Arms & Armor Bavarian Rapier
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
The Renaissance of Europe was a time a great change. Deistic beliefs from the Middle Ages were being left behind in favor of a more humanistic philosophy. The natural sciences came to dominate the thinking of a society previously governed by theology. The idea of individual self-determination replaced fatalistic beliefs. The judicial duel of the middle ages, where one fought with the deterministic belief that God choose the victor, gave way to the civilian duel of the Renaissance, where the eyes were on the skill of the combatant to determine success.
This is the context surrounding the emergence of rapier, the civilian dueling weapon, marked by a sophisticated system specializing in thrusts over cuts that utilized an understanding of geometrical advantages and timing to defeat one's opponent.
Arms & Armor of Minnesota have replicated this rapier from the many examples left behind by the Saxon and Bavarian corps of the 17th century. The style, however, was a common one all over Europe, and existing examples can be seen in many museums.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.
The Bavarian rapier is not one that the casual collector might call "lively" in the hand unless if they understand the use of the rapier. There is noticeable blade presence, however this is not only intentional, but optimal when using this rapier in the 17th century Italian styles of fence. This blade presence aids in commanding another opponent's blade in "finding the sword", the technique of gaining the mechanical advantage over the opposing weapon. In that respect, the Bavarian handles beautifully. The ricasso is slightly narrower than the blade, allowing the finger to comfortably wrap around the guard for control, but still giving the forte of the blade enough rigidity for parries. The tip control is excellent, and falls right into place on a lunge.
Fit and Finish
Aesthetically this piece is nothing short of Arms & Armor's usual excellence, exhibiting clean, smooth lines and proportions, with a dash of subtle yet tasteful flair. The bars of the hilt are not simply bar-stock bent to shape, as many rapiers of more inexpensive make are, but instead are very well sculpted; showing an understanding of form and grace. On either side of the quillon block are carvings that add a very nice touch to the overall look without becoming gaudy in the least. There are a few very minor pits from casting on the faceted pommel, but these are hardly noticeable without very close examination. The wire wrap alternates between twisted and straight wire, and is very tight and lovely. The blade is close to perfect in finish, and goes to show that those who say hand made blades need to show "waviness" on the surface are mistaken.
Arms & Armor continues to provide excellent, historically accurate reproductions of bladed weapons. The Bavarian Rapier is no exception. A fantastic example of both form and function of a Renaissance gentleman's side arm, it is a sword that would not be noticed as being out of the ordinary if it were dropped in a time hole and discovered in the 17th century. Handling this rapier is to understand handling an original sword of its style, and that is true testament to the work of Arms & Armor.
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