Fencing Equipment - Buyers Guide
Fencing starter sets cost around $140 - $150 for beginner gear consisting of the jacket, mask, glove, and foil used in most introductory classes. For women there is an additional cost of around $25 for a chest protector. If all you need is the foil and glove, those can be purchased for less than $50 total.
Check out the basic starter kits along with the options available.
Basic Gear: Besides a good attitude and a dose of patience, there are several things a fencer needs to actually fence. While equipping oneself for a competition is a little more involved than this, to get started one just needs:
- Fencing Jacket
- Practice weapon(foil, sabre or épée).
Many clubs will lend you equipment when you are just starting and doing a beginner course. Once you've completed the course, and are hooked, you will be encouraged to buy your own equipment. There are two options as a beginner, the first is to buy individual items one at a time until you have a full set and the second solution is to buy a “starter kit.” These fencing starter kits have all the “basic needs” items pre-assembled and sold as a bundle.
You have the list of equipment needed, but now what? Before you actually buy anything or start using your new equipment, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of the capability and purpose of each.
Jacket: The fencing jacket is to help protect the fencer. It’s important to select a jacket that is well made and that will provide adequate protection. The US does not have a set standard minimum requirement, though Europe requires a 350NW (CE Level 1) standard of protection. For international tournaments, the requirement is greater and "FIE" gear tests to the CE Level 2 (or 800NW) standard.
When starting out, the basic or 350NW uniforms are more than adequate. The main choices you'll need to make are between cotton or synthetic materials. Cotton tends to be cheaper, but is heavier and hotter while the synthetic materials are lighter weight but slightly more expensive.
Mask: The mask is also for protection so be sure to choose a mask that has sufficient interior padding, does not press on the top of the head or chin, and fits comfortably. Fencing masks also come in "standard" (or non-FIE) and FIE (internationally rated/approved) models. The standard masks will be adequate, but most fencers who are sticking with the sport for 2 or 3 years will upgrade to an FIE fencing mask for the extra protection (and status the "FIE" badge on their gear may have.)
Glove: Although you can buy non-electric gloves it is almost always worth buying a glove with a Velcro cuff that can be used for electric fencing. The Velcro cuff allows you to easily connect the body cord from under your sleeve to an electric weapon. These are sized either as small, medium or large, or in individual glove sizes. Going for gloves that are individually sized will usually get you a better fit but they tend to be more expensive.
Foil: The foil is designed for thrusting. The blade is very thin, with a blunted (or foiled) tip. Foil blades are flexible enough to bend upon striking an opponent, in order to prevent injuries.
Sabre: The sabre weighs only a couple of pounds is designed primarily for cutting. It differs from the other modern fencing swords, the épée and foil, in that it is possible to score with the edge of the blade. For the other two weapons, valid touches are only scored using the point of the blade.
Épée: French for "sword," this weapon is similar to a foil, but has a stiffer, V-shaped blade, has a larger bell guard, and is heavier. The epee is the only weapon in which the entire body is the valid target area and in which there are no rules of “right of way”.
Besides the basics, there exists a whole host of other pieces and parts which fencing equipment suppliers can provide for you. These consist of everything from spare blades and parts to replace broken gear to component upgrades, premium uniforms, and tools to help you test and fix your own gear.