Arms & Armor Milanese Rapier
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy

3 people like this. Do you like this? yes no
Click to enlarge
An Antique Milanese
Rapier, Circa 1560

During the late 15th and into the early 16th century the use of cut and thrust swords for civilian wear was quite common. Early Renaissance masters such as Achille Marozzo and Giovanni dall'Aggochie taught fencing techniques with these swords, often referred to by modern scholars as "side swords", which sometimes held robust blades that were not any different than their military counterparts.

As the Renaissance continued, a preference for the thrust became more common, and eventually the longer rapier was developed for fencing in the styles of masters such as Ridolpho Capo Ferro and Salvator Fabris. This later rapier did not just appear out of nowhere, however. There were many swords that bridged the gap between the cutting and thrusting styles; swords that were shorter than the later rapiers, but more slender than the earlier cutting side swords. These transitional swords were used and written about by several fencing masters, such as Camillo Agrippa and Vincentio Saviolo, who used swords that were quite able in the cut, but primarily focused on the thrust.

Arms & Armor of Minnesota has long been pushing the envelope in their reconstruction of rapiers based on period originals, and this example of their Milanese rapier is no exception. Ordinarily this sword is sold with a blackened hilt, but I requested polished steel hilt furniture. I also asked to have a fuller added to the blade.
Click to enlarge
Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:2 pounds, 15 ounces
Overall length:43 inches
Blade length:37 inches, including 1 1/2 inch ricasso
Blade width:1 1/4 inches at base, tapering to 1/2 inch
Ricasso width:3/4 inches
Grip length:3 1/4 inches
Guard width:9 1/2 inches
Point of Balance:5 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~23 1/4 inches from guard
A.V.B. Norman typology:Type 43 Hilt

Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.

Handling Characteristics
This sword is not light, but neither is it too heavy. For later period fencing techniques it works well to dominate an opponent's blade while still maintaining good tip control. The sword also balances well for precise cuts as taught by earlier Renaissance fencing masters. The blade is fairly long (though not as long as many thrusting rapiers), and therefore cuts will be slightly slower than from a shorter blade. The user must keep this in mind if intending to use the sword for one particular style over the other. Despite this compromise, the sword does balance out both styles quite nicely.

Click to enlarge
Ricasso Detail

Cuts with this sword, due to the slender blade, probably would not easily completely sever a limb. That said, for an unarmoured civilian duel, a good cut would not necessarily need to be quite so powerful, needing merely to incapacitate. A good strike to the head with this sword can be fatal, and a strong cut to the forearm could easily render it useless for good. The blade is also robust enough to handle contact against heavier cutting blades as well.

The guard around the quillon block is polished so as to be comfortable when fingering the ricasso bare-handed, which would not have been the case had that area been checkered as the rest of the guard is. This is a subtle touch I would not have thought of immediately had I been designing the sword from the ground up, and it is why Arms & Armor should be praised for their attention to creating pieces as close to the working originals as possible.

Fit and Finish
Click to enlarge
Pommel Detail

The polished checkered pattern of this hilt simply glitters, catching the light from all angles. The casting is mostly very clean. While there are minor pits, particularly in the grooves of the pattern, these are barely noticeable and do not detract from the craftsmanship of the piece at all. The inner guard bars are not checkered, but left smoothly polished, just like original examples of this type of hilt. The lines of the blade are very clean, as is the attractively executed fuller that rests on the first third of its length.

The standard blackened wire wrap on the grip provides a nice contrast against the polished hilt, and it is very tightly and evenly done. I have always found that Arms & Armor makes some of the nicest wire wraps in the production market.

The Arms & Armor Milanese rapier is a fantastic example of a rapier that exhibits characteristics of the earlier cutting blades as well as the later thrusting ones. It is a beautiful design that has just enough decoration to be eye-catching without being ostentatious. It is also a nice weapon to have for someone who enjoys both the side sword style as well as the later thrusting rapier style but wants to reach a compromise with one sword.

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: Nathan Robinson

Click photos to enlarge:
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

All contents © Copyright 2003-2023 — All rights reserved

Open a printer-friendly version of this page

You must be logged in to access all the features of
Your name: I forgot my password
Register for an account
Password:  Log me on automatically each visit
Why register? See our Membership Plans for details.