Fencing can be a complicated sport, and the equipment is no exception. Epees, masks, jackets, pants, plastrons, gloves, body cords… There’s a lot of equipment in a fencer’s kit and a lot of places to buy it from. Today we’ll be talking about the best vendors to buy your equipment from and the vendors you should avoid purchasing from.
Every vendor has their pros and cons, and as you become more experienced you’ll find the equipment you do and don’t like from each. Seasoned competitors rarely stay loyal to a specific vendor, instead buying specific pieces of equipment from each to build out a fully custom kit.
Absolute Fencing Gear is by far the biggest and best known fencing equipment vendor in the US. We highly encourage our beginner fencers to purchase their first set of gear from Absolute because of their low prices, good customer service, and really fast shipping. Their warehouse is located just two hours away in Bridgewater, NJ, so orders often arrive within two days. Absolute also has great quality intermediate level gear. However, highly experienced fencers sometimes stray from Absolute because their selection of “FIE” gear (the highest quality gear, certified by the International Fencing Federation) is somewhat limited.
The only true negative to Absolute is their armoring (the way they assemble epees). Epees purchased from Absolute often come out of the box malfunctioning, with wires not glued down all the way, etc. All of those things can be fixed, but it’s never a good thing to have to fix gear as soon as you buy it.
- Good selection of beginner & intermediate gear
- Reasonable prices
- Fast shipping
- Located nearby
- Sub-par armoring
- Small selection of FIE gear
Blue Gauntlet is another large equipment vendor similar to Absolute. Their overall selection is smaller, but they have a larger variety of FIE gear than Absolute. All of the equipment they sell is high quality and is a good choice for any level fencer. However, their website is clunky and outdated (sadly not uncommon in the fencing world) and their shipping times are longer than Absolute’s.
- Good selection of gear
- Reasonable prices
- Clunky website
Leon Paul is a luxury fencing equipment brand based in the UK. You can think of them as the Apple of the fencing world, with high-quality, high-priced gear and a very loyal fanbase. Unlike Absolute and Blue Gauntlet, they only sell their own brand of equipment so their selection is more limited. Some of their gear—especially their epees and body cords—uses proprietary parts, meaning that they can’t be mixed and matched with other brands. Beginners tend to stay away from Leon Paul due to the price tag, but they’re popular with experienced fencers. By far their most popular piece of equipment is their X-Change mask, which is widely considered to be the gold standard among competitive fencers.
- Very high-quality equipment
- Very expensive
- Limited selection
While Absolute, Blue Gauntlet, and Leon Paul are currently the most popular vendors in the US, they’re far from the only ones. There are many other smaller vendors around—far more than are listed here—most of which tend to have some kind of niche or specialty.
The Fencing Post carries a large variety of equipment from brands that are hard to find elsewhere. They aren’t a good choice for beginners, but they’re a favorite among experienced fencers who are trying to find a very specific piece of equipment.
Very similar to The Fencing Post, Alliance is best known for their wide variety of hard-to-find equipment, especially Italian brands. Their website is hard to use and shipping is expensive, but if no one else has what you’re looking for, you can probably find it at Alliance.
Radical Fencing has a small selection of equipment, primarily carrying a few European brands. They’re best known for their “Radical Innovations” like their Liberty Bag and their colorful chest protector straps.
Like the name suggests, Need a Blade’s specialty is blades. They have a very limited selection, only carrying one brand of blade (BF or Blaise Freres), but their prices are very low, shipping is free, and they have fantastic customer service.
Where Not to Buy Equipment
Don’t be fooled by the low prices on websites like Amazon, eBay, and AliExpress. None of these sites sell fencing equipment from reputable vendors and you should avoid purchasing from them (yes, even Amazon). At best, their gear is low-quality and uncomfortable; at worst, it’s a serious safety hazard.