Arms & Armor Round Targe
A hands-on review by Pamela Muir

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The buckler is a small round shield with a single central hand grip, used from at least the 13th century, if not earlier, and consistently through the 17th century. Bucklers were made entirely of steel or with a combination of materials such as wood covered in leather with a metal boss and rim. These shields would have been used in combination with a single-handed sword. Sword and buckler combat techniques are described in several medieval fighting treatises, the most famous of which is the Royal Armouries Manuscript I.33, commonly known as MS I.33. This work is also the earliest known fighting treatise. The sword and buckler techniques in MS I.33 would have been employed as personal defense and a combat sport by civilian men and foot soldiers, though the combatants illustrated and mentioned in MS I.33 are a priest and a scholar. A woman named Walpurgis is also named and illustrated in the manuscript.

The sword and buckler plays that I have been practicing come from MS I.33 and from the plays of Master Andres Lignitzer in the Liechtenauer tradition. I have used a steel buckler with a central boss, but its 16" diameter made many of the plays in MS I.33 and Lignitzer's techniques a bit difficult. Just when I was in the market for something smaller, Arms & Armor of Minnesota announced their Round Targe as a monthly special. According to the Arms & Armor Web site, it is their most popular stage combat item. Since the timing was perfect and I was already impressed by the swords that Arms & Armor produces for the western martial arts community, I placed an order. As it was a monthly special, the Round Targe was in stock and arrived within the week.

Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:2 pounds, 12 ounches
Diameter:11 inches
Handle length:9 1/2 inches
Grip length:5 inches

Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.

Handling Characteristics
Compared to a buckler with a larger diameter, this shield is much easier to manipulate. I have used the targe with the various techniques of the historical teachings. These plays often use the buckler to protect the sword hand in such a way that both hands move together. With a larger buckler these plays can feel somewhat awkward. I find this shield very easy to manipulate. It also provides plenty of protection as long as I am using correct positioning.

Fit and Finish

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Underside detail

The shield is made from 16 gauge steel and has a rolled metal handle riveted to the back. Rolling the shield's edges forward towards the face forms the rim. The front is convex and lacks a central boss, while the concave back of the shield and its handle are painted black. It has a plain, rather stark look.

I put most of my training weapons through hard use and this piece is no exception. It has taken some hard hits from steel training weapons resulting in some superficial scratches on the face and some small but sharp nicks on the rim. It has other damage as a consequence of careless handling. The paint is flaking off the back from banging against other equipment in my fencing bag and the front has some rusty fingerprints. All in all though, it seems to be extremely durable.

I understand why this would be one of Arms & Armor's most popular items: it serves its purpose well. As is, it does not seem a likely display piece, but it shines as a training tool. The construction of this shield lends itself to hard use and it is quite maneuverable. I would recommend the Round Targe to sword and buckler practitioners.

About the Author
Pamela Muir is a suburban homemaker from Virginia with a small, but growing, sword collection. She studies and practices historical European swordsmanship at the Virginia Academy of Fencing.

Medieval Art of Swordsmanship: A Facsimile & Translation of Europe's Oldest Personal Combat Treatise, Royal Armouries MS I.33 (Royal Armouries Monograph), The

Photographer: Bill Grandy

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