Foil: a light thrusting weapon that targets the torso (including the back), neck, and groin, but not the arms or legs. The foil has a small circular hand guard that serves to protect the hand from direct stabs. As the hand is not a valid target in foil, this is primarily for safety. Touches are scored only with the tip; hits with the side of the blade do not count, and do not halt the action. Touches that land outside of the target area (called an off-target touch) stop the action, but are not scored. Only a single touch can be scored by either fencer at one time. If both fencers land valid touches at the same time, the referee uses the rules of “right of way” to determine which fencer gets the point. If both fencers begin their attack at the same time, or the referee is unable to determine who was first, neither fencer scores a point.
Épée: a thrusting weapon like the foil, but much heavier. In épée, the entire body is valid target. The hand guard on the épée is a large circle that extends towards the pommel, effectively covering the hand, which is a valid target in épée. Like foil, all hits must be with the tip and not the sides of the blade. Hits with the side of the blade do not halt the action. As the entire body is legal target, there is not the concept of an off-target touch, except if the fencer accidentally strikes the floor, setting off the electric tone. Unlike foil and sabre, épée does not use “right of way”, and allows simultaneous hits by both fencers. However, if the score is tied in a match at the last point and a double touch is scored, nobody is awarded the point.
Sabre: a light cutting and thrusting weapon that targets the entire body above the waist, excluding the hands. The hand guard on the saber extends from pommel to the base of where the blade connects to the hilt. This guard is generally turned outwards during sport to protect the sword arm from touches. Hits with the edges of the blade or the point are valid. As in foil, touches that land outside of the target area are not scored. However, unlike foil, these off-target touches do not stop the action, and the fencing continues. In the case of both fencers landing a scoring touch, the referee determines which fencer receives the point for the action, again through the use of “right of way”.