Is Red Dragon HEMA Gear Worth Buying for USA Beginner Swordfighters?


Historical European martial arts ( HEMA ) is an exciting sport and hobby enjoyed by many people that is growing in popularity every day and newbies are always looking for affordable HEMA equipment (such as fencing jackets, fencing masks, gloves, shin guards, swords, etc.) they can use as starter gear until they are ready for higher levels of play, such as participating in tournaments. While there are many excellent brands producing HEMA equipment, much of this can be fairly expensive so people like to read reviews about they invest the money to buy their historical fencing gear.

As we discuss in our article about ‘How Expensive is HEMA?‘, it can cost $400 to $600 USD to purchase all of the equipment for a beginner to participate in free play / sparring with longswords, rapiers, messers, sabres, etc. and other sword styles. Usually people purchase gear over a period of time instead of suddenly all at once, and rely on their HEMA club’s loaner equipment for the first year but many people are benefited by purchasing their own equipment early, as it gives them some control over their level of protection and they don’t have to share the gear with others (loaner gear doesn’t always have the best smell to it!).

This is where United Kingdom-based Red Dragon Armoury comes in. Red Dragon is a popular brand of HEMA armor for beginners in HEMA, as they produce a line of synthetic swords, blunt steel practice swords and protective fencing gear that is designed for heavy weapons fighting such as in Historical European martial arts. One of the nice things about purchasing Red Dragon HEMA equipment is that you can always use it as loaner equipment when you upgrade your kit for tournament level play, and as beginner equipment is always in need you could even re-sell it to others in your club or on the internet, such as via eBay.

In this article we will briefly review several popularly used Red Dragon Armoury HEMA equipment.

Red Dragon HEMA Sparring Jacket

The Red Dragon HEMA sparring jacket is produced in two variants; the first is the normal one and the second is the light model. Both of these jackets are rated with 350N rated puncture resistance material to protect against broken blades, and they also feature padding to protect against heavy blows such as from long swords, sabres, messers, etc. The main difference is that the light model has less padding, which makes it easier to move in but also less hot to wear.

In terms of protective fencing armor quality, the Red Dragon normal and light HEMA jacket models are comparable to the SPES AP HEMA Jacket and the SPES AP Light HEMA Jacket, respectively. The main difference is that the Red Dragon jackets do not have padding on the back (a place that is an off-limits target area for competition) and have a special kind of ‘blade catcher’ guard for the neck area that is designed to hold the bib in place so that it is more difficult for thrusts to go underneath the fencing mask’s bib. While sometimes this blade catcher is referred to as a built in gorget, it is not strong enough to serve as a real gorget and a gorget should still be worn separately with these jackets to protect your wind pipe from accidentally being crushed by thrusts from a blunt practice sword such as a federschwert.

The jackets tend to be more affordable than the popularly used SPES models, with the SPES jackets selling for around $200 USD / 199.00 PLN and the Red Dragon jackets selling for around $165 USD / £155.00; the light versions are usually cheaper than the normal versions are. At present the best price for purchasing these in North America are through (which in full disclosure, this site is an affiliate of).

You can get a detailed review about the Red Dragon HEMA Sparring Jacket from Carey, the owner of

Red Dragon HEMA Mask

The Red Dragon HEMA Fencing Mask is rated with a 350N bib and features a removal liner. It sells for around £69.50.

In addition to the mask you also need a HEMA fencing mask overlay. This provides more protection to the top of the head, the sides of the head and the back of the head to protect against blows from heavy weapons. Red Dragon produces two models; the Red Dragon Padded Mask Hood model that fully covers head and provides some additional bib protection and the Red Dragon Padded Leather Mask that only covers the top, sides and back of the head but is made of leather material.

Red Dragon Throat Protector / Gorget

The Red Dragon Throat Protector is an inexpensive but effective gorget that fits necks of all sizes. The hard plastic collar will protect your wind pipes from becoming crushed when an opponent thrusts to your neck. It is necessary to wear a gorget when fencing with historical weapons, as a fencing mask bib is not designed to protect against thrusts from long swords, rapiers, sabers and other heavy weapons. These can be purchased for around £20 or $21.99 USD.

Red Dragon HEMA Light Sparring Hoodie

Red Dragon HEMA Light Sparring Hoodie is a hoodie with special foam padding inserts in the arms and shoulders to allow for light drilling to be more comfortable for those who are worried about getting injured during steel weapons drilling and don’t want to wear a more cumbersome fencing jacket. The Red Dragon HEMA hoodie works well for those who are using synthetic swords, too.

Red Dragon HEMA Gloves

Red Dragon produces several types of protective gloves for Historical European martial arts (HEMA) activities.

The first are the Red Dragon HEMA Sparring Gloves. These are constructed similar to lacrosse gloves and are best used for synthetic weapons but can also be used for light drilling and free play / sparring with steel weapons. The Red Dragon HEMA Sparring Gloves sell for £54.00 or $94.99 USD.

Red Dragon also has rapier gloves, which are padded leather gloves useful for wearing with lighter weapons such as rapiers and sabers. The Red Dragon Padded Rapier Gloves sell for £30.00 or $48.99 USD.

Red Dragon Armoury HEMA Forearm and Elbow Protectors

The Red Dragon Armoury HEMA Forearm and Elbow Protectors are designed to be worn overtop of a HEMA fencing jacket or gambeson. They are constructed of rigid plastic plates to protect the forearm and hard rounded plastic cups to protect the elbows. These HEMA arm protectors provide additional protection against hard blows from longswords or other steel weapons such as sabers, as the arms are common targets in historical fencing. They can also be worn against synthetic weapons, too. These sell for £45 or $59.95 USD.

Red Dragon HEMA Sparring Pants

The Red Dragon HEMA Sparring Pants are specially designed fencing pants made from 350N rated puncture resistant material that also have padding to protect against heavy weapon blows from longswords, sabers, messers and other weapons, both steel and synthetic. The pants also feature some hard plastic inserts to protect the thighs from strikes. The The Red Dragon HEMA Sparring Pants sell for £67.50 or $79.99 USD and come in a variety of sizes.

Red Dragon HEMA Knee Guards and Shin Protectors

Red Dragon Armory produces several varieties of hard plastic shells designed to protect the knees and shins of the lower body from heavy weapon strikes such as from longswords, sabres and messers.

The Red Dragon HEMA Knee Guards are designed to protect your knee caps from damage while historical fencing with weapons. In addition to protecting the front of the knee, they also protect the side, too. The Red Dragon HEMA Knee Guards sell for £13.50 or $19.99 USD.

Red Dragon also produces Shin Guards as well, to protect your shin bone from strikes. The Red Dragon Armory HEMA Shin Guards sell for £18.00 or $33.95 USD.

Finally, Red Dragon also produces an ‘all-in-one’ option for leg protection that has both knee and shin protectors combined into a single product. The Red Dragon Armoury HEMA Knee & Shin Protectors sell for £40.00 or $74.99 USD.

Red Dragon Blunt Steel Practice Swords Trainers for HEMA

Red Dragon Armoury produces a line of steel practice swords for Historical European martial arts (HEMA) students that are designed to be affordable. These steel weapons are blunted, featuring thickened edges that cannot be sharpened, and are useful for those studying longsword, arming sword and sabre. These sell for prices ranging from £59.00 / $98.99 USD to £195.00 / $299.95 USD.

Red Dragon Synthetic Swords for Practicing HEMA

Red Dragon produces a line of synthetic weapon trainers for Historical European martial arts. These blade styles include a wide range of sword types, such as longswords, bastard swords, arming swords, basket hilted sabers, dussacks, lange messers, and cutlasses. These synthetic swords are designed to have blades that will safely flex when thrust against an opponent yet remain strong when crossed against another blade. They are very safe trainers and affordable, usually sold at a fraction of the price of a steel weapon of the same type.

You can also purchase the Red Dragon synthetic longswords in discounted bundles, too, which is ideal for purchasing many for use as club loaner practice weapons.


We hope this guide helps you start your journey into learning historical sword fighting.

For more information useful for beginners looking to purchase HEMA starter gear, you might be interested in these additional articles on our HEMA Resources website.

If you’d like to learn more information about historical fencing practices please check out our Learn HEMA page for a guide to learning about the historical weapon that interests you. You can also find more guides we’ve written about other topics at our Helpful Guides page. You can also join the conversation at our forums or our Facebook Group community.

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