VB Italian Feder

(editor's note: Doug and I independently picked up this feder, and afterwards decided to collaborate on this review. Having multiple opinions on a weapon, which can be one of the most subjective pieces of gear you'll own in HEMA, has worked for MAW in the past, so we're trying to continue it where possible. Doug has provided the majority of the review, where Jason adding color where prudent.)

Doug: I originally bought this feder as holdover/backup while waiting for another sword to come in that had been delayed. I'd used a VB Tournament feder and didn't dislike it, but I also wasn't impressed with it other than being decent for the price.  

Since these were in stock and I hadn't had a chance to handle one, I decided to get one of them instead. I'm moderately impressed. (Note: for Doug, "Moderately" is high praise. The guy has high standards.)

Jason:  I received this from Purpleheart Armoury for the purposes of a review. I have not been charged for the trainer. I've always been a fan of this style of feder blade, and after a Regenyei replica similar to the VB Italian broke after just a few exchanges, I've been on the lookout for another.

Review Methodology

 After months of intense abuse, this weapon is holding up fantastically.

After months of intense abuse, this weapon is holding up fantastically.

 The historical feder the VB Italian was based on. I wish more feders utilized historical designs, as most are completely modern inventions.

The historical feder the VB Italian was based on. I wish more feders utilized historical designs, as most are completely modern inventions.

Jason: Because I received the VB Italian at no charge, I decided to do something with it I haven't done with any other review on Measure & Weigh: beat the ever living shit out of the weapon. For over two months I forced everyone in the club to fence with it multiple times a night, and to not be kind to the weapon.

I used the VB Italian at my very next tournament, and despite the weapon being very 'seasoned' by that point, it survived, and still does.

Design & Construction

Overall Length: 50" (1270mm)
Blade Length: 37.5" (950mm)
Blade Thickness at the Tip: 0.08" (2mm)
Blade Material: 51 CRV4 Carbon Steel
Guard Width: 27.9cm
Grip Length: 28.5cm
Weight: 3 lbs 3 oz (1.5kg)

Doug: I know, guys. It looks funny. I get it, we all get it. But that aside, there's a few features I'm a big fan of with the design.

(A) Nice wide smooth tip, pretty close in thickness to the Albion Meyer, but probably twice as wide. No flared ends, not rolled (A personal postive). This leaves it with a blade that is forgiving, but not overly soft in the thrust.

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(B) The sturdiest mother-fucking guard I've ever seen. Holy shit guys, hold my beer while I Mordschlag a tank with this real quick. Seriously, though; if you're one of those people who keep getting their crossguards bent while sparring, that problem will be a thing of the past with this. The wide ends on them also mean that they should be relatively safe to close and wrench with, and that cleanup of burrs or nicks will be simple.

(C) The entire hilt (like on the other VB feders I've seen) are designed to be taken apart with an allen key. This means replacing the grip, guard, or pommel should be a breeze.

On the negative side, I'm really not a fan of:

(A)  The dimensions of the grip feel ever so slightly overbuilt, and I feel like it would be better if it was just ~1/4" thinner. The leather wrap also tore quickly, but every leather wrap I've ever seen does the same, so no surprise there.

(B) Similarly, the pommel feels just slightly oversized. While I'm not sure how it could best be managed while preserving the balance and handling, I'd like the pommel just slightly smaller. Finicky details for a feder at this price point, and given the design, not at all outside the bounds of what could be fixed by a hobbyist at home if they felt so inclined.

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Jason: I love spatulated/swelled tips. They don't break like rolled tips do, and with the added surface area they don't need a rubber blunt for tournament play. The distal taper and the shape of the blade make for a flexible weapon that doesn't feel particularly whippy. I feel extremely safe thrusting with this weapon, repeatedly.

The grip is a simple leather and a basic shape, and while I'd love to have a waisted grip option (especially since you can swap them out easily), I'm not bothered by the leather and wear and tear. I've never had a grip from *any* feder I've owned last in any sort of decent condition more than a few weeks, and this has held up as good or better than any of the others. I almost always wrap my grips with tennis grip for this reason.

I'm fine with the grip width, as I sometimes I have issues with my grip simply letting go on thinner grips, but like I said before - I'd really love a waisted option, even if it costs more.

The construction overall is quite shocking, especially for the price. I'm typically quite leery of pommels that can be screwed on, and I prefer a peened pommel. But this thing has only needed tightening once or twice, and both times just took a simple, strong twist with my hands and it was as tight as ever.

This weapon has the beefiest crossguard I've ever seen, and I doubt it will ever bend, let alone break.

Performance

Doug: I've already mentioned the blade is responsive, nimble and generally a pleasure to try and make interact with people's faces; but there are two major things to mention about this blade in terms of its performance.

(A) It's only stiff exactly along the axis of the edge. If you parry dead-on true, it'll hold up to just about anything as long as you're behind it correctly. And if you're not... [picture of Doug wiggling his sword] This.

It is probably the least forgiving feder I've used in terms of edge alignment, and I love it for that.

I was worried about the reverse distal taper when I got it. I'm not the biggest bruiser out there, but I've been noted to pack a bit of punch behind my cuts, and I was worried that this wouldn't hold up; so I decided to do one of my favorite things. I kitted up and asked Kyle Griswold of Mordhau Historic Combat Arts to beat some knowledge into me.

The fact is this - the sword took everything he dished out at me with nary a complaint. A couple small nicks in the shilt where hard parries met blades, but nothing even remotely worrying.

Jason: feders have been getting stiffer and stiffer lately, for two reasons: 1) to become more 'durable' as people haven't wrapped their head around the idea that training tools can and will break, and 2) because a stiff blade is easier to parry badly with. This feder will help train you to parry properly, and that's not an exaggeration - the blade will flex if you haven't parried or performed an attack in opposition with the edge aligned properly. 

For me, this makes it a great daily trainer - I know if I've thrown a schielhau and I'm defeated it's because my mechanics were poor. I even had a schielhau in a tournament recently that I blamed the weapon for failing, but after watching the tape, my structure and power were way off.  If I had not been using this weapon, I wouldn't have discovered the flaw in my fencing.

Despite all the bordering-on-absurd abuse I and my club have put this trainer through, it's absolutely remarkable that it's holding up so well. The edge damage is minimal, and of the few burs there are, they're so minor that I don't feel the need to grind any of them down.

The point of balance feels right - I'm never fighting the blade to do what I want, but it also doesn't feel alien or light, and I like where the POB is compared to, say, a standard Regenyei (this might also be because of the slightly longer grip, to be fair).  The weight at just over 3 pounds makes it comparable to other trainers out there.

As a meyerite, I very much like the slightly longer handle that allows me to change my grip on the fly, but it's not so long that it gets in the way of powerful cuts or winding actions.

CONCLUSION:

Doug: This isn't my favorite feder; but it's close. It looks goofy, but it does it's job well. It's going to become my default recommendation to my students for a starter feder if it's in stock, and I'm definitely going to keep mine in rotation with other swords. I also absolutely love throwing Prellhau with it.

Jason: I'm with Doug in the sense that this might not be my most favorite weapon ever, but given that it's extremely available and priced well ($269 without shipping), it's damn near close. I'm a firm believer that custom trainers are a total waste, and being able to pick up a new one and be off to the races in a few days with a weapon you're already familiar with is hard to dismiss.

This absolutely is in my top 5 weapons to recommend, and one of the first ones I'll recommend to new students.

Hats off to Purpleheart Armoury and Viktor Berbekucz - where a lot of smiths might dismiss feedback, Viktor has been hard a work improving his steel trainers, and it shows in every detail and the reliability of his weapons.  Christian & Natasha have also been persistent at getting Viktor the right feedback. It shows in all the best way.

You can buy the VB Italian here.