Arms & Armor English Longsword
A hands-on review by Gordon Clark

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Swords designed to effectively use both edge and point have a long history, and have been present for at least three thousand years in both bronze and steel. In the relatively recent past, though, swords seemed to have been made for specialized purposes—first for cutting, then, after the development of plate armour, for thrusting with the point. Finally, perhaps around 1400, the benefits of swords that were good at both were recognized and "cut and thrust" swords came back into fashion. Swords of Oakeshott Type XVIII share these abilities, but often have little else in common.. Swords of this type range from weapons that were light and agile and used as personal sidearms, to large and imposing swords of war capable of powerful shearing blows and devastating thrusts. The sword presented here lies somewhere in between these extremes.

Arms & Armor has a reputation for quality production weapons based on historic examples. This piece is a fine example of their work. It is based on a German example in the collection of the Zürich Landesmuseum (circa 1450). However, since the original is severely corroded, the hilt details are based on a Flemish painting by Hugo van der Goes, circa 1475. This sword is an interesting example of an elegant and effective weapon.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:2 pounds, 12.8 ounces
Overall length:43 5/8 inches
Blade length:33 5/8 inches
Blade width:1 3/4 inches at base, tapering to 3/4 inches
Grip length:5 3/8 inches
Guard width:7 5/8 inches
Point of Balance:5 5/8 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~20 inches from guard
Oakeshott typology:Type XVIIIa blade, Type U pommel, Style 6 guard

Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.

Handling Characteristics
This sword just feels good, especially when held with two hands. When cutting light targets, the sword is fairly easy to control with one hand, but takes some concentration to keep the edge aligned. With two hands, control is much improved and almost effortless. Vibration is minimal from strikes away from the Center of Percussion (CoP) and cutting effectiveness does not decrease much. Edge alignment is critical though, and the sword is not as forgiving when the edge is not aligned well with the direction of the swing.

The first quarter of the blade is about 0.2 inches thick and shows almost no distal taper, then it tapers very gradually to 0.18 inches at a point about 6 inches from the tip, then more dramatically to the tip. The spine of the sword is fairly thick for most of its length, and it shows; the blade is quite stiff for its weight and length and the point control is very good.

Fit and Finish
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Pommel Detail

The pommel and cross are cast from mild steel and are elegantly proportioned with nice detail. My sword has a couple of minor casting flaws, but I don't think they take away from the appearance of the piece. The grip is wood, wrapped with cord to achieve the visible pattern and covered with black leather (stitched up one side). The wood on the lower grip, below the cord riser, is carved in a hexagonal section, to blend into the hexagonal portion of the pommel. This provides a very attractive grip and also a very comfortable one for one or two hands. When held with two hands, the pommel actually acts as an extension of the grip, allowing the second hand to fit comfortably. The blade is, as is almost always the case with Arms & Armor, well-finished, with no grind marks and a very uniform satin finish. Overall, I believe that this sword is one of the most attractive production swords on the market.

A genuinely lovely sword, a faithfully historic sword, and a real performance sword—Arms & Armor has produced a weapon that really does do it all. A&A certainly has many attractive weapons in their lineup, but I believe that this one is a standout in terms of both aesthetics and overall performance. The current retail price is $640 US, while not cheap, is still a very good value for the money.

About the Author
Gordon Clark spent seven years as a wandering college mathematics professor before settling down to a real job. He is now an analyst for a scientific consulting firm in the Washington DC area. A few years ago he realized a childhood dream of owning a real sword. His wife says that he has re-realized that dream too many times since then.

Photographer: Nathan Robinson

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