Windlass Steelcrafts Falcata
A hands-on review by Greyson Brown
Perhaps one of the most visually distinctive European swords is the falcata, related to the Macedonian kopis, an ancient single-edged sword with a heavy forward-curving blade used by ancient Greek and Persian soldiers. The true origin of these short swords is unknown, but there is no doubt that they were very effective cutting blades. This blade form appears to have been carried into India by Alexander the Great's army where it still survives in knife form as the kukri. Further west, the Spanish wielded the falcata to great effect against the Roman armies of their day.
The main difference between the falcata and the kopis appears to be in the shape of the grip. The kopis is usually depicted with a straight grip, whereas the end of the falcata's grip curves around to form a semi-enclosed hilt. Often, the end of this curved portion was decorated with a bird or horse head motif. Most often falcata hilts appear to have been made with wooden or horn scales on the grip, but there are some examples of all metal hilts as well.
The review sword from Windlass Steelcrafts is an example of the latter type with an all-brass hilt with bird head decorations. This sword has been in the Windlass product lineup for several years and had caught my eye on more than one occasion. As a result, I eventually decided to buy it. At the time of purchase I was more interested in the aesthetics of this piece than its functionality. It was sufficiently different from the other swords I have handled that I thought it might be interesting to take a more objective look at this piece.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Windlass Steelcrafts of India.
Not surprisingly, the greatest difference between the handling of the falcata and most other European swords is the curved grip and lack of pommel. This unique grip shape helps the user maintain a solid hold on the sword, but also allows just a little bit of rotation in the hand. This generates just a little extra momentum and makes cutting with this sword very enjoyable indeed. Whether cutting with the tip or the belly of the blade, I was able to make good, clean cuts with excellent control.
I had owned this sword for several years before I reviewed it. During that time it was dropped in such a manner that the tip on my sword had to be reshaped. As a result, it has a more rounded tip than the factory model, but that does not seem to have had any adverse effect on the thrusting ability of this sword against light targets.
There is enough distal taper in the last third of this blade that it slides into soft targets like foam pool noodles and water jugs without much resistance at all. In order to thrust with this sword, I simply held the sword in a relaxed grip at my side with the arm slightly bent, then quickly extended my arm toward the target. In many ways, this is a more comfortable action than thrusting with a straight sword. The falcata's short, stiff blade is easy to control, and the forward balance point carries it into the thrust well.
Fit and Finish
The one thing that does concern me is a small metallic click, as though the tang were shifting inside the hilt as the sword is swung. There is, however, no visual evidence of any movement and everything has remained solid. It may not be an issue at all, but is worth noting.
This could be a very decorative piece, but most of the designs on the hilt are poorly defined. The scroll work is of an uneven depth and many of the lines are rough and unrefined. Additionally, the design at the end of the grip looks, at least to me, less like a bird's head and more like a snake's head. These things are most likely a direct result of the fact that higher detail would require more hand finishing, which would in turn drive up the price of the piece. I would also have liked for the handle to have been made of bronze rather than the more modern brass.
While the blade of this piece arrived with only a coating of oil, the handle had received Windlass's infamous lacquer covering. This is done to protect the piece from oxidation, in the form of rust or tarnish, during shipment, but it can be difficult to clean off when the sword arrives. If the lacquer chips off, as it did on mine, it can result in a mottled appearance due to uneven tarnishing. This was fixed simply by cleaning off the lacquer and polishing the hilt, but it was a nuisance.
For the price, this is a very nice and functional sword. The lower quality finish on the hilt keeps this from being a great show piece, but it is generally still a very visually appealing sword. This sword is one of the few that has consistently remained in the Windlass Steelcrafts product line over the years. The chances of finding a discounted one for sale might be limited but, at under $200 US, it is worth the full price.
About the Author
Greyson Brown is a soldier in the United States Army, and a student of European history. He has been interested in arms and armour for as long as he can remember. That interest has also inspired him to become a hobby blacksmith.
Greece and Rome at War, by Peter Connolly
Photographer: Greyson Brown