Combat: Weapon Standards


Weapons and Armor Guidelines in the
Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild

Equally as important as the system of combat employed in the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild is the weaponry utilized or the armor worn.  A sword that is too light in comparison to its size, or a weapon that has no historical counterpart would not be allowed for use in combat.  Therefore, certain guidelines should be followed when considering what type of weapon or armor to construct, and how to construct it. 

Greatsword, Longsword and Arming Sword


A basic rule of thumb for weapons design is that any weapon that can be proven to have been used in Europe between 800 and 1500 A.D. may be replicated using a solid core and foam striking surfaces. If a weapon can be made following these guidelines which is still safe for use in simulated combat, then it is probably acceptable. This does not extend to cover early firearms.

When creating your weapon, care should be taken to make sure that it adheres to the dimensions of its historical counterpart.  While this does not mean that all weapons will be inspected with measuring tape and compared to an exhaustive listing of exact weapons lengths from the High Middle Ages, it does mean that six-foot long greatswords, or Indian madus with four-foot long “gazelle horns” will not be allowed for combat use. The Medieval Weapons for Beginners article is a good resource to use when considering which weapon to build.

Any melee weapon that can be proven to be “safe” when used under normal combat conditions as defined in the rules of combat may be constructed using a number of different methods.  This includes, but is not limited to, swords, axes, spears, maces and staves.  Additionally, ranged weapons such as longbows, crossbows, throwing spears and hurlbats may be used or constructed.

There are two basic forms of weapon construction to be used in the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild. 

  • The preferred type is the MMCG's own fiberglass-core sword design as pioneered by Ser Owen. Details on how to construct these sparring weapons may be found here. Weapons other than swords can be constructed using these instructions.
  • The second type is the "boffer" sword common to many foam-fighting groups, constructed out of PVC pipe and closed-cell foam.  It should have a discernable edge and flat, and be weighted either with a wood dowel, enclosed metal bolts, or a combination of the two.  Instructions for making weapons adhering to these standards can be found here.

In general, all weapons for use in combat in the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild serve two purposes.  First, they are meant to realistically match the handling and weight of a comparable weapon made out of authentic materials (i.e.: steel, iron, wood, etc...)  Secondly, they are meant to be constructed in such a way that they do not cause injury when used with control and according to the rules of combat in the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild.  

To that end, the official safety standards for MMCG weapons simulators are as follows:

  • Striking edges on all weapons must be covered with at least 1/2" of high-impact foam. That is, any surface that is used to strike another combatant must have at least 1/2 an inch of closed-cell auto upholstery foam between the core and the person being hit with the weapon. This includes sword blades, mace flanges, glaive heads, and arrow points.
  • All weapons that include metal as part of their core must have another material between the metal and the foam in any striking areas. For example, any sword which uses a steel rod as its base must include fiberglass rods on either side of the steel.
  • No rigid projections may be used, even for decorative purposes, on the striking portion of any weapon. In other words, any flanges, spikes or studs on the striking surface of a weapon must be made from flexible material.
  • Any sword or dagger used for thrusting must include a specially-built thrusting tip consisting of at least 2" of foam beyond its rigid core.
  • Any pole weapon used for thrusting must include in its construction a specially-built thrusting tip consisting of at least 4" of foam beyond its rigid core.
  • All arrowheads must have a circular face, whether flat or spherical. Arrowheads may not come to a point.
  • All arrowheads and crossbow bolt heads must be larger than an eye socket by a 1/2" margin all around the circumference of the arrowhead.

Following the weapon construction guidelines on this site will produce weapons that are compliant with the safety standards of the MMCG. Of course, if there are any questions, it is best to ask the Weapons Marshal.

Squire arming Knight


Armor in the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild is meant to achieve three objectives.  First, it provides additional defense during combat.  Secondly, it is meant to be constructed in such as way as to be both authentic and safe (i.e.: causing no injury or damage either to the wearer, the opponent, or the opponent’s weapon).  Thirdly, it is meant to enhance the wearer’s medieval appearance, and add to the tone of the event.

Armor use and construction in the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild follows the same types of guidelines as those for weapons.  It is meant to accurately recreate the body defenses of the medieval era, while still being safe for use against even unarmored opponents and their weapons.

Examples of armor which would be allowed in combat would be: a mail haubergeon (tunic with hood), steel greaves (lower leg plates), ring armor (metal rings sewn to a leather backing), or leather helmet. 

Examples of armor which would not be allowed in combat would be: “Red Sonja” outfit (mail bra and thong), brigandine constructed of vinyl and aluminum, and other  blatantly fantasy armors which cater more to appearance than functionality.

Or, to put it another way:
Armor Comparison

While participants are not required to prove conclusively that their armor is based on a historical model, a good rule to keep in mind is: utility first, appearance second.  Form should follow function, to paraphrase the old adage. 

There are two types of armor that may be used in combat for the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild: “soft” armor and “hard” armor.  Each should be constructed according to historical patterns, although, as stated before, some leeway for artistic license is permissible. 

  • “Soft” armor is defined as any type of body defense which flexes under pressure.  This includes, but is not limited to mail, jacks, brigandines, splinted armor and heavy or boiled leather.  Soft armor makes up the bulk of armor worn by all but the richest soldiers during the Middle Ages.  It is also cheaper and easier to make.  
  • “Hard” armor is defined as any type of body defense which does not flex under pressure.  This includes, but is not limited to plate armor, splinted armor over boiled leather, and some types of lamellar defenses.

Official standards for armor use and construction in the MMCG are as follows:

  • Armor must be constructed from historically verifiable materials: quilted fabric, leather, steel, iron, brass or bronze. Plastic, aluminum, vinyl and Kevlar are not permissible for use in armor.
    • Any edges on the armor should be filed smooth so as not to present a danger of laceration to either the wearer or other combatants.
    • Armor may not have projecting spikes. It is neither safe nor (in general) historical.
    • All shield edges must be covered with at least a garden hose. (Boiled leather bucklers are excepted from this rule, provided there is no metal edge affixed).
    • Shields may not include spikes or any other sharp, rigid projections in their construction.
    • Any bolts, rivets or other means of strap attachment on a shield that protrude from the face of the shield must be rounded.
    • Any shields designed for striking must include at least 1/2" high impact foam on the face and 1" high impact foam on the edge of the shield.

    For information about armor, check Armor for Beginners.







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