If you examine the archeological record, you will discover that nearly every culture and ethnic group around the world except for the natives of North and South America, New Zealand and Australia had sword technology. Also, as this technology slowly evolved from swords made of Copper to swords made of Bronze (an alloy of Copper and Tin) to modern swords made of Iron and then Steel, different cultures around the world developed different ways to forge these new materials to create unique sword designs that were endemic to particular regions of the world. Therefore, most modern swords designs can be described as being influenced by one particular cultural design or another. Nonetheless, all modern swords designs can also be described as being optimized for slashing attacks or stabbing attacks and thus, straight bladed swords emphasize the use of the blade’s point to disable an opponent whereas curved swords emphasize the use of the sword’s edge dispatch an opponent.
In addition, all swords have hilts (aka handles or grips) that are designed specifically for either single-handed or double-handed use and thus, this too is an important factor to keep in mind when choosing a sword. Last, it is important to understand that all swords fall into one of two categories which consist of those designed for military use and those designed for civilian use. Thus, military swords tend to be designed to defeat armored opponents whereas, most civilian swords are designed to defeat an unarmored opponent. So, when choosing an modern swords, it is very important that you keep all of these factors in mind.
6 Things To Look For When Purchasing Modern Swords
Therefore, when choosing a modern sword, there are five key features to that you need to consider consisting of blade design, blade length, the weight of the blade, the blade’s construction, the hilt design and, the sword’s balance point because each parameter affects the way in which the sword performs.
1. Blade Design
When it comes to sword blade designs, it is important to understand that the reason that there are so many different ethnic sword designs throughout history from so many cultures across the world is that swords are purpose specific tools. Of course, to many people this may sound like an oxymoron since war is a sword’s only true purpose but, the fact is that there have been many different types of swords designed throughout the years for many different specific purposes in war. For instance, there is a North African sword that is shaped like a sickle which was used to reach around an enemy’s shield and stab them and, there is a type of German Two Handed Sword that was made specifically for a large, heavily armored, infantry soldier to wade into, and break, a pike line. Therefore, the first factor to keep in mind when choosing a sword blade design is that there are two types of opponents consisting of those that are not wearing body armor and those that are wearing body armor. Then, among those that are wearing armor, the question becomes what type?
Of course, the reason that this question is relevant to our discussion of modern swords blade design is that it requires much less effort to cut or stab an unarmored opponent than it does an armored opponent and, it is much easier to do the same to a lightly armored opponent than it is to a heavily armored opponent. So, when choosing a sword blade design, the first question you should ask yourself is do you plan on facing unarmored or armored opponents and then, you should choose your sword blade design accordingly.
Yet another factor to choosing modern swords blade design that you need to consider is to decide whether you prefer a sword that is designed for slashing attacks or a sword that is designed for stabbing attacks? But, at the same time, this decision also needs to be tempered with the knowledge that disabling an unarmored opponent takes less force than disabling an armored opponent does and therefore, although lighter blades are faster, they do not have as much momentum as a heavier sword does. Therefore, if you prefer a lightweight blade that is optimized for stabbing, then you should consider straight blade designs such as the Rapier or the Small Sword but, if you prefer a heavier blade that is optimized for stabbing, the you might want to consider an English Long Sword or a Scottish Claymore. But, if you prefer a lightweight blade designed specifically for slashing, then you might want to consider a curved blade design such as an Arabian Scimitar or a Japanese Katana and, if you prefer a heavyweight blade designed specifically for slashing, then you might want to consider something like a Chinese Broadsword.
2. Blade length
Blade length is another critical factor when choosing a sword and, in fact, there is actually quite a bit more to this particular factor that the average person might think. For instance, the longer a sword’s blade is, the greater the distance at which a swordsman can wound or dispatch his opponent but, at the same time, because a longer sword has a longer Moment Arm and, because it has more metal than a shorter sword of the same design, the longer sword will be both heavier and slower than the shorter sword but, the longer sword will also carry more momentum and thus, cut more deeply than a shorter sword.
However, the main factor to keep in mind when choosing a sword’s blade length is that the shorter a sword’s blade is, the less room it will require to wield it and, the longer a sword’s blade is, the more room it will require to wield it. Therefore, shorter sword designs are best suited for indoor and/or, close quarters battle whereas, longer swords are best suited for use on an outdoor battle field. Consequently, that is why Japanese Samurai Warriors carried both a Wakizashi (short sword) and a Katana (long sword). In fact, while the Katana is a well know battlefield weapon, for a Samurai Warrior, his Wakizashi served the same purpose as a handgun for a modern day soldier. Thus, while a Samurai Warrior might choose to leave his Katana at the door, he was never without his Wakizashi!
Therefore, when choosing modern swords, you will need to decide whether you would rather engage your opponent at long range or close range since each technique has both advantages and disadvantages and then, you will need to choose a sword with the appropriate length blade.
3. Blade weight
Then, even though it may seem like a minor consideration, the weight of any given sword design’s blade is still another critical factor that should be carefully considered. For instance, as mentioned previously, the lighter a sword’s blade is, the less inertia it has and the heavier a sword’s blade is, the more inertia is has and this can be either good or bad depending on your point of view and your purpose. For instance, if you will be facing unarmored opponents, then you would be better off choosing a lightweight sword because a light sword is faster than a heavy sword and therefore, a light sword is quicker to attack and parry with. But, while the amount of piercing damage a straight stabbing sword is capable of is not dependent on its weight, the amount of cutting damage that a curved slashing sword is capable of is dependent on its weight and thus, while a light version of such a sword would be faster than a heavy version, the light version would not inflict as much damage as the heavy version.
On the other hand, if you were facing an armored opponent, then the first question would be whether your opponent is wearing light or heavy armor since the type of armor your opponent is wearing will determine what type of sword you would need to defeat it. For instance, if you are facing an opponent wearing traditional Middle Eastern silk armor which consisted of numerous loose layers of silk, then either a straight, lightweight, stabbing blade such as Cold Steel’s 1908 Cavalry Saber or, a light to medium weight slashing blade such as the Cold Steel Scimitar would both be good choices. But, if you were facing an opponent in padded chain mail and/or plate armor, then you would need a much heavier sword such as the Cold Steel Hand-and-a-Half Sword or, the Paul Chen/Hanwei Scottish Claymore.
So, when choosing a sword, it is important to remember that the weight of the blade on the sword you choose should depend on whether you need a fast, light, blade for lightning quick attacks and ultra quick parries or, a heavier but, slower blade for defeating armor and/or for inflicting greater damage on an unarmored opponent.
4. Sword Blade construction
Next, as if choosing a single sword design from among the many were not already complicated enough, there is the issue of how the sword was made. For instance, there are three possible ways to make a sword consisting of casting the metal, using a grinder to remove the excess metal from a bar of stock and, forging the blade into the desired shape. But, it should be noted that the first two of these three methods will not reliably produce a battle worthy blade that a warrior could actually trust his life to. Therefore, if you goal is simply to collect decorative swords to hang on your wall, then any blade construction will work just fine. But, if you are specifically looking for a battle ready blade, then you need to choose a sword with forged blade.
In addition, you also need to be aware that when discussing sword blades, steel has three important properties that must be considered. For instance, the perfect blade steel would be one that is strong, tough and, which holds and edge well. Therefore, it is important to understand that a strong blade steel is one that will bend without breaking while, a tough blade steel is one that will resist chipping and cracking when the sword’s cutting edge impacts another sword, shield, armor, or bone and, a steel that holds an edge will have a combination of both of these properties. But, it is also important to know that when a bladesmith chooses a strong blade steel, he has to accept that it’s toughness will be compromised and, when he chooses a tough steel, he has to accept the fact that it’s strength will be compromised. Consequently, most warriors prefer a strong blade with a reasonable degree of toughness because a broken sword is more likely to cause them to die in battle than a chipped edge is.
Therefore, bladesmiths have developed two different methods of forging steel that enables them to make modern sword blades that are both strong and tough. Thus, the first method consists of either laminating two layers of relatively soft steel to a single layer of hard steel (aka San Mai construction) or, by laminating multiple layers of soft and hard steel together (aka Damascus or Tamehagane steel). Thus, by combining both a soft steel and a hard steel into a single billet via forge welding, a bladesmith can take advantage of the strength of a hard steel and the chip and crack resistance of a tough steel to create a sword with the best possible edge holding ability. However, it should be noted that both San Mai and Damascus steel construction do require more work than a standard forged blade and thus, swords with San Mai or Damascus steel blades often cost significantly more.
5. Hilt design
So, now that you have had a basic lesson in sword blade design, let’s talk about sword hilts for a bit. As with sword blades, sword hilts are either designed for single handed or double handed use. Therefore, they either have only enough room for one hand on the hilt or, they have room for two. However, this aspect of sword design can get a bit confusing because there are a couple of European sword designs called a Bastard Sword and a Hand-and-a-half sword which have dual-handed hilts but which, are specifically designed to be used with either a single hand or with both hands and thus, the colorful names. Furthermore, you should be aware that a sword with a short hilt is far more convenient to carry at your side than a sword with a long hilt because the long hilt tends to get in the way. But, a long hilt also enables the swordsman to use two hands to control his blade which can provide both more speed and more power.
Then, in addition to the length of a sword’s hilt, there is the issue of its grip. For instance, a plain wood grip or, a wood grip covered in smooth leather can become slick when it is wet which, in turn, can allow the sword to twist in the swordsman’s hand. However, a hilt wrapped in something such as paracord or, one with a ray skin “Same” and a braided silk “Ito” like the traditional Japanese Katana provides a very positive grip that will remain positive even when soaking wet. Therefore, when choosing a sword, you also need to keep in mind that the smoother a sword’s hilt is, the less positive its grip will be and thus, the more likely it will be to twist in your hand or, slide out of your hand altogether.
So, when choosing modern swords, not only do you need to consider the blade’s design, length and, weight, you also need to decide whether you prefer a single-handed or a dual-handed sword because this decision will also influence the type, size, and weight of the sword blade that you choose.
6. Balance Point
Last but not least, we come to the issue of a sword’s balance point. Thus, a sword’s balance point is the point along a sword’s length at which the blade and the hilt weigh the same and thus balance one another. Therefore, a sword’s balance point can be in front of, even with, or behind the point where the hilt’s bolster or guard meets the blade’s Ricasso and, the reason that this is important is that any sword that is butt heavy will also have an extra light tip and thus, the tip will feel very fast and highly maneuverable but, the edge will not deliver a very deep slashing cut. On the other hand, any sword that is tip heavy will less maneuverable and will feel like it has a much slower tip but, the edge will deliver a much deeper slashing cut. Therefore, most swordsman who prefer a long, slim, straight, stabbing blade such as a Rapier or a Small Sword, also prefer that it be balanced either at, or just slightly forward of, the guard but, most swordsman who prefer a curved slashing blade such as a Katana, a classic Cavalry Saber or, a Scimitar, much prefer to have their blades balance a few inches forward of the guard.
So, as you can see, there are numerous different factors to be considered when choosing a modern sword and thus, it is important that you take the time to decide whether you prefer a short sword or a long sword, a straight sword or a curved sword, a light sword or a heavy sword and, a single handed sword or a dual handed sword since each factor will also affect all of the other factors as well as the manner in which you use the sword to defend yourself. Plus, by having complete confidence that you will win any swordfight, you are far more likely to do so and, having the right sword for your stature and preferred fighting style can go a long way to instilling that confidence. Thus, it is well worth the time necessary to contemplate all of the information listed above before making your choice to ensure that you choose the right sword for you.
- Overall Length: 49 1/4″
- Blade Length: 43″
- Weight: 37 oz.
- Blade Steel: 1566
Designed by Paul Chen and constructed by Hanwei Forge for CAS Iberia, this Renaissance-style Rapier traces its origins to Europe in the early 17th century where facility with a Rapier was considered an essential part of a gentleman’s education and was often used as a dueling weapon to resolve disagreements. However, although there were many different styles of hilts constructed from various materials made my many different local craftsmen all over Europe, Rapier blades generally originated from one of the famous blade centers such as Toledo, Spain or Solingen, Germany and were then imported and fitted with hilts by local artisans.
Therefore, because the Rapier was specifically designed to be a dueling weapon, the Paul Chen Practical Rapier features an overall length of 49 1/4 inches with a 6 1/4 inch hilt and a 43 inch Needle Point blade made from 1566 Plain Tool Steel (non-stainless) and weighs a total of 37 ounces. Plus, the hilt features an intricately designed guard with a round, ribbed, handle and an extra heavy pommel cap to position the balance point near the hilt and, a light, but exceptionally strong, knuckle guard. However, due to the button tip which is designed for sparring, this Rapier modern sword does not include a sheath.
- Overall Length: 38 1/4″
- Blade Length: 31 1/4″
- Weight: 24.6 oz.
- Blade Steel: 1060
The Small Sword was specifically developed to be the predecessor to the Rapier but, unlike the Rapier, the Small Sword was specifically designed to be a civilian self defense weapon rather than a dueling weapon. In fact, although the Rapier is the ultimate weapon for dueling an unarmored opponent, it’s excessively long blade makes it unwieldy in tight quarters and thus, the Small Sword was developed as an alternative. Consequently, Cold Steel’s modern version of the Small Sword is designed to preserve the best features of many historical examples.
For instance, the Cold Steel Small Modern Swords have an overall length of 38 1/4 inches with a 7 inch hilt and a 31 1/4 inch Needle Point blade made from 1060 Plain Tool Steel (non-stainless) and weigh a total of 24.6 ounces. Plus, the hilt features Rattail Tang construction and two, shell-shaped, guards followed by functional finger loops both above and below the grip and a light, but exceptionally strong, knuckle guard. In addition, it also includes an attractive leather scabbard with an intricately decorated metal throat and chape.
- Overall Length: 40″
- Blade Length: 32 3/8″
- Weight: 26.4 oz.
- Blade Steel: 1060
While the Rapier and the Small Sword are both excellent civilian weapons, they were both specifically designed for fencing with an unarmored opponent with a blade of similar weight and design. However, when facing and opponent wielding a much heavier military style blade, they both have the distinct disadvantage of being prone to break when used to parry a powerful slashing cut. Therefore, the Colichemarde Sword was specifically designed to provide civilians with a sword that retained the speed of a Rapier and the convenience of a Small Sword but, which was also capable of parrying a blow from a much heavier sword without fear of it breaking. Therefore, the blade of the Colichemarde Sword consists of a heavy duty parrying forte combined with a much lighter and thinner cutting and stabbing section to provide a civilian swordsman with the ability to defend himself from opponents wielding much heavier, military style, blades.
Thus, the Cold Steel Colichemarde features an overall length of 40 inches with a 7 5/8 inch hilt and a 32 3/8 inch Needle Point blade made from 1060 Plain Tool Steel (non-stainless) and weighs a total of 26.4 ounces. Plus, the hilt features Rattail Tang construction and a pair of heart-shaped shell guards followed by dual finger loops and a round knuckle guard combined with a round, ribbed, handle and an extra heavy pommel cap to position the balance point near the hilt. In addition, it also includes an attractive leather scabbard with plain steel throat and chape.
- Overall Length: 38 1/4″
- Blade Length: 31 1/2″
- Weight: 52 oz.
- Blade Steel: 1566
The River Witham Sword was dredged from the River Witham near the town of Lincoln, England during work carried out in 1788 and exemplifies the classic English Long Sword. Specifically designed to be a military sword for defeating armored opponents, this sword is both heavy and stout and has a straight, fullered, blade designed for stabbing rather than slashing. Consequently, the edges of this type of sword were generally left unsharpened but, due to its weight, it was still easily capable of shearing limbs from unarmored opponents.
Thus, the CAS/Hanwei River Witham sword features an overall length of 38 1/4 inches with a 6 3/4 inch hilt and a 31 1/2 inch Spear Point blade made from 1566 Plain Tool Steel (non-stainless) and weighs a total of 52 ounces. Plus, the hilt features Hidden Tang construction and a pair of heavy duty steel quillions combined with a leather covered hardwood grip and an extra heavy, round, steel pommel cap to position the balance point just forward of the hilt. In addition, it also includes an attractive leather scabbard with plain steel throat and chape.
- Overall Length: 42 1/4″
- Blade Length: 32″
- Weight: 72.4 oz.
- Blade Steel: 1055
The term “Messer” comes from the German word for knife and was a class of single-edged swords with several sub-classes that were defined by their full tang hilt Also, although the various names were often used synonymously, Messers are generally divided into two types consisting of Langes Messers (aka “long knife”) which were single-handed swords with straight blades used by the Bourgeoisie (aka middle-class civilians) for self-defense and Kriegsmessers (aka “war knife”) which were curved swords designed for soldiers. Thus, the Grosse Messer was commonly about 3 feet in length and may have evolved from the Bauernwehr (aka “peasant’s sidearm”) whereas, Kriegsmessers commonly measured up to 4 1/2 feet in length. However, although the length of the hilts varied from single to dual-handed grips, the main defining characteristic of Messer-style swords is their hilt construction which featured a Full Tang with a pair of plain, wooden, handle slabs affixed to the tang with rivets.
Thus, the Cold Steel Grosse Messer (aka Large Messer) sword features a slightly curved blade with an overall length of 42 1/4 inches with a 10 1/4 inch hilt and a 32 inch Clip Point blade made from 1055 Plain Tool Steel (non-stainless) and weighs a total of 72.4 ounces. Plus, the hilt features Full Tang construction and a pair of heavy duty steel quillions combined with a Rosewood grip and a heavy, steel, pommel cap to position the balance point just forward of the hilt. In addition, it also includes an attractive leather scabbard with blued steel throat and chape.
- Overall Length: 54 3/4″
- Blade Length: 41″
- Weight: 78 oz.
- Blade Steel: 1566
Similar in both size and intended purpose to the German Grosse Messer sword, the Scottish Claymore was also specifically designed as a battle field weapon meant for defeating armored opponents. In fact, the Scottish Claymore originally started out as a single handled sword very similar to the English Long Sword but, as armorers began to develop lighter and stronger armor, the Scottish Claymore grew in both length and weight to defeat it. Consequently, there are actually several different styles of Scottish Claymore.
Thus, the CAS/Hanwei Scottish Claymore sword features an overall length of 54 3/4 inches with a 14 inch hilt and a 41 inch Spear Point blade made from 1566 Plain Tool Steel (non-stainless) and weighs a total of 78 ounces. Plus, the hilt features Hidden Tang construction and a pair of distinctive, sloping, quillions terminating in quatrefoils and a high-collared quillion block with langets following the blade fuller topped by a globate pommel cap to position the balance point just forward of the hilt but, it does not include a scabbard because this type of sword was not commonly sharpened and thus, it could be carried in a simple leather belt loop.
- Overall Length: 37 3/4″
- Blade Length: 33″
- Weight: 34.2 oz.
- Blade Steel: 1055
Unlike infantry soldiers who usually carried straight swords, cavalry soldiers generally carried curved sabers specifically designed for delivering slashing cuts from horseback because a straight, stabbing, sword could lodge in an opponent’s body and be ripped from the swordsman’s hand as he passed. Therefore, all swords with curved blades are generally classified as sabers rather than swords but, there are exceptions such as the German Grosse Messer sword. In addition, because cavalry soldiers needed to keep one hand on their horse’s reigns, almost all cavalry sabers have single-handed grips but, there again, there are exceptions such as the Japanese Katana. However, they also feature a wide range of ethnic blade designs and blade weights such as the British 1796 Light Cavalry Saber, the U.S. 1860 Heavy Cavalry Saber and, the Middle Eastern Scimitar
Thus, the Cold Steel 1796 Light Cavalry Saber is based upon the sabers used by the British against their French foes at the Battle of Waterloo which, in turn, were based upon the Indian Talwar. Consequently, the Cold Steel 1796 Light Cavalry Saber features an overall length of 37 3/4 inches with a 4 3/4 inch hilt and a 33 inch, deeply fullered, Trailing Point blade made from 1055 Plain Tool Steel (non-stainless) and, the hilt features Hidden Tang construction with a pair of quillions and an integral knuckle guard combined with an ergonomic, ribbed, handle. Plus, it is available with your choice of a steel or leather scabbard.
- Overall Length: 38 1/2″
- Blade Length: 32″
- Weight: 43.7 oz.
- Blade Steel: 1065
The Scimitar is a cavalry saber design that originated in the Middle East with early examples dating to Abbasid Caliphate and Khurasan Caliphate period and which was widespread throughout Persia and Arabia from the Ottoman period forward. Also, unlike the straight, stabbing, swords commonly used by infantry soldiers, the Scimitar was specifically designed to deliver slashing cuts from horseback. Therefore, by using a curved saber, cavalry soldiers could deliver powerful slashing cuts to their opponents without the danger of the sword sticking in their opponent’s body and thus ripping the sword out of their hand as they passed.
Therefore, the Cold Steel Scimitar features an overall length of 38 1/2 inches with a 6 1/2 inch hilt and a 32 inch Trailing Point blade made from 1065 Plain Tool Steel (non-stainless) and weighs a total of 43.7 ounces. Plus, the hilt features Full Tang construction and a pair of intricately engraved quillions combined with a pair of Rosewood handle slabs affixed to the tang with three sturdy brass pins. Plus, it includes a thick, hand stitched, leather scabbard with an etched steel throat and chape with a pair carrying rings.
- Overall Length: 40 1/2″
- Blade Length: 27 1/4″
- Weight: 37 oz.
- Blade Steel: forged 1566 with a differential heat treat
Quite possibly the single most famous saber design in existence, the Japanese Katana was the backup battlefield weapon of the famed Samurai warrior next to the Yumi (Japanese Longbow) and the Yari (Japanese spear). Also, because the Samurai were primarily cavalry soldiers, they too preferred curved swords over straight swords. However, unlike most cavalry sabers, the Katana features and extended, double-handed, grip that enabled the Samurai to wield his Katana with either a single hand when mounted or, with both hands with afoot. Plus, because the Samurai used different parrying techniques from Europeans and Middle Easterners that employed the side or the back of their saber’s blade to parry an opponent’s cuts, the Katana was generally sharpened over the entire length of the cutting edge rather than merely the first third or first half of the blade as is the case with other types of sabers. Plus, the Katana also featured a rather unique hilt design which consisted of a round, oval or, rounded square quillion (aka Tsuba) combined with an oval shaped grip which was first covered in tanned ray hide (Same) and then wrapped with either silk or leather (Tsuka-Ito) to provide a very positive grip.
Thus, the CAS/Hanwei Paul Chen Practical Plus Katana modern sword features an overall length of 40 1/2 inches with a 12 1/4 inch hilt (Tsuka) and a 27 1/4 inch hand-forged Trailing Point blade made from 1566 Plain Tool Steel (non-stainless) with a differential heat treat and using the traditional claying method with a prominent Hamon and weighs a total of 37 ounces. Plus, the hilt features Full Tang construction with a pair of hardwood handle scales securely pegged to the Full Tang combined with a round Sunburst guard (Tsuba) and a genuine Ray skin Same covered by a leather Tsuka-Ito decorated in a Japanese Dogwood motif with dragon Menuki. Plus, it includes a black, hardwood scabbard.
- Overall Length: 474 3/84″
- Blade Length: 31 1/2″
- Weight: 35 oz.
- Blade Steel: 1566
Designed to combine the slashing power of the Samurai Katana with the agility and thrusting ability of the European Rapier, the Paul Chen Dark Sentinel modern sword is a rather unique sword design. Thus, it features an overall length of 47 3/8 inches with a 10 1/2 inch hilt and a 31 1/2 inch Trailing Point blade made from forged 1566 Plain Tool Steel (non-stainless) and weighs a total of 35 ounces. Plus, the unique blade design is complemented by a studded, leather-wrapped, grip with a stylized Tsuba-like guard and it includes a leather-covered scabbard with steel fittings.
Choosing The Right Modern Swords
So, as you can see, there is quite a wide range of modern swords designs on the market today ranging from straight to curved and from light to heavy with a wide range of variation in both blade lengths and blade designs.
Therefore, when choosing a sword, it is very important that you take the time to carefully consider whether you prefer a straight blade or a curved blade since they each employ different tactics. Also, it is very important that you take care to choose a sword with a weight that matches both your physical stature and your fighting style since it is much easier for a small person to wield a light sword than a heavy one.
But, it is also important to keep in mind that the lighter a sword is, the faster it will be but, the less damage it will inflict when slashing whereas, the heavier a sword is, the slower it will be but, the more damage it will inflict when slashing. Last, you should also be aware that there are many more modern swords designs on the market today from far more manufacturers than those listed above and thus, the ten swords listed here are simply our choice of the top sword designs.