Windlass Steelcrafts Medieval Short Sword
A hands-on review by Gene George
The simple, one-handed cruciform hilted sword is what most people think of when they contemplate the weapons of the Middle Ages. Although blade designs and hilt fashions came and went, the cruciform hilt in it's myriad forms went on to be used until the rifle replaced the sword for military-use. This piece represents a basic sword that would not be out of place throughout most of the medieval period and into the early renaissance. Whether in the hands of knight, footman, or bandit this is a common and attractive style of sword.
Windlass Steelcrafts of India produces this sword. Interestingly, it also bears the logo of "Factory X"a shop specializing in licenses from movies, television and comic booksand a copyright and trademark notice from Columbia Pictures International Inc. deeply etched in the blade. Museum Replicas Limited of Atlanta GA markets this weapon. This is another catalog "blowout special" that may still be available at a significant discount. Ordering from Museum Replicas was simple, as usual, and their product arrived via UPS within days of my order, well packed and damage free.
Of the last few Museum Replicas pieces that I have purchased lately, most seem to be generic designs or do not have any specific sword from which they are copied. This sword is an exception, and the piece that it is copied from is an interesting and noteworthy one. It is based on an Oakeshott Type XIV produced between 1350-1400. A photo of this sword is shown on page 46 of Swords and Hilt Weapons and is part of the Morosini Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
The original is noteworthy for a number of reasons. Its guard is an unusual copper crosspiece wrapped with silver wire, leading museum curators to suspect that it was a bearing or presentation sword, rather than a war sword. The original's pommel has silver embellishments with a Latin inscription from Virgil's Æneid reading SVNT HIC ETIAM SVA PRÆMIA LAVDI (here too, virtue has its due reward). An inscription on the blade, an early example of acid etching, is now unreadable.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Windlass Steelcrafts of India.
The Medieval Short Sword's point of balance sits relatively close to the guard and seems reasonably well balanced. This is probably related to the fairly large 2" dia. x 1" thick brass pommel acting as a counterweight. The sword itself handles swiftly, tracks and points well, in my opinion, with the wide blade and heavy pommel contributing to an overall solid feel. Profile taper on the blade produces an acute point suitable for thrusting as well as quickly allowing the blade to develop into a wide, effective cutter. The sword is also rather stiff and would allow strong, confident thrusts. The only real handling problem I can see is that the leather of the grip is very slippery and would need to be broken-in, replaced or roughened before I'd be fully confident of my grip. The name "short sword" is also somewhat of a misnomer, if anything this sword is well within the normal ranges of blade and handle length. Performing simple maneuvers with this sword shows me yet again, that heavy chopping blades like this one seem to reject light wrist cuts and prefer powerful arm and elbow cuts. The more power behind the stroke the better for this blade.
Fit and Finish
Considering this piece's bargain-basement price the fit and finish is more than adequatevery good actually. The fuller is slightly shallow and shows a bit of unevenness at the very end of its run near the hilt. The leather wrap is tight and I assume is cord over hardwood. The tang is peened and finished smoothly but not polished too well, the fact that it's a steel tang through a brass pommel may be a recipe for loosening if the sword was to be put to real use. All fittings are tight and polished smooth. Heat treat seems good with my non-scientific Bend-Spection™ showing the blade took no set. The only flaws in my opinion are the deeply etched, obviously modern makers mark and the too-slick leather grip (noted in handling characteristics, above). Additionally the guard seems to be ever so slightly lopsided, bent a tiny bit in favor of one of the quillons. The difference is so very slight as to render my mentioning of it more effort than it is worth, as I am sure all but the most modern pieces made by precision machining would evidence similar discrepancies. This bend seems to make no difference in performance or handling.
As a historical replica of a unique museum piece there are a few items that make this sword less than accurate. First, the pommel inscription is poorly done and nearly illegible. Next is the choice of a steel guard instead of the copper and silver wire of the original. Finally, the grip on the Morosini piece is a smooth, tight spiral wrap. The Museum Replicas sword is cord and a single piece of fitted and stitched leather. The original piece's fuller seems to be much sharper and is almost a flat-sided channel as it nears the hilt. Additionally, the original sword is a few inches longer than its Windlass counterfeit. All of these compromises are understandable on a inexpensively mass-produced item and do not detract from the utility or aesthetics of the sword. As a point of fact, the steel guard gives it more utility as a functional sword. However it is important to note that it is not an exact copy of the Morosini piece.
The Morosini sword seems to be a popular piece for replicating, and a similar offering from Del Tin Armi Antiche has been available for some years now as their Medieval Sword, 14th Century (Del Tin 2140). Some postulate that this Museum Replicas offering is not so much a copy of the Morosini piece as a copy of the Del Tin piece. The author refuses to speculate, except to say this; the engraving on the pommel has the same qualities as a Xeroxed document that has been copied from a copy of a copy. Also there is some question of the lineage of this sword and the identical "Sword of Dracula" offered by Museum Replicas and her sister company Atlanta Cutlery that is also produced by Windlass Steelcrafts for Factory X. The statistics for blade length are the same for both Dracula's Sword and the Medieval Short Sword. The quoted statistics in the Museum Replicas catalog state that the blade is 41" a difference of 4", with an overall measurement of 37.5" so this technically isn't the exact sword that was advertised, the second time Museum Replicas has pulled a slight bait and switch with what was advertised. Am I disappointed? No, not really. The value for money is still great and the irony of getting the "short" version of the "medieval short sword" is quite amusing.
This is either an interesting interpretation of a unique original museum piece, or a decent knock-off of a popular Del Tin replica, depending on your point of view. Either way, the value of this bargain piece is amply evident and is one of the best values for a buck I've gotten out of Museum Replicas Limited. This is high praise considering the quality of some of their recent overstock specials.
About the Author
Gene George has been fascinated with weapons and armor as long as he can recall. A former archaeologist and historian, he lives with his wife 14 miles west of where they filmed The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and 60 miles North-Northwest of where they filmed Captain Blood (1935). He has a big pile of swords and wants more.
Photographer: Gene George