Buying Armor |||: Budgets and Buying
What each budget buys:
With new gear, here are the basic budget levels. Those starting out should be within the first two ranges, the others are given to help explain what more money brings in.
Note: With current events (Ukraine invasion, rise in materials prices) the original ranges are outdated. Updates have been attempted, but please be aware these are guidelines.
$2000-2300: The *minimum* At this price, you will have a simple kit, probably based on 14th century European armor. It will be made of tempered steel (except for maybe the helmet), parts will be steel under fabric, floating (not connected) joints. The padded layer will be stock, not made to measure.
$2400-3700: This is a mid level range. For European kits, articulated joints, titanium body armor, fully enclosed sabbatons, and more complex designs typically become available. This is also the starter range for some armor historically found in Central Asia. At the very edge of this range, one can get a simple, early-15th century plate kit (no metal under fabric). Padded layer can be made to measure. At this range, it is also worth considering swappable parts for different formats as one trains (IE lighter body for duels or bigger shoulders for buhurt)
$3800-6000: This is one of the upper ranges. At this point, padded layer should be bespoke, one should expect customization for most armor. Articulated titanium limbs, full plate body armor, more complicated helmets (with multiple visors), and some other premium pieces become options. At this level, one should almost certainly have format specific parts.
$6000-?????: At this range, one is probably getting a custom or semi plate suit from the 15th century or later. There are very few other options at this point that most experienced fighters will agree are reasonable. Since this sport will damage any armor, this range is not advisable to most
Buying options: "Starter Kits"
In the past few years, some armorers have began offering "starter kits". Typically, they fall into the $1000-$1300 price range and include most of what one needs (usually excluding a helmet and gauntlets or sabbatons). Most are basic 14th European kits, with simpler designs for joints. Some are even made to measurements. You will need to buy the final things they do not include, either from the same or a different armorer
In this case "Starter set" does not mean that the design quality is low. These kits are comparable to those used by some of the best fighters in the world.
Pros: Simplicity of ordering from a single vendor. Pricing is competitive. The armor comes from the same place, so the components should work together.
Cons: Large initial payment (typically half the final cost), wait time is longer, kits are not typically as historically accurate as possible
Buying options: "Full kits"
This is very similar to the "starter kit" option. The process is going to reputable armorers, showing them what you would like (ideally include examples of similar things they have made before), keeping track of their prices and wait times, and eventually deciding on one option.
This can be done as hybrid with a starter kit; just tell the armorer which "upgrades" or extra items you would like.
Pros: Simplicity, the parts should work together, can reflect exactly what you want.
Cons: Higher cost, large initial payment, needs more communication.
Buying options: Piece by Piece
This is probably the most common way people buy armor. Once you have a plan of what you want, you look at the varying options (comparing pricing, shape, wait time,) and buy your components separately over time. This gives more flexibility to find stock items and to take advantage of different designs or prices from different sources.
Pros: Most flexibility for both price and design.
Cons: Requires the most planning. Individual shipping on each item will end up more expensive vs shipping altogether.