Arms & Armor Two-Ring Rapier
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
The European Renaissance is seen by most as a return to classical ideals. Science and math were praised, and beauty, form, and proportion were prized as natural modes of being. An educated man was expected to understand Aristotelian physics and art, and to live his life with a code of honor that reflected his stature as a man. In all of the aspects of a man's life was he to uphold these ideals, and nowhere is this more apparent then when a man took up the sword.
Learning fencing in the Renaissance was not only about self-defense, it was also about learning grace and poise and showing outwardly the beauty and form of the human body. Learning fencing was also about health and for art; studying the principles of geometry and timing and combining the methods of reason and sense with the concept of honor and placing those against the chaos of combat. To duel another man was to place one's own life on the line and rely on a lifetime of honed abilities.
The rapier was a popular choice of civilian sidearm in the Renaissance and its grace and elegance combined with its deadliness have captured the interest of many modern collectors. There are a number of production companies that make rapier replicas, but few have earned the impressive reputation of Arms & Armor (A&A).
A&A is well-known in the American production sword world, being one of the old-timers in the business of functional historical replicas. While they make a number of excellent historical weapon replicas, their rapiers in particular are among the highest quality, historically accurate reproductions of their kind on the market.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.
This is a wonderful example of a rapier of its type. But make no mistake, this is not going to work for Errol Flynn-style fencing. This sword has a degree of heft to it and some noticeable blade presence. This does not mean it is heavy, as it feels excellent in the hand, but it may come as a surprise to someone expecting a rapier to feel like a modern fencing foil. I love it. This blade can dominate another when performing techniques such as finding the sword, in which one uses judgment of angle to gain leverage against another blade. This is to allow a safe defense while counterattacking. Lighter blades can sometimes be "strong-armed" aside by fencers who like to rely more on strength than technique, but doing so against a blade like this one would be more difficult. It is also a blade that could have seen action against more cut-oriented swords.
At the same time, it is still not difficult to perform subtle tip actions, such as changing lines in the middle of an attack. Accurate lunges are easily performed and the sword's tip naturally falls into place.
The edge on this sword is quite keen and the forward balance would make for a particularly nasty wound to the head or limbs. Many modern enthusiasts underestimate a rapier's cutting ability, and while it is true that they will not cut the same as a weapon such as an Oakeshott Type XIII, they can still cut deep enough that an opponent may have to stop fighting. Having done some test cutting with this against hard-shelled melons including pumpkins, I have found that it takes little effort to make particularly nasty cutting wounds. I know I would not like to take a strike to my bare scalp with this sword.
This is a very long-bladed sword. For me, at a height of 6' 2", the length is perfect, but for many shorter swordsmen this sword may actually be a bit too much. This should definitely be kept in mind before purchasing. A&A is known to do customizations upon request and so is not out of the question to talk to them about making a shorter version.
The blade is also fairly wide. It is not as wide as a dedicated cutting sword would be, but wide enough to both provide a serviceable edge as well as make a wide wound. Because the blade is both long and wide, it has significant distal taper to keep the handling manageable. This taper makes the blade fairly flexible.
I have heard many people state that a rapier blade must be a stiff rod in order to function, but this is plainly false. Most long-bladed antique rapiers are quite flexible and some are even what many would describe as "whippy". Provided that the sword has a good springy heat-treatment, there is nothing wrong with this. This rapier is quite flexible but has an excellent heat-treatment, and after flexing it several times as if it were a fencing foil it would always come back completely straight. The flexibility does not affect a single historically accurate fencing technique either, and in fact serves to ensure that the rapier is able to take the shock of a hard thrust.
Every A&A rapier I have ever examined has been top-notch aesthetically and this rapier is absolutely no exception. It is gorgeous.
The blade is cleanly executed with no visible flaws. The swept hilt flows gracefully and the bars gently curve, widening and narrowing with very pleasing lines. It is tempting to say this is a less decorative sword than some of A&A's more embellished offerings, but once this sword is viewed up close it is clear that there was a great deal of time and care dedicated to giving this a wonderfully elegant form.
This particular review piece is blued to a rich black color, which has been buffed to a nice shine. The wire-wrap is made with both black and polished steel wire and is incredibly nice. I have often thought that A&A makes the best production wire-wraps and this piece is no letdown. The entire hilt assembly is also tightly held together, and I doubt it will loosen in the foreseeable future.
Bought separately is the A&A "fancy" leather scabbard. The scabbard is made of stitched, black heavy leather, capped with bronze chape and locket. The bronze fittings are cast with decorative engravings and really set off the rest of the sword. The contrast of polished bronze with the blackened steel is quite attractive.
This is one of the older models in the Arms & Armor line of rapiers and it is clear why it is one of its mainstays. The combination of effective function and understated beauty is quite apparent in this piece. It may be a little large for some, and a smaller person may want to consider some of the smaller pieces that A&A offers. Aside from this, it is a wonderful representation of a late 16th to early 17th century dueling sword that a Renaissance gentleman would have been proud to wear at his hip.
About the Author
Bill Grandy is an instructor of Historical European Swordsmanship and sport fencing at the Virginia Academy of Fencing. He has held a strong passion (obsession?) for swords and swordsmanship for as long as he can remember. He admits that this passion comes from a youth spent playing Dungeons and Dragons, but he'll only admit that if there are no girls around.
Photographer: Bill Grandy