Equipment Review: Competitor Series Mace
The Regimental Mace Company delivers a high-performance mace for drum majors who appreciate the art of spinning. By Rick Wilson
Over the years, there have been basically three types of drum major maces (or staffs) available:
1. Those which are very ornate, very expensive and which you never dare to spin, but which are great when you’re having you’re picture taken.
2. Those which are well designed and expensive. They’re usually from the United Kingdom.
3. Those which are affordable starter maces. Unfortunately, they often have more quality inconsistencies than plastic toys at the Dollar Store.
What has been missing is a quality, high-performance spinning mace that is reasonably priced.
(I should probably confess up front that I am a spinning geek. Over the past 46 years of performing, teaching, and judging, I have handled just about every piece of equipment that was made to twirl. These have literally ranged from Polynesian Twirling Swords to a trio of carefully matched Military Signal Batons. So, I wasn’t planning on just giving this new mace a quick look over. I was planning on using it intensively to see how it performed.)
First impressions: out of the box
About a week after ordering my mace, my wife called me at the office to let me know “a long box was just delivered.” I decided to leave early for lunch and drive home to look it over.
The mace arrived securely boxed. Inside was the sleek, black, padded nylon case I had also ordered. As someone who has watched far too many James Bond movies in his life, it was very cool. I quickly unzipped the case and pulled out the mace.
My first impression was that the mace had a solid, well-built feel in the hand. The quality of the metalwork and the plating were impeccable. The Malacca cane shaft was smooth and relatively straight. (Malacca
Cane, being a naturally grown plant stem, will often have a bit of a curve. Well-made maces are virtually straight. I have seen poorly made maces from Pakistan that had a clearly visible bend to them.)
The chrome-plated ferrule (tip end) was well crafted and has been designed to a length you see in quality maces. Many starter maces made in America and in the UK use a stubby ferrule design, which saves a few dollars, but hurts the overall look of the mace.
There were a couple of disappointments: The mace came with no wrap or chain. Also, there was a small amount of glue at the crown / shaft joint from the manufacturing process.
I decided to do a more detailed examination of the mace later. I went outside to give it a test spin.
As I picked-up the Competitor Series Mace there were two things I could feel immediately:
– The mace was heavier than most
– The balance point was shifted towards the crown of the mace.
The weight made me smile. The balance point, though, had me worried.
Weight = twirl speed consistency
I’ve often wondered if the people manufacturing maces ever actually tested their equipment. If the mace is too light, it takes a great deal of effort to keep it in motion. An easy test is to take the mace and toss it high enough to get 2-3 rotations. If the mace begins to lose speed, it is too light.
The Competitor Series Mace had no such problem.
Weighing in at 33.5 oz (just over 2 lbs / just under 1 kg) this mace hits the sweet spot. It is heavy enough to maintain speed, but not too heavy to spin. I did a series of tosses and found that I could easily transition from catching the mace into other spins. Since twirl speed consistency is one of the key factors that judges look for, this design makes it easier to look good.
OK, plus points for getting the weight right. Now, what about the balance point?
Balance point placement – crazy or genius?
Traditionally, the balance point on a mace is about 1/3 of the distance from the top of the crown. The Competitor Series Mace has a balance point which is shifted about 2 – 3 inches closer to the crown than a typical mace. To be honest, it felt a bit strange. I decided to give it a chance and started to take the mace through its paces.
Pretty quickly, I started to adjust to the higher balance point. Spins were smooth and consistent. And then suddenly, I understood why the guys back at the Regimental Mace Company did what they did.
One thing that any experienced spinner knows is that you can get higher tosses by shifting away from the balance point. The further off the balance point, the higher the toss. Actually, all spinning is playing off the balance point. About the only time you want to be on the balance point is when you’re beating time.
I did a behind-the-shoulder toss, and as I saw the mace effortlessly loop over my shoulder and into the catch zone in the front, I understood. No, the designers weren’t crazy – they were geniuses!
Shifting the balance point just a few inches opened up a whole range of possibilities.
Diagonal back body tosses. Neck wraps. Shoulder rolls. The Competitor Series Mace went through the paces effortlessly. Moves that usually take some practice happened easily.
It was the difference between driving a van versus a German engineered sports car.
It took about 15 minutes to fully acclimate to the new balance point, but soon it was as comfortable as my favorite pair of old jeans.
The right length
Most maces come in lengths between 58″ and 60.” The rule of thumb for proper fit is that the top of the crown should come up to shoulder height. Sadly, this also means that every drum major shorter than 5′ 11″ is trying to spin with equipment that’s too long.
I ordered the standard length Competitor Series Mace and it measured 56.5″ long. While this difference in length was not noticeable visually, it was apparent when I began to spin. Frankly, I have spun 58″ – 60″ long maces for thirty years. I’m now sold on the higher-performance, shorter length.
Since I work with a number of students, I called the company to see about having the mace built to other, shorter lengths. They informed me that custom length maces were available as a special order and that these usually shipped within a week.
I did a mental tally: Weight? Balance point? Length? Check. Check. Check. Things were looking pretty good. I decided it was time to examine the mace more closely. Then I got a couple more surprises.
The first major crown innovation in 100 years?
The crown of most maces consists of a couple of pieces that come together to make a dome or ball. There is a hollow bottom piece that curves up and a hollow top piece that curves down. Usually, a decorative ball or ornament screws the two together. This design has been around for a long, long time.
The problem with this design is that when you drop your mace (yes, in the early stages of learning a new trick or toss, you will spend a fair amount of time picking up your mace) it is easy to dent the side of the crown. This makes it impossible to replace just the top of the crown since both pieces are now out of round. On some maces where the crown is riveted to the shaft, it takes major surgery to swap out the crown.
As I unscrewed the finial (the little ball on top of the crown) on the Competitor Series Mace, a surprising thing happened. The top dome slid away revealing a flat inner disc. This lifted up and allowed the bottom of the crown to come free.
This got me a pretty excited. As someone who has consulted on designs for drum major maces and batons, I know the challenges designers face. This is a truly unique innovation in crown design. It allows the entire crown to be swapped out quickly. Plus, the inner disc not only locks the crown elements in place, it makes a side dent nearly impossible.
Just out of curiosity, I got out the stopwatch and timed how long it took to fully replace the head – 24 seconds. This makes it very easy to have one crown for practice and another for when it is time to look good.
There are three crown styles available in the Competitor Serieswith two different finials. With the bottom being the same, you’ll need to look at the top of the crown to differentiate the models.
The head design on my mace is Style A, Finial 1. I found myself wishing for a cooler name. A, B, & C are hardly names that get your adrenaline going. It’s clear that most of the effort has gone into innovative engineering, not marketing.
Cool stuff comes in cool cases
I admit I am unusually fascinated by cases. I have a few too many leather briefcases for work. My laptop not only has a protective case for everyday use, it has a special case for when I fly on business trips. An excellent case should not only protect what it carries, it should also look cool. (Why not? Otherwise, you could just wrap your mace in one of Grandma’s old quilts and call it a day.)
This case is made of black ballistic nylon with black powder coated zippers. It is thickly padded to protect the mace. There are two padded, zippered pockets to hold accessories. There is an adjustable shoulder strap to make carrying the case easy.
This is without a doubt the finest mace case I have seen. That being said, on a scale of one to ten, I would rate this case a nine. The case is about 6″ longer that the standard size mace I ordered. So there is a 6″ floppy end where the soft padded case was longer than the rigid shaft and ferrule. Since I often stand my mace on the ferrule end, this is mildly annoying.
What about price?
You can get an American-made, fiberglass shaft starter mace for about $140. Pakistani made Malacca Cane maces start at about $260. At the high-end, a Dalman & Narborough Drum Major Staff starts at about $800 and easily moves to prices above $1,000.
(One of the most beautiful Drum Major Staffs I’ve seen is a duplicate of the Black Watch Regiment’s staff Dalman & Narborough made, complete with gold battle honours inscribed on the head. This Rolls-Royce-of-a-mace would cost more than $4,000 today.)
The Competitor Series Mace sells for $450 and is appropriately priced between the entry-level equipment and the high-end UK models. When you compare the quality of the mace and the high-performance design, it is one of the best values available.
The case sells for $85 by itself. Both bought together as a package are $525.
What does it all mean?
If you’re a new drum major, get a starter mace and begin developing your skills. If you only want to look good, get one of the ornate Malacca cane maces. But, if you are a serious spinner and performance matters, check out the Competitor Series Mace.
Quality photography? Think Canon or Nikon. Performance driving? Think BMW or Porsche. Top performance drum major spinning? Think the Regimental Mace Company.
Oh, and get the case. You’ll kick yourself if you don’t.
While not perfect, this is the best piece of spinning equipment I’ve seen in years. The design guys at the Regimental Mace Company are also talking about synthetic composite shafts and patent-pending detachable ferrules. I can’t wait. If their future products are as solid as their initial offering, there will be some excellent spinning products we can all enjoy.
Regimental Mace Company – Competitor Series Mace
Mace Evaluated Style A Crown – Finial 1
Length – 56.5″
Weight – 33.5 oz
Crown – Chrome plated-steel with plated aluminum inner disc.
Crown Replacement time – 24 seconds
Shaft – Malacca cane
Ferrule – Chrome plated steel with replaceable steel or rubber tip
Price as tested – $525 (package price for mace and black nylon padded case)
Overall Rating: 4.5 stars