Arms & Armor Milanese Rapier
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
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.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.
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.
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
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