HEMA: Weapon safety

Hanwei federschwertFollowing on from our post on Safe Conduct of Classes , and both posts on safety and protective equipment, with breakdown, here follows our guide to weapon safety.

Weapons may be provided for classes and will be fit for purpose at the start of the class. In cases where there are insufficient weapons to go around, weapons of a similar type, weight and length may be substituted at the instructor’s discretion.

Where students have their own weapons, the instructors reserve the right to withdraw personal kit from the session if it is deemed unsafe (criteria follow below). Note that similar to all HEMA tournaments that are conducted on a “Bring Your Own Sword” basis, weapons may be judged unfit according to the organisers’ criteria at any given session.

Weapons (steel, nylon and wood) are to be checked for flexibility, wear, bend, signs of damage. Weapons may not be used if, after a serious deformation, either cannot be straightened, or which will not retain the correct shape and stiffness after straightening.

Metal weapons

Weapon tips and edges should be filled smooth to remove jags and burrs. Tips may be rolled, or button blunts, or rounded off capped with rubber archery blunts. Home-made roll-tips (‘blued’ or blackened through after-market heat treatment) may not pass fit for use.

Blades should be forged from EN45 sprung steel and hardened to at least 48HRC on the Rockwell scale for training, 55-65HRC for sparring.

Blade construction should include a solid tang, regardless of the method of fixing the pommel (threaded or peened). Welded or ‘rat-tail’ tangs are NOT acceptable for HEMA training. If in doubt, check with the manufacturer, or else the weapon should be disassembled for inspection.

NOTE that most ‘decorative’ or display (including most ‘museum quality’) weapons are NOT suitable for HEMA training or sparring.

Weapons should not be loose or rattle in the cross-guard, hilt or pommel, leading to an increased risk of failure. If the weapon cannot be tightened to stop rattles or loosening of the components, it should not be used.

There should not be a significant off-set in the blade off-centre of the hilt which may signal incorrect assembly or a weakness of the blade at the shoulder.

Recommendations of particular manufacturers’ products does not guarantee a pass against our safety criteria.

Nylon Weapons

Nylon or polypropylene weapons sold as HEMA, waster or ‘training’ weapons should in general be fit for use in class or sparring, subject to the safety checks outlined above. Edges should also be filed flat of jags or burs. Excessive bend, offset or floppiness which cannot be corrected or reset will indicate the weapon being unfit for use.

Wooden weapons

Wooden weapons sold as HEMA, waster or ‘training’ weapons should in general be fit for use in class or sparring. These are made from hardwoods. This excludes most items sold from toys and games departments made of softwoods, liable to splinter or snap.

Wooden weapons should be inspected for roughened edges, splinters and cracks, and planed or filed appropriately.

Matching weapons in training

For safety (and to minimise wear and damage) material types should be matched in training and sparring; that is: metal-to-metal, nylon-to-nylon, wood-to-wood.

Metal weapons – specifications

Sabre

Gymnasium’ sabres with roll tips are allowed. 85cm blade length. Max. weight 900g.

Longsword

“Federschwert” type sparring longswords with either widened tips or roll tips. Maximum length 140cm. Maximum weight 1800g. Side rings of reasonable size are allowed. Cross-guards and schilts must be well rounded!

Rapier

Swept-hilt rapiers are allowed at the user’s own liability. Cup hilts or Pappenheimer guards offer additional hand protection. Maximum blade length is 43 inches, but most club weapons will be 37 inches.

Daggers

Sail hilts are recommended for additional hand protection. Maximum blade length is 45cm. Tips as per rapier. Hanwei dagger blades are not allowed owing to a record of failures. No cut-down sports fencing blades are allowed as daggers.

Sidesword

Up to 38”/96cm blade. Complex hilts are allowed. Tips as per rapier.

Buckler

Nylon or metal/wood with metal boss, 14”/35cm maximum diameter. No spiked edges or bosses; safe edges are required – rolled metal or leather rimmed wood. Edges should be filed smooth to remove jags or burs.


A takeaway version of this and the other safety posts mentioned is available here as a PDF (2MB).