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Johannes Zenker

Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 159

PostPosted: Mon 01 Jun, 2020 11:20 am    Post subject: Review: Landsknecht Emporium Sparring Kriegsmesser Prototype         Reply with quote

While Corona had the world firmly in its grasp, the team over at Landsknecht Emporium were still working diligently.

As such, the sparring Kriegsmesser I'd commissioned at the end of October last year arrived 10 days ago.

I had originally communicated with Adam from Landsknecht Emporium via Facebook in October, and he was very responsive and open to my questions. In November, I slightly tweaked the order, adding purpleheart handle scales instead of walnut for an appropriate markup. Not really historical, at least for the 15th century, but it just looks amazing. Upon inquiry I got updates at several points during the process.

They are looking to add sparring Kriegsmessers to their catalogue, but are still in the prototyping phase and gearing up in the shop. As such, my Kriegsmesser is slightly different from the first one that appeared on Facebook in July last year, as well as the one used by Mila/@Messergirl and the one they had as a prize for a tournament last year.

First impressions were a bit of a mixed bag, sadly. The Nagel had pierced through the packaging during transport, and I'm pretty sure the small ding at its tip resulted from that. Adam said that there should have been thermoplastic material protecting the Nagel, but unfortunately that seems to have been forgotten. The Messer was packed between two sheets of cardboard, wrapped with black packaging film, with extra bunched-up cardboard in the Nagel area. The blade didn't pierce the package and didn't slip or get damaged in any way, but the Nagel punched through and took a hit.
I think they could do better, considering the price range.

Overall the piece exudes the same rough-around-the-edges charm that all LKE products have, but in some places I feel that it should have received more cleanup. I am being a more nitpicky than with their other offerings, simply because it's three times the price.

The grind of the blade is overall nicely even and smooth, the lines more symmetrical than on my Gottfried blunt. I love blades with a satin finish, and this one is overall pretty good. There are a few places where some grindmarks remain visible, but many of those will go away with use and cleaning, and they also don't look out of place from a historical perspective. It is a sparring tool, after all.
Unfortunately there is an unsightly step that does stand out right before the heavily reinforced point on either side of the blade. Adam agreed that he should have cleaned that up better.

In other aspects I have to praise the grind: The distal taper is spectacular. The massive thickness of the base material was a big selling point for me, as it's rather rare to see this historically relatively common feature in reproductions. As far as production pieces go, I‘ve only seen it in Albion‘s discontinued Knecht and Nielo Swords‘ Kriegsmesser offering (according to KultOfAthena‘s descriptions).
I've measured the spine in several places:

Base: 8.2mm
15cm from the cross: 6.0mm
45cm from the cross: 3.8mm
At the clip near the point: 3.0mm
Reinforced point: 7.5mm

The edge has a thickness between around 3mm at the thinnest point and 6mm at the base. It should be extremely resilient. It is rounded off pretty well. After some initial testing in techniques and freeplay it seems to hold up as well as expected. We were only fencing in very light gear (light gloves + masks) and my partner was using an Aureus Feder, which is very hard, but has a very thick edge. Still, there was a good bit of force in a few of the engagements and drills, so I‘m confident that the edge will hold up very well. The spine, as it is just a slightly chamfered rectangle, takes more notable damage, but nothing I‘d be worried about.

There is no "fake" false edge bevel, unlike with previous prototype LKE Kriegsmessers. I like having a short back edge, and it had been a feature on at least one of the earlier prototypes they‘ve shown on Instagram. I wonder if they found it to be too rare in originals, or maybe if there aren‘t actually any original curved Kriegsmesser that sport a false edge to begin with. Either way, I'll probably end up personalising mine a little by adding a faux-false-edge by rounding off the spine a little.

At least one of the previous generations of prototypes was made from 6mm stock, this is now the 8mm version. Oh yeah. Grinding the thick material is also where the added cost mainly originates from. I‘ve been told that, with the equipment they had late last year, it took around five times as long to grind a KM blade compared to a Gottfried, so the price hike is understandable.

The blade did not come out perfectly straight, but the bend is pretty minor. I'm not concerned about the structural integrity because of it, and it doesn't seem to impede the handling of the Messer.

Speaking of the handling, let's talk about something that's very unique about the Kriegsmesser.
In one of the instagram posts about sparring Kriegsmessers, it's been said that they've internally been called "The SUV", because they'll go through pretty much everything. I've only once so far had the chance to do some training with a partner so far, but I can already attest to that. Its inertia makes it quite domineering in a bind. It also hits like a truck, but thankfully, I have sturdy training partners.

It is heavier than previous prototypes at 1650g, with the center of gravity a few centimeters closer to the hilt at 15cm. They've experimented with the flex as well. The first iteration was allegedly a bit too floppy, while the second one came out overly stiff. I think this one is perfect. It's still on the stiffer side, but I prefer it that way, and it's not for tournament use anyway. It's stiffer than both my sharp and blunt Swordmaker Marienburg Longswords, which are on the more flexible end for „real“ swords.

With 24cm of handle and 94cm of blade, it is not an easy blade to wield. It's also not exactly light, with the balance further out than any of the other long swords I've handled, so it ends up feeling pretty choppy. Trying to force it instead of working with it will end up hurting your joints and tendons more readily than with a lighter, more nimble sword.
This isn‘t necessarily a bad thing, though, as it reinforces the importance of proper technique and makes that an even more important aspect of my training routine. It is intimidating in a bind, and while it's not really suited to "Meyer's Helicopter of Death", it flows quite nicely once you get used to it a bit.

After solo-training with it for a week I have become quite comfortable with it. It no longer puts undue strain on my arms (part technique, part conditioning) and flows through motions with mighty authority, while other, less hefty simulators just feel weird and whippy by comparison.

I have managed to get a tiny amount of partner work done, just a few master-cuts and a little gloves-and-masks freeplay. Displacing cuts against it are almost futile.
Trying to do a Krumphau against the KM, my partner didn‘t get the point off-line and would have ran into my point when closing in for a followup. You‘d need to hit the center section of the blade with quite a bit of force to have any worthwhile effect.
Executing a Zornhau-Ort combo or a Krumphau with the KM against his Aureus Feder (which is no slouch itself, mind you) easily transferred enough momentum to his blade and left a giant opening.
I have not tried a Zwerchhau (at least, not with the intention of hitting him), because I am very worried that, if I hit him with the clip of the spine, I‘ll end up knocking him out through the mask, or at least give him a concussion. Its impulse is scary. I might do some Zwerch-practice with someone wearing a Bohurt-ready helmet, but a mask alone is too risky for my taste right now.

Freeplay needs to happen with a high degree of control, with or without gear. Accidents can happen even at lower intensity and with both parties being careful, so I would always recommend good finger protection as it can damage a thumb with more or less incidental contact.
I‘d liken it to the LKE Liechtenauer Feder, which Dave Rawlings did a nice short video on, and came to pretty much the same conclusions:
This is likewise not for sparring with people who do not know what they are getting into, and most certainly not for tournament use.

Overall it does indeed feel more like a serious fighting weapon that packs a good wallop in battle, rather than a comparatively dainty dueling implement.

While I haven't handled any original Kriegsmesser, I'd say it could be considered a slightly scaled-down version of the "Maximilianisches Kriegsmesser" ZEF-3-MS2, which was documented by the Zornhau e.V. group:
I‘d love to have some detailed measurements and pictures of the one in the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, HJRK A123, as another reference, but I haven‘t found anything so far.

In terms of silhouette, they are very similar.
If we compare the one in the Fricker collection and my sparring version stats-wise, the LKE Kriegsmesser is thinner (10mm vs 8mm at the base, with pretty much identical distal taper) as well as narrower (4.7 - 4.9cm vs 3.5-4cm) and a bit shorter (96.7cm vs 94cm blade) than the ZEF-3-MS2. The antique is also 760 grams heavier, with the center of gravity even further out at 18.2cm.
I already consider the LKE KM "Prototype Gen. 3" a pretty beastly blade, but the (presumably) original KM sounds like a monster in comparison. Mass distribution ("magic") could make the antique surprisingly agile for its size, but I'd wager it's still far more difficult to use and extremely choppy.

Some more measurements on my LKE KM:

Overall Length: 120cm
Blade Length: 94cm
Weight: 1650g
Center of Gravity: 15cm from the cross

Centers of Percussion:
Handle node: 1cm behind the guard
Blade node: 27cm from the point

perceived pivot point: 15cm from the point

Hilt length (usable): 24.5cm
Quillon block length: 1,5cm
Nagel Height: 6.8cm
Cross width: 19.8cm
Width of grip: 2.65cm ~ 3.35cm, linear increase towards pommel
Thickness of grip: 2.0cm ~ 2.6cm, linear increase towards pommel

Width of blade: 4.0cm at base, quickly tapering to 3.5cm, which it pretty much maintains until the clip.

There are only few flaws with the blade that I do mind: The aforementioned step near the point should have been cleaned up, and there is a set of deep scratches where, I assume, someone slipped with the grinder while flattening the Nagel‘s peen. Everything else about the blade is fine.

They‘ve also stamped it with their relatively new maker‘s mark. It sits about 1cm before the PoB and is slightly canted. I like it.

Moving on to the hilt. The handle scales are beautiful, the purpleheart really pops in the sunlight. In darker conditions it‘s more of a dark purple, which is still unique and beautiful. There was apparently a small crack or crease on one side, which has been patched. I‘d also like to point out that some of the brass from the tubular rivets got stuck in that patched area, giving it a small golden glitter. I like that accent.

The hollow brass rivets are pretty well finished. They‘re entirely flush with the wooden slabs, though one of them sits on the edge of aforementioned cracked section of the handle slabs.

They are extremely comfortable to grasp, and the transitions from wood to metal can barely be felt. I also like the added girth compared to the single-handed offerings.
Here‘s hoping that it holds up to the stresses of sparring, so far I've only had about 15 minutes of pure bouting time with it and can't make a final judgement.

The crossguard is substantial, notably thicker than on the single-handed Gottfrieds. It has also been back-peened to the blade, which should make for substantially better durability rather than it loosening after its first evening of bouts. Very happy with this change, and it‘s executed fairly cleanly and well.

The pommel is a slightly larger CC1 style pommel with a beak. While the beak does give great retention, I‘ve had to tak a dremel to it and round off the point a bit more. Now it‘s very comfortable with gloves, and good without. A CC2 pommel might be a bit more comfortable, as the beak can still bite uncomfortably into the hand when grasping the hilt "wide".

Speaking of the pommel: it is peened on, and the peen is ground down and finished so cleanly, that I‘ve had a hard time seeing it initially. Full marks on that one. The pommel itself is not perfectly symmetrical, and its bottom edge isn‘t perfectly perpendicular to the tang/blade. That‘s absolutely fine with me, I could well see exactly this „feature“ on an original.

My biggest gripe with the hilt is the Nagel, sadly. It is somewhat thicker (if narrower) and taller than on their one-handed offerings, so it may be able to withstand the impact of longswords and similar weapons a bit more easily, but unfortunately its angle, curve as well as its peen are somewhat sloppy.

It doesn‘t come out at a straight 90° angle relative to the flat of the blade, but clearly favours towards the edge side. That I can live with and accept as paying homage to imperfections we‘d see in originals.

Bending it to the desired curvature, apparently the final step of messer creation, was quite obviously done in a hurry, with little regard for cleanup. As such, the bent portion is riddled with dents and compression marks. Additionally, it is not a continuous bend, but rather a visible series of kinks. This was markedly better executed on the flared Nagels of both the blunt as well as the sharp Gottfried that I have. It‘ll probably not be a visible issue anymore after all of two or three sparring evenings, when the Nagel has taken its fair share of hits. Still, I am rather disappointed with how this one turned out, considering the price and how well they can do it on their cheaper offerings.

The peen side is also a mixed bag. On the one hand the Nagel peen was ground flush, as opposed to my two Gottfried Messers, where the „rivet“ is slightly protuding. I don‘t mind the rivet, but the flush version is undeniably more comfortable to „thumb“. Unfortunately it was also cleaned up less diligently. There are even more unsightly creases, dents, and discernible angle grinder marks on the KM than on the Gottfrieds, despite this clearly being a part that shouldn‘t take significantly more effort to clean up on either type of Messer. Doesn‘t bother me as much as the sloppily bent Nagel, though. Perfectly fine for 300€, but not what you would expect at the given price.

I‘ve communicated my gripes to them, and they were rather accomodating, so we reached a mutually acceptable solution. Everyone makes mistakes, but it‘s important to own them and learn from the experience.

This was my third purchase with Landsknecht Emporium. On my first order, the thick blunt Gottfried, the cross loosened after one evening of unarmoured sparring. On the second order, the scabbard lacked the embellishment I‘d ordered. I wasn‘t billed for it, so that never became a real issue. It‘s fine even without the architectural design on it. This is the third out of three orders, where everything unfortunately did not go well.

Will I be a customer at LKE again? Hell yes, their pieces are attractive and handle as well as you‘d expect, but their QA needs a bit of work. And seeing the wicked grind they can pull off on 8mm+ of steel, I‘m very much looking forward to commissioning one of those badass Kriegsmessers in sharp.

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Overall [ Download ]

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Overall 2 [ Download ]

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Color of the hilt [ Download ]

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Mark [ Download ]

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Back-Peened Crossguard [ Download ]

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Patched Crack [ Download ]

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Step in the grind near the point [ Download ]

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Scratches near the guard [ Download ]

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Sloppily bent-over Nagel [ Download ]

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Nagel Peen side [ Download ]
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Ian Hutchison

Location: Louisiana / Nordrhein-Westholland
Joined: 27 Nov 2007

Posts: 625

PostPosted: Mon 01 Jun, 2020 8:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Excellent review, Johannes. I have yet to try any of their blunts but would definitely like a few some day. I've definitely been interested in a two handed blunt to use in lieu of a longsword, would be nice if it had the same great handling that their sharps do.

I agree with your sentiment re. price vs QC. Their standard single-hand catalog items are great value for money (~$300 for an excellent utility weapon is great), but their two handed, more expensive items lose this a bit ($1000+ for the same level of finish).

'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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Johannes Zenker

Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 159

PostPosted: Tue 02 Jun, 2020 7:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ian Hutchison wrote:
I agree with your sentiment re. price vs QC. Their standard single-hand catalog items are great value for money (~$300 for an excellent utility weapon is great), but their two handed, more expensive items lose this a bit ($1000+ for the same level of finish).

Well since I'm in the EU, I don't have to deal with overseas shipping and customs. The price with the purpleheart handle scales was a bit less than a Falke M5A++ Kriegsmesser. In total with shipping it ran me just about 1000$.

That said, they have proven that they are taking feedback into consideration and grow from criticism. I hope they'll improve the finish on their higher-end pieces.
At least the sharp KMs in the past did not have their crossguard back-peened to the blade. While probably not historical for Messers, doing so prevents the crossguard from coming loose with little use, which would be very unfortunate in a sparring piece at that price. I had criticized that about my blunt Gottfried and specifically made a remark to this when placing the order for the KM, and I am very happy that they seem to have come through on that end.

I also feel like I should have ended on a more positive note:

It is a very unique and fun experience wielding the Kriegsmesser, as well as using it in sparring. I have used plenty of different swords and simulators, but nothing ever felt like this. I could imagine late 13th, early 14th century Warswords feeling similar, but I have not yet handled a good repro of a sword in that category (like the Albion Baron/Duke/SquireLine Greatsword). With regard to furthering my understanding of swordsmanship and enjoying the martial art, I'm thus sure it was a worthwhile investment. Just be careful when sparring and drilling, you don't want to accidentally break your partner.
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Holger Mahling

Location: Germany
Joined: 23 Oct 2012

Posts: 85

PostPosted: Thu 04 Jun, 2020 5:27 am    Post subject: Kriegsmesser Prototype         Reply with quote

Strange, but it seems i am the only one not happy or lucky with this company... The "Ahren" Kriegsmesser was here - and went straight back! Great customer service from Adam at Landsknecht Emporium though; almost instant refund. I bought it at Etsy because it was in stock and i heard a lot of good things. Adam stands behind his sword and said they try to achieve most possible historical correctness, not perfection. But i really was not pleased too much with the overall quality (to say it politely)... well, this was the exact piece that Matt Easton had in its Youtube testing and so it did some travelling around already. Maybe that caused the flaws? That was not how a 1400 Euro sword should look like, sorry!

* gap between grip and crossguard (more than fingernail)
* grip and blade not perfectly in line
* gap between "nagel" and crossguard (fingernail)
* one brass sphere loose and rattling, the other one bent
* last 20 to 30 cm of the blade wavy

Its harsh to say that, but we have Windlass swords here with better fit & finish. Blade otherwise did look very nice, great distal taper, and the scabbard was well made. Maybe we will give them another try with one of their cheaper models.
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Johannes Zenker

Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 159

PostPosted: Thu 04 Jun, 2020 6:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Holger, thanks for chipping in.

A friend of mine thinks like you. He considered the flaws of the Gottfrieds I have acceptable at the price, but just like you did, he would have sent the KM back.

A historically accurate finish is fine, but it always has to fit the price point. A rough-and-ready finish on a piece replicating a rather simple historical piece does not go well with a premium price. Small flaws and imperfections that look period correct are acceptable on such items in my eyes (see for example my Swordmaker pieces), but they can't look modern or overly sloppy.

Considering your specific gripes with your Ahren: since the handle is leather-covered, the gap between the guard and grip is a bit more annoying than if it were just a wood scale and a shim could be inserted very subtly. Don't think it would be a killer criterion for me, as long as the assembly is solid and the gap doesn't bite my hand.
Grip and blade not being in line is weird. On the pieces I have they've always adjusted for any warps in the tang by matching the thickness of the handle slabs.
Can't really comment on the gap between guard and the Nagel/Shell guard on an Ahren. Could annoy me if it disrupts the visuals, but I might also be fine with it.
A slightly crooked foible is sadly not a rare occurrence if the blade gets thin in that section.

Regardless of all those, there is no way that a higher-end piece should have any rattling pieces when it arrives (or even after some reasonable use), so the loose brass sphere and bent opposite side are the biggest mark against it, at least the way I see it. I don't know if it came to you directly from Matt or from LKE after it had gone back to them, but it should have been packaged well enough to not get damaged whatsoever in shipping.

If one of their single-handed Messers, a Dorothea Dussack or one of their straight swords, all sub 400€, has such flaws, I would say they are appropriate: It's an adequately plain and rough reproduction of an item that would have been plain and rough in its origin period, at a price that can warrant a plain and rough finish, as long as the piece handles well and is solid and sturdy.
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Holger Mahling

Location: Germany
Joined: 23 Oct 2012

Posts: 85

PostPosted: Thu 04 Jun, 2020 7:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"I don't know if it came to you directly from Matt or from LKE after it had gone back to them, but it should have been packaged well enough to not get damaged whatsoever in shipping"

It came from LE, they kinda refurbished it when it came back from Matt Easton (made a new grip for example); but the packaging indeed was a joke. A little bit of bubble wrap and a flattened cardboard box... check the package you get when ordering a Cold Steel sword, or a Windlass Battlecry line piece, for example. And - again - this was/is a 1400 Euro piece! But as i said, maybe i try a cheaper piece from them... on the other hand i already like the Regenyei stuff much better since receiving my big Kriegsmesser from them.
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Johannes Zenker

Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 159

PostPosted: Thu 04 Jun, 2020 7:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well I can only judge the Regenyei Kriegsmesser from seeing it in pictures, but historically speaking, it looks wrong on so many levels to me.

The fullers terminate too cleanly, the guard has that very characteristic "Regenyei-shine" to it and is clearly just water-jet/laser cut from a flat piece of steel, like his standard guards, with added twists and some file/grinder work. The cross-section of the handle, the filed notches in it, all the filework on the guard, as well as the uncharacteristically square and large pommel, and the perfectly uniform thickness of the guard, everything about this screams "made with modern tools and processes for modern aesthetic preferences." I won't comment on the general design and shape of the blade beyond "I haven't seen an original like that."

Still, for 580€ that is all fair game, so long as you got what you wanted.

About packaging: Yep, they really need to work on that, especially for their more expensive offerings, a proper box with sufficient padding is a must.
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Ian Hutchison

Location: Louisiana / Nordrhein-Westholland
Joined: 27 Nov 2007

Posts: 625

PostPosted: Fri 05 Jun, 2020 6:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with both of you. The value of the higher end pieces is open to a lot more subjectivity in my opinion. Although the standard of finish is definitely within historical norms, that may not be what everyone expects these days at that price.

On the other hand, although I appreciate their feders, Regenyei's messers/kriegsmessets just aren't right. They look off, not really like historic examples. The pommels, which are too blocky and unrefined, and the fullers, which are too clean and machined, are the biggest offenders.

'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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