The foil has a flexible rectangular blade, approximately 35 inches in length and weighs less than one pound. Points are scored with the tip of the blade and the valid target area is the torso, from the shoulders to the groin in the front and to the waist in the back.
A foil fencer’s uniform includes a metallic vest (called a lame) which covers the valid target area so that a valid touch will register on the scoring machine. Additionally, while the neck is not target, the bottom portion of the bib on a foil fencer’s mask is valid target. A small, spring-loaded tip is attached to the point of the foil and is connected to a wire inside the blade. The fencer wears a body cord inside their uniform which connects the foil to a reel wire, which in turn is connected to the scoring machine.
The epee (pronounced EPP-ay) is the descendent of the dueling sword. It is similar in length to the foil but is heavier, weighing approximately 27 ounces. As in the foil, points are scored with the tip of the blade; however, the entire body is the valid target area. As such, the epee bell guard is significantly larger than the foil guard to protect the hand and forearm from being easily hit. Because the entire body is a valid target area, an epee fencer does not wear a lame and off-target hits do not register on the machine.
The saber is the modern version of the cavalry sword and is similar in length and weight to the foil. A major difference is that the saber is a cutting weapon as well as a thrusting weapon. Points can be scored with the edge of the blade or with the tip. The target area is from the bend of the hips (both front and back), to the top of the head, to include the arms. The saber fencer’s uniform includes a lame which covers the target area to register a valid touch on the machine. Since the head is valid target area, the mask is different than foil and epee and has a metallic covering. As in foil, a red or green light indicates a touch on the opponent’s valid target area. Off-target hits do not register on the machine.