A Treasure Trove of Antique Arms

On my recent trip to Los Angeles, my friend Mark Mikita took me to a hidden gem of a shop near his place in Marina Del Rey. In a strip mall between a payday loan place and convenience store (not sure this was exactly the neighbours but you get the idea) was one of the most ridiculously packed arms and armour collections I have seen outside of a museum.

My Collector’s Armoury is run by Tom, a longtime and passionate collector of arms and armour from around the world. This place had swords, guns, polearms, and armour from Europe, Japan, and the middle east. Amongst his European arsenal was a beautiful collection of late 16th century and early 17th century rapiers.


I spent the better part of 2 hours handling over 20 different swords to feel their various weights and handling characteristics. As with many collections I have viewed in museums the diversity of properties was wide. There were long bladed rapiers (45-48 inch blades ahead of the quillons) and shorter, though none shorter than about 38”. Some were graceful and dextrous, some hulking and ugly. Though many of the swords in this collection that appeared to be made for use rather than show were long, and fairly graceful in their movement with balance points between 2 and 4 inches ahead of their quillons (typical for rapiers seeking to balance between nimbleness of point and enough forward presence to hold a line).

The Most Beautiful Arming Sword

A special treat from my visit was handling at 1435 arming sword (with provenance — meaning they have a record of its history). Tom had to get this sword out from a safe in the back. As soon as it was in my hand I got goosebumps. Yes it is humbling to handle a weapon that is nearly 600 years old, but more so this sword had incredible balance and feel in the hand. It had a very fine edge and a prominently risen spine. The balance point was about 3 to 4 inches ahead of the cross and an overall weight just above 2 lbs. Though the effect in the photo gives a feeling that the blade is enormously long, it was probably about 36 inches.

It had the perfect balance between quickness and authority. I only wish I had an extra $35,000 lying around.

The Danger of it Being a Shop and not a Museum

I had not headed out to this shop with the intention of making any purchases. Honestly. It was sincerely just a pleasure to have the opportunity to handle so many different historical weapons in one place. Yet the temptation was mounting and there were a few rapiers that were in my price range to purchase for the Academie Duello museum.

One particular rapier was dated to somewhere between 1600 and 1615. It was a very fine example of a long swept hilt rapier. It had the properties of a weapon made for use, and though it was quite long at 48” ahead of the quillons, the blade was both stiff and maneuverable. One thing that is not well reproduced in modern rapiers is the thickness of the base stock of the steel. This was 3/4” thick at its base with a strong distal taper along its length (most modern reproductions are 1/2” or less). This means the blade can be quite strong and resistant to undue flex, particular in the strong (lower half) of the blade.

Well it was heard to leave this one in the shop. So I had Tom box it up and I awkwardly carried it with me through the next 5 days of my trip in LA and San Diego. It’s now on the wall in the Academie Duello Museum. Looks right at home!

You might wonder if I’ve fenced with it? You bet I have! (though no striking). It both moves and holds a line very well. Though it wasn’t as pretty as Tom’s amazing Milanese rapier with the pierced pommel, it was in a much better price range and was a great example of rapiers from this period.

Thanks Mark

Sincere thanks to Mark Mikita from bringing me out to this shop. It will definitely be a regular stop for me when I’m in LA.

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