Why PVC Sucks

John and I were having a discussion regarding different core materials for javelins. A lot of people, including me, have argued for a long time that PVC is completely useless as a core material for boffer weapons. Not “bad” or “substandard” but completely worthless, put it with lead pipes and cardboard tubes, nobody should ever use it again.

Why not? Here are the commonly cited reasons:

  • PVC is heavier than other materials at similar lengths
  • PVC is more flexible than fiberglass or kitespar (the other two favored core materials for boffer fighting in general) so for sword and things with flexibility rules in boffer games it can end up being “whippy”
  • PVC core also tends to mean that you will end up with a larger weapon profile since the core of the weapon has a larger diameter
  • PVC breaks much more easily than solid fiberglass
  • When PVC breaks, it shatters and can be very sharp, while when fiberglass/kitespar break they tend to fray almost like a rope

As we agreed that PVC was a lesser material, John (playing devils advocate per usual) brought up that PVC is a good learning material because its cheap and easy to find. Flexibility rules don’t apply as heavily to javelins (they are allowed a much larger degree of flexibility than any other weapon) so PVC is still used in many games.

Recently Belegarth added a maximum weight to the rules javelin construction, which brings us to the last reason why PVC sucks: it weighs significantly more than the other core options. I have some math below to show how much heavier PVC is than fiberglass and kitespar. These cores are sized specifically for javelin construction (I wouldn’t recommend using 3/8″ fiberglass for a sword unless you’re going to double-core) but the principle is applicable to other weapons as well.


Schedule 40 PVC is ~.16 lbs/ft, and a 4ft length weighs in at .64 lbs. More than half of the maximum weight of a Belegarth javelin.


This kitespar weighs ~0.05 lbs/ft, and a 4ft length weighs around .2 lbs.

Even when comparing short weights at the smallest viable diameter of core, for a weapon where whip and durability are not primary factors, pvc proves itself to be wildly inadequate.

(While we’re talking javelin cores, here’s another perfectly good option, http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-202498049/h_d2/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10053 fiberglass driveway marker)

A good example of a standard driveway marker used for double coring swords or single core for javelin! This is listed as .3125″ diameter which is 0.0625″ less than a true 3/8″ (.375). we can keep that in mind for the comparison and not do the math, because its 16.7% smaller. luckily the product is already 48″ so the listed weight is already @ 4ft. Listed weight is .33 lbs. with an increase of 16.7% in mass, that will bring us to .385lbs for a true 3/8″ fiberglass rod. In my opinion the smaller rod would be acceptable, but ill list the true 3/8″ first.

@ 4ft its .385lbs or .33lbs That’s a little more than half the weight of PVC

Math > PVC


  1. #1 by John Wright on May 4, 2013 - 7:05 am

    Using a heavy material would allow you to more realistically match the weight of a steel weapon. I agree about the wippiness and fracturing though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *