As for the others...
- Leon Paul epees are nice, but the tips always fail shims for the first tournament. I learned this after buying two and hearing from others. The gutter blades protect the wire, but they vibrate like a tuning fork, and I had one snap in my hands.
- BF Blade snapped in my hands at Birmingham. Totally inflexible.
- Non Leon Paul tips are worthless... the screws pop out all the time, and there is nothing that pisses me off more as a director than some guy who brings a weapon to the strip without screws in.
I would buy only Uhlmann FIEs, but a) they are expensive as hell and b) the wires at the tip tend to corrode, causing the weapon to pass tests but be completely worthless in the bout. I never will forget fencing a VERY good B rated fencer in a pool bout. I had a chance to at least lose respectably 4-5 - but my weapon refused to go off, even after nailing the guy square in the chest. It passed a test by the director, so I had to resign myself to run away as much as possible.
I realize that expecting a piece of steel and electronics to work consistently under obvious duress is a little nuts - but if Panasonic can make a Toughbook laptop, I want a durable epee too.