Windlass Steelcrafts Crusader Sword
A hands-on review by Mark Mattimore
European knightly swords in the age of high chivalry were cherished items of a noble age. They developed from a utilitarian chopper into symbols of nobility and the spirit and ethos of the warriors who bore them. The classic knightly sword was the ubiquitous weapon during the age of mail when classic sword and shield fighting was the battlefield norm. It was designed to deliver strong blows and deep, dismembering cuts. A sword of this type would most commonly face mail-clad warriors in helmet and shield. However, it also needed to be able to respond to an emerging use of plate armour and thus began to incorporate some rudimentary thrusting capabilities.
The Crusader is a classic example of this iconographic medieval weapon. Windlass Steelcrafts has named this sword the Crusader as a nod to the knightly swords that were so pervasive during the crusading period. While they sell this as a replica of a typical sword of the crusading era, the historical reality makes this perhaps little more than a convenient naming convention. Windlass dates this sword to about the year 1300 and it does reflect many of the knightly swords of the early 14th century. However, given this dating, the name "Crusader" may be a bit of a misnomer. With the fall of Acre in 1291, this is technically a bit after the age of European kingdoms in the Holy Land and thus after the crusading era itself. At best, it is an example of the type of sword a knight would carry at the very end of the period.
This was my first sword, the one that got me hooked. The Crusader is a model offered for some time now by Windlass distributor Museum Replicas Limited, although I made this purchase from By The Sword. I have done business with By The Sword on several occasions and have always come away satisfied. The Crusader is a single-handed knightly sword with double fullers, an octagonal pommel and a guard that flares into a teardrop shape at its ends. Like many offerings from Windlass, the Crusader does not fit clearly in to a specific type of the Oakeshott typology. It is most closely classified as either a Type XII or a Type XIIIb. The blade possesses a rather gradual profile taper common to the Type XIIIb. The point, however, is more reminiscent of a Type XII. Oakeshott does highlight a blade of this kind in Records of the Medieval Sword, albeit single-fullered; sword XIIIb.3 represents a very similar example.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Windlass Steelcrafts of India.
The Crusader possesses a powerful and authoritative presence in the hand. Its point of balance is far from the guard and aids in its cutting capability. The sword is easily wielded with a single hand and would be most appropriate to sword and shield fighting.
The leather covered grip is comfortable but does tend to wear on the hand a bit with extended use and the excess weight can tire out one's arm after a day of cutting. It requires a firm grip and strong arm and I have found that I can gain additional control by wrapping my index finger around the cross-guard, thus "fingering" the cross. Utilizing the handshake grip is also possible with this sword and aids in blade control.
The Crusader is a very effective cutter. Because it is unsharpened it cuts more effectively against heavy targets such as boxes, tubes, and pumpkins. Lighter targets, like pool noodles, are generally just knocked onto the ground. Both underhand and overhand cuts are possible and not difficult with a bit of practice. The blade tracks nicely given its dynamics and edge alignment is no more problematic than with other swords in this price range. The sword possesses a serviceable thrusting point, although it is difficult to track the point with any degree of accuracy. It is definitely more of a cutter.
Overall the Crusader is a smart looking weapon. The fullers are shallow, but even and well defined. The guard is crisp and symmetrical. The grip is wood covered with leather and possesses a ribbed texture that, I can only assume, is meant to resemble padding or risers. The pattern, however, is almost certainly created through carvings in the grip wood itself. The stitching on the leather covering is even and tightly sewn but a bit bulky and obtrusive in the hand.
The pommel contains a deeply recessed cross in the St. George style (patron saint and protector of crusaders) surrounded by eight brass rivets on each side. This decorative element gives the sword a much more regal appearance and sets it apart from a common soldier's stock weapon. While at first I thought it more of a fantasy element, the cross does have precedent in historical examples. Crosses are seen in the pommels of period illustrations, most notably in effigies of the early 14th century. The hilt components possess a shininess that leads me to believe they may be stainless steel.
The sword comes with a scabbard that I can only describe as poor. A very loose fit causes the sword to rattle around quite a bit and it will easily fall out if not kept upright. A planned repair of this problem utilizing leather, foam or felt has been in the works for some time but I have yet to get it off the ground. The scabbard is best utilized only as a travel scabbard as its design is only vaguely historic. It would be appropriate for Ren faire or casual reenactment but does not rise to the level required for living history.
I purchased this sword, thankfully, before Windlass began the annoying habit of affixing the hologram sticker on one side of the blade. This model came with the simple "Windlass" stamped logo which was easily removed. It should also be noted that I have stripped the factory-standard lacquer finish from the blade with a combination of chemical stripper and elbow grease.
As the Crusader was the first sword in my collection I have more than a bit of sentimental attachment to it despite it being a bit out of my period of interest. It is a well-designed example of the classic knightly sword of the high middle ages.
Like many items from Windlass Steelcrafts, the Crusader lacks the dynamic handling characteristics and many finer details of higher priced swords. But that is to be expected given its $235 US price point. I have always found swords fromt his maker to be an excellent value. The Crusader is an impressive piece with an exceptional sense of aesthetics and despite its shortcomings I would heartily recommend it.
About the Author
Mark Mattimore is a writer living in Cincinnati. An obsessive reader and true lover of history, he has an abiding interest in medieval arms and armour in addition to being a student of the western mystery tradition. Professionally, he works as a copywriter with specialties in word-of-mouth marketing and brand identity development.
Photographer: Chad Arnow