Arma Bohemia Rondel Dagger
A hands-on review by Joseph Fults

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For much of man's martial history, daggers of one form or another have been ubiquitous tools, and in many cases weapons of last resort, for peasant and noble lord alike. One form, the rondel dagger, initially appeared in the 1300s and was widely used in Europe through the middle of the sixteenth century.

Rondel daggers are named for the large disc-shaped guards and pommels called rondels (meaning round or circular) that define the type. Although many of these daggers were designed mainly to be thrusting weapons, most rondel daggers were also edged and did retain some cutting ability which allowed them to be used with greater effect. In a battlefield application, a rondel dagger would be used to probe for and exploit weak areas of armour. Once a gap or weakness was identified, the dagger could be used to inflict a debilitating injury—often in close quarters.

Arma Bohemia is a living history and reenactment shop based in the Czech Republic. It sells through its Web site a mix of period military and civilian camp supplies, tents, an occasional antique, swords, armour, and a variety of related weapons, such as axes, maces, and staff weapons. The firm makes some of the products it sells itself while other products are the work of over fifty local artisans. This firm gives international collectors access to an interesting array of local products that might otherwise be unavailable outside the Czech Republic.

Arma Bohemia responds to inquiries in English, French and German that are received by fax, phone, or email. When making my purchase, I communicated with them exclusively by email. Response times were reasonable and there were no language problems. Prices were quoted in Euros. Cash, bank transfer, or Western Union money orders were accepted forms of payment at the time of my order.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:10.1 ounces
Overall length:16 inches
Blade length:11 1/4 inches
Blade width:3/4 inch at base, tapering to 1/2 inch
Grip length:4 1/4 inches
Guard width:2 3/8 inches

Replica created by Arma Bohemia of the Czech Republic.

Handling Characteristics
The overall feel of this dagger is light and comfortable. Tip control is accurate and the weapon tracks with sufficient precision to overcome mild user error. Although it is clearly a thrusting weapon (and demonstrates the expected blade stiffness for this), the dagger does not exhibit any handling qualities that would imply an inability to cut when required. The sharp edge is not keen enough to cut paper cleanly as shipped, but I found it would remove hair from my arm, albeit inefficiently.

The grip accommodates my relatively large hand very nicely. Due to the use of disc-shaped rondels and their very smooth edges, I suspect a wielder with a larger or smaller hand would still find the weapon reasonably comfortable to use. A gauntlet might not fit neatly in the space between the upper and lower rondels; however, I find that I can slip one or two fingers (or my thumb) over the upper or lower rondel and still maintain a comfortable and secure grip on the weapon.

Fit and Finish
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Hilt Detail

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Scabbard Detail

This is a very attractive weapon, perhaps too attractive for the kit I eventually hoped to build around it. The steel discs are even and round and decorated with incised lines. Horn is sandwiched between the discs and matches the horn in the grip. The blade itself is evenly formed and cleanly ground. The peen on the upper disc is neat and appears to be solid, although the upper disc could be manipulated slightly in a counter-clockwise direction when I received the dagger. I have since gently rotated the upper rondel slightly in a clockwise direction and the whole assembly appears to be tightly seated now. There is no noticeable pitting on any of the components.

The decorative elements on the steel and horn grip components and rondel discs are confidently executed and appeal to the eye. There are places where some of the decorative elements are slightly unevenly spaced, as is to be expected from most completely handcrafted pieces. Overall I think this adds a complimentary old-world feel to the piece, and it helps to reinforce the fact that it was produced by human hands.

The included scabbard appears to have a wooden core. It is a work of art in and of itself. The steel throat and chape mirror design elements of the dagger, and the leather cover closely matches the color of the horn used in the grip. A series of raised bands under the leather provide more decoration and a mechanism to secure a leather tie to the scabbard so that it can be hung from a belt. Clean and even stitching secures the leather cover along the back of the scabbard. Slight imperfections at a few points in the stitching indicate it was created by hand as well.

I have seen and handled very few other rondel daggers up close, so I have difficulty comparing it directly with products from other vendors. However, the craftsmanship stands nicely on its own merits.

Overall, the design of the dagger and scabbard is quite elegant. It is very nice looking and appears to be soundly constructed. The scabbard is at, or very nearly on par with, the best work I have seen from better known sources. It was, and remains, a very pleasant surprise even though I knew it was coming as part of my purchase.

This rondel dagger was my first purchase from Arma Bohemia. I am satisfied with the buying and communications process, which proceeded efficiently, despite some minor delays. Based on my experience in this case, I do plan on buying some additional items from this vendor to expand the scope of my collection.

About the Author
Joseph Fults is a technology manager in the Columbus metropolitan area. For all intents and purposes a career student as long as he can remember, Joseph has been intrigued by history and tales of adventure. Long driven to learn about anything that intrigued him, over the last few years Joseph has nurtured a growing appetite for information about the medieval period of European history. Today his curiosity draws him to the people, items, and regional events of the Rhine basin in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.

Photographer: Chad Arnow

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