Purchasing your equipment. (Updated February 2021)

Updated: Feb 15

Dear all, this entry is for those asking about purchasing equipment. We do provide all equipment for Beginner and Recreational classes but if you like the sport, we recommend purchasing at least a weapon, mask and glove.

Long story short:

The simplest thing would be to call Absolute Fencing ( 732-868-9003) and ask them to help measure your fencer over the phone. Tell them you are at Cardinal Fencing Academy and fence electric epee. Once you are fitted you can order online.

You need the following:

  • Youth 10 and under: Size 2 Electric Epee with Absolute Gold blade and French grip.

  • Youth 12 and up: Size 5 Adult Electric Epee with Absolute Gold blade and French grip.

  • For the Youth in that in-between age of 10ish to 12ish, it depends on the class/program you are attending. Most kids in this range have two short blades and one long one then transition to all long blades as they get older.

  • If you know you love the sport and are willing to spend the money please purchase the weapon with a BF Blue FIE Maraging blade in M(edium) density. Details below. It's much more expensive but worth it. Read below for more details. In general, FIE equipment is much higher quality and in the long run you'll end up spending more money on cheaper equipment.

  • Left or Right Handed glove. Fencers wear a glove only on the weapon hand.

  • Absolute mask

  • Front zip stretch jacket (Easier to put on than a back zip jacket.)

  • Knickers

  • Under arm protector

  • Plastic chest protector

  • Body Wire

  • Equipment bag that fits all of the above gear

I think this is a good beginners set to start with.

When ordering ask for the weapon to be canted either for a righty or leftie. Please insist over the phone or in the online order comments section. Canting is a process to configure the grip to place the hand in a relaxed position, thus making all actions easier on the wrist.

Once your equipment arrives, please practice putting it on a few times so that we do not waste any time at practice.

We also have an armorer that is happy to assemble weapons from spare parts and repair malfunctioning gear. Armory forms are by the whiteboard and you can contact Saunier Incorporated here.

Read below for more details.

There are two major types of gear: “FIE” and “Non-FIE”. FIE gear is usually better and more expensive, but you can fence in any event up to the Olympics with it. Non-FIE is everything else and you cannot fence some USFA events in it. Basically OK for local/non official tournaments only. As of 1982, all FIE fencing gear is over-engineered to be extremely safe and durable. I can give you an example: an Uhlmann “Olympian” jacket I bought lasted for 7 years, with no damage other than to the color, zipper and Velcro. A non “FIE” jacket would usually not last more than a year. A BF Maraging blade lasts for a year of hard practice if your technique is mostly good, any non FIE blade can snap as early as the first month.

So the best way to go is to buy some cheap stuff until you have a chance to try everything on at some tournament where vendors will be present. These days, our local competitions are drawing vendors to the site, because we’ve grown as a sport so much.

Here is the minimum you should purchase: (Even more details are in our Parent Handbook)

Mask: a lot of variations, it’s really up to you what you get. FIE masks will be rated at 1800 newtons, non-FIE anywhere from 500 to 1200. I’ve fired a 9mm round into an old FIE mask at a test range and it did not penetrate the mesh. They are that safe. The trick is washing them, some masks have a removable bib that you can put in the laundry. This is now my favorite mask because you can remove the pads and wash them.

Jacket: Any of the FIE stretch jackets are the best. They are light, stretch, breath well and are rated at at least 800N. You can downgrade from there.

Knickers: same as jacket, best to get a matching set.

Glove: no big deal, comfort is the most important thing here. Your glove should allow you to make a fist, but not bunch up at the fingers.

Under-arm protector: this is an additional protective layer over your neck and chest. Required for USFA events. Some fencers should, but do not wear one in practice because they have not taken the time to find one that breathes, stretches and is light. This piece of equipment tends to be treated as a formality until it catches a broken blade that slipped through a carelessly zipped jacket.

Bag: tons of variations, whatever works for you. Some fencers use rigid golf bags, works great…

Body Cord: lots of variations, Uhlmann is still the best, it’s very sturdy, but the Chinese and other knock-offs are not bad at all. Hard to screw up three wires and two plugs. Make sure you specify you want an epee cord, the foil and saber ones are different.


BF Blue Maraging blade. Ultra-Light Titanium Guard. German point and wire with NEP Screws. Harut Cherry Pro french grip or Visconti pistol grip. Uhlmann socket. Clear pad. As your coach, this is the only unit of gear I will insist on specific parts and method of putting it together. I recommend not getting a fully assembled weapon from the vendor, as they will usually do a careless job of putting it together, and you will have to adjust it anyway. Getting a wired blade is ok, but it’s usually best to wire the blade yourself as well. Here's a good anatomical description of modern fencing swords.

The weapon assembled from the parts listed below is the “Coach Ilya Special”. It is very light, near perfectly balanced and durable.

Blade: A maraging “BF FIE” blue or white blade is the best on the market. There are now two densities available "M" for medium and "D" for dense. All beginners and Y12 fencers need to start on an M blade then move up to a D after two seasons of fencing.

“BF” is the forge, and many vendors put their own mark on it, so do not get confused by that. It will have a specific stamp on the blade. The blue ones tend to be just a bit more flexible at the upper 20% and are possibly lighter. The white ones are just a bit more stiff. These factors vary a bit from batch to batch, but both are very good and can last up to a year if you hit correctly. Every once in a while someone finds a great batch of non-BF FIE blades, but this has been inconsistent.

Tip/wire/springs: German only. There is yet to be a tip created to beat German precision engineering. The knock-off Chinese, French and Russian tips all fail much quicker and use softer metal, therefore get sticky faster. Today we have NEP Screws which are very easy to use. The German wires use a plastic insulation layer underneath the cloth insulation, and that protects the wire from shorting out against the blade much better. The springs are not that big a deal, any type will do.

Guard: Ultra Light only. Many vendors sell light guards, and you need to get the lightest possible. The weight of the guard affects balance of the blade, and therefore precision. Vendors call their guards different things, so you have to talk to them and ask for the lightest. The Uhlmann aluminum and titanium lights are “Ultra light”, the Negrini ultralight alloy is great.

Socket: any will do, but the Uhlmann are the best for conductivity and “PitA” factor.

Pad: These days clear pads are required for competition.

Grip/Pommel: Very important, will affect how you fence a great deal. Two major types: the french and the pistol. All my students should start with a French grip. The reason is technique related and that you can always cut down the tang of a blade and make it a pistol grip, but not otherwise. A beginner is much better trained with the French grip, because it forces to use proper leverage, fingers and footwork instead of brute force. After a few months of lessons, you can try the pistol grip. In general, the French grip gives you a few extra inches of blade and is used by footwork oriented, absence of blade fencers. The pistol grip is for those who prefer more power on the blade. In my opinion, most actions that are thought of as to be better for pistol grip can be done with the french as well, if you “choke up” on it. That means hold it close up to the guard so that your knuckles touch against the metal. Gives you better leverage, which combined with perfect technique can send the opponent’s blade flying out of the way. Harut Fencing Grip. Specifically the Cherry Pro. Absolute also has them.

Pistol grippers should use a non insulated Visconti small or medium sized grip.

Both styles should be available from Absolute.

There are a lot of opinions on grips, it can all get very personal, but work with your coach to at least find a starting point and then ask for a variation if you like.

Summary: You can shop around for all the parts, but I will insist on a German tip, as light a guard as possible and a rubber over metal or rubber over wood french grip.

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