I have used a PBT gorget for protection in sparring for a couple of years, and I am quite satisfied with it. It is reasonably comfortable, it offers sufficient protection, and it has saved me from some quite nasty thrusts.
The PBT gorget has a somewhat rigid plate in a well-padded collar, going around the throat. The collar is reasonably high and gives significant protection to the front and sides of the throat, which is to be commended.
It has a flap coming down from the throat piece, covering the collar bones (the clavicle) and perhaps even the sternum, depending on your size. This does make it a bit less uncomfortable to receive thrusts to the bib of the mask or top of the jacket.
It also has flaps to the sides, covering the shoulders. I don’t think I have received any cuts to the shoulders in sparring while wearing both a jacket and the gorget; it is my impression that these flaps are generally unnecessary and add bulk without being particularly useful. However, I have found myself putting on the gorget for a Schilhaw practice, since the flaps do provide a bit of padding over the shoulder, which can be a comfort if I know I will be spending significant time taking hits to the shoulder as students practice the technique!
In terms of protecting against a strong thrust to the throat, this is the bare minimum of protection that I consider adequate. I feel it is patently stupid to train with the longsword without a gorget of at least this much protection, if there is any risk of a thrust to the throat – masks bibs and jacket collars are just not protective enough, and I have written before about the importance of wearing a gorget. I am perfectly happy when I see people wearing the PBT gorget in my training sessions and competitive events, and I consider them to have sufficient protection for the throat to be safe.
Sizing, bulk, and mobility
The PBT gorget comes in two sizes: junior and senior. The senior size is intended to fit the majority of adults, while junior is intended for children/teenagers or adults with quite small measurements.
In terms of bulk, it is not very bulky around the neck, so it fits inside the collars of most HEMA jackets. However, due to the protective flaps, it can create some bulk in the shoulders, and some people find that it makes it more difficult to raise the arms above the shoulders. A relatively common piece of advice with the PBT gorget is to cut off the shoulder flaps, leaving just the collar and the front flap, to remove this bulk and make it easier to raise the arms.
Personally, I like to work with overhead positions when I fence with the longsword, and I do find my ability to do this is a bit constrained when I wear the PBT gorget. If I cut off the shoulder flaps, perhaps I would find that the problem would disappear.
Ease of fastening
There is a decent quality Velcro strap to secure the gorget around the neck, long enough to secure the gorget around a neck of almost any size. I have yet to find anyone unable to wear the PBT gorget.
It is quick and easy to put on and to take off again, which is always an important characteristic for equipment.
Price and availability
It is not such a cheap piece of equipment, with most PBT vendors selling it at around the £50 or €50 mark. However, many vendors keep the gorget in stock, and it is usually easy enough to buy one and have it in your hands within a week.
The Academy of Historical Arts online shop often keeps PBT gorgets in stock – if you would like to buy one of these items, please do take a look at our store and see if we have them available!
When I see people wearing a PBT gorget, I am satisfied that they are wearing an acceptable amount of protection for the neck. It is good quality throat protection and I would trust my own neck to it. Some people may find it a little bulky in the shoulders, but cutting off the shoulder flaps is a relatively easy solution for the problem. You can’t go wrong by having one of these gorgets in your bag.
Keith Farrell teaches HEMA professionally, often at international events (why not hire me to teach at your event?), and has an interest in coaching instructors to become better teachers. I teach regularly at Liverpool HEMA, and help behind the scenes with running HEMA in Glasgow at the Vanguard Centre.