Reviews of Real Weapons

Albion's Talhoffer

See it here. Albion, maker of historically accurate museum reproductions, is among the pinnacle of swordmakers, and it's easy to see why. This is a truly amazing sword. At three and a half pounds, it feels very substantial in the hand. The blade tapers to an extremely fine point, finer than any rapier point I've seen, yet near the crossguard the blade is thick and has a lot of steel in it. The blade comes razor sharp. Perfectly lively, this sword really feels like it moves of its own accord, taking only the slightest encouragement to change from one position to another. This sword defines lively. The satin finish is flawless, as is the leather wrap, which comes in a variety of colors and styles. The basic sword can seem rather plain, but the options can dress it up nicely. Downside- it has no scabbard and it's expensive-- but you know where your money went when you hold this sword in your hands. You'll never look at a lesser sword the same way again. This is the standard against which all others are judged.

Cold Steel's Italian Longsword

More Pictures HERE. First impressions- the fishtail pommel is awkward for the Lichtenauer/German longsword style, or the Fiori dei Liberi/Marozzo Italian systems from which this sword takes its name. The movements can be performed, although they are not optimal or particularly comfortable. The hilt is long enough for two hands, but it is way too short, especially for the Italian systems. When performing certain cuts and guards, the fishtail pommel must be gripped directly. The problem is that the pommel has some pointy edges to it that you might not notice after one or two cuts, but definately will after ten-- (I have taken a grinder to these edges on my sword). At the least, leather gloves should be worn. Cold Steel should have consulted with some practitioners before they designed this one. Also, the hilt grip gets strangely fat and cylindrical towards the pommel, instead of flattening and thinning out, which also negatively affects the handling of the sword.

It's as if ColdSteel designed this sword with one idea in mind: to cut things. One also gets the impression from their cutting video (link below). We who practice traditional sword schools do more than cut-- we take guards, change positions and perform combinations, and that's where the Italian Longsword gets into trouble. The leather wrap has a very noticeable seam on one side which is always felt, and is another reason to wear gloves while using it. It's disappointing-- I want to like this sword more than I do.

On the positive side: the blade is very sharp and strong, the construction is very solid, the length, thickness and taper of the blade are very good, it comes with a scabbard that fits snugly and is well constructed. I like the crossguard, it's attractive, solid and of beautifully polished steel. The sword overall is not heavy (a common complaint about Cold Steel swords). The balance is good, but not perfect. Tip control is easy. Retail price is $440, but you can get it for $320 or less. Not a bad representation of the sword we use, especially for that price. It is a solid, good cutter, and a sword you wouldn't mind scuffing up. See Cold Steel's cutting video (IGNORE the POOR FORM of the sword testers!)

Hanwei/Paul Chen Solingen Dagger

See it here. This is a very nice piece. Very sharp with an very fine point. Very solid construction, well-finished and balance, if not slightly pommel heavy. These are great quillions (the curved crossguard) to catch a opponent's rapier blade. This dagger comes across looking like an Okinawan sai, and is functionally equivalent. It comes with a leather covered sheath. Nothing to critizice about it, other than the balance point is actually inside the hilt, which is fine.

Hanwei/Paul Chen Solingen Rapier

See it here. This is also a nice piece. It is completely different from, and should in no way be compared to, the Practical Rapier that is made by Hanwei (which you should AVOID). The balance is excellent and the finish is outstanding. The blade has some flex, but has plenty of stiffness to pierce targets. The blade after bending always returns true. The edge is slightly sharp, but not really sharp, as one would expect from a blade with cross section; the bevel is somewhat concave (hollow ground). It comes with a sheath. The polished finish, the satin blade, and double wire wrapping with silver turk's head have no visible flaws. The most important criticism of the sword is that It is much lighter than the period pieces that it's supposed to represent; but for the price, that's not hard to overlook. If you want a rapier that represents a period piece, you will have to look to Arms and Armor and pay $900. On the positive side, Hanwei swords are easy to come by and you can get competive pricing all over the internet. Most serious rapier practitioners look to Darkwood Armory.

Windlass Steelcraft's German Warhammer

See it here. Solid and well built. It's lighter than it looks. Good for use with one hand, but too short for two hands. One drawback is that it should come with a lanyard (wrist strap)-- it would be easy for this weapon to slip out of your hand or be knocked out by force. If you want a war hammer, I would recommend this one to you.

Windlass Steelcraft's German Mace

See it here. Very nice weapon. The construction is good. Unlike the German Warhammer, this weapon is is heavier than it looks. The head is very heavy and the edges and points are very sharp; this weapon would produce wickedly effective wounds were it to be used. The shaft of the mace is hollow, which doesn't appear to be a drawback; although I did not put the mace to heavy use against a realistic target. The balance is okay; you can't grip the weapon right at the base and use it effectively, you must grip it several inches up. One drawback is that it should have an attached lanyard (wrist strap)-- it would be easy for this weapon to slip out of your hand or be knocked out by force. Overall, a good example of this type of weapon.

Windlass Steelcraft's European Spear Tip

See it here. Very stout, strong point and easy to mount. Well finished, nice even polish to it. The edges aren't sharpened, but I would not consider that a drawback, even on a functional spear.

Cold Steel's Viking Axe

See it here. This is a wickedly awesome weapon. This is very, very big. Nothing to criticize here. Beautiful finish to the steel, and the hickory axe shaft feels extremely durable. It does come unassembled and requires drilling of the shaft.

Cold Steel's Medieval Longsword

See it here. This sword lacks the balance of their Italian Longsword-- it's completely tip-heavy. As with the Italian Longsword, the blade is strong and sharp and comes with a scabbard, but this sword is even more unsuitable for the Lichtenauer School than the other. The pommel is, once again, uncomfortable for real use with a hilt of this length. If they're going to produce a sword with a grip of this length, they need a smoother more grippable pommel. I can't recommend it.

Windlass Steelcraft's Poleaxe with bec de corbin

See it here. This is an okay weapon. The main drawback is that while I expected it would feel more substantial, it's actually very light. I suspect it wouldn't hold up well under heavy use, but it's reasonably priced. The length of haft is short, and the weapon feels like it should be longer than it is. Bear that in mind. If you really want a poleaxe, you could start out with this one.


Pictured below. Nice piece, very attractive but also very formidable. Beautiful detail on the hammer head. The spike is wickedly long and sharp. I like the steel reinforcement of the shaft, and the steel buttcap. It's heavier and bigger than it looks. This is definately a full-time two-handed weapon; you cannot use it with one hand. If you want one of these, I could absolutely recommend this one. Not sure who makes it or where you can find one.

More to come...