The rapier is a long, thin-bladed sword with a sharp edge to prevent the weapon from being grabbed. The swept hilt protected the user's hand. The Main Gauche (French for "left hand") was a dagger similar to, but shorter than the rapier.
- 4 feet/1.5 feet (48 in)
- 3 lbs/1.5 lbs
The rapier was a thrusting weapon carried in the right hand, while the main gauche was carried in the left and was primarily used for parrying the opponent's sword or for surprise strikes. They were the most popular sword and dagger of the Renaissance.
Similar thrusting swords like the French Arming Sword were used during Medieval times for similar duels. Dueling swords and swords for noblemen existed throughout the world; in China they would use the Jian.
A Main Gauche was not mandatory for dueling and could be substituted. Bucklers were similarly lightweight and could be used along with a Rapier: with some Bucklers able to be placed on or above the rapier's sheath. It was possible to carry a heavier weapon along with a Rapier, but this was impracticable; especially for civilians. Since Muskets were so dominant on the battlefield; heavy weapons were a liability since infantry charges demanded fast running speed to attack the enemy before they can reload their muskets.
The thin design of the rapier allowed it to aim for the small gaps around armor plating. One method of thrusting was to allow the sword to slide almost parallel to the armor so that it would maintain the momentum of the thrust while allowing it to travel away from armor and into the gaps. The rapier was never designed for slashing or blunt force, simply because its long reach and precision was more important for scoring a lethal strike; regardless if facing an armored or unarmored opponent.
Because it allowed for fast reactions and had a long reach, the rapier was well-suited to civilian combat during the 16th and 17th Centuries. However, the sword rarely saw use on the battlefield and was mainly restricted to use in duels or self-defense. Most land soldiers would use the cheaper and more common bayonets and cavalry-men would use sabers, which were better designed for horsemen (the Colichemarde and similar thrusting swords did exist for horsemen, but their designs were shortened for horseback fighting). Rapiers were however common among bodyguards like the elite French Royal Guards or Swiss Papal Guards, especially since they needed a weapon that could be used indoors or in crowded areas (in contrast to the longer spears and bayonets).
Fencing and dueling was still seen as mandatory for high ranking European officers in WWI. However this also led to it's decline; the fact that so many officers were dueling each other in the 1910s meant that it was very difficult for European armies to maintain leadership due to so many officers dying in duels. Uruguay was the last country in the world to outlaw dueling in 1971. It is technically legal to have duels in Paraguay, but only if both duelists are registered blood donors.
Test in ShowEdit
During the test, the rapier/main gauche combo delivered five kill strikes against a gel torso in 16 seconds. The rapier struck through a synthetic eyeball and stabbed into the brain, stabbed the throat and severed the jugulars and the carotid artery, and stabbed between two ribs and pierced the heart. The main gauche stabbed into the abdomen and through the remaining synthetic eyeball and into the brain. The rapier's thrusting speed was measured at 5.9 feet per second, or roughly 4 mph.