Saber or Straight Sword?

In the sword communities, a debate still rages on: What sort of sword is best? Saber or double edged straight blade? My answer for this is that that depends on the use of the blade and the user’s preferences!

Many say that the European straight sword is best because it was adapted for piercing armor, whereas a saber cannot pierce the heavy plate and chainmail armor used by European knights. It is said that a European knight would destroy a Samurai in battle because the slashing motion of the katana, once again, could not get through the armor. However, this heavy armor was so expensive that many men on the battlefield would not have it. There would be many dressed in mail, but there would likely be many more dressed in leather armor. These light infantry could easily fall prey to any blade, saber or straight blade.

As a bit of a ranting aside, swords were actually very expensive weapons to create! Most men on the battlefield were likely spearmen, pikemen, or axemen. Despite swords being so expensive, however, in many cultures, peasants carried either a knife or a crude form of sword, similar to a large knife which was generally single edged. The vikings had the sax, later Germans had the grosse messer during the renaissance, and there were others.

It is true that the rapier and smallsword eventually took over as the new civilian weapon, due to the thrust being such a simple motion, as well as the weapon using less steel to make. It is also a lighter, faster weapon, making it difficult to face a rapier with a slower saber which was more often used by cavalry. Some have said that the saber was later only useful on horseback, but I would personally disagree. There are fencing techniques documented and illustrated which utilized a shorter, single edged blade during the renaissance period. A small, light saber may have still been in use during this time. As said before, the grosse messer was still in use by peasants because it was effective against light armor and was cheaper than a sword to own.

So there we have it: The straight, double-edged swords were effective against light and heavy armor, but single-edged, saber-like weapons were cheaper to make and still effective against light armor and on horseback. In this modern era, very few people wear even light armor, much less heavy armor. This being the case, in the event of an emergency, both straight sword and curved blade are good for modern use. So there we have it: Preference is key!

Forged by the MAD Dwarf Workshop

Forged by the MAD Dwarf Workshop

This beauty of a blade is an arming sword forged by the MAD Dwarf Workshop, which has now split into two equally wonderful companies. This particular sword is a wonderful example of a European Medieval sword which was made for piercing heavy armor with a thrust. These swords, as previously stated, are good for heavy or light armor.

kriegmesser

This sword is a German Kriegmesser. It is basically a two-handed saber.  One type of sword which is of a similar (but completely different) construction is the katana. I say this because the Katana is a two-handed saber, of sorts, as well. The blades, however, are made completely differently, however, and are much larger. The Kriegmesser can be seen as the battlefield version of the grosse messer.  This blade may not pierce plate armor or chainmail like an arming sword, but it could still severely injure a man through blunt force trauma and could pretty easily slice through leather. I personally like this design and may forge one like this.

Lutel_czech_dussack_11016A

This simple, crude blade is known as a dussack. It is a cutlass forged with blade and hilt as a single piece of steel, maybe wrapped with cloth or leather. This would have likely been an inexpensively made peasant weapon, but still effective for self defense against light armor. I may also forge one of these someday as well.

Rapier1smallsword 1

These two swords are the rapier (left) and the smallsword (right). The rapier was used during the renaissance period, but the smallsword was used during the late renaissance and  pre-modern eras. They were lightweight and fast thrusting implements used by military and civilian alike. The rapier was longer and heavier than the smallsword.

So what do you prefer: Fast thrusts, powerful slices, or somewhere in the spectrum between?

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8 thoughts on “Saber or Straight Sword?

  1. I, personally, am a man for the sword to one-and-a-half hands. It suits my size, has a range advantage over most melee weapons without sacrificing speed when wielded with both hands or range of movement when wielded single-handedly, though it loses force and speed (unless you’re me; with 6’4” and 240lbs you can put good force into the blade, while a smaller sword would feel like a toy. As I’ve said, it suits my size). I’ve done some practise with a machete, which is pretty similar to the Langes Messer, or: a short and heavy saber, but in a duell, it doesn’t hold a candle to the bastard sword

  2. I am about 6′ and 215 lbs. I have some training experience with katana, but not a lot. I want to get more into western sword and for what I am semi used to and for my aesthetic preferences, I believe I would use either a 2-hand or hand and a half kriegsmesser!

  3. A little note, swords are useless against heave armour (mail-to plate) unless uou thrust ( with straight swords) on mail or halfsword through plate (thrustin through plate is all but impossible). However when it comes to light armour (nothing to padded gambeson like) sabers are superior to straight swords in the slash and cut. There are tests of this on my armoury.com.

  4. The kriegsmesser is actually not a sword, but a knife, it’s name translates from German into war knife
    Krieg-war
    Messer-knife
    And a beautiful knife at that

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