In the early years of the 20th century, before the Great War tempered society’s interest in the martial arts, dueling came into the popular vogue. Not the lethal kind, but rather a more sporting style using pistols firing wax balls instead of lead bullets. It was even demonstrated at the 1908 Olympics (although not made an official part of the Games, as some claim).
Today we are at the Institute of Military Technology looking at a beautiful early 1900s set of Lepage Brothers wax-ball dueling pistols made in Paris, along with their specialty ammunition and protective gear. For the record, we did try firing these, and found that the primer caps were all sadly destroyed by time and would not fire. A shame, because I was hoping to bring you a proper duel between myself and the IMT’s Curator!
Anyway, the sport bears quite a lot of similarity to today’s innovative new (*cough*) trend in force-on-force firearms training, just styled more like fencing than a HEMA melee. The protective gear was just what you would expect today – a handguard to protect the knuckles and a mask to protect the head, with a clear solid visor over the eyes and a metal shield to protect the mouth. Add a heavy coat, and you’re all ready to go!