G. Gedney Godwin Smallsword
A hands-on review by Stephen Fisher
A civilian weapon, the smallsword was the descendant of the rapier; the French developed it during the mid 17th century. Its fashionable design and practicality quickly spread across Europe and became increasingly popular. The Italian's and Spanish still preferred their rapier and dagger to the smallsword during this time. The smallsword reached its height of popularity during the 18th century where it became an item of everyday dress for the gentleman and a preferred weapon of choice on the field of honor.
The smallsword was a weapon made solely for thrusting and required a significant amount of skill for it to be wielded properly. In turn, this lead to the rise of fencing masters and written manuals for men to learn the art. Such examples include Sir William Hope's New Method of Fencing (1707), Monsieur L' Abbat's The Art of Fencing, or the Use of the Small Sword, which was translated from French to English in 1734, and the most famous The School of Fencing, by Domenico Angelo published in London in 1763.
This reproduction of an 18th century smallsword is sold through G. Gedney Godwin, Inc.. Mr. Godwin is a supplier of 17-19th wares for the reenactor. His product range includes tricorn hats, military uniforms, edged weapons, and more. Many of the swords offered by G. Gedney Godwin Inc. are based upon originals found in books, and in some cases, Mr. Godwin's collection. I had always wanted to buy this smallsword but was very wary since I did not know anyone who owned one to attest to its quality and the pictures on the Web site were minute in size. I decided to give Mr. Godwin a call to find out more information about it. He was very knowledgeable about his products and was able to answer all of my questions. I wouldn't hesitate to order something from him again.
This particular smallsword features a blade known as the colichemarde. It was made with the idea that a thrusting weapon should possess a strong forte for the purpose of parrying and be light at the point for speed and control. The result is that all the weight is placed in the hand and can be maneuvered with the necessary speed and control needed for that precisely placed thrust at one's adversary.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by G. Gedney Godwin, Inc. of Valley Forge, PA.
Over the past few years I have had the pleasure of handling several antique colichemardes at various antique arms shows so I have a good idea as to how a reproduction should feel. This reproduction is surprisingly accurate in terms of authenticity in regards to the overall weight and size. It is as light as feather in the hand, as a good smallsword should be. I have no trouble executing proper technique needed for 18th century smallsword play.
Fit and Finish
The hollow ground blade is highly polished with no visible grind marks whatsoever. The cast white bronze hilt is also highly polished to a silver finish. Rather than looking like silver, it has the appearance of the unattractive stainless steel that is found on other replicas in its price range. A cheap leather washer is used to protect the hilt from getting scratched by the scabbard.
The leather-over-wood scabbard is unnecessarily thick in comparison to the blade. I would prefer the scabbard to be made triangular instead of ovoid in shape and to be much thinner in profile. I am very fond of the belt clip that comes with it, which is historically accurate in design and was a very popular way of hanging one's smallsword or hanger.
The sword is held together tightly by the use of the pommel, which is screwed on the threaded tang with the leftover portion of the tang peened to create a very secure fit.
I must admit that I am a smallsword fanatic and have probably been spoiled by examining too many antiques. In comparison to the originals and other reproduction smallswords found in the $200-$300 US market, this smallsword manages to capture the feel of its historical counterparts very well, much more so than others in its price range. This is a decent reproduction that is worth what you pay for it. It would be perfect sword for the 18th century reenactor limited to this budget who wants a decent recreation of a smallsword that is accurate in both size and feel.
About the Author
Stephen Fisher is a member of the Army National Guard and is an assistant sport fencing instructor and student at Western Kentucky University. His interest in edged weapons stemmed from watching one too many swashbuckling movies years ago. It has since grown into a serious study of swords and their use. He is a collector of both reproduction and antique swords ranging from the 17th to late 19th century.
Photographer: Stephen Fisher