A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
Arms & Armor Katzbalger
A hands-on review by Patrick Kelly
Most swords are designed with a specific purpose in mind: chopping, slicing, thrusting, etc. The threat that a sword is meant to counter will generally dictate its design. Some swords are more specialized than most; the Zweihander, the Estoc, the Dusack and even swords like the Rapier could be lumped into this category. The German Katzbalger also fits into this category and A&A's rendition is a fine example of the type.
Measurements and Specifications:
Original: c.1560, Deutsches Klingen Museum, Solingen.
Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota
Arms & Armor's Katzbalger is designed to do one thing: chop. While I couldn't actually chop anything with this sword (it was intended for sale, and wasn't mine to abuse) I feel comfortable stating that it would perform that function quite well. Things got pretty close and desperate in the warfare of the late middle ages. A close-packed pike formation doesn't leave a lot of room for fancy technique. Believe me, when you handle this sword, fancy technique is the farthest thing from your mind. The impressive heft and point forward balance of this piece speak of one thing: chopping and hacking (ooops, that's two things).
Fit and Finish
I was most impressed with the workmanship on the Katzbalger. The blade features a flat lenticular cross section for the first two thirds of its length. This is finished off by a strong ricasso for the last six and a half inches. Two parallel fullers are machined into the ricasso. These are very well finished and add pleasing detail to the sword as a whole.
The S-guard is cast in an attractive cross-hatching pattern that is cleanly done and very attractive. The bars of the guard terminate in round finials that are also cleanly cast. I've always found A&A's cast hilt components to be some of the best of their type. Lost wax can be a difficult process, one that A&A has mastered very well. The leather-covered grip widens towards the pommel cap and looks a bit strange to my classically inclined sensibilities; however, when one grasps the sword it becomes immediately apparent that this is by design. The grip shape really helps the user to maintain a firm grip on this point-heavy little beast.
The overall feeling of the Katzbalger is one of devastating utility. It is a very solidly constructed piece that's meant for dirty business. If the user desires a sword which will fit into a variety of time periods or if you're looking for that "one and only" type of sword, the Katzbalger may not be it. On the other hand, if you desire a sword of this specific type with which to round out a collection or complete a persona look no further.
A&A's Katzbalger has a place reserved in my collection.
About the Author
Patrick is a State Trooper serving with the Kansas Highway Patrol. He has been fascinated with edged weapons, particularly the medieval sword, since early childhood. Not only is Patrick thankful for any opportunity to indulge in his favorite hobby, he is also blessed with a wife who tolerates a house full of sharp pointy things.
Photographs courtesy of Arms & Armor