Email: info@newtonabbotfencing.co.uk | Tel: 07599 834 694

Starting brand new to Fencing

Once again I’d like to thank IGOR CHIRASHNYA and ‘The Academy of Fencing Masters’ wwwacademyoffencingmasters.com for this very invaluable piece below if you are brand new to our sport.

If you do intend in purchasing any of your own fencing gear, please speak to myself (Bill Berkley, 07599 834 694) & we will probably get you some discount. 

A BUYING GUIDE FOR FENCING EQUIPMENT & GEAR WHAT YOU NEED AND HOW MUCH TO SPEND: FROM BEGINNER TO ADVANCED

Table of Contents

Introduction 2 About this Book 2 Equipment Requirements for Competition 3Outfit 3 Weapons 10 Labeling Your Gear 12 Equipment Requirements for Training 12 Outfit 13 Weapons 13 ToBuyFIEorNottoBuyFIE 13 Outfit 14 Weapons 14 Where to Buy 16 Buying Second-Hand Equipment 17 Reasons to Own 19 Brands and Pricing 20 Fencing Equipment Checklist for the Novice (but Committed) Fencer 21 24 25

© 2015 Academy of Fencing Masters

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A BUYING GUIDE FOR FENCING EQUIPMENT & GEAR WHAT YOU NEED AND HOW MUCH TO SPEND: FROM BEGINNER TO ADVANCED

Introduction

When it comes to children’s sports, most parents enjoy being involved. We enjoy watching our children learn and become more skilled and confident, traveling to tournaments to watch them compete, meeting other families along the way. However, it can be confusing and sometimes frustrating to keep up with “the other stuff.” One big part of that with fencing is buying the equipment.

Most of us are operating on a budget, but we also want our children to have what they need to fence safely and effectively. These sound like reasonable goals to me! For a new parent though, the outfit looks foreign, the weapons look expensive, and the whole thing can be very daunting. If any of that resonates with you, you’ve come to the right place. It’s actually a lot simpler than you might think.

About this Book

The Academy of Fencing Masters (AFM) was founded because we love the art and competition of fencing and we have a mission to share it. At AFM, we are committed to bring- ing athletic competition to more children and helping them to become good fencers who reap the many benefits that sport, and particularly fencing, has to offer.

AFM was founded by two fencing parents and we field ques- tions from other parents every day. We wrote our first book, Parents’ Guide to Fencing, to answer all of the common parent questions in one easy place. That book covers a range of topics: the essentials that every parent needs to get started. This book is a follow-on that focuses specifically on fencing equipment and gear because we know it can be confusing and expensive and we want to help.

Note: The information in this book is based on the United States Fencing Association’s (USFA’s) regulations and the U.S. fencing norms. While much of the information holds true across the board, it’s always best to double-check your specific country’s requirements and regulations. Plus, individual clubs often have their own guidelines that may even be stricter than the USFA’s, so always follow your club’s rules, too.

As fencing parents, we have the same goals that you do. We want your children to fence safely and effec- tively. We want you to buy what you need and only what you need, or at least know what is truly required versus what is “extra.” We want you to know what you need for a competition compared to what you need for training, and how to figure out where to shop based on your particular needs and location.

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Important:

Throughout this book we give examples and recommenda- tions from specific companies that provide fencing equipment. We want to be clear that our recommendations come from personal experience and are not an official endorsement nor are we in any way compensated for them. We are not affiliated with any of the mentioned suppliers.

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A BUYING GUIDE FOR FENCING EQUIPMENT & GEAR WHAT YOU NEED AND HOW MUCH TO SPEND: FROM BEGINNER TO ADVANCED

Equipment Requirements for Competition

For competitive fencing, the requirements for equipment and gear are dictated by the rules. Equipment falls into two main buckets: weapons and outfit.

Outfit

First, let’s break down what’s included in a “fencing outfit.” The dress varies depending on the weapon type (epee, foil, sabre). At the end of the book, you’ll find a handy checklist to take with you to the store, but here I’ll give a bit of detail on each item and why it’s worn.

First, when you hear “fencing uniform,” this typically refers to the jacket and knickers. These constitute the outermost layer of clothing. Of course, you also need shoes and socks.

Jacket

A fencing jacket is the outermost layer worn while fencing (both compe- tition and training). It’s padded, long-sleeved, and, of course, white (see callout box above). It extends beyond the torso with a strap that hooks under the crotch to keep the jacket securely in place.

One important consideration is that if you try on a jacket with nothing underneath, it may not fit later when you have other gear on. Make sure to leave room for other protective equipment and try the jacket on with the equipment as soon as you can to double-check that it’s going to work.

Knickers

Regulation knickers are required during competition. These are a particular type of fencing pants that go from the waist to just below the knees, and are worn overlap- ping the top of the socks.

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You’ve probably noticed that fencers are usually dressed in (almost) all white! If you’re curious why, this blog post will give you the answer: http://academyoffencingmasters.com/blog/why-are-fencing-uniforms-white/

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Long Socks

These are tall socks that reach up to the bottom of the knickers. Again, these and the knickers need to overlap such that no skin is exposed. You can buy “fencing socks,” but often basketball or soccer socks work just as well. You’ll most often see white socks, but there is no regulation on sock color and they can be of any color even at high levels of competition (e.g., national cham- pionship).

Fencing Shoes

Specific shoes can be purchased for fencing, but they
are expensive and not required. You will likely want to
skip the cost while your fencer’s feet are still growing.
However, fencing shoes do offer more support to the inside of the sole, specifically for fencing move- ments. My basic advice is to buy an alternative type of shoe while your child is growing and then invest in fencing shoes when growing slows or stops.

Alternative shoes include cross-trainers or other court shoes, with volleyball shoes being a great option. Volleyball shoes are soft-soled and designed for side-to-side and back-and-forth movement, which is similar to the needs for fencing. If you can find volleyball shoes that you like for a price that you like, this is a great option.

Regardless of the type of shoe, it’s important to wear them only for fencing. That way they aren’t damaged or dirtied walking outside and you also won’t bring anything damaging into the fencing arena.

Some fencers swear by fencing shoes and others are committed to using cross-trainers or volleyball shoes. You will figure out over time what is best for your child. Most likely you will want to avoid running shoes because they’re not typically designed for lunging. When trying on shoes in the store, have your fencer do some fencing lunges to see how it feels and ensure the shoes remain secure.

Underneath the outer layer, you have additional protective elements for fencer safety.

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A BUYING GUIDE FOR FENCING EQUIPMENT & GEAR WHAT YOU NEED AND HOW MUCH TO SPEND: FROM BEGINNER TO ADVANCED

Mask
Fencing masks are specific for each weapon and are not interchangeable. They all include a hard mesh covering over the head and face, with neck protection that extends down from the face called a “bib” (yes, like a baby bib!).

For foil, the bib is electric to detect touches. Since foil has specific areas of the body that count as touch- es, the bib needs to be electric. For epee, the entire body is considered a target, so the weapon alone can sense the touch. For sabre, the entire mask is electric.

It’s important that the mask be free of any tears, holes, and even dents. It must also be able to pass a test proving it can withstand a specified amount of force. This ensures the safety of the fencer in competition to protect the face and head. Lastly, for electric masks or bibs, it’s important to watch for dead spots. More on this later in this section.

Underarm Protector

Also called a “plastron,” this is a cotton or nylon shield worn to protect the weapon arm and that side of the body. These come in many varieties, mostly differentiated by thickness of the material and amount of padding. It’s a personal choice as to how much protection you want or feel that you need. Just keep in mind that a thicker plastron requires more room inside the jacket!

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Chest Protector

Also called a “chest guard,” this is a plastic protective plate worn over the chest. It is required for female fencers to protect breast tissue, and often looks like a more rigid version of a sports bra. Males can choose to wear a men’s version (which is just a plain plate), but are not required. Male fencers with a slight frame may feel safer with a chest protector. They are strongly recommended for young children regardless of gender.

I often hear fencers complain that the chest protector is restrictive, and many senior fencers don’t wear one. But for young children with growing bones and smaller frames, it’s best to be safe! For club owners, I suggest simply not making it an option – just like it’s not optional to wear a mask. Masks are certainly restrictive, but we don’t question the need for them because it’s always been assumed. Parents, if your club doesn’t require it, then put your foot down on your own for your child’s safety.

Gloves

A glove is worn on the weapon arm and must extend at least halfway up the forearm. The style of glove is different for foil and epee versus sabre. In sabre, a metallic over-glove is required that is sometimes built into the one glove, or worn over top.

Gloves get a lot of wear-and-tear. At national-level events (and often at the regional level), gloves are inspected for holes. Gloves, even good ones, develop holes quite easily so check if you need to replace them before any such competition to avoid any stress once at the venue. Plus, gloves are often one of the first items that a young fencer loses – and once you lose one, you have to buy a new set.

In short, be prepared to continually invest in new gloves. For a first glove, pick the cheaper option because it’s not a long-term investment.

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Male Athletic Supporters

Jock straps and cups are optional for males and up to the discretion of the parents and fencer. However, I strongly recommend protective cups for boys because it is always better to provide extra protection. At AFM, we require them for all youth fencers (7-18) during any fencing activity, no exception.

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We offer more information on groin protection and our recommendation on our blog:

http://academyoffencingmasters.com/blog/groin-protection-male-fencers-wear-not-wear/

Also, there are many misconceptions about groin protection, such as that it’s uncomfortable, unnecessary, or restrictive. In a second post, we dispel these myths
and provide recommendations for the most comfortable groin protection:http://academyoffencingmasters.com/blog/groin-protection-for-fencing-5-misconceptions/

Lastly, you have additional gear to detect touches for electronic scoring. For all electronic equipment (except lames), fencers are required to bring two to competition. Most often advanced fencers have three or more of each. Perhaps even more depending on how heavily your child competes. This is because electrical equipment can malfunction for many reasons and with backups, the fencing can continue with a quick switch.

Lame

For foil, the lame is an electrical vest worn over the fencing jacket. The purpose of this vest is to detect touches on the torso. For sabre, it is an electrical jacket with long sleeves because in sabre, the target area is the whole body above the waist. Most fencers do not have a spare lame as it is not as prone to breakage or malfunction compared to weapons or body cords.

You may need to replace a lame if it develops a dead spot, but this will likely happen at the club during training and you will have time to replace it or borrow one from your club. Weapons and cords are differ- ent in that they can fail anytime during competition or practice, so backups are recommended. More on dead spots just below.

Body Cords
Body cords connect the weapons to the scoring machine.

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Mask Cords

Mask cords connect foil or sabre masks to the lame. Since the lame is conductive from the body cord connection, the mask (or bib in foil) is conductive by transitivity, and will register a touch when the weapon touches the target area with respect to the mask (bib in foil, whole mask in sabre).

That’s the basic list of things fencers wear. Let’s go over a few last things you should know.

Dead Spots in Electrical Equipment

Electric masks, bibs, and lames can develop dead spots over time. A dead spot can cause a fencer to fail inspection before a bout, so it’s important to keep your eye out for them. You can’t necessarily predict when a dead spot will develop, but you can watch for signs. Dead spots are often preceded by weakened electrical resistance, which can be identified with the testing equipment used at competitions during the weapons check. Check if your club has an armory with this equipment, and if so, I suggest checking your equipment regularly, or at least before a large competition. If nothing else, it will give you peace of mind.

Last Name Label

For national championships and North American Cups (NACs), fencers are required to have their last name clearly visible on their uniform. That means either on the lame or knickers in the case of foil and sabre, or on the jacket and/or knickers for epee. According to the regulations, it is enough to have your name on one piece of equipment, so if you’ve chosen to stencil your lame, you don’t need to add your name to your knickers. Moreover, from my estimation more than 90% of all names are stenciled on jackets/lames and not on knickers. The jacket is the most common. The USFA has specific rules on where the name is placed and how it is displayed.

Ask your club for recommendations on where and how to get this done, it’s often best to let an expert do it for you so that you know it’s in the right place and following the rules. Often at big competitions you can pay to have it done, but the line may be long and it’s best not to add another complication when you’re at a big tournament and don’t have enough time before your event starts. You want to focus on the competi- tion! So whether you do it yourself or get help, I recommend you get it done before the competition.

Fencing Bag/Case

You’ll need a way to transport and store all of this gear! Fencing bags and cases cover a wide range of types and costs. When you’re just starting out, the main question to ask yourself is: wheels or no wheels? Rolling bags will cost a bit more (approx. min. $80) than a shoulder bag (approx min. $30). These mini- mums are based on looking at two reputable brands: Linea and Absolute. While I don’t specifically endorse any brand, I have had great experiences with both of these brands.

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I suggest a bag without wheels because rolling bags can be less convenient for stairs and are typically heavier. If your club has stairs to the training room or locker room, the rolling bag can be less convenient. On the other hand, wheels can be helpful for traveling around in airports or larger buildings. It’s a personal choice, but I recommend a regular shoulder bag.

Another consideration is whether you feel strongly that your child will stick with fencing. You can invest in a nicer bag if you’re in it for the long haul, but really any good quality shoulder bag will work just fine.

When you begin traveling often and especially if you get to the point of air travel for fencing, you will likely want to invest in a golf travel case. Yes, they are made for golf, but they’re designed well for fencing equipment. Because these cases are hard plastic, your weapons and gear are protected more fully for traveling longer distances or checking your equipment for a flight. If you have a golfer in the family, you might be able to reuse something you already own!

One thing to keep in mind if you do invest in a golf case is that they’re big and won’t easily fit in smaller cars. Keep this in mind when planning a trip, especially when booking a rental car.

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Check out this great blog post on how to best pack your gear in a golf case!

http://academyoffencingmasters.com/blog/summer-nation- als-tips-packing-your-fencing-gear-for-air-travel/

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A BUYING GUIDE FOR FENCING EQUIPMENT & GEAR WHAT YOU NEED AND HOW MUCH TO SPEND: FROM BEGINNER TO ADVANCED

Weapons

Okay, on to the fun stuff – weapons! I’ll briefly discuss the different types of weapons and then go into purchasing considerations.

As you’re likely already aware, there are three different weapon types in fencing. Foil, epee, and sabre. Most beginner fencers start with one, likely foil or epee.

Foil

A foil is a light, thrusting sword with a small, circular hand guard and a flexible, rectangular blade. Foils were historically used to train for fights to defend one’s honor!

Epee

The epee evolved as a dueling sword and was designed to mimic a duel as closely as possible. The epee is similar to a foil, but it’s a bit heavier and the blade is shaped a bit different. It’s stiffer, heavier, and has a tapered shape that gets thinner at the end.

Sabre

The sabre was developed as a military sword and was first used by cavalries. It is a light weapon that is for both thrusting and cutting (excuse the dangerous-sounding word, but “cutting” in fencing just means to attempt to contact your opponent with the blade of the weapon!).

If your curiosity is piqued, check out the following callout box for some interesting blog posts on how the rules and strategy differ for each weapon!

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Here is an informative series of blogs for the novice parent on first understanding the rules, and then how the rules and strategies differ based on the weapon:

Rules and Objectives: http://academyoffencingmasters.com/blog/fenc- ing-rules-for-the-novice-parent-objective-and-procedures/

Rule Differences by Weapon: http://academyoffencingmasters.com/blog/fenc- ing-rules-for-novice-parents-differences-for-foil-epee-and-sabre/

Strategy Differences by Weapon: http://academyoffencingmasters.com/blog/fenc- ing-rules-for-the-novice-parent-strategy-differences-for-foil-epee-and-sabre/

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One consideration when you have young fencers is blade size. Fencers in the 10-and-under category (Y10) use a “Size 2” blade, which is shorter and better suited for the younger athletes. The standard adult fencer uses a “Size 5” blade. The Size 2 is approximately 32 inches long and the size 5 is approximately 35 inches long. You can also find “Size 0” blades, which are (can you guess?) 30 inches long. These can be used for very young beginners who are only training before they graduate to Size 2 and eventually Size 5.

Then there’s the question of number. The outfit section covered that fencers should have at least two of all electrical equipment (except lames). The same holds true here. I recommend that all fencers have two weapons, even if only training. If your child is competing, you should really have three. The reason is that things break, especially at competitions. Here are some reasons an extra weapon might be needed when competing:

Wires break and the weapon becomes unusable.
Screws and tips fall down, especially on an epee weapon, and the weapon is unusable.
It cannot be brought to the strip, so having an extra weapon avoids a yellow card. Weapons break: they snap, stop working, stop holding weight, or fail a shim test for epee.

I’ll come back to weapons briefly in the Equipment Requirements for Training section and again in the To Buy FIE or Not to Buy FIE section.

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One more note: I do not recommend that you invest in a “starter kit.” At first glance, this may seem like a good way to get everything you need in one step and save money, but it’s not worth it. You want to make informed decisions on buying gear and equipment for your child rather than relying on a kit to meet all of their needs. If you are not ready to invest, it’s better to ask your club for a few more weeks with borrowed equipment rather than wasting money on a starter kit.

Labeling Your Gear

As with most things you buy for your children, label everything. While I talked earlier about label require- ments for competition, you should also mark all of your child’s gear so that it can be identified by you or returned when lost. Include full name, club name, and phone number to ensure the best chance of something being returned.

When you have a group of fencers at a competition
with the same style weapon, it’s very easy to get them
mixed up and at the end of the day have no idea which
weapon is your child’s. You already know that young
children have more trouble than most when it comes to
keeping up with their stuff, so in the younger ages this is even more important! As soon as you get them home, mark them.

The same is true for all equipment and gear. Once you invest, you want to keep track of it!

Mark:
Weapons: Mark the belt guard and pad
Clothing: Mark the inside, on the label is usually the best option
Bag: Use a luggage tag or mark the inside label
Body cords: Mark the socket and also print a label and stick it on the cord itself

Equipment Requirements for Training

This section covers the differences for training compared to competition. In training, the rules are typically not as strict. Of course, you still need to be fully protected whether you’re training or competing, so essen- tially you train in full fencing gear. However, your club may have its own rules about certain things that don’t adversely affect safety. Please check with your club to find out whether full gear is required during training and always follow instructions from your coaches or club!

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A BUYING GUIDE FOR FENCING EQUIPMENT & GEAR WHAT YOU NEED AND HOW MUCH TO SPEND: FROM BEGINNER TO ADVANCED

Here are the common differences between competition gear and training gear and provide some examples.

Outfit
Just a few things to note about training when it comes to the outfit.

Official knickers are often not required in training. Most clubs still require pants of some sort to fully cover the skin: sweatpants or workout pants. If your pants cover the full leg, most clubs won’t require the long socks either. Again, just make sure the skin is covered.

The shoe requirements are the same, but remember to be as respectful of your club’s facilities as you are at any competition. Have the right type of shoes (soft soles) and use them only for fencing. Don’t wear them in from the parking lot and potentially track in gravel or other things that can harm the fencing facili- ty’s floor.

Remember that most competing fencers have two or more of all electronic equipment pieces. My general recommendation is to have at least two, even if you are not yet competing. Things can break during training just as easily as during competition. Actually fencers typically fence even more in training than in competitions, so weapon breaks are very common.

Weapons

Most of the differences in the weapons were covered under Equipment Requirements for Competition, and the only real difference is that I recommend two weapons for training and at least three for competing. Things have a tendency to break regardless of the arena, but in competition the stakes are higher for not having a working weapon.

To Buy FIE or Not to Buy FIE

If you’ve been involved in fencing for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard of FIE equipment, but you might not know exactly what that means. FIE stands for Fédération Internationale d’Escrime, or translated to English, the International Fencing Federation. This is the international governing body for fencing. Fencing supply manufacturers can have their equipment tested and accredited in such a way that it can be sold as “FIE-approved,” or more commonly just “FIE equipment.”

You can buy FIE jackets, FIE masks, and FIE weapons, among other pieces of equipment. As you can imagine, it is the most expensive option due to the additional requirements and the prestige of being tested by the international governing body. The good news is that you really don’t need to invest in any FIE gear until your fencer gets some experience, and even then you don’t need to go out and buy all FIE items if you plan on only fencing in the U.S.

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A BUYING GUIDE FOR FENCING EQUIPMENT & GEAR WHAT YOU NEED AND HOW MUCH TO SPEND: FROM BEGINNER TO ADVANCED

Also, keep in mind that just because an item hasn’t been officially tested, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t meet the same requirements. Any reputable brand will still meet minimum requirements of durability and safety and could possibly pass the FIE testing standards. The USFA does not require fencers at any level to buy FIE gear or weapons.

All that being said, I do recommend investing in FIE gear at a certain point. Here are my recommenda- tions for FIE equipment for the outfit and then weapons.

Outfit

My advice here is pretty straightforward. If your child is growing, there’s no need to invest in an FIE outfit. The amount of money is simply not justified. Save this money for your child’s fencing education and for traveling to competitions. To be clear, this advice includes the mask. You do not need to buy an FIE mask for a growing child.

This advice stands until your child is almost full-grown, at which time you may want to consider more expensive apparel. If you decide to invest in FIE equipment, your first outfit consideration should be an FIE mask, particularly for epee fencers. However, before that, you should consider an FIE weapon, so let’s move on to that topic.

Weapons

We can probably all agree that the most important piece of fencing equipment is the blade itself. If you are going to invest in something more expensive, start with the blade. FIE blades are generally higher quality and so typically last longer. They are made of a special type of steel that reduces the likelihood of breakage and deformation.

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Want an easy reference for this information on when to invest in FIE gear and weapons? Check out this blog post:http://academyoffencingmasters.com/blog/competitive-fenc- ing-equipment-for-children-what-do-you-really-need/

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Fencers in the 10-and-under age category (Y10) who are using Size 2 blades should NOT buy FIE. Here’s a list of reasons why you should save the extra $50-100:

The blades are only needed for a short time.

The type of fencing in this age group usually leads to much less wear and tear on the blades than in higher-level competition.

Younger kids lose things. Better to lose the less expensive option if it’s sufficient for your child at this time.

After your young fencer falls in love with the sport (we hope!) and moves up to 12-and-under (Y12), I do recommend investing in FIE blades. Based on my experience, the tradeoff between expense and value is worth it. So from this point on, invest in FIE blades, make sure to mark them and take care of them, and then they will last longer and be worth the money.

A couple additional notes. First, I tend to believe that all children who try fencing will fall in love with the sport and become lifetime fencers. The truth is that you know your child and if he or she likes to try new things often, you might consider holding off on FIE equipment even in Y12. But once your child commits to the sport in Y12 or higher, go for the FIE.

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A BUYING GUIDE FOR FENCING EQUIPMENT & GEAR WHAT YOU NEED AND HOW MUCH TO SPEND: FROM BEGINNER TO ADVANCED

Where to Buy

You may be wondering where you’re supposed to get all of this stuff! Thankfully in the days of online shopping, you have some options despite the fact that you aren’t likely to find fencing equipment at your local sporting good store. There are some pros and cons to each.

First, you may find physical stores close enough to you to be worth the drive – it depends where you live. As they say, “Google it.”

Second, of course you can shop online. Some reputable options are Absolute Fencing Gear, The Fencing Post, Alliance Fencing Equipment, and Fencing.net. Again, there are pros and cons to this option.

Lastly, you can often order equipment through your club.

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Pros: No waiting for items to be shipped; touch and feel items; consult with sales associate; grow your fencing community.

Cons: May be inconvenient; may spend more than online; selection limited com- pared to online.

Pros: Largest variety; easier to find sales Cons: Can be confusion if you’re new to navigate and compare prices; convenient. alone without guidance; have to wait for delivery.

Pros: Get exactly what you need; convenient. Cons: May have to wait for delivery; selection often limited to particular partner suppliers.

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A BUYING GUIDE FOR FENCING EQUIPMENT & GEAR WHAT YOU NEED AND HOW MUCH TO SPEND: FROM BEGINNER TO ADVANCED

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