Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sword Review: Windlass 15th Century Longsword

Ah, the sword. I could rant on the beauty, the symbolism, the very essence of everything that has been and is that iconic blade-and-hilt tool of death every day. At times it seems as though my every thought, my entire life and state of being are focused around this one tool--no, this ideal--for the sword is an ideal as much as a physical weapon.

But you're not here because you want to listen to my senseless adoration of deadly symbolic weaponry. You want... wait--what do you want? Why the government are you here? Get yourself a life, good man. This is no place for sane people.

But in the chance that you are actually insane, stay and read a bit farther. This may be useful information for those seeking a sharp/pointy object with which they might kill something.

This fine weapon was made by Windlass, a company based in India (that is, their products are produced by native American Indians, who have had a long tradition of forging high medieval weaponry). Their services to the world are varied in nature, but most pertinently to us, they manufacture miscellaneous entry-level  medieval clothing/armor/weaponry. The key factor in their products is this: they are cheap. Everything they make is produced with extreme care to keep consumer cost down.

This weapon could easily compete with similar models priced around 300 USD. I got it for about $130 (on sale). Currently, it can be purchased from the very good people at Kult of Athena for $170 with free shipping in the US. If you want it, that would be the best place to get it.

The above link contains the essential statistics of the sword, as well as more pictures.

Yes, I am actually a spy for Kult of Athena. No, there is no chance that I just think they're a good retailer.

I give you fair warning: I love this sword. I can't help it; I'm sorry. It's just so pretty. It sits across my lap even as I type this. My review will be biased. I'll still have things to criticize, but I'm not going to nitpick as I would with a higher tier sword.

Handling/First Impression

This sword is beautiful. Pulling it out of the box, that's all I could think. The compound hilt, wire half-wrap, and crisp pommel come together very well aesthetically.

The weapon feels light and free in the hand. At just over three pounds, it is nearly a full pound lighter than my other longsword. This sword begs to be swung.

In both hands it flows and snaps sharply without resistance or drag. Hooking a finger over the crossguard, the blade feels natural with one hand. Thus, it truly fits into the category of a hand-and-a-half sword.

Most of the weight is centered around the ricasso, as the crossguard (while stylish) is quite thick. Same with the ricasso itself. While this extra weight is unnecessary, for me it doesn't detract too much from the handling.

The blade is overly flexible; you can bend it noticeably with one hand and focused effort. I knew this would be true before I purchased it thanks to a few other reviews, but it seems that this fact was a bit exaggerated. Wielding at full intensity, this slight whippiness is noticeable, but not ruinous. I could go through all my drills without distraction.

On a practical note: if I was going to do heavy cutting, this would probably be a bit annoying, as any flexing during a cut would detract energy from the blow. So, if you want to go on a wild, limb-chopping massacre free of annoyance, you might consider a different sword.


The construction of the sword is interesting. The blade has been described as anything from a type XIIa to a type XXa--I have never seen such a dissimilarity of description with a single longsword. The hilt is more easily classified. The iconic ring guards evoke a late fifteenth century feeling (although the wire half-grip doesn't quite feel right).

In my mind though, it makes sense as a tool. It's fashionable and light. The blade geometry would be best suited to cut and penetrate soft targets. I could easily imagine it as a civilian weapon for a rough nobleman's son.

The sword comes with a simple yet stylish black leather scabbard that fits loosely to the blade. The pommel, crossguard, and scabbard fittings are of stainless steel; they are well-aligned as well as secure. The blade is carbon steel. The half-wire grip is tightly wound. All seams in the leather are neat and unobtrusive. The fuller is straight and even on both sides. The blade has been polished to a satisfactory level of shiny-ness.

My biggest complaint here (and perhaps in the sword as a whole) has to do with the pommel. Sure, it looks nice. It fits neatly in the hand, so gripping it for extra leverage is easy and practical.

But it is screwed on.

For me, it has come a bit loose several times in my ferocious testing. This was easily corrected by simply re-tightening it, but that is not something I would really want to be doing in a duel (or in the middle of a limb-chopping massacre).

I don't know why they did this. Windlass, would it have really been so hard to just thread the tang through the pommel and peen the pommel in place? That, along with correcting the geometry of the blade, would have made this sword an incredible offering to the world of entry-level weaponry at this price range. It could be sold for double its current price without consumer complaint.

I find your lack of peen disturbing.

However, as it is this sword can only be said to be "just another" attempt at a pseudo-historical weapon reproduction from Windlass.


Despite all of my cynicism, high standards, and general lack of tolerance for things that suck, I love this sword.

Call me cheap, but I more than happy to have purchased sword. If you are interested in swords/medieval martial arts and you don't have a lot of money to throw around (or if you just want to swing something), consider purchasing this. Other swords might represent the longsword better in a historical sense, but I don't think there is much out there at this price with this level of... aesthetic appeal.

A note though: this weapon, even dull, would not work as a sparring weapon (I don't care what sort of protection you wear). I bought it unsharpened, but the tip is deadly pointy--it will sink into flesh with little effort. I would call the edge "unhoned" rather than "unsharpened". I have made deep gashes in my wooden training pell with this edge; I can only imagine what it could do in sparring.

All things considered, I give this sword a 7/10 for a new sword enthusiast.


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