Albion Armorers Next Generation Munich Sword
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy and Jason Elrod

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Introduction

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Knight, Death and the Devil, by Albrecht Dürer

Albrecht Dürer has been referred to as the father of the German High Renaissance. He was not only a visual artist, but was even a member of the Marxbrüder (Brotherhood of St. Mark), a German fencing organization. Dürer's artwork often incorporated chivalric and knightly elements, and due to his intense level of detail is an important resource for the study of historical arms and armour.

Many of his images incorporate longswords with long, slender grips, wheel pommels and S-shaped guards. Clearly Dürer found something appealing with this style, as it appears in many of his works, most notably the engraving Knight, Death and the Devil (circa 1513). Dürer was noted for his theories on proportion and balance, and it is no wonder that he found such a design for a sword pleasing to the eye. Such weapons seem to embody the essence of the chivalric knight: grace and form combined with power and might.

Of the surviving artifacts of this form one particular weapon that stands out is in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich. Categorized by Ewart Oakeshott as XVIIIa.5 in Records of the Medieval Sword, this magnificent weapon follows the form of the swords so common in Dürer's artwork.
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An antique sword from the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, circa 1450-1480

Overview
Albion Armorers has gained a reputation for creating high-end production swords based on historical examples. They have introduced different lines of swords that cater to different price-brackets. The Next Generation line normally offers swords that exhibit the main qualities of historical weapons without being exact recreations of any particular piece.
Albion's Next Generation Munich sword is a unique offering in this line. It is based off of Peter Johnsson's extensive research of the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum Type XVIIIa sword. The blade of the Munich is a near-exact replica of the antique sword and, according to Peter Johnsson, is within millimeters of the original weapon. The Albion reproduction has much simpler fittings, however, as the original has gilding, engraving and leather tooling on the hilt. To duplicate every detail of this sword would drastically increase the cost.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:3 pounds, 3 ounces
Overall length:49 1/2 inches
Blade length:37 1/4 inches
Blade width:1 1/2 inches at base, tapering to 7/16 inch
Grip length:9 7/8 inches
Guard width:8 1/2 inches
Point of Balance:4 1/2 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~23 1/2 inches from guard
Oakeshott typology:Type XVIIIa blade, Type J1 pommel, Style 12 guard

Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.

Handling Characteristics
The Munich is a surprising sword. The long, slender outline makes it appear almost delicate, yet when wielded it becomes very apparent that this is not just another pretty face. The sword is much heavier than it looks, but in a good way. It cuts with serious force behind it. The long grip gives leverage and aids the powerful blade and keen edge in making strong, deliberate attacks. At the same time the balance is superb, and allows the blade to be maneuvered nimbly and accurately. It is a very fast weapon.

Even though it is heavier than it looks, it is still a light weapon. The sword can easily be used in either one or two hands, though it is primarily a two-handed weapon. The length makes prolonged one-handed fighting awkward. Still, there are some scenarios in European longsword fencing that require removing one hand from the grip. For instance, if two opponents strike and the blades met in the center, one may let go with the off-hand to grasp the opponent's arm while simultaneously bringing the blade around to strike. The Munich has no problems executing these types of maneuvers.

The grip has a pronounced swell at the center, which forces a person to keep the hands apart. It is not comfortable to attempt to hold the hands close together. Whether this is a good or a bad thing will be entirely up to the user, as even period fencing masters seemed to disagree about which way is the best way to hold the sword.

For those accustomed to holding the pommel with the off-hand, this grip seems to work quite nicely. The wheel shape of the pommel allows one to know how the edge is aligned without having to look. It does not impede how the sword is used when held in such a manner.

The blade is unsharpened near the guard, and gets sharper along the length towards the tip. The tip itself is both acute and stiff, allowing for powerful and accurate thrusts. The stiffness has much to do with the thickness of the spine.

Fit and Finish
This sword is remarkably elegant. The profile is very sleek, and both the blade and grip are incredibly slender. The grip starts out thicker where the dominant hand will hold it, but near the pommel it becomes very thin, being only slightly bigger than the tang it surrounds. While many people may be concerned about it being too small to grip, it actually feels very comfortable. Many strikes from various angles will require the sword to rotate inside the off-hand's grip, and the sword's lack of bulk makes this easier.


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Grip Detail



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Rivet Block




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Pommel Side-view

The steel fittings are simple in a graceful way, at least at a casual glance. A closer look reveals some very subtle things that are not immediately apparent. For instance, the guard has simple incised lines on either side that run parallel to the blade. These simple lines add a bit of flair to the appearance without being overly ornate. When further examined, though, these incisions line up perfectly with the width of the pommel, giving the hilt a very harmonious appearance.

The grip of the reviewed sword has the optional wire wrap over its top half. The wire is very fine, and not too rough on the hands. Nonetheless, a person who is not used to handling wire-wrapped grips may prefer to wear gloves when using the sword. The wire wrap is held in place with metal pins and ends about one-quarter of an inch before the pommel, where the leather wrap is again visible. This is a nice detail that sets apart the sword. The leather itself is very well wrapped. This reviewed sword's grip has the optional light brown dye, with its intentionally irregular pattern of dark and light colors, giving it a nice organic appearance.

The pommel is very large compared to the grip, but the contrast somehow balances out the entire weapon, both functionally as well as visually. The pommel is exceedingly thick as well, and the hollows are about a quarter of an inch deep. The hollows of the pommel are about 7/8 inches in diameter, which will perfectly fit something the size of an American nickel. The original sword's pommel is filled in this manner, but the Munich's plain pommel is attractive even without such embellishmentl.

The tang is peened over a beautiful floral rivet block. This is an element found on the original sword itself. Albion did not reproduce most of the decorative elements of the original sword in an effort to keep the reproduction from being even more expensive. Even so, this is one welcome element that they clearly decided to keep.

The blade itself is very interesting. If one only looks at the profile, it appears to be a fairly representative example of the Oakeshott Type XVIII blades. The subtle geometry of the blade, however, is surprisingly complex. Although the blade has a diamond cross-section, the spine at the base is flattened for about eight inches from the guard, just like on the original blade. The base of the blade is remarkably thick, distally tapering towards the point. The distal taper is not linear, however. Sections of the blade flatten out more than others. While it is impossible to give an accurate description without using calipers, the blade appears to flatten toward the center of percussion, while retaining its thick and rigid section at the point. Since this is supposedly an accurate reproduction of the original sword's blade, this is a fascinating weapon to study.

Conclusion
In short, the Albion Armorers Munich is a fantastic sword. It handles wonderfully, looks beautiful, and is a fascinating look into one of the more famous historical weapons. Buyers should keep in mind that this is not a typical reproduction simply based upon historical examples. The blade is created within millimeters of the original antique sword and the price tag reflects the extra research that has gone into its creation. It is not an inexpensive sword, and many potential collectors may wonder if it is right for them. This is a personal choice, of course.





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.

Sources
ART: a History of Painting Sculpture Architecture, Volume Two, by Frederick Hartt
Records of the Medieval Sword, by R. Ewart Oakeshott
Sword in the Age of Chivalry, The, by R. Ewart Oakeshott

Acknowledgements
Photographer: Bill Grandy



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