Hanwei / CAS Iberia 1219-GT Combination Rapier
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
In the book Kombinationswaffen des 15.-19. Jahrhunderts there is depicted a beautiful rapier with gilt fittings. This rapier was clearly made for someone of status and wealth as its design and proportions were created with great care by skillful artisans, yet the fine craftsmanship alone is not what makes this sword shine. This rapier was created to ingeniously conceal a separate parrying dagger with spring-loaded quillons that can be pulled out of its hilt.
The sword reviewed here is a replica of the same sword seen in the German book Kombinationswaffen. The replica is created by Paul Chen's Hanwei forge and is a very unique modern reproduction. Such combination weapons are rarely reproduced, though Hanwei does have a few models of combination weapons with similar properties. To my knowledge CAS Iberia / Hanwei is the only company that mass produces such weapons.
Combination Rapier Measurements and Specifications:
Hidden Dagger Measurements and Specifications:
Replicas created by CAS Iberia / Hanwei of China.
This sword, unfortunately, has an enormous hilt. The hilt is far bigger than typical examples of period rapiers. Granted, there are examples of large-hilted swords that existed but this one is far too big. To give a perfect example: I showed this to a friend of mine who does not know much about historical weaponry and he asked me if it was a two-handed sword. When compared to images of the original it is even more notable that the reproduction is out of proportion. This not only affects appearance, it makes the guard almost pointless in terms of protection.
The sword does not feel very natural with cutting actions, but this is not necessarily a deal-breaker for a thrust-oriented rapier. It is quite common for many rapiers of this size to favor the thrust, which was the preference for the style of fighting in the time period anyway. This is not to say cutting actions are impossible, as cutting actions were still quite common with rapier fencing, just that it is not where this particular sword excels. The edges are unsharpened on this piece, though they could be given a moderate edge if one desired.
The dagger is somewhat awkward to hold because the grip is simply leather wrapped around the tang. This is not very different than the original and in fact the proportions of the replica appear to be very similar. I will say that the design is serviceable, but nowhere near as comfortable to use as a more typical dagger. This is a comment about the original just as much as it is about the modern replica, however. The spring-loaded arms of the dagger are surprisingly well made though I doubt the joints could take much stress from multiple heavy cuts. Truth be told, I am skeptical that the original could do much better in that regard.
Fit and Finish
The wire-wrap on the grip is tight, and for the most part is even. There are a few spots where it isn't perfect, but it is well done nonetheless.
The highlight of the sword, the concealed dagger, is revealed by tugging on the end of the pommel, which pulls it out entirely. The dagger has thin leather wrapped around the tang for a grip, which is actually more than the original, which only has a gilded but otherwise exposed tang. The blade has two spring-loaded arms that open to become quillons as soon as the dagger is released. The dagger does not interfere with the sword's tang as it is inserted into the grip alongside the tang, and when it is sheathed in the hilt, the dagger blade rests alongside the forte of the sword blade. It fits tightly enough in the hilt that it does not come loose and fall out, but it only takes a small tug to pull it out.
The blades of both sword and dagger are well made and seem to have a reasonable heat-treatment, though appear to be softer than many higher quality replicas. The sword blade has a good amount of flex and will return true. The original sword has engravings that are not present on the replica, but this is to be expected for the price range. Both sword and dagger have mostly clean lines with no evidence of uneven grinding or poor polishing.
The sword comes with a well made wooden scabbard that is wrapped in brown leather and capped with decorative brass furniture that matches the sword fittings. The scabbard does not fit tightly, but I suspect this is because it had to be made to fit both the rapier blade as well as the dagger blade that sits flush against the sword. In any case, for a sword of this cost, I'm very pleased with the quality of the scabbard.
The biggest problem with this CAS Iberia / Hanwei sword is simply that the hilt is too big. This is a shame because otherwise it is a very interesting piece. Replicas of such weapons are almost non-existent, and if the hilt was only smaller then I would consider this a very good piece for the price. Still, it is a very unusual piece to have in a collection, and I do find it overall favorable despite its flaws. In terms of handling, it is a reasonable weapon, and any of the flaws of the dagger are flaws that I find with the antique on which it was based. In the end, there are next to no choices for this type of weapon on the market, and until that changes, I am content with owning this piece.
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.
Fine Arms and Armor: Treasures in the Dresden Collection, by Johannes Schobel
Kombinationswaffen des 15.-19. Jahrhunderts, by Heinz-Werner Lewerken
Photographer: Bill Grandy