-priced FIE competition knickers from a competitor’s mother a month after she bought them for her fast-growing son. My entry-level practice mask was given to me by my sparring partner after used for only one competition. N.B. Blue Gauntlet manufactures equipment as well as distributes others’.

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