If you’re anything like me, then the reason you walked through the door at Duello was probably because you peered through a window one day with childlike wonder, fascinated at the scene before you. Rows of people, faces expressing the same glee I felt, all swinging swords at each other. I remember feeling, with absolute clarity, that I’d stumbled upon a place were I could turn my dreams into reality.
While it might be the art of our school that fosters our desire to progress, or the community of wonderful people that wins over our hearts, it is the weapon itself that captivates our imagination. We all have our reasons. Perhaps you’re a lover of history with a penchant for the application of martial arms. Maybe you’re an escapist, the chance to wield a sword bringing you closer to the heroes and villains and fantasy worlds. Or maybe, for reasons you didn’t fully understand, you just felt you were destined to become the greatest duelist of all time.
Whatever the reason, most of us have one thing in common - when it comes to the prospect of buying and owning a new sword, that same glee we felt the first time we peered through Duello’s windows comes rushing back.
Being a newbie to the world of sword shopping can be a little daunting. The odds are most of us never thought about purchasing a sword intended for martial practice, so how are you supposed to know which sword is most suitable for your needs, or even where to buy one? Fear not, dear reader. Below I have included a selection of reputable sword merchants and arms stores, all highly regarded and respected in our community.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the school itself is a great first port of call for anyone new to swordplay looking for their first sword. With offerings from Kingston Arms, VAS and (coming soon) Castille, there are options available to accommodate any mastery path. While these weapons may lack the personal flair that comes with owning a custom piece, they are perfectly suited to a beginner’s needs without cleaning out your wallet. The store's opening hours are 11am to 8pm.
Perhaps most well known and respected for their tournament feders (considered the best amongst HEMA practitioners), Regenyei also provides numerous options for customised swords. They offer a huge selection of different sword types, ranging from the Duello focused disciplines to more esoteric weapons. Both affordable and of a high quality for the price point, Regenyei swords are a common choice for many students at Academie Duello. The lead times on Regenyei swords are very reasonable as well – most orders are completed within 3 months of the initial order. You can have a look at some of the myriad options on their website. As an extra note, it’s best to order straight from the source in Hungary rather than going through a North American dealer, unless you enjoy waiting a long time.
Considered the ‘gold standard’ amongst sword enthusiasts, there are few, if any brands that boast as high a level of craftsmanship as Albion. They offer beautiful (and expensive) collector options, but if you’re looking for a sword to use in school then it’s the Maestro line you’ll want. The options for customisation are limited as each weapon is made to a specific design pattern, but the quality of manufacture is undeniable. Both beautiful and incredibly hard wearing, Albions are the kind of swords that will last you a lifetime. One thing to note though, if you plan on ordering an Albion sword, you’re going to be waiting a while for it - Lead times of a year are not uncommon. Still, worth the wait if you’re looking for your one and only.
The Castille Armory is an Oregon based sword making workshop with an economy line that won’t break the bank, as well as a plethora of ‘build-it-yourself’ options. Both of these product lines are assembled using premade parts, and are relatively affordable for what they are. The build-it-yourself feature is a nice option for someone looking to buy a personalised weapon at a reasonable price point, but if you’re looking for a truly customised job you can also email them privately to discuss your design ideas. The website espouses a turn around time of 10-12 weeks, but with their ever-increasing popularity it might be closer to 12-14 weeks. Castille swords make up a good chunk of the private weapons on display at Duello, a testament to their reputation.
Darkwood Armory is similar to Castille in that the bulk of their offerings are assembled from premade parts, but that should not be considered as a mark against their quality. Especially popular with rapier students, Darkwood weapons could perhaps best be described as ‘function over form’. This is not to say that they do not have their own aesthetic appeal, just that if you want something unique then you may want to look to either Regenyei or Castille. One thing that sets Darkwood weapons apart from the rest is their ease of repair and comparatively low price point, especially for new initiates. Rest assured, this does not mean they are poorly constructed swords, far from it. Outside of Academie Duello’s own shop, they are probably the best option for first-time buyers, especially if rapier mastery appeals more to you.
While there are other options that exist beyond this selection of swordsmiths, these are the makes that are most frequently found adorning the weapon racks of Academie Duello, and for good reason. If it’s your first time and you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to ask around the Academie – most people will be happy to talk your ear off about the sword they love and why they chose the Armory they did. Happy shopping!