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Lee Pupo

Location: Pennsylvania
Joined: 30 Mar 2014

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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 4:42 pm    Post subject: Munich Town Guard cutting ability and martial style         Reply with quote

Greetings fellow enthusiasts! For some time now, I have used myArmoury as a resource for my research of historic arms and armor without any inclination to make a profile. Obviously, I have gained some! After a lot (over a year) of consideration, I have settled on the A&A Town Guard for my first sword. Consider the word "first" my resignation to a life of collecting Laughing Out Loud I had some questions about it:

Is it possible to fit its blade into the Oakeshott typology? I figured that it was a Type XV, with a slender, reinforced tip. What kind of cutting performance does a blade of its type have with cuts of differing force? Does fingering the ricasso make much of a difference (I assume a hammer grip is to be used for the heaviest of cutting)?

What fencing systems would have been associated with its use (in the region of Munich and elsewhere)? Although it looks to be a fantastic thrusting weapon, it seems less suited for Italian-style thrusting oriented swordplay than true rapiers. I will freely say that I know very little about masters of this period.

Thank you all very much for your time.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 5:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Oakeshott typology only applies to blades of medieval origin. The Town Guard sword is quite a bit later than that.

It's cross-section and general shape would surely look like a Type XV/XVa/XVIII or something like that, however.

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Mike O'Hara

Location: New Zealand
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 5:20 pm    Post subject: Town Guard sword         Reply with quote

Hi Lee

Welcome to a life of compromised bank accounts in order to fulfil our shared interest in swords.

The Town Guard is a very nice sword, I have often admired it.

As to styles, we are using the A&A Side Sword trainers, which are not entirely unlike your sharp, to practise George Silver's material (mentioned in the A&A description of the sword) and also Saviolo's rapier work from the same period.

The sword should work well for Silver's 'downright blows' and we are certainly having no issues with doing a number of Saviolo's plays that involve relatively delicate thrusts and counters.

I wouldn't use a hammer grip even for heavy blows. The sword does the work and the better control you have from using the ricasso more than makes up for this.

Some of the plays that involve Italianate styles would need a longer blade I think, based on our experimenting - but happy to be corrected here by more knowledgeable forumites.


MIke O'Hara
Location: Plimmerton, New Zealand
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Lee Pupo

Location: Pennsylvania
Joined: 30 Mar 2014

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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 6:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the clarification! It seems that the word "Medieval" slipped my mind!

Thank you for suggesting Silver and Saviolo and for the insight into how the sword works. Being that I have never held a sword, your comments are fascinating!

If anyone else wants to chime in with more information, I would be glad to read it. Also, would they be studying books from the likes of Silver and Saviolo (as Mike mentioned) in German towns at this time? Certainly they would study under a local master with or without such books. Are there any notable masters of the side sword and/or rapier in the HRE at this time?
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P. Frank

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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 11:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well there is always Joachim Meÿers treatise. It is 16th century, but I imagine the side sword part still applies well enough:

It is truly a beautiful sword you are getting there. I have eyed it for quite some time Happy. Do tell us how you like it.
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T. Kew

Location: London, UK
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PostPosted: Thu 03 Apr, 2014 2:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joachim Meyer is the chap to start with for German swordplay here. He has an extensive section on the 'rappier', a single-handed sword typically with some extra defenses on the hilt - somewhere around the side-sword/arming sword/rapier type mix that's all highly unclear at this point anyway. But his plays and methods are much more what you'd likely have seen in Germany - Silver's style is quite odd and fairly English.
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Raman A

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PostPosted: Thu 03 Apr, 2014 6:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You definitely want to finger it, as that is what it's designed for. There's no need to hammer grip it and try to chop with it like an axe. I haven't actually held that particular sword but the grip might be too short to get all your fingers on it anyway.
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Sean Flynt

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PostPosted: Thu 03 Apr, 2014 7:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I owned one for many years but never reviewed it (sorry) before selling it. Here are some of my notes:

In essence, these weapons are medieval single-hand arming swords with the addition of protective bars to take the place of the plate gauntlet. Although often grouped together with what we commonly think of as rapiers (even in A&A's catalog,) these swords tend to be shorter and broader than the "bird spits" Silver railed against. Their blades post-date Oakeshott's medieval blade typology but typically correspond to Oakeshott Type XV and XVIII blades, balancing cutting and thrusting abilities by starting broad at the guard and tapering dramatically to an acute point.

Silver dismissed the Continental rapier as too long, fragile and single-purpose for use on the battlefield. Clearly, he wasn't the only one who thought so. German-speaking countries, in particular, embraced more robust and versatile designs for the field and were at least among the first, if not THE first, to develop what we now refer to as the basket hilt, an innovation that appears to have paralelled the development of the more open designs A&A offers.

Although these weapons are sometimes elaborately made and beautifully decorated, they clearly are meant for hard use in combat. One of the most famous designs is rather plain, befitting its origin as a sidearm for the Munich town guard of the late 16th century. A&A's Town Guard sword reproduces this distinctive and well-documented weapon, attributed to the maker Wolfgang Stantler.

Not all complex-hilt swords are rapiers and "true" rapiers are in any case not the lighweight, lively weapons they are popularly supposed to be. I call it a sword, as does A&A (although A&A lists other, even more robust variants among its rapiers--go figure).

Oakeshott famously observed that the most reliable way to settle the question of whether a given weapon is a rapier or sword is to hold it and estimate whether it could sever a man's arm. Though quite thick at the COP to support thrusting, it is also so broad that there is little question that this blade could meet Oakeshott's grim standard.

True to the type, the Town Guard weighs as much as or more than many longswords, and all of that weight is in one hand. Collectors and martial artists more used to the balance and weight of longer blades and simple two-hand hilts might be taken aback by the feel of the Town Guard when first handling it. Rapier enthusiasts might find the single-hand weight familiar but object to the shorter length and a point of balance closer to the hilt. In my case, such impressions quickly gave way to awe at how expertly and practically the weight is distributed.

The Town Guard's very thick forte, ricasso and tang (.25" thick), strong profile and distal taper, complex hilt and wire-bound grip combine to create a lively weapon that also is heavy enough to withstand and excel at use against armoured opponents on a crowded battlefield. One could think of the Italian rapier Silver opposed as a Ferrari--undeniably beautiful and powerful but flashy, impractical and, in Silver's reckoning, about as dangerous to the owner as to his opponent. Following that line of thinking, the Stantler sword is a Porsche 911--powerful and beautiful but more subdued and generally more practical for everyday use.

The sword can be used in a "hammer" grip, but only for very powerful blows--from horseback, probably. Otherwise, you'll need to put a finger over the ricasso in the usual way, which is extremely comfortable and the most natural way to hold this weapon. This provides a combination of power and control that makes the best use of the weapon's cut and thrust design.

Museum de-accessioning of the original Stantler field swords has distributed them to private and museum collections throughout the world, including the Wallace Collection, Royal Armouries, Armouries of the Dukes of Burgundy and Higgins Armoury Museum, just to name a few. Detailed photos and specifications are readily available for comparison, which sets the bar quite high for reproductions. The Town Guard sword easily clears that obstacle. More than any sword I have owned, it is an education in form and function, with its engineering and pedigree clearly on display.

I have heard that the Town Guard is not one of A&A's most popular swords. I suspect that's because it does not easily fit into any of the popular categories our modern minds have imposed upon edged weapons of the period. It's tempting to think of it as a transition between the relatively simple medieval arming sword and the elaborate "bird spit" Silver so despised but I think that underestimates the thoughtfulness of the design and forces the type into a family tree of modern creation. I think this type represents not a transition but an end in itself, a deliberate hybrid combining the most practical medieval and Renaissance design and technology. The transitional argument fails anyway on the fact that that the broad, tapering blade mounted in a protective hilt survived on the battlefield long after its slender cousin fell out of fashion. Silver was a xenophobic crank, but he picked the right horse in that race.

A&A's Town Guard could be used with Silver but it might not represent Silver's ideal sword, primarily because its hilt offers no more protection than that of the Contintental rapier (versus the British and German basket hilts). Silver certainly would have approved of its short, strong, multipurpose blade. I think most collectors will as well, given the chance to handle an example as well-researched and realized as this one.

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Lafayette C Curtis

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PostPosted: Thu 03 Apr, 2014 8:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is probably the most extensive collection of online resources on Meyer's Rappier:

I don't think Silver is that peculiar; the main disadvantage of his texts (as I see it) is that they're not very specific. Of course, we could say the same for many of the early German texts, but at least we have later and more lavishly illustrated texts to help us develop an image of what's supposed to happen in their plays. We don't seem to have such a "school" or "lineage" to work with in Silver's case (since the other English texts - or at least the ones that I've read - differ significantly from his teachings) so we inevitably have rather less confidence in our interpretations of him (especially in terms of whether we're "polluting" the interpretations with a background knowledge other systems, whether European or not).
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Matthew P. Adams

Location: Cape Cod, MA
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PostPosted: Fri 04 Apr, 2014 5:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What about Marrozo sword and buckler? Looks just like his plates.
"We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training" Archilochus, Greek Soldier, Poet, c. 650 BC
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Lee Pupo

Location: Pennsylvania
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PostPosted: Sat 05 Apr, 2014 5:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My thanks to everyone, especially Mr. Flynt. Quite a welcome for a new member!
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Jean Thibodeau

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PostPosted: Sun 06 Apr, 2014 8:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the A&A Dresden " rapier" shares a lot of the weapon's qualities of the Town Guard rapier ..... or rather swords with complex guards using blades of a type suitable for both the thrust and heavy cutting of an earlier era as an arming sword.

In handling the Town Guard sword is probably a bit faster and agile due to a shorter blade, and maybe a little less weight, and the Dresden probably more useful as a cavalry sword, while the Town Guard is more for foot close combat for " A Town Guard " in narrow streets and alleys, maybe ?

Or one could say that the Dresden is like a Town Guard sword on steroids. Wink Big Grin

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Daniel Staberg

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PostPosted: Mon 07 Apr, 2014 1:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is interesting to note that the Bavarian army museum in Ingolstadt have a rather view of who used these swords, they describe them as being the main weapon of Cuirassiers (together with pistols) during the 30 Years war and do not mention Munich or it's "Town Guard".
Diese Art von Rapieren wurde während des Dreißigjährigen Krieges von den Kürassieren, schweren gepanzerten Reitern in einem Dreiviertelharnisch, neben der Radschlosspistole als Hauptbewaffnung geführt.

I can also not find any mention of a Munich "town guard" (stadtgarde) during the 30YW in period Swedish intelligence reports nor in Heilmanns extensive study of Bavaria's military history up to 1650. Looking in the offical histories of the Bavarian army after 1650 the Münchner Stadtgarde only turns up after 1726. There are several possible explainations why these weapons are associated with the "Stadtgarde" by some sources. One is that the origin of the weapons have been misunderstood due to the existence of several diffrent "Zeughauses" (Armouries) in Munich. Another is that old, semi-obsolete but still fully functional 30YW swords in good condtion were turned over to the Münchner Stadtgarde in the 18th Century.

"There is nothing more hazardous than to venture a battle. One can lose it
by a thousand unforseen circumstances, even when one has thorougly taken all
precautions that the most perfect military skill allows for."
-Fieldmarshal Lennart Torstensson.
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Sean Flynt

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PostPosted: Mon 07 Apr, 2014 12:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

yes, Lee, please do note Daniel's comments and see this discussion:

I don't know the origin of the Munich watch association and we ought to be skeptical of it. Could be Victorian or might be a recent assumption based on the attribution to Wolfgang Stantler. I like the idea that these field swords were preserved and re-issued from a large armoury for a later watch, which would explain how so many of them survived in good condition and found homes in museum collections.


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Lee Pupo

Location: Pennsylvania
Joined: 30 Mar 2014

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PostPosted: Tue 08 Apr, 2014 2:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the input, Dan! I must have spent over an hour today reading about cuirassiers, the Thirty Years' War, and the like. That's what I like about weapons and military history: one subject leads to another, and you always come out more knowledgeable for it! I remember my elementary school days, when I got a copy of Age of Empires II, and the obsession with history began...

I found a bit of info on Herr Stantler at this site:
Known as a falsifier of the markings of master smiths, eh? I would think that the quality of his swords speaks for itself. Why wouldn't he want to establish the reputation of his own brand (which I assume would have been sold in regions both local and distant, lessening the temptation to copy another smith's mark)?
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