Albion Armorers Next Generation Castellan Sword
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy

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Introduction
The European battlefield of the 15th century is often cited as the rise of full plate armour. This is a time period when knights were often completely encased in metal, save for small openings between the joints for mobility. Many weapons were used to combat the armoured knight, most of which were impact weapons such as maces and hammers. The sword, however, being such a versatile weapon, was not discarded just because of the new methods of protection. It was adapted, and many swords were designed to have very narrow points to thrust into the small openings of the armour, such as the armpit or inside elbow.

On the other hand, armour was expensive, and only a wealthy knight would be armoured head to toe. While a good thrust is deadly, it is not always immediately disabling in the way a severing cut often is. Because of this, many sword designs were developed to balance both cut and thrust.
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An antique sword, circa 1420-60, found in the River Dordogne near Castillon

Ewart Oakeshott categorized one such design as the Type XV and Type XVa, a family of swords designed to have broad-based blades that taper drastically to a needle-like point. Such blades are very stiff, with the thrust strongly in mind, but still capable of delivering fatal cuts.

Overview
Albion Armorers has based this sword on ones found in the Castillon finds, such as seen in Oakeshott's Records of the Medieval Sword, types XVa.3-5. It is part of their Next Generation lineup. This line of swords was created to have production swords of a higher level of historical accuracy in both form and function.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:2 pounds, 14 ounces
Overall length:42 1/4 inches
Blade length:33 3/4 inches
Blade width:2 1/2 inches, tapering to 3/8 inches
Grip length:5 inches
Guard width:7 3/8 inches
Point of Balance:4 1/4 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~21 inches from guard
Oakeshott typology:Type XVa blade, Type T2 pommel, Style 11 guard

Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.

Handling Characteristics

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Looking down from the End of the Pommel


I have seen antiques such as this sword with very large blades at the base, and have often wondered how they handled. Because the bases are so wide, one expects these swords to be awkward and clumsy. Holding this sword in hand, however, will quickly alleviate that notion. This sword is incredibly lively, with the not-unheard of feeling of "wanting" to move on its own. The blade has a thick spine, which makes for a very stiff thrusting blade, but the weight of the thickness is negated by the very steady taper to an almost needle-like tip. The narrow tip is perfect for thrusting through gaps of armour, and its sharp point is fine enough to rival many rapiers.

This sword is a hand and a half sword in the truest sense of the term. It literally handles just as easily with one or two hands on the grip. A horseman could easily wield this sword with little effort, as could a soldier armed with sword and buckler. A foot soldier without a secondary defense could fight furiously with this as a two handed longsword. Should the later style be employed, the long pommel is very comfortable when grasped in the off hand.

This type of sword is definitely geared towards having a strong thrusting ability to deal with opponents wearing armour, but it certainly does not ignore the cut. Despite such a drastically tapering blade, it cuts very well on light targets.

Fit and Finish
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Grip and Cross-guard
Aesthetically, this sword is wonderful. From the pictures on Albion's Web site, I expected this to be slightly boring in appearance, but up close the fine details really shine through. I have always been a fan of long pommels, and this one is well formed and decorated with flowing yet angular lines. It gives a grace that has a delicate, yet powerful feel to it. The guard has a rounded cross-section that gently varies in thickness to accentuate the blade and the mushroom-shaped finials on the tips.

The blade is well defined, with both a massive and a gentle look to it, combining the broad and strong looking base with the precise and very fine tip.

The grip is covered with cord-wrapped leather that Albion calls magenta. Once again, they have created a near seamless wrap. Their leather wraps are among my favorites in terms of being both aesthetically and functionally excellent. That said, I do wish they would say something about the dye colors they use for the leather: I have owned swords from Albion that had oxblood, red, and magenta colored grips. The magenta is what most makers would call oxblood, and seems to be what Albion once called oxblood some time back. The red is also very oxblood-like. The color Albion calls oxblood, however, seems to be more brown. This is something the potential buyer needs to keep in mind before picking one of these three colors.

Conclusion
Albion Armorers is to be applauded for choosing to replicate this style of sword, as I believe many people would imagine it to be a clumsy weapon based on appearances alone. Ironically, it is one of the more lively swords I have handled. This is an example of creating swords based on historic research as opposed to copying pictures. While the latter method can produce some very stunning swords, the former can produce swords that show just how effective the originals were.





About the Author
Bill Grandy is an instructor of Historical European Swordsmanship and sport fencing at the Virginia Academy of Fencing. He has held a strong passion (obsession?) for swords and swordsmanship for as long as he can remember. He admits that this passion comes from a youth spent playing Dungeons and Dragons, but he'll only admit that if there are no girls around.

Acknowledgements
Photographer: Nathan Robinson



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