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Unlocking the Epee Sword: A Complete Overview of its Essence

Written by: David Mickov
Published On: April 18, 2023
Edited by: Juliana Cummings

The Epee (Épée) sword, named after the Latin word for Spatha, is a fencing sword with a long and narrow blade. The Epee sword is a fencing weapon distinguished from the foil and the saber by its broader, heavier blade and more rigid construction. Despite its heavy and unwieldy build, it has been employed in self-defense and sport throughout its long history.

The efficiency of the sword in dueling and military scenarios attests to its prominence in the sporting world, and it is one of the three instruments used in modern fencing contests. In this article, we will go over its interesting and unique characteristics, and then we will explore how they can be used as well as the evolution and history of this fencing sword.

Characteristics of the Epee Sword

Epee sword with Details
The Epee sword with details – Credits: martijn brouwer

The Epee sword is one of the three highly popular fencing foil swords used in modern sword fencing. It has the strongest and most different visual characteristics out of the rest of them primarily because of its large guard and broader blade. Despite that, it is still a one-handed sword made of many components and parts.


The Epee sword is heavier and more rigid than other fencing blades due to its triangular blade cross-section and steel construction. In addition, the blade is longer, measuring roughly 35 inches (90 cm), and is made to thrust rather than cut. A button at the end of the blade makes it less likely that the user may accidentally stab their opponent and be connected to the power grid, which will let everyone know of a successful hit.

The Epee blade does not have a sharpened cutting edge, despite it’s triangular cross-section. Wires are run through its entire length to enable the electric fencing scores.


Blade Tip of the Epee
The tip of the Epee’s blade that is recognizing and announcing the hits – Credits: Kelly

The Epee tip is called “the button,” made out of several parts: the mushroom part at the very tip, the housing or the barrel around the tip itself, and the return and contact springs. These parts are all flexible, especially the springs, which measure the pressure and force that needs to be pressed for a successful hit or touch.


Bell guard is another name for the Epee sword’s guard because of its distinctive shape. It’s constructed of metal and serves to safeguard the fencer’s hand. The protects a considerable amount of the user’s hand, making it harder for an attacker to land a blow. It is also the biggest shape of a foil fencing guard mainly because in Epee dueling, the hand can be a target too.

This hemispherical shield does not hurt the person’s ability to move with the Epee sword because it is made to be between 1.2 to 2.2 inches (3 to 5.5 cm) in depth with a diameter of  5 inches (12.5 cm). 


Guard of the Epee Sword 1
The larger guard of the Epee sword because the hand is a valid hitting target, unlike the Foil matches – Credits: Fencing Sport Human

The Epee sword’s handle is often crafted from plastic, rubber, or leather and is shaped to fit the hand securely. It can feature various types of shapes and quillons so that the wielder can hold it securely in a plethora of different positions and attacking motions. Most of the time, it can be held together with a screw at the pommel, and different types of grips can be placed in this situation.

  • Italian Grip (illegal)
  • French Grip
  • Hungarian Grip
  • Russian Grip
  • Visconti Grip
  • Bent Grip
  • Pistol Grip

Although there are different sets of handles and guards for the Epee sword, which are chosen according to personal preference and the rules of the competition, the most common size is 7.8 inches (20 cm).


The Epee sword’s rounded knob at the end of the handle is called the pommel. It balances the sword and gives the fencer more control by acting as a counterbalance to the blade. Other than that, it serves to hold the handle together with a screw, and at times, it can be connected with electricity and the power box for powering the sword in tournaments and matches.

Length & Size

Epee and other Fencing Swords
The Epee (in the middle) is the largest and heaviest foil fencing type of tool – Credits: Fencing Sport Human

The Epee sword can come in various sizes and lengths depending on the rules of sport combat or adult and child versions. The most used and average length for an Epee sword used for fencing or training is 39 inches (100 cm). This makes it a reasonably long sword with a more extensive reach than other electric weapons.


The Epee sword is fairly long, but because it is used with one hand, it is made to be a very light sword. The average weight for the Epee is 1.65 lbs (750 grams) or lower. The ones that are used for highly experienced competition are mostly made lighter and average from 0.66 to 0.99 lbs (300 to 450 grams).

Uses of the Epee Sword

A fencing match with an Epee sword during the 2020 Olympics – Credits: Olympics

The Epee sword is a long, light, one-handed instrument meant primarily for thrusting strikes. The most important thing for this thrusting weapon is the footwork and the precision and speed of the weilder hitting his enemy or opponent before he gets struck first. Because of these attributes, the Epee is one of the most popular fencing and tournament swords.

Fencing & Dueling

The sport of fencing is a competitive activity wherein two fencers attempt to strike each other with the tip of their Epee swords. Fencing is a combat sport that calls for quick reflexes, physical prowess, and strategic planning.

Classical fencing, historical fencing, and even modern Olympic fencing all make use of the Epee sword. The Epee sword is used in various contexts across several martial arts, including self-defense, sparring, attack and counterattack, and competition. The biggest motto of the Epee fencing and dueling is the rule – “hit without being hit”.

Tournaments & Rules

Tournament use for the Epee Sword 1
The red signifies where the fencer can be struck with the Epee Sword – Credits: Wiki Media

Unlike in Foil and Saber fencing, the entire body is a target area for a strike with the point of the blade in an Epee bout or duel. This rule was developed in the 19th century to make the Epee duel as realistic as possible by having the Epee fencer constantly be on the lookout for potential blows from all directions.

When the buttons, or tips, of the swords make contact, a point is awarded. When a player is hit, just their body is counted, not the ground, their opponent’s blade, or even a tip-to-tip hit; this is because of the grounded piste below the combatants. One scores and gains a point if they are the first to touch or hit their opponent with a force of 7.4 Newton (750-gram force). Competitors must have fencing equipment, two weapons, and two body wires or body cords in case of breakage.


Due to its lack of destructive potential and relative safety, the Epee Sword has proven to be a favorite training weapon among fencers and other swordsmen. Fencing is used by swordsmen as a means of perfecting their swordsmanship, assault, and defense strategy, and, most importantly – footwork. It’s also a terrific tool for training that can help improve general physical fitness.

History of the Epee Sword

History Epee sword
Fencing with Epee-like rules in Athens 1896 – Credits: Wiki Media

Epee, which comes from the French Epee, just like the Foil sword, was derived from lighter civilian weapons like the smallsword, which had replaced the rapier as the standard dueling weapon by the late 17th century. Modern Epee fencing parallels the dueling of the 19th century, where the blade must make contact with the target.

In the 19th century, when authorities demanded that duels end after “first blood” rather than a fight to the death, the Epee was born. A tiny cut on the wrist or other exposed region of the opponent’s body could win the duel under this condition. It was in the 19th century that dueling swords with full-cup guards, such as the Epee, became common, though they had been around since the 17th.

As described in the 19th-century book, Secrets of the Swords by Baron de Bazoncourt, came use of the Foil sword for combat, primarily to self-teach and prepare people for real duels. Primarily in France and Italy, along with the introduction of masks, fencing with the Epee came as close to a real sword combat that can touch any part of the body.

Triple Point of early Epee Swords
The triple sharp point called darret was used on the early Epee fencing swords – Credits: Leon Paul

In 1896 the Societé d’Escrime à l’Epée de Paris made the agreed rules for dueling, and the following year, the first tournament took place in the same town. 

A distinct point called d’arrêt was used by the first Epee fencers; it had three prongs and little protruding spikes that would catch on the enemies’ mask or clothing, allowing the referee to perceive the blows easily. Due to these early sharp spikes, Epée fencing was a very painful sport where experienced fencers were identified by the holes in their jackets and gear uniforms. 

In later iterations of the game, a point dipped in a dye indicated where touches had occurred on a strictly white gearset. Starting from 1936, competitors use electric Epee, which completes an electrical circuit when touched.

What is the Difference between the Epee and other Fencing Swords?

Sword Duel 1
Le duel à l’épée (The Sword Duel)  – Credits: Jacques Callot 1617

It’s common practice to draw parallels between the Epee sword and other fencing and dueling swords. The following are some of the most notable characteristics that are different from the Epee sword.

  • Foil Sword – Lighter, more flexible, and has a smaller, more pointy blade. When used in fencing, the Foil is primarily used for thrusting only in the torso of the opponent, making it a more precise weapon for scoring points.
  • Sabre Fencing Sword – Also lighter and more flexible and can be used to strike from the sides and the tip effectively. It features a sabre-like guard, which is opened up from the sides to allow for more maneuverability and versatility of the strikes.
  • Rapier – The rapier is a real sword made with a sharp cutting edge meant for lethal slashing and thrusting. It has a more complex hilt around the user’s hand and was used in the 16th and 17th centuries for self-defense and dueling.

Smallsword – The smallsword can also be a high-carbon steel blade made for lethal attacks. It has a more narrow and tapered blade than the rapier and was used primarily in the 18th century. It is believed the Epee design comes from the smallsword.

Sources Cited
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