Albion Armorers Next Generation Sherriff Sword
A hands-on review by Jonathan Sarge

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In the modern age, the word sheriff and its associated meaning are commonplace in the English vocabulary. Every Anglosphere country, from the United States to Great Britain, has the office of sheriff in their law enforcement system. Yet few venture so far to know that this term originated over a thousand years ago, just prior to the Norman Invasion of Britain in the early 11th century.

The word sheriff finds its roots the Old English word scirgerefa. This term first appears in the late 9th century. In antiquity, the scirgerefa was appointed by royalty as a minor lord over a large area of land known as a gerefa or a shire. In their appointment, they were charged with keeping the peace, protecting the land, and acting as the judicial authority for the region. This official position was initially established by King Edward the Elder in 920AD, and proved so effective that it was kept as an important part of the monarchy even after the conquest of William I in 1066AD. The term for the office was modernized into the Middle English shire reeve, where it was eventually shortened to the modern word, sheriff. The concept of the office changed little throughout the following centuries and eventually evolved into the contemporary elected sheriff's office.

More interesting perhaps is the fact that in antiquity the sheriff was not always the iconic peace officer serving and protecting the population that we know today. Long ago, history painted a much different picture of the office. Though many may not know the exact details concerning the lineage of the modern sheriff and their ties to the past, most of us do learn a little about one particular sheriff from history in elementary school.

In the medieval context, we frequently associate the term sheriff with the sheriff of Nottingham; who is commonly portrayed as the corrupt servant of King John in medieval English folklore tale of Robin Hood. This association is actually not very far from historical fact. Many notable English sheriffs from antiquity, such as William de Wendenal, Sir Robert Ingram, and John de Oxenford were little more than outlaws that used their position and status for the promotion of their own self-centered motives. Historically, we learn that one or perhaps even all of these sheriffs may have served as the basis for the character of Nottingham. Their reputations for injustice, thievery, corruption, and subversion to the throne were undoubtedly known well by the people and integrated into the local folklore. Though history also gives us examples of the good sheriff, the villainous sheriff archetype would be forever etched into history as well as legend without the positive bias often seen in the literary portrayal of heroes, knights, and royalty of the period.

No matter the bias of history, sheriffs were proven to command largely efficient and experienced militia forces in keeping the peace. Their knowledge and expertise in maintaining order amongst the population would have made them aware of what was needed to perform their duties, and weapons were not exception. Historically, from the late 13th century until the early 14th centuries, when the Type XIV swords as defined by Ewart Oakeshott were at their highest popularity amongst knights and men-at-arms, the sheriff may have selected such a nimble and effective sword for his own arsenal.

The Type XIV, after all, was a proven blade of choice at the time for both sides of the law during its heyday. Used by villains and heroes alike, it was an excellent choice for any warrior of the period. Needless to say, the chances are at that some point in history, a sheriff from 13th or 14th century England used a Type XIV to enforce his will, be it with either honorable or nefarious intentions.

Meeting the demands of collectors, several companies have worked to reproduce Type XIV swords in recent years. Albion Armorers of New Glarus, Wisconsin was at the forefront in creating a quality, historically-accurate Type XIV swords. As part of its Next Generation sword line, Albion offers not one, but three models of Type XIV sword at the time of writing this review: the Sherriff, the Yeoman, and the Sovereign. Of these models, the Sherriff could be considered the entry level offering for its type; as the Yeoman and Sovereign are more detailed and have a subtle number of differences.

I have always been an admirer of the Type XIV and have owned several different versions from various manufacturers in recent years. When Albion began manufacturing their versions, I watched with keen interest. I have always liked utilitarian, no-frills, practical swords in my collection; so I resisted the temptation of the more detailed models and purchased a Sherriff for myself.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:2 pounds, 9 ounces
Overall length:33 1/2 inches
Blade length:27 3/4 inches
Blade width:3 inches at base, tapering to 1 inch
Grip length:4 1/4 inches
Guard width:7 3/4 inches
Point of Balance:3 1/4 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~17 inches from guard
Oakeshott typology:Type XIV blade, Style 6 guard, Type I pommel

Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.

Handling Characteristics
My first impression of the Sherriff was of its menacing blade presence. The sword seemingly wants to be taken into battle, having its own unique personality. Taking it in my hand, the sword is of the proper weight for its type and projects a feeling of power—something that one would typically expect from a much longer blade. The tip of the blade tracks effortlessly, making it surprisingly accurate. This is due to the relatively close point of balance, which lies a little over 3" from the guard.

The grip on the Sherriff is a simple one, unadorned with risers at its center or other decor. It is comprised of dark brown leather over a stabilized birch core. Aesthetically, the grip looks good, though some may prefer something a little more decorative. The grip is fairly narrow, but fits my larger size hands well, giving a nice, secure feel. When wielding the sword, I found that my thumb rests naturally along the side of the Style 6 guard in the handshake grip, giving a high level of control over blade position and edge alignment. The peened Type I pommel offers ample support for the hand, without sharp edges to affect the handling of the sword. Presenting the sword from a hammer grip is equally as secure and comfortable—which comes as no surprise.

Cutting with the Sherriff is a sheer pleasure. Though I did not have any tatami mats available, I did have a significant number of water bottles, milk jugs, apples, and cantaloupes. As stated in other Type XIV reviews, edge alignment requires a little more concentration due to the sword's width; but this requires minimal effort and a tad of practice to perfect. Thrusting is on par for its type: adequate yet not quite as refined as a thrust made with a stiff Type XV or Type XVIII blade. I found all cutting and thrusting I did with the Sherriff enjoyable and after a little use nearly effortless.

It's easy to understand after putting the Sherriff though some practical drills why a peace keeper of antiquity may have found this weapon exceptionally valuable in performing his duties; it's built from a practical and experienced fighting viewpoint. The feel of the compact Sherriff is one of grace, finesse, and agility, without sacrificing any of the power, presence, or lethality of a larger blade. With its design, this sword is a perfect selection for I:33 Sword and Buckler work or Fiore's Spada a Uno Mano exercises, as well as fitting into other single-handed WMA systems.

Fit and Finish
I was pleased to find that the Sherriff was an incredibly solid sword, giving a nice deep ring when struck. There is no rattle or play in any of the fittings, and everything is fitted exceptionally well without the unsightly gaps or unevenness that typically accompanies production swords from other manufacturers. Though the Sherriff is not my first Albion, I am always pleasantly surprised to see that they put forth consistent effort in their workmanship. The finish on the Sherriff is what I call a satin finish: not completely flat, yet not polished to a chrome sheen. I would approximate the finish at 800 grit, which is equivalent to the grey Scotch Brite pad that Albion recommends for the service of their swords finish. I have found this type of finish exceptionally easy to maintain using the simple methods posted on Albion's Web site.

The Sherriff has fairly complex blade geometry with a three-quarter length fuller. The 3" wide blade has a lenticular cross-section and tapers from the guard through flared shoulders. At the end of the shoulders, it adjusts angle slightly, then takes on a very acute profile taper towards the tip. From the termination of the fuller until the end of the blade, the cross-section is basically flat, with a dramatic thinning of the blade into an acute thrusting tip. The sharpened edge has a properly executed apple seed geometry, as it is on Albion's other offerings.

Though the Sherriff is a more entry-level Type XIV from Albion Armorers, I'd not take this to mean that the sword is anything less than a perfect example of the type. Simple for its form, yet smoothly functional and aesthetically pleasing, the Sherriff should not be overlooked by those wishing to add a Type XIV to their collection. I found the Sherriff of an exceptionally good value for the money, and I believe that any collector or Sherriff of antiquity would be pleased adding this fine sword to a sword collection.

About the Author
Jonathan Sarge is a police officer and author living near Atlanta, Georgia. He has a deep interest in ancient Roman and Medieval European cultures, focusing primarily on weaponry and warfare. Jonathan collects all manner of arms and armour that range from proto-archaic Native American stone tools to late Medieval European swords. He currently studies Fiore dei Liberi's swordsmanship as a member of the Schola Saint George.

Photographer: Jonathan Sarge

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