Windlass Steelcrafts 15th Century Longsword
A hands-on review by Joseph Fults
As is the case for many colloquial sword related terms, there are many definitions of what a longsword is; some are more specific and useful than others. This often leads to confusion about what a sword is, or is not, based on whether or not people involved in discussion about it share a common framework of definitions. The term longsword can be used to describe a broad array of sword types that saw use over a wide range of eras in Europe, and in simplest terms, longsword can be used to simply describe a sword that is long.
More commonly longswords are considered to be straight bladed, double-edged swords that are intended to be used with two hands and are often over 90cm long. In general they are accepted to have been in wide use from 1350-1550, with some use at least 100 years earlier and later in certain areas.
The Windlass Steelcrafts 15th Century Longsword was part of an experimental purchase I made to satisfy my curiosity regarding rumors of improved product quality from Windlass. My previous experience with their products could best be described as uninspiring. However, whispers in the collecting community around the time I was making this buying decision seemed to indicate that the company was selling more than a few gems mixed in with the lemons, so curiosity overcame caution. This was of course aided by the comparatively low price point of this product.
So far I am finding this sword reasonably enjoyable, but it is a good example of some of the compromises that very aggressive price points sometimes force on vendors. In my opinion, the Windlass 15th Century Longsword is a decent sword. However, there are some compromises in the design, which will be discussed later in this review, which might make it less desirable than some other products to collectors.
Windlass Steelcrafts was founded in 1943 by Mr. V. P. Windlass as a manufacturing plant in India charged with supplying Gurkha Regiments in the British Army with Kukris as combat sidearms. In 1979 the company began to export products to the US. Not long after that, the firm began to expand into the production of military swords sabers and regalia, reproductions of medieval products, and licensed replicas for European and American export markets.
Today Windlass Group operates internationally with interests in edged weapons and clothing, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, real estate and hotels. In the United States Windlass is best known for its sharp weapons and clothing, which can be acquired through an array of resellers and distributors.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Windlass Steelcrafts of India.
The Windlass 15th Century Longsword is a reasonably light and tolerably balanced sword. The grip is comfortable in the hand, and all components do an acceptable job of staying tight and secure. I have not experienced any rattling in use. The seam on the upper leather portion of the grip is of average quality and does not bother the hand. The wire portion of the grip is tightly wound and comfortable. The pommel is easy to grip and easy to use for leverage without discomfort.
In cutting and exercise, the sword is fairly easy to accelerate and changes direction with light to moderate exertion. At this range of force of use it feels confident and reasonably capable.
Unfortunately when I apply a more aggressive level of user input and force, basically when I use this sword at or near full speed, I feel that I completely overpower it. While its initial acceleration is still acceptable, the blade almost instantly begins to feel whippy and loses its ability to respond adequately to user input, especially when asked to rapidly decelerate or change direction in transition. The flex of the blade under heavy exertion is very noticeable into the grip and tang. In fact I fully expect the wooden portion of the grip to fail under load at some point, although it has not so far.
The sword also has a screw-on pommel, something that I'm beginning to think is a bad idea in general. Although this one is not bad as far as screw on pommels go, it does eventually loosen with use. It's a problem easily fixed and proactively prevented by checking component alignment and retightening the pommel once in a while. Nevertheless it's an annoyance easily removed by using other construction methods.
Fit and Finish
The guard of the Windlass 15th Century Longsword sweeps down toward the blade. The downward arc is gentle and even and there is some swelling in the plane of the blade toward the ends of the guard. The side rings are balanced with few grinding flaws on the exterior or interior. Decorative elements on the guard match details on the side rings and tie the pieces together visually. Overall these elements combine to give the sword a graceful line not always seen at its price point.
The waisted grip and faceted scent stopper pommel work well together to create visual interest. A single Turk's head near the pommel adds another small eye pleasing element.
The blade of the sword is evenly finished with little evidence of grinding. The fuller is even and extends under the guard. Many historical swords have this construction detail, but it is often overlooked at aggressively low price points. In this offering, it is not as crisp as seen on many higher-end examples. Small grooves ground into the ricasso and running parallel to the fuller are fairly straight and balanced.
The scabbard is basic fare, but it does fit the sword better than some Windlass efforts I've seen in the past. Seams are well done and the metal throat and chape shaped to compliment lines from the sword.
At much less than $180 US shipped with a scabbard, this a nice enough sword for many different uses, but it feels like a noodle far too often. It looks nice at its price point, and is almost certainly better than most of the budget swords available on the market several years ago. At least it's better than the candidates I had for consideration when I started collecting. Regardless, I wish Windlass Steelcrafts had used some thicker stock and tweaked the 15th Century Longsword to make its blade stiffer.
In fact, I am concerned that the amount of flex in the blade might put a stress on the sword, based on its feel and activity. I would not be surprised the flex transmitted to the tang of this sword led to the eventual failure of the wooden handle components (although mine admittedly has not failed so far in use).
In the end, the 15th Century Longsword suffers from compromises that keep costs down. I don't think it's a terrible product, and I am comfortable recommending this sword to novice collectors who are not into heavy cutting (perhaps as a first sword), as a costume piece when historical accuracy is not a primary concern, or as a decorator item. However, I also do not think this sword is a great product, and I'm reluctant to recommend the sword for extended hard use. Nevertheless, at the price I paid, I'm happy enough with this purchase and I intend to continue giving it a good beating because it can easily be replaced if the need arises.
About the Author
Joseph Fults is a technology manager in the Columbus metropolitan area. For all intents and purposes a career student as long as he can remember, Joseph has been intrigued by history and tales of adventure. Long driven to learn about anything that intrigued him, over the last few years Joseph has nurtured a growing appetite for information about the medieval period of European history. Today his curiosity draws him to the people, items, and regional events of the Rhine basin in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.
Photographer: Chad Arnow