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Letter Re: Swords and Bows for that Dreaded Multigenerational Scenario

Some corrections and additional points regarding swords, crossbows, leaf springs, etc.
1) The Japanese do not have a monopoly on “cutting” swords; most European swords before c. 1500 (and even after this point) were quite capable of serous shearing blows. See Ewert Oakeshott’s “Sword in the Age of Chivalry” and “Records of the Medieval Sword” for more details.
2) An “epee” or “foil” is utterly useless as a weapon, being for sporting use only. The rapier (which is what the epee/foil is based loosely on) is somewhat useful,
but is a somewhat degenerate sword style, introduced after swords were becoming secondary weapons on the
3) “Great Swords” are not all that heavy – 3 to 5 lbs is typical.
4) For quality modern reproduction swords, go to Arms and Armor [1] or Albion Armorers [2]. These tend to be high-end, but are made not only of top notch material, but are exact reproductions that have all of the fighting capability of the original Mediaeval arms that saw real combat, including proper balance, weight
distribution, etc. Other quality manufacturers include Cold Steel (as mentioned), Del Tin, and Lutel in the Czech Republic. Moral: you get what you pay for.
5) The above being said, some lower end reproductions from China and India are of adequate quality, especially Hanwei Forge and Windlass Steelcrafts. I avoid the Hanwei simply because it is out of China.
Neither is perfect, but they will be adequate.
6) This poster, alas, knows little about European swordsmanship. Go to Chivalry Bookshelf [3] for solid information on this subject. Also, check their links section for sites that perform training, etc. in true European martial arts.
7) I suspect a European sword can be drawn as quickly as a katana…
8) Bows are simpler to make than crossbows. Unless your foes are running around in chainmail or heavier armor, there is little need for the penetration power
of the crossbow. Don’t forget you need to make arrows/bolts for these weapons! This is a separate skill.
9) Blackpowder is a sustainable resource, so there is considerable payoff in researching pre-smokeless powder weapons… I was working on an article for
SurvivalBlog, and still am, but have found that it is going to take awhile to write it to do it justice.
10) While one technically can use a leaf spring for a crossbow prod, it is a much more difficult proposition than most realize. Simply attaching a spring to the end of a block of wood will not do it. It requires
fairly precise design and especially heat treating to pull off. For additional problems vis-a-vis leaf springs see below. For those still interested in crossbows, consult New World Arbalest [4] and UC Crossbows [5]
11) Swords are not all that easy to make, either. Well, at least to make correctly… Spend some time exploring the FAQs and articles on Arms & Armor or Albion, along with SwordForum or myArmoury.com [6] to learn some of the pitfalls. I have forged a couple of Celtic sword blades (one from a leaf spring and the other from a bar of 5160 spring steel) and it is tough
work. But it can be done.
12) While mail is easy enough to make by using simple butted rings, it is difficult to make correctly (i.e. with overlapped and riveted rings alternating with solid rings that are either punched from sheet, or
overlapped and forge welded) so that it really works.
13) Swordsmithing and armoring are quite fun, I highly recommend getting into it, if you have interest. But don’t neglect gunsmithing…
14) Finally, while leafsprings are good steel, there are a couple of pitfalls. First, they often have some degree of fatigue induced microfracturing, which can naturally cause problems, and second tend to “remember” their curvature, making simply flattening them out and reshaping them problematic at best. For this reason I usually relegate scrap leaf springs to shorter swords or knives, since these problems are less apparent on shorter lengths. Note that the above problems can be mitigated or eliminated, but you really have to know what you are doing. Too long to
explain here, I’m afraid.
P.S. Do not neglect simpler melee weapons, such as spears, axes, maces, etc. Spears, in particular, were really the dominant battlefield weapon, and maintained more importance than the sword, even into modern times (think:: bayonet on end of rifle) – GFL