Arms & Armor German Bastard Sword: Another look
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
Many would associate the two-handed sword as a purely medieval weapon, but the Renaissance commonly saw its use. Many Renaissance fencing masters from many nationalities, such as the English George Silver or the German Paulus Hector Mair, gave instructions on the techniques and advantages of such a weapon. Giacomo Digrassi, in His True Arte of Defence, claimed that the major advantage of the two-handed sword was that "one may with it (as a galleon, among many gallies) resist many swords, or other weapons..." While Digrassi is speaking of its use in war, the German fencing manual of Joachim Meyer, Kunst der Fechten, details explicit instructions on the use of it against single unarmored opponents, showing a more civilian use. (Meyer's manual was intended for use within the fencing salle.) The German Bastard sword in this review fits into this world, where the leverage and power of the two-handed weapon had not been forgotten and left to the Middle Ages.
Arms & Armor has reproduced this sword based off of a 16th century example. Arms & Armor is known for their exceptional attention to mirroring historical detail, and this sword is a stunning example of their work. The reproduction is not a 100% copy, most likely to keep the cost reasonable for the average consumer, but this does not detract from the beauty or the deadly efficiency of this sword in the least.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.
There has been a push in the sword industry within the past few years for swords that are lightweight. This is due to the fact that most decorator swords, that have dominated the market for years, are overweight. The German Bastard Sword defies that trend, and is in fact heavy when compared to many other reproductions that would fall under the category of bastard sword. This is not unhistorical, however, and many heavier blades were used in both the Middle Ages as well as the Renaissance. Even with its weight, though, this sword is no slug. It is lively in the hand, and balances so that it moves with grace. Here is a sword that can be maneuvered for quick recoveries after strikes, but hits with devastating force. Many might shy away when they read that it weighs four and a half pounds, but make no mistake: This sword is a joy to handle.
The balance of this sword allows it to track well and to change directions easily in the swing. The edge starts out completely dull at the base of the blade, where parrying is done, and gets sharper as it gets towards the tip, sharp enough to allow great shearing cuts. The sword also thrusts well, with good tip control backed by a rigid, diamond shaped blade.
Although termed a bastard sword, probably due to the hourglass shaped hilt, this sword does need two hands for adequate control on strikes. While the German style of fencing often utilizes maneuvers that require one-handed use, this does not mean this sword does not excel in this style. Most of the one-handed techniques of the German tradition of the master Johannes Liechtenauer do not involve actively swinging the sword with the one hand, but instead hold the sword in position to protect the user while the other arm aids in grappling or disarming the opponent. The sword's weight does not affect its ability to be used in this manner. The rings on either side of the hilt do well to protect the hand, especially in the winding techniques of the German school, where the opponent's tip may come close to the knuckles.
Fit and Finish
This is a beautiful piece. The roped appearance of the guard and pommel are outstanding, showing the exceptional care that went into the minor details, something that Arms & Armor is well known for. The sword is assembled tightly, and I have yet to see an Arms & Armor hilt loosen. The lines of the blade are clean, and as Patrick Kelly noted in his previous review of this sword, the edges blend into the blade so that there is no discernable bevel. This is a sword that any noble would have been proud to carry into battle.
This is a very popular sword from Arms & Armor, and with good reason. It is both stunningly beautiful and terrifyingly powerful. At its listed price point of $595 US, it isn't as cheap as many hand and a half production swords. However, the quality of this sword puts it alongside many higher end pieces without leaving the production sword price bracket, and it is well worth the asking price.
About the Author
Bill Grandy is an instructor of Historical European Swordsmanship and sport fencing at the Virginia Academy of Fencing. He has held a strong passion (obsession?) for swords and swordsmanship for as long as he can remember. He admits that this passion comes from a youth spent playing Dungeons and Dragons, but he'll only admit that if there are no girls around.
Photographer: Nathan Robinson