There are many different models of rifles in the world, and this guide will help you sort through the facts and features of purchasing your very own rifle.
For absolute beginners who have never even touched a rifle before, most companies offer models that do not have bolts on top or straps to get your fingers tangled in. They may have rubber padding on the ends and might be on the shorter side. They are also lighter than a standard rifle and at a price of around $15.00 they will not break your budget. These beginner rifles are a good way to start learning how to spin and getting used to the movement of the rifle without getting hurt. However, most teams will simply recommend starting beginners out with whatever type of rifle they plan on using in their training, rather than allowing them to get used to a rifle being one way and then having to step up to a different rifle.
Once you have mastered the beginner's rifle, intermediate spinners will generally move up and purchase an advanced-class rifle.
Moving on to the "big guns" so to speak, there are many models of rifles to choose from and they may tend to look the same - but do not be fooled! Also, when thinking of length of the rifle consider whether you are spinning for a field show or indoor performance; longer 39" rifles generally show up better from the stand on the field while the versatility of the 36" is usually favored for indoor shows where the audience is closer. However, we strongly recommend anyone purchasing a personal piece of equipment look into what size is used by the team you are ultimately interested in spinning for! Straps to consider are leather, nylon, or web. Leather straps have been favored until recently because of their professional look and the snapping sound that they create when the rifle is being spun. Web straps have seen a dramatic increase in popularity due to their versatility and affordability, but are often uncomfortable to spin with and do not last as long.
The King brand dominates the sabre industry, and these rifles live up to the legend of King products being perfectly balanced in all aspects. They practically spin themselves, but some lightness must be sacrificed to achieve this balance so these are a little heavier than other models. I know of many people who have King rifles between 12-20 years old without so much as a crack in the wood, so they are definitely worth the price!
In addition to the normal King rifle, they also produce the King Kong rifle, a precision-engineered piece of color guard machinery that has been tested endlessly by many groups from the very beginner to world class. It has been designed for ultimate durability (there is even a lightweight metal rod to help with this durability) and also a consistent lighter weight and balance. Nearly all of the top world class color guards and winter guards on Earth use King Kong rifles exclusively - and this is all that we use at Spintronix as well!
If you do plan on purchasing products from Designs by King, please let them know in the comments box of your order that you saw Spintronix recommend their products! We have a partnership with them that helps us out every time someone purchases equipment from our recommendations :-)
I would love to be able to simply stop there and say "BUY A KING RIFLE YOU WON'T REGRET IT!" but this would not be a very good comparison article if I don't also discuss some of the other options that are available out there with some of their own pros and cons. So here are some more brands that you may have seen or considered at some point.
Elite 2, 3, and 4
The difference between the 3 and 4 is just the length, but this model is an ok quality rifle with many good reviews. While not unbreakable, this rifle will hold up best if you only spin it over grass or other soft surfaces. The first thing I would do with these rifles if I were to purchase new ones is to immediately remove all of the screws that come in the gun and replace them with real wood screws that you can find at your local hardware store. The screws used on these rifles are terribly cheap and tend to immediately shear off into the wood the first time the rifle is dropped.
This is the world's first plastic rifle and it's definitely got some good points. All of the Xfactors are weighted exactly the same and they have screw-in weights that you can put into each end in order to change the weight if necessary. However, with all new products there is a lot of testing and improvements that need to occur. The locations where weights get screwed in are prone to breakage, leaving a free weight to just float and bounce around inside of the hollow plastic gun. And even though they were once advertised as unbreakable, many guard members have since proven that to be false advertising, especially if spun over concrete or tile floors.
George Miller and Sons (Ultimate)
If you've been around any "old timers" in the guard world like me, you've probably heard of this model; which was also called the Ultimate at one point. In their heyday they were the best rifle designed. The Miller Ultimate has the best durability of any model of rifle while still being well weighted and balanced. The price also stayed competitive with the other models. Miller rifles could only be found at the George Miller and Sons website while they were around, but as all good things come to an end, so did this company.
Sickles (or Curves) are not exactly a new style of rifle, but they have seen increasing popularity because of their use by many drum and bugle corps color guards. These pieces of equipment loosely resemble rifles, but are essentially a curved piece of wood with or without a strap. They are very easy to spin because of their tailored shape and create a spectacular circular effect in shows. Their prices also usually run a little bit cheaper for wood or more for plastic than normal rifles so they are a good addition to a great color guard.