A Guide for Buying Competition Fencing Gear
The information below is generally true for all fencers, but there are some differences depending on whether you're at our Glendale or Countryside YMCA location. Those differences are noted.
Tournament fencing is a long-term investment, there's no doubt. We want you to know what you're in for!
Do I need this?
Are you or your child is fencing regularly at tournaments, or at our Glendale location. If that's true, you really need your own electric gear. You don't need any of this to fence at Countryside for now, though we rarely fence electric.
Can I get some non-electric stuff first?
Sure. A non-electric starter set runs $150-200. See my recommendations below on type of weapon handle and tip. Also, go ahead an pay extra for the mask with the conductive bib. It may save buying a new mask later.
When you show up on the strip at a USFA tournament, fencing foil, you must have the following at minimum:
- USFA Membership ($70 August-July)
- Pay the tournament fee (average $20 per event such as Women's Foil)
- Over-the-knee socks (plus shoes, of course)
- 1 pair Knickers
- 1 Jacket
- 1 Chest Protector (required for ladies only)
- 1 Underarm protector (plastron)
- 1 Glove
- 1 Mask with a conductive bib
- 2 Mask cords
- 2 Working electric foils
- 2 Working body cords
Yikes! How much does all this cost? Do I have to buy it all at once? How long will it last?
Let's take the last question first.
How long will it last?
The items most likely to fail the soonest are the foil and body cord. Electric foils have many parts, and can be assembled by hand. You do need tools to do that, though. What will most often break/fail in the foil are the blade and the wire. You can usually reuse the barrel, tip, springs, screws, etc.
Here are two links showing the anatomy of a foil. The first link includes pictures of other required equipment.
How long will it fit?
That depends on genetics and age, right? Kids grow. Parents understand this better than anyone. When buying for kids in the early days, it's best to buy a little large. Unless your kid's a prodigy, it won't affect his/her competition performance.
Do I have to buy it all at once?
No. Within reason, CY can lend out some equipment to augment your purchases. I may need to charge some kind of fee if it's too often, to offset the maintenance, but haven't talked with the Y about that. Let's address that as needed.
How much does all this cost?
If you're starting with nothing, a complete electric starter set (with one electric foil) runs about $350. I know. "My kid better really love fencing."
There are several places to purchase from online (but nowhere close to our area). Below I link to Absolute Fencing's site. At the end of the email, I include links to other suppliers.
Note that this set includes a bag.
Want to get a set that includes two foils/body cords, and be competition-ready? It'll be a little over $400.
What if I already have some gear?
Recommended Gear/Weapon Choices
The choices when buying gear can be bewildering. Here's what I'd get where there's a significant choice. In most cases I don't go for extra cost, but in a few cases I do.
Sizes: Check the web site size charts carefully! You can return if something doesn't fit. But a size or two larger for kids.
Handedness: Be careful to choose the correct hand. Sometimes they don't default to right-handed.
Jacket: Front zip.
Foil Grip: AF Vis Pistol Grip. This stands for "Absolute Fencing Visconti" They come in five sizes, so be sure to find one that fits. For kids 10 and under, Small will work. For teens and adults, Medium and Large are good. For reference, the club has Medium and Large, and kids use the medium without issue. (S
Blade Size: If 10 or under then #2, else #5.
Details: The lower the number, the shorter the blade. Blades run from 30 in to 35 in. If 10 or under, choose #2 (or #0 if really small or young). If age 10-13, choose #5 if you can, but if he/she is smaller then #2 or #4. Teens/adults, choose #5.
Point: German (+$7). German and French points/parts are not interchangeable. Please buy German. They last longer, and I can better help you with armory. Whatever you get, be consistent!
Bodycord: 2-prong. Do not buy bayonet. They fail more easily, and in a pinch you're more likely to be able to find a friend with a 2-prong weapon to borrow.
About that "minimum"
Two complete foils/body cords at minimum. Many fencers bring three, so there's a backup. And when stuff starts breaking, you'll be buying parts and tools.
Here's what I love, though. It's a great--if sometimes frustrating!--way to learn and teach about taking care of your stuff. A little electronics. Making things work. Patience. Most fencers end up taking great pride in working on their own gear.
I've used Absolute for a long time. Their gear is good, though I sometimes have complaints. Here are other established vendors. Shop around.
The Fencing Post (good prices. I might try them myself! I don't see starter sets, though)
Blue Gauntlet (some starter sets)