The rapier was a sword used originaly in the 16th and 17th centuries, primarily as a civil weapon (meaning, not used in war). Its use was most common in duels. Later, towards the 18th century, the weapon, along with the tatics used, changed. Modern fencing is based upon the 18th Century weapon and tatics.

The Renaissance style rapier is made up of the following parts:

  • The Blade - A sharp tip, and two edges. It is divided into 3 sections. The forte, foible, and tang. The forte is the lower, stronger part of the sword, and is used in parrying. The foible in the upper weaker part of the blade, commonly used for cuts. The tang is the section of the blade that goes through the handle.
  • The Guard - The guard came in many forms, buts main pupose was to protect the hand of its user.
  • Quillons and Knuckles - On some weapons knuckle guards are attached. They are used to product the hand, primarily the knuckle. The Quillons are used for parrying and catching the oppenents blade.
  • The Handle - The part of the blade you hold. Typically made out of a hardwood.
  • Pommel - Screws onto the bottom of the handle, and holds the sword together.

    Note: The Websters dictionary points our the rapier was only used for thrusting, this is by far not the case. The weapon only does its most damage when thrust, however countless duels have been won when never a thrust struck.

  • The other thing to know about a rapier is that they were not developed until the 16th century because steel technology wasn't good enough to produce a steel that could be so flexible that even if you made a thin blade out of it, it wouldn't break or shatter. Because rapiers usually weigh less than 3 pounds but have a blade length like that of a longsword or broadsword, they equaled the reach of any single-handed sword but were lighter, and this advantage caused swords like the above two to phase out.

    Originally conceived in the early 1970's and still in operation today, Rapier was developed by the British Aircraft Corporation (as it was then, subsequently British Aerospace, the forerunner of BAE Systems) as a surface to air missile. The initial version of this successful missile was a towed version requiring daylight and good weather.

    Rapier required an operator to steer the missile towards the target, rather than a fire and forget operation that later versions provided. This was done by the operator moving a crosshair with a joystick so that it remained over the target. The system then measured the error between the crosshair and the missile plume and adjusted the flight accordingly.

    The missile, a mainstay of the RAF, came to prominence in the Falklands War when it was responsible for a number of kills and much jubilation (and jingoism) by the British press.

    Ra"pi*er (?), n. [F. rapiere, perhaps for raspiere, and ultimately of German origin, akin to E. rasp, v.]

    A straight sword, with a narrow and finely pointed blade, used only for thrusting.

    Rapier fish Zool., the swordfish. [Obs.]



    © Webster 1913.

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