Long Knives

Long Knives

By long Knives I mean swords, kukri’s and machete’s. Anything over 10 inches that can be used for chopping in a self defense senario. I am not a sword expert and have only just brought my very first sword blade. I have had a large collection of kukri’s, down to 5 at the current moment and had a little experience with machete’s. Below is the research Ive collated from the following links, that I thought may make it easier for another purchaser to use when buying their first long knife.

Ive found that anything over 18 inches is not practical in terms of concealment POST SHTF. Anything under 10 is more a camp chopping blade. 12 inch kukri’s can be carried in a dundee rig, inverted across the shoulder blades as can a medium length golok, 14.5 inches in blade length. Ive modified my golok by reshaping the tip so its more rounded and had it reground from a convex to a V grind for better decapitation qualities. At the moment it is also having a kydex sheath made for an inverted carry option. I suggest watching Cold Steels fighting Machete dvds from Cutting Edge Knives to see the capabilities of a machete in action. As these seem the wave of the future in defensive choppers.

I was about to purchase a Cheness Ko-katana but just got in with the pre-orders of Swamprat Rodent Waki’s made from SR-101 with a 17.5 inch blade. If I ended up purchasing a ko-katana. I probably would have cut it down to an 18 inch blade from the handle end and replaced the grip with micarta. (Personal observation). I believe theyve now come out with a Practical Katana called a Tak Wak at 18 inches in length made from 5160 steel.

One blade Ive taken a chance on buying to see how it would perform is a Rambo 4 chopper. Ive got to tell everyone before mentioning this not to laugh, but it ended up being a great chopper at 12 inches. The temper is a little soft, so doesnt keep an edge when chopping hardwood. However it wasnt brought for that reason. Going up against a steel bar or similar a softer temper has less chance of snapping when compared to a harder steel, being brittle with a harder temper. Ive ended up doing the same as with the golok with an inverted kydex sheath and reshaping the initial grind to a slightly thinner edge for slicing. I havent touched the secondary grind to keep the weight behind the length. The grip has also been replaced with black paracord. These would make a very good design for a combat machete made from a better quality steel.

Cold steel DVD’s


Swamprat Rodent Waki


Valiant Goloks




Cheness Ko-Katanas


Sword Buyers guide


Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri

Review of the Cold Steel SK-5 Gurkha Kukri

by Mc Joe Donald


So far, the CS SK-5 Gurkha Kukri has been a fantastic companion. It chops, it splits, it carves, it stabs and pierces deeply. It comes with a great edge, and it keeps a great edge. I’ve used mine regularly with little more than the occasional touch up to the edge, I haven’t had to actually re-sharpen the knife in the year that I’ve owned it.�

Aesthetics: The knife is 17″ from tip to tail, 5/16″ at the spine (which tapers after the curve down to the point), with a wedge-shaped blade, and a v-shaped edge grind. �
It has a kraton handle, which can be described as a hard rubber or soft plastic, durable, grips well when wet, and has proven to be comfortable so far. The black coating has held up well. I’ll be posting pics and hopefully videos of the knife in action at a later date.�

Steel: SK-5 (I’m no expert) is a high carbon tool steel. It’s similar to that used in hardened cutting tools, such as chisels and wood carving knives. It is a tad on the brittle side as compared to say 1055, but with the shape of the blade it seems it would take a really stupid mistake to ever make this a factor. I’ve split countless logs (batoning) chipped tinder, carved spears, notched traps, drilled fire boards, hammered tent stakes, cleared trails and lanes and so far the only noticeable wear on the edge is where it caught a couple grains of sand while splitting a 4″ ash log (you can feel it with a finger nail, still cant really see it). For as much hardwood as this knife has been through, I am amazed. I’ve never seen an edge on any knife last this long after so much hard use, except for my high quality bee-keeping hive knife.�

The kukri shape of the blade definitely adds to its utility. I do not exaggerate when I say this knife chops like a good hatchet. There’s one less tool you need to carry. The downward angled, weight-forward design makes it bite deep, and the V-shaped grind on the blade makes it spit chunks like an axe. Have yet to get it stuck.�
The narrow part of the blade (nearer to the handle) makes carving tools a breeze. You have good leverage when choking your hand up nearer to the edge, and the weight of the blade makes taking small consistent shavings an easy task. This is one area where a heavier knife shines, as you are able to make more controlled (and resoundingly safer) strokes with less effort. Let the weight of the blade do the work. I’ve found a lighter knife for carving tools to be dangerous and much more fatiguing.�

Advantages: When in the wilderness, every calorie counts. Every drop of sweat counts. Every drop of blood really counts. Having a little weight in your blade will save you effort in the long run, even though it’s more to carry. That’s why I like a bigger knife… fewer blisters, you don’t have to swing as hard. You don’t have to push the knife to carve, you gently swing it. And more weight = more steel, and usually that means stronger. It’s worth the extra carry weight to me to have it easier when its work time.�

Quality:The knife comes with a 5 year Warranty. Judging from what I’ve seen I don’t think I’ll need it. The handle would probably be the only thing I’d expect to wear out. It is made of Japanese steel (great stuff) in China (eh, didn’t know it when I bought it, glad I didn’t though) but so far it has far exceeded my expectations.�
The sheath is decent, 2 pieces of molded kydex style plastic, suspended vertically on a nylon web loop. The halves are riveted together, kind of a negative in my mind, as I like to be able to take the sheath apart. It secures on the bulge near the business end of the grip by snapping around it. There is a hole in the sheath tip to allow for water drainage. There are many places to attach a leg-lashing to keep it in place. I like to lash the sheath to a pack with the 2″ wide holes running along its sides. It also hangs low enough to wear it on a belt on your hip while also wearing a backpack padded belt (mine is a Kelty external frame) and still have easy access to it.�

Drawbacks: The only other negatives I can see to the knife are the fact that you need to keep the edge oiled (animal tallow would work for this), and the fact that it is a tag big for gutting and skinning smaller animals, but does well at this task, with care, on whitetail (and I assume larger) deer or animals. This would be a reason to carry a smaller, more suited knife for fine tasks, besides the the fact that you should always have a backup anyway. I like the Tom Brown Tracker T2 by Topps for this purpose. I’ll be reviewing it at a later date.�

Overall: I’d give this knife a 9 out of 10, loosing a point for the potential long term durability issues of the handle, and limited utility on small game. I plan on ordering a couple extra handles from cold steel, I understand they are hammered on, so it should be a simple task to replace the handle once the worn one is removed.�

This is my favorite knife to date. The price is reasonable (i’ve found them for less than $80) the steel is quality with a good ring to it. It is hard and sharp, and in my opinion, just the right size.

What is the best type of steel for a sword?

This is a common question asked by beginners, but it is somewhat akin to asking ‘how long is a piece of string’ – mostly because ‘best’ depends on what type of sword we are talking about and what its intended usage is…

Not to mention that there are other factors that are actually more important than just the type of steel it is made from (for example, heat treatment and the quality of the forging is more important than the steel itself – a properly heat treated piece of the cheapest plain carbon steel is much better than than the best quality L6 tool steel if the attempt is not NOT tempered properly!).


So let’s ask instead ‘what are the different types of steel commonly used to make a sword – and what are their strengths and weaknesses’ (when tempered properly of course!)?

In this article, we will attempt to answer THIS question – and let you make up your own mind on what types of steel best suit YOUR preference (and budget) in a sword.


It used to be that just about every sword on the market was made from Stainless Steel. Now, it is almost only relegated to cheap decorative swords – and for good reason!

Stainless steel swords (or any blade over 12″ long) is considered to be TOO brittle for serious usage and can shatter relatively easily.

To get just a little technical with it – Stainless steel is ‘stainless’ because it has a high Chromium content (over 11%) – and when a blade gets over 12″ long (such as a sword..) the grain boundaries between the chromium and the rest of the steel start to weaken, creating stress points. So the purpose of a sword made from stainless steel is to put it on the wall – and just keep it there to admire from a distance!

NOTE: There are a few exceptions to this rule. Stainless steel swords can be used for NON CONTACT forms practice. And there have been a few smiths who have been able to use more sophisticated techniques to make it suitable for cutting – but these techniques come at a price, and are never found on the ‘surgical quality stainless steel’ blades being sold on the Internet and marketed as battle ready because they are sharp… (Yikes!).


At the very least, for a functional sword it has to be a (properly tempered) ‘High Carbon steel sword’. But what exactly does this mean?

Generally, The American society of automotive engineers (SAE) scale is the one most commonly used by sword manufacturers. And the most commonly used steel for functional swords is plain carbon steel, which is designated by the first two digits 10 – and a number from 01 to 99 afterwards, with each point signifies that .01% of that steel is carbon.

For example, steel classified as AISI 1045 has 0.45% carbon content, 1060 is 0.60 carbon, etc.

Steels with a carbon content between 0.05 to 0.15 are considered to be LOW CARBON STEEL, and 0.16 to 0.29 MILD STEEL – neither of which are suitable for a functional sword (as any sword with a carbon content of less than 0.40% can’t really be hardened and given a decent heat treatment).

The most popular three types of carbon steel used in swords are 1045, 1060 and 1095, starting with the most inexpensive (1045) with most sword experts agree that the ideal range for a durable and sharp sword is somewhere between 0.5 and 0.7 carbon content.


1045 Carbon Steel swords are quite cheap to make because, being relatively soft, they are easy to make (either by hand forging, pressing or machine milling) but can be hardened, so are effectively the MINIMUM acceptable steel for a functional blade.

If well tempered, they can be surprisingly strong, and when you look at a sword under US$100, if it just says ‘high carbon steel’ – it is probably 1045… (and at this price, it is almost certainly machine milled).


1060 Carbon Steel is a great compromise between hardness (edge holding ability) and pliability (strength) – and many swords famous for their DURABILITY, such as those by COLD STEEL and DARKSWORD ARMORY , are made from 1060 carbon steel.

Consequentially, 1060 Carbon Steel swords are very popular, though because the steel is harder than 1045 – are more difficult to forge, shape and polish and thus almost always has a higher price tag.

Definitely a great all round steel that is hard enough to take and keep a good edge but focused primarily on it’s durability.


1095 Carbon steel is very HARD – and unless it is properly heat treated, this hardness can sometimes be problematic when used on harder targets (either intentionally, or unintentionally – such as accidently hitting a wooden stand).

The main advantage to swords made from 1095 carbon steel is that they can take and keep a much keener edge than swords with a lower carbon content. The disadvantage is that they can sometimes be a little on the brittle side – so durability is traded off for edge retention.

It doesn’t mean that a sword made from 1095 carbon steel is exceptionally fragile, but it is simply no where near as TOUGH as the lower carbon content swords. The video below of the Akio Hattori Katana distributed by DARKSWORD ARMORY show that while they may not be as tough as the lower carbon content swords, they are still quite durable…

So it just depends on what you are looking for in a blade…


For our purposes, there are basically two types of spring steel swords – 5160 and 9260. As with the plain carbon steel swords, the last two digits represent the carbon content – so both have .60% carbon and therefore, are like the 1060 carbon steel swords (a great compromise between hardness and durability) – and when properly heat treated, allows objects made of spring steel to return to their original shape despite significant bending or twisting, thus giving 1060 spring steel a special kind of ‘twist’.

So let’s take a look at these two different steel types:


5160 Spring Steel is a low Chromium alloy steel, with around 0.7 Chromium – which is not enough to make it stainless (which requires a minimum of 13% Chromium) – but combined with a small amount of silicon (0.2%) results in an extremely tough and durable sword and is favored by sword makers such as ANGUS TRIM, GENERATION 2 and the blades designed by Michael Tinker Pearce and made by the HANWEI FORGE.

5160 Spring Steel was also the steel of choice for the famous Nepalese Khurki – blades so tough and so sharp they are reportedly able to cut off a buffalos head with a single strike!

Again, what is critically important is the heat treatment – if it is applied wrong, even the best 5160 Spring Steel sword will take a set (Generation 2 had some issues with this way back in 2007), but when applied properly – the end result is spectacular.

Made famous by CHENESS CUTLERY – 9260 Spring Steel (also called Silicon Manganese Steel) consists of 2% silicon content, giving it an even more dramatic resilience against lateral bends and allowing it to spring back to true even after being bent almost to 90 degrees.

Swords made from 9260 Spring Steel have a reputation for durability – with 9260 Spring Steel having a tensile strength almost double that of 5160 (source – efunda.com).

While these swords are almost legendary for their toughness, like any blade they are not indestructible – and while rare, they can be broken or damaged. I’ve tested quite a few myself very hard and never had this happen, but I have heard of it occurring – and there is this video on youtube showing a Konron forge 9260 blade breaking against a thick bone (thicker than any human bone would be) – which would happen to almost any blade striking it – so they don’t have magical powers that defy metallurgy or physics..! 😉

The moral of the story is that no blade is indestructible – and because of the nature of what swords were originally designed to do, it is never a good idea to put yourself in a situation where you expose yourself to the potential of a blade snapping off and flying through the air anywhere near you…


Tool steel swords have been quite popular in recent years, mostly because swords made from these steels are hard yet quite tough and tend to hold and keep a good edge. While there are several types on the market, there are two that everyone tends to be talking about – and those two are T-10 tool steel and the legendary L6 Bainite.


T10 Tool Steel is a Tungsten alloy steel with a very high carbon content (around 0.9 to 1.0%) with a little bit of silicon (around .35% maximum) and is often referred to as ‘High Speed Steel’.

This stuff tends to be very hard (above HRC60 when properly tempered) and the Tungsten means that it is also more resistant to scratches and abrasions than most other types of steels, plus considerably tougher than other swords with a similar level of carbon content.

While these swords are generally only seen on higher end production swords, the $330 SBG Custom Katana series swords are made from T10 steel, hold their own quite well.


L6 Bainite is also a tool steel (band saw steel actually), with the L designating it is a low alloy steel and – when properly heat treated, has a reputation as the TOUGHEST type of sword steel currently on the market – mostly due to the innovative custom sword work of Howard Clark, a smith for the Bugei Trading company who started producing this steel in the late 1990s.

While when properly heat treated (it can be a hard steel to work with) there is little argument that it is one of the toughest steels commercially available for swords, it can sometimes be prone to rust so needs plenty of maintenance, and of course, is quite expensive to make (no decently made L6 sword has a price tag of under US$1,000).

REAL Swords have a FULL TANG

The weakest point of most modern swords is the handle, in particular the metal insert into the handle attached to the blade known as the tang. Unless a sword has what is known as a “full tang” it is liable to break when struck against any surface. Or worse still, come loose from the handle like a helicopter blade when swung with even moderate force (and for obvious reasons cannot be called a functional sword).

REAL Swords have been properly HEAT TREATED

Real swords (at least these days) are for safety reasons always properly heat treated and tempered to create a blade that is not too brittle and not too soft. If a sword is described as “carbon steel” but there is no mention of how it is heat treated and you don’t know about the manufacturer – there is a good chance that it hasn’t been heat treated at all. And if it hasn’t been heat treated, it doesn’t qualify as a real sword.

REAL Swords are made from CARBON STEEL

Real swords are always made from carbon steel. The vast majority of cheap swords being sold online are made from stainless steel. While stainless steel is a great choice for knives, it starts becoming very brittle on anything longer than 12″ and is NOT a suitable material for a functional sword, no matter what some marketers might claim�

What are you going to cut with your sword?

  • There are light, medium, and heavy use cutters. Most manufacturers will tell you right up front what a particular sword is designed for:�
    • Light cutting: beach mats, pool noodles, water bottles, etc�
    • Medium cutting: regular cutting of light targets and occasional cutting of tatami omote�
    • Heavy cutting: regular cutting of Tatami Omote and occasional cutting of heavy targets such as 3″+ bamboo, multiple rolls of tatami omote, or mats wrapped around an oak dowel

A Beginner’s Glossary of Terms�

Arms of the Hilt | Basket | Blade | Blade Length | Blunt | Button | Center of Gravity (CoG) | Center of Percussion (CoP) | Counterguard | Cross (Cross-guard) | Cruciform | Edge | False Edge | Ferrule | Finger Ring | Forte’ | Foible | Fuller | Furniture | Grip | Guard | Hilt | Knuckle-guard | Langet | Overall Length | Pas D`ane | Point of Balance | Pommel | Port | Quillion | Quillion Block | Ricasso | Scabbard | Shell Guard | Side Ring | Tang | Terzo | Turk’s Head | Wire-wrap

Arms of the Hilt�
Part of the sword hilt extending on each side from the cross guard (or quillions) toward the blade and having the form of a small arc. The arms of the hilt are known to have been in use from the 15th century but they had probably made their appearance in the 14th, protecting the forefinger when it gripped the ricasso. They represented an important step in the development of the guard. In the swords of the 16th and 17th centuries the arms of the hilt served as a support for loops and rings of the guard, as well as for bars of the counterguard. �

An arrangement of bars, plates, and rings that form a “cage” around the sword hilt, creating a protected guard (or “basket”) around the wielder’s hand. �

The cutting and/or thrusting part of edged weapons, excluding the hilt. �

Blade Length (BL)�
A unit of measurement representing the length of a weapon’s actual blade; generally measured from the tip to the end of the guards. �

A term applied to an unsharpened sword or dagger that has had its edges rounded for safe sparring activities. �

A raised piece on the pommel of swords, daggers and knives, to which the tip of the tang of the blade was peened. It usually formed part of the pommel, but could also be a separate piece; it was sometimes made of a different material. Since the 19th century the button on military weapons has had a threaded hole inside to be screwed onto the threaded end of the tang. �

Center of Gravity (CoG)�
See Point of Balance.�

Center of Percussion (CoP)�
The Center of Percussion of a blade is the measured value along its length that produces the least amount of vibration upon hitting a target. It’s the area able to deliver the most efficient, powerful blow and is often called the blade’s “sweet spot”. �

Also called inner guard, a system of rings, loops, and bars in a sword guard that was developed in c.1500 to protect the inner side of the hand and body. Bars or branches of the counterguard usually joined the knuckle-guard and arms of the hilt. �

Cross (Cross-guard)�
A part of the furniture of edged weapons, positioned crosswise to the blade and the grip. As the simplest form of guard, it has been known since antiquity. In some swords of the 16th to 18th centuries, cross guards were extended forward and backward to form the fore and rear quillions. Cross guards can also be seen on some staff weapons, on which they served the same purpose of protecting the hand. �

A term describing a sword with a simple cross-guard, that when inverted point up, forms the profile of a crucifix. �

The sharpened cutting portion of a weapon’s blade. �

False Edge�
In single-edged weapons, a sharpened portion of the back near the point; it is also called the back edge. It served both for better thrusting penetration and for cutting strikes carried out from the same position of the sword (without turning the hand). �

A ring or cap reinforcing the grip of an edged weapon or the shaft of a pole arm. The term is also often applied to scabbard bands. �

Finger Ring (Finger Guard)�
The portion of a sword’s guard that is a semi-circular bar laying in the plane of the blade, attached to the root of the quillions and curved round to touch, or nearly touch, the edges of the blade. Finger rings are also called the Arms of the Hilt. �

The upper third of the blade, ending in the point. The division of the blade into forte, terzo, and foible is attributed to the Italian school of fencing, which enjoyed a fine reputation in the 16th and 17th centuries �

The lower third of the blade of a sword, nearest the hilt, which is the strongest section of a blade and does most of the parrying. �

The grooves running lengthwise on some blades of edged weaponry, designed to both lighten and make flexible the weapon. Compared with the various other structural modifications made to blades, the fuller appeared relatively late and only after considerable technological advances had been made in metalworking. In the Bronze Age there were opposite forms, with various angling and ribbing methods designed to reinforce the blade. During the “barbarian” migrations, we find swords with blades having a wide, shallow groove running down both faces. At a later stage the first signatures or marks of the craftsman appeared in these grooves. Through the centuries the fuller became an even more integral part of the blade until, in the 16th and 17th centuries, it also became a demonstration of the craftsman’s skill. �

A generic word used to describe the accessories and fittings on various types of weapons. It refers, in particular, to everything built onto the tang of any edged weapon to facilitate its use and any decorative mounts on the handle, blade, or scabbard. It is also used in a general sense, when referring to attachments, fittings, and accessories of armor. �

The part of edged weapons that is gripped by the hand. In the Stone Age it was made by rounding off and smoothing the part held, then binding it with leather or fabric. In the Bronze Age, because of the greater possibilities offered by this metal, the grip became markedly different from the rest of the weapons and added some sort of protection for the hand. From the late Middle Ages, the wooden shaft was predominately used, covered with colored fabrics, sheets of decorated precious metal, polished leather, or twisted and braided wire. In order to provide a firm hold, the grip almost invariably had a spindle-like form, was fairly rounded, and trimmed and grooved. �

In edged weapons, a device or a part designed to protect the user’s hand. �

The whole of the grip and the guard in a bladed weapon, generally consisting of the pommel, grip, and cross guard. �

Knuckle-guard (or Knuckle-bow)�
An important part of the hilt of swords and sabers in the form of a bow extending from the cross guard toward the pommel. As can be adduced from several English swords, it appeared no later than the mid-15th century, first as an extension of the cross guard strongly bent upward to protect the hand from cutting blows. Later the knuckle-guard became a central piece of the sophisticated system of side bars forming the guard of swords and rapiers. Although it gradually lost its importance with the introduction of light thrusting smallswords in the second half of the 17th century, some examples of this weapon preserved the knuckle-guard as a traditional pattern up to the 20th century. In most types of military swords and sabers, the knuckle-guard has always retained its role of protecting the hand from cuts, and it is still a feature of fencing sabers and of swords of historic form worn with full dress uniforms. �

In staff weapons, the langet consisted of an iron strap, usually straight but sometimes zigzag shape, extending from the socket down the wooden part of the shaft and attached to it by nails or screws. There were usually two langets, in line either with the cutting edges or with the flat faces of the head. They carried out the dual task of increasing the strength of the attachment of the head to the staff and of protecting the most exposed part from blows; in hafted combat weapons, therefore, the other two sides of the wood were sometimes protected by “false langets,” with one end fitted into the socket or into a square ring under the socket, thus protecting the other two sides of the wooden staff.�

In sabers, and less often, in other swords, the langets are extensions of the cross guard going symmetrically from its center into the grip and over the shoulder of the blade, on both faces of the blade. In most cases, there is a small space between the blade and langets, which tightly fit the locket of the mouth of the scabbard, thus preventing an accidental unsheathing. There is a possibility that strong langets were also used by experienced swordsmen to stop and catch an opponent’s blade at a sliding lateral strike. �

Overall Length (OL)�
A unit of measurement representing the complete length of a weapon from tip to end. �

Pas D`ane�
A term of French origin, used fairly widely but incorrectly since the 19th century to describe the arms of the hilt. In the 17th century, it was used to describe one of the oval shells forming the sword guard. �

A term referring to the sharp tip or end of a sword blade at the opposite end of the hilt. �

Point of Balance (PoB)�
The Point of Balance on a sword is simply the point on which the center of gravity is located. In other words, it’s the spot along the blade’s length that has equal mass on either side of it. The PoB will vary widely between sword types and their intended functions. �

The end of the grip in swords and daggers, which served either to give a better hold on the weapon or to balance it. �

See Side Ring.�

Quillion (or Quillon)�
An extended cross guard of swords and daggers designed in the 16th century to parry or entangle the opponent’s blade. The quillions extended from a base, the quillion block, below the grip, and were either straight, recurved in S-Form, or bent toward the blade (especially in parrying daggers). In some types of hilts the forward quillion was curved toward the pommel, serving as a knuckle-guard. �

Quillion Block (or Quillon Block)�
Part of the guard of edged weapons consisting of a small block of metal with the tang passing through it, acting as a support for the shoulder of the blade and the base of the cross guard. This feature was absent throughout most of the Bronze Age, appearing in antiquity as an intermediate element between the grip and the blade, being slightly broader than the latter. With the appearance of quillions and other elements of the guard, its form and function became more defined; in fact, the quillions extended from it, as did the knuckleguard and the arms of the hilt. The quillion block was also called the ecusson. �

The unsharpend section of the blade near the hilt and usually within the guards in front of the quillions. One purpose of the ricasso was to allow a user to curl a finger over a quillion, allowing for better point control. Often times, longer swords would have an extended ricasso, allowing the gripping of an entire hand onto the blade past the cross guard for more leverage. �

A rigid sheath made of wood, metal, or leather-often cuir-bouilli (hardened leather)–used to enclose and carry the blade of an edged weapon, both to protect the wearer and to keep the blade clean and sound. In the protohistoric period, it was often made with plaques of cast bronze; later it was made with small wooden plaques that were covered with leather or fabric and then fitted with bindings and metal mounts. The edged weapon has always been something of a status symbol, and the scabbard was therefore of great importance to keep the weapon in good order.�

The ways in which scabbards have been made down the ages vary a great deal, but they have been generally simple for weapons of war, and richly decorated and ornate for weapons carried by leaders and royalty, and for presentation and ceremonial weapons. �

Shell Guard�
A type of the sword guard, often round or oval in shape. It appeared in the early 17th century and was used in various swords, such as the Pappenheimer or the Walloon sword. By 1630 it had assumed the hemispherical shape and was widely used in Spanish and Italian swords. Shell guards were also fitted to smallswords and to various hunting and naval weapons. �

Side Ring�
Also called ring guard or port, a part of the guard of swords and daggers for protecting the hand during parrying actions, first seen in the 15th century and particularly widely used in the 16th and 17th centuries. The side ring was positioned at the center of the cross guard, at right angles to the blade. It was made of a solid piece of steel welded or brazed to the cross guard and was sometimes fitted, for additional protection of the fingers, with an openwork metal plate. Occasionally a smaller side ring was placed inside another, both meeting at the cross guard. In other types, one side ring projected from the cross guard and the other from below it, both being linked by the arms of the hilt. The latter construction is frequently found on rapiers and two-handed swords. �

The stem of the blade, which extends into the handle and serves to attach the hilt. Its form varies depending on the system that joins the handle to the blade. If pointed, the tang is driven in like a nail, a very simple system still used for tool handles (e.g., files, chisels, etc.). In order to achieve a stronger join, the tang is usually shaped like a tapering cylinder that slightly exceeds the length of the handle and is peened onto the pommel or button. In the 19th century the end of the tang was often threaded, and the button was screwed onto it. �

The middle section of a blade, between the forte and the foible. �

Turk’s Head�
A modern nickname for rings made of twisted-wire braid sometimes used to finish off both ends of the grip of swords and daggers. It is so called because of its resemblance to a turban, a type of headdress typical of some Moslem peoples. �

A form of covering and finishing the grip of a weapon, consisting of twisted or braided wire spun round the handle. Often the wire was of alternating types (iron, bronze, copper, etc.) or alternating patterns (twisted clockwise, counter-clockwise, straight, etc.), forming complex visual patterns. Wire wrapping was employed both to increase the security of a weapon’s grip as well as of a means of decoration.

Survival knife Choices Introduction PT 1

Everyone seems to have the impression that a survival knife has to be a large Bowie style blade. Not the easiest knife to try and skin a rabbit with, but a large knife can do things a small knife can�t, but not the other way around, particularly for the use of shelter building. Blade steels, essentially there�s Spring Steel vs. Tool Steel vs. High End Super Steels. The Spring steels are tougher and more ductile, where as tool steels have more wear resistance and hardness being mainly used more for custom made blades. 1095/1080 spring steels are the most commonly used for survival style production blades. The high end super steels, well you�d be hard pressed to ever break one in your life time. The advantages of spring steels are that they are a production blade being cheaper but you may be able to sharpen them on a river rock if caught without a sharpening device. Steels made from D2, 3V, INFI etc. you will need a diamond sharpener to put a good edge on the blade. I have cheap $50 blades right up to high end $1000 dollar knives. Some production and others custom made that I�ve waited months for and been made to my exact specifications. Some have been great and others have been crap, it all comes down to a decent heat treatment, no matter what the steel used. There are several ways of looking at survival knives. One; the best knife is the one you have on you at the time. Two; carrying one blade that does it all is a myth. It�s taken me over 10 years to find such a blade that comes very close to that knife. Three; if carrying one large blade, then attach a smaller parasite blade to the sheath to have more control over smaller jobs. Four; carry multiple blades, Small, medium and large knives to cover varying situations. One philosophy is to buy many cheap and nasty knives and just replace them as they break. You can buy knives worth $20 dollars each by the dozen and still not cost the price of one good custom blade that will last a life time. I prefer a knife I can trust not to break, whether that�s a cheap knife or an expensive model. When looking for survival knives and not interested in custom made or steels and high prices etc. Then you can�t go wrong with either the Kabar/Beckers or the Esee brands. They have a model to suit every use. Over the next few posts I�ll be showing blades differing in steels and sizes and explaining their uses from, fighting, general purpose, all-rounder�s, Nessmuk trio�s, chopping and bush craft Doubles, etc.

Survival Knives PT 2 – Nessmuk Trio

DSCF0821 The Nessmuk trio is based on the writings in the book �Woodcraft and Camping� written by George Washington Sears under the pen name Nessmuk. Where the author carries three tools, a short double bitted axe, a mid sized skinning blade commonly called a Nessmuk after the author and a small clasp knife. There are many versions of this trio through a net search. � http://www.zianet.com/jgray/nessmuk/woodcraft/title_page.html http://www.oldjimbo.com/Outdoors-Magazine/Nessmuk-and-his-Tools.pdf

Jeff Crowner Knife Collection

I hadn�t started with the intent of buying more than one knife from Jeff but it didn�t turn out that way. However I became very impressed with his work, heat treatment of material, designs and ended up with several of his blades, four actually. The first was a NW Bush blade. This was initiated from watching Man vs. Woman with Mykel Hawke. I wanted that one blade, where if I was stuck in the middle of nowhere could do it all. The Bush Blade usually made as a 9 inch, I had custom designed as an 8.5 inch version to suit my height which exceeded all my expectations. The only problem I had with it was that after so many injuries to my shoulder rotator cups, wrists etc. I really needed palm swells. Jeff agreed to remake the grips for me but when it arrived he had spent so much time shaping the original grips, couldn�t bear to grind them off so we did a trade. Jeff kept my original for his personal bug out bag and made me a second. (That�s how good it had turned out). This was to be my third blade from him. This time I went for an 8 inch version for several reasons. Originally the 8.5 was if I was intending to carry only one knife and be used for more chopping applications. I hadn�t really planned on buying multiple blades when I had first ordered it. I have always said an 8 inch blade would be the perfect survival knife, so I thought it about time I put my money where my mouth is, now that I�ve found the design and material (3V) that I liked. Secondly, realistically I don�t just carry one knife but at a minimum three, so the slightly shorter 8 inch blade fitted in much better when incorporating a three blade system. The second blade ordered was a 9.5 inch NW Golok and since buying it have sold many of my other chopping blades minus my D2 chisel ground kukri�s which are custom made and one of a kind. That Golok still hasn�t been beaten as a chopper. I feel confident that if I was dropped in the middle of nowhere with it I could quite easily build a full scale winter shelter without a problem. For the fourth blade I wanted a fighter. Something I could use in Kali training and along the lines of a �Book of Eli� style fighting blade. I have a Swapmrat 17�Waki and 15� Ruki. The 15 inch blade is still a little too long for concealment. The same can really be said for the 14� Valiant Golok . I�ve tried regrinding this several times and still can�t remove the harmonic; I also wouldn�t class it as a heavy cutter being able to strike against another blade in combat. I believe a 14 inch blade would be minimal when going against another long blade or multiple trained opponents but in all likely hood that is unlikely to happen to me. I required a blade that not only could be concealed for ADC (All Day Carry) but also used as a short machete for realistic purposes. At 12.5 inches I thought the Bush knife would fit both these requirements. Very easy to draw from an inverted Dundee rig and very fast in the hand, the shorter blade having no over swing like in a 14 inch. This is similar in length to the Cold Steel kuks and enabling me to even the odds in terms of reach and leverage I may one day need if defending against more than one assailant.

Knife Intro

Knife Intro

This is everything on could find on explaining the following about blades, in one place. Making it easier to find for everyone instead of spending weeks going through searches on the net.�

Bevels – primary, secondary�

Cuts – chop, push ,slice, whittle, tip cope, edge cope, draw, shearing, thrust�

Grinds – flat, hollow, chisel, convex�

Steels – stainless, carbon�

Tempering – hardening�

Parts – tang, clip, ridge line, ricasso, choil, belly, false edge, grind plunge�

Grips – reverse, hammer, ice pick,fencers, sabre�

To put it bluntly, what this guy doesnt know, isnt worth knowing�




Knife Terms�








Knife Tests�


Plain VS Serrated Edges�




Knife Fighting�


Knife fighting�


Knife Fighting�


Knife Fighting�


Knife Fighting�


Blade Anatomy�


Heat Treating�


Making your Own�


Heat Treating�


DVD Sources�




Atienza Kali


Sayoc Kali


Blade Realities

The Dubious Quick Kill – Part I
By Maestro Frank Lurz

The enemy before you consistently carries his guard a bit high. Is it carelessness, or is he baiting you? You effect a small step backward and, just as you had hoped, your opponent attempts to close the measure. His leading foot begins to lift from the ground when, with the speed of a lightning bolt, you suddenly straighten your sword arm and direct a feint toward the man’s flank, just under his hand. Seized with panic he parries wildly, but the hostile blade finds only thin air. With perfect timing you’ve eluded his parry and, disengaging to the high line you drive a killing thrust, with a vigorous lunge, deep into your antagonist’s chest. To your surprise you feel almost no resistance to your blade as it disappears beneath the fabric of his blouse. Stunned, the hapless swordsman freezes in his tracks as he realizes in that instant that his life on this earth is over.�

“La!” You deftly pull your weapon out of the man’s body and, triumphant, you are about to turn and leave the ground when, to your amazement, your foe recovers himself and returns to the guard! Eyes wide and mouth agape, you stand motionless in disbelief and, in that brief interval of inaction, the dying man desperately lunges forward, in one last heroic effort, and runs you through. You stagger briefly and then begin to fall; seconds rush in to arrest your fall and terminate the combat. They cradle you in their arms and, although your vision begins to blur, you look up to see the expressions of anguish and desperation on their faces. As consciousness ebbs away a last thought runs through you mind: “This isn’t how it was in the movies!”�

The foregoing scenario, while in itself a fiction, broadly describes the outcomes of numerous duels, and almost certainly more than many of us interested in such things might expect. For those of us who have taken up the courtly weapon with more interest in fencing than just its practice as a sport, such outcomes might well seem disquieting; after all, we’ve been taught that fencing tempo lies at the heart of every attack, defense and counterattack. If we deliver our thrust one or more tempi ahead of our adversary, we’re doing just as our maestri told us–aren’t we?�

How do we reconcile fencing theory with the anecdotes passed down through history? Can we trust what was reported by seconds and the principals who survived? How credible is the “evidence?” Take for example the case of the duel fought in 1613 between the Earl of Dorset and Lord Edward Bruce. According to the Earl’s account, he received a rapier-thrust in the right nipple which passed “level through my body, and almost to my back.” Seemingly unaffected, the Earl remained engaged in the combat for some time. The duel continued with Dorset going on to lose a finger while attempting to disarm his adversary manually. Locked in close quarters, the two struggling combatants ultimately ran out of breath.�

According to Dorset’s account, they paused briefly to recover, and while catching their wind, considered proposals to release each other’s blades. Failing to reach an agreement on exactly how this might be done, the seriously wounded Dorset finally managed to free his blade from his opponent’s grasp and ultimately ran Lord Bruce through with two separate thrusts. Although Dorset had received what appears to have been a grievous wound that, in those days, ought to have been mortal, he not only remained active long enough to dispatch his adversary, but without the aid of antibiotics and emergency surgery, also managed to live another thirty-nine years.�

Never happen in a thousand years? Maybe. After all, Dorset himself told the story. If fishermen tend to exaggerate, surely duelists will. However, consider the duel between Lagarde and Bazanez. After the later received a rapier blow, which bounced off his head, Bazanez is said to have received an unspecified number of thrusts, which, according to the account, “entered” the body. Despite having lost a good deal of blood, he nevertheless managed to wrestle Lagarde to the ground, whereupon he proceeded to inflict some fourteen stab wounds with his dagger to an area extending from his opponent’s neck to his navel. Lagarde meanwhile, entertained himself by biting off a portion of Bazanez’s chin and, using the pommel of his weapon, ended the affair by fracturing Bazanez’s skull. History concludes, saying that neither combatant managed to inflict any “serious” injury, and that both recovered from the ordeal. One could hardly be criticized for believing this story to be anything more than a fiction.�

While the previous tale seems amazing enough, hardly anyone can tell a story more incredible than that witnessed by R. Deerhurst. Two duelists, identified only as “His Grace, the Duke of B” and “Lord B”, after an exchange of exceptionally cordial letters of challenge met in the early morning to conduct their affair with pistols and swords. The combat began with a pistol ball inflicting a slight wound to the Duke’s thumb. A second firing was exchanged in which Lord B was then wounded slightly. Each then immediately drew his sword and rushed upon the other with reckless ferocity. After an exchange of only one or two thrusts, the two became locked corps a corps. Struggling to free themselves by “repeated wrenches,” they finally separated enough to allow the Duke to deliver a thrust which entered the inside of Lord B’s sword arm and exited the outside of the arm at the elbow.�

Incredible as it may seem, his Lordship was still able to manage his sword and eventually drove home a thrust just above Duke B ‘s right nipple. Transfixed on his Lordship’s blade, the Duke nevertheless continued, attempting repeatedly to direct a thrust at his Lordship’s throat. With his weapon fixed in His Grace’s chest, Lord B now had no means of defense other than his free arm and hand. Attempting to grasp the hostile blade, he lost two fingers and mutilated the remainder. Finally, the mortally wounded Duke penetrated the bloody parries of Lord B’s hand with a thrust just below Lord B’s heart.�

In the Hollywood swashbucklers this scene might well have ended at this point, if not long before, but real life often seems to have a more incredible, and certainly in this case, more romantic outcome. Locked together at close quarters and unable to withdraw their weapons from each other’s bodies for another thrust, the two stood embracing each other in a death grip. At this point the seconds, attempting to intercede, begged the pair to stop. Neither combatant would agree, however, and there they both remained, each transfixed upon the blade of the other until, due to extensive blood loss, his Lordship finally collapsed. In doing so, he withdrew his sword from the Duke’s body and, staggering briefly, fell upon his weapon, breaking the blade in two. A moment later, the “victorious” Duke deliberately snapped his own blade and, with a sigh, fell dead upon the corpse of his adversary.�

Numerous similar accounts begin to make a case the prudent swordsman cannot afford to ignore. It would appear that delivering a thrust or cut to an opponent, without falling prey to his own blade in turn, may not be so very simple and easy a thing. If one is skillful (or fortunate) enough to accomplish this feat, how long after inflicting a wound with a rapier, sabre, or smallsword can one’s adversary continue to pose a threat? Does the type of wound have any meaningful effect on the length of time during which a stricken foe may continue to deliver a killing cut or thrust? To prevent the opponent from executing a counterattack, delivering a riposte or renewing an attack, where and how might one strike to take the adversary immediately out of the combat?�

Dynamics of Stabbing and Incising Wounds�
Death from stabbing and incising (“cutting” or “slashing”) wounds is mainly brought about through five mechanisms: massive hemorrhage (exsanguination), air in the bloodstream (air embolism), suffocation (asphyxia), air in the chest cavity (pneumothorax), and infection. Of these, exsanguination is the most common, with hemorrhaging confined principally to the body cavity because stabbing wounds tend to close after the weapon is withdrawn. The amount of blood loss necessary to disable totally an individual varies widely and may range from as little as one-half to as much as three liters.�

To reach a vital area it is first necessary to pass the blade through the body’s external covering and whatever else lies between, and with regard to techniques in swordsmanship, an important consideration is the degree of force required to pass through intervening structures in order to reach vital structures with a sword-thrust or cut. In France, in 1892, this issue was raised during a trial conducted as a consequence of a duel fought between the Marquis de Mores and a Captain Meyer. The question arose on account of an accusation that the weapons used in the duel were “too heavy.” While two physicians, Drs. Faure and Paquelin, testified that it did not require great strength to inflict a wound similar to that which took Captain Meyer’s life, there was some difference of opinion expressed by a number of fencing masters called to testify on the matter of acceptable weights of weapons, and the force required to employ them in the delivery of a fatal thrust.�

Even today, prosecutors trying homicide cases involving death by stabbing will sometimes attempt to convince juries that a deeply penetrating stab wound serves as an indicator of murderous intent by virtue of the great force required to inflict such wounds. It is generally accepted today among experts of forensic medicine, however, that the force requisite to inflict even a deeply penetrating stab wound is minimal. This opinion would seem to be supported by the experience of a stage actor who inadvertently stabbed a colleague to death during a stage performance of Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. The unlucky young man delivered a thrust at the very moment his vision was inadvertently obscured by a member of the cast. Although he claimed to have felt no resistance, a post mortem examination revealed that he had penetrated the chest of the victim to a depth of eighteen centimeters.�

Except for bone or cartilage which has become ossified, it is the skin that offers the greatest resistance to the point of a blade. In fact, once the skin is penetrated, a blade may pass, even through costal cartilage, with disquieting ease. Generally, of the factors governing the ease of entry, the two most important are the sharpness of the tip of the blade and the velocity with which it contacts the skin. While the mass of the weapon is a factor in penetration, the velocity of the blade at the moment of contact is of greater importance, since the force at impact is directly proportional to the square of the velocity of the thrust.�

Unlike injuries inflicted with pointed weapons, the depth of cutting wounds, produced by the edges of weapons like the sabre or rapier, is governed by a somewhat different set of dynamics which include the radial velocity of the blade at impact, its mass, the proficiency with which the blade is drawn across the body upon contact, and the distance over which the force of the cut is distributed. The greatest depth of penetration in many of these wounds is found at the site where, with maximum force, the blade first makes contact. As the edge is pushed or drawn, the force of the cut dissipates and the blade tends to rise out of the wound as it traverses the body. In the case of cutting wounds directed to the chest, the total force required to reach the interior of the chest is greater than that for a point thrust, not only because the force of the stroke is distributed across the length of the cut, but also because of the likelihood that the blade will encounter greater resistance afforded by the underlying ribs and the breastbone (sternum).�

Wounds to the Heart Because exsanguination is the leading and most frequent cause of death in stabbing and incising wounds, it is not unreasonable to direct our attention initially to wounds to the cardiovascular system and further, to consider the evidence provided by the medical records and coroners reports of the current era. Let us first begin with a brief review of human anatomy. In an adult, the heart is approximately twelve centimeters long, eight to nine centimeters wide at its widest point, and some six centimeters thick. It is encased in a membranous sack, the pericardium, and rests on the upper surface of the diaphragm, between the lower portions of the lungs and behind the sternum.�

The organ is divided into four chambers: the left and right atria and the left and right ventricles. It is comprised almost entirely of muscle, and serves a vital function as a pumping mechanism to distribute blood throughout the body. It is unattached to the adjacent organs, but is held in place in the chest cavity, suspended by the pericardium and by continuity with the major blood vessels. The muscular walls of the heart are supplied with blood by the right and the left coronary arteries, each of which bifurcates into a series of subdivisions.�

Because the heart is a vital organ, it is generally thought that a serious injury to the heart will result in instant death. Consequently, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the duelist expected a thrust to his adversary’s heart to disable him immediately. While swordplay done in earnest is now a thing of the past, a wealth of information regarding stab wounds to the heart has been accumulated in recent times by the practitioners of modern forensic medicine. Many of these wounds have been inflicted with instruments very much like the blades of rapiers, sabres, and smallswords and the means by which such wounds have been treated; combined with assessments of the injuries through the sophisticated discipline of forensic medicine; reveal some surprising truths with which many duelists most certainly had to deal.�

While a stab wound to the heart is a grave matter, numerous instances of penetrating wounds to this organ have been documented in which victims have demonstrated a surprising ability to remain physically active. In 1896 a case was reported in which a twenty-four year old man was stabbed in the heart. Despite a wound to the left ventricle, which severed a coronary artery, the victim not only remained conscious, but was also able to walk home.�

Much later, in 1936, a paper was presented to the American Association of Thoracic Surgery in which thirteen cases of stab wounds to the heart were cited. Of these, four victims were said to have collapsed immediately. Four others, although incapacitated, remained conscious and alert for from thirty minutes to several hours. The remaining five victims, thirty-eight per cent of the total, remained active: one walking approximately twenty-three meters and another running three blocks. Yet another victim remained active for approximately ten minutes after having been stabbed in the heart with an ice pick, and two managed to walk to a medical facility for help.�

In another instance a report cites an impressive case of a man stabbed in the left ventricle. Despite a wound 1.3 centimeters in length, the victim was able to continue routine activity for some time and lived a total of four days before expiring. In 1961, a survey conducted by Spitz, Petty and Russell included seven victims stabbed in various regions of the heart. While none of these people expired immediately, some were quickly incapacitated. Five were not, however, and one victim, despite a 2 centimeter slit-like “laceration” located in the left ventricle, managed to walk a full city block. After arming himself with a broken beer bottle, the victim finally collapsed while in the act of attempting to re-engage the individual who stabbed him.�

The amount of time elapsing between a stab wound to the heart and total incapacitation of the victim is dependent upon the nature of the wound and which structures of the heart are compromised. In the light of the cases cited in the preceding paragraphs, one may expect that a penetrating wound to the left ventricle, such as that which would be inflicted by a smallsword, may not necessarily bring a combat to a sudden conclusion. Blood in this chamber of the heart, at the end of ventricular contraction (end-systole), may reach pressures as high as one hundred twenty millimeters of mercury or more, especially during combat, and one might reasonably expect blood under such pressure to escape readily through a breach in the ventricular wall. The walls of this chamber are comprised almost entirely of muscle tissue, however, and are exceptionally thick.�

As a consequence, the left ventricular wall has the potential to seal itself partially through the contraction of the muscle tissue immediately surrounding the site of the wound. While the end-systolic pressure in the right ventricle normally amounts to only eighteen percent that of the left, wounds to the right ventricle are far more likely to be quickly fatal because the thickness of this ventricular wall is only a third that of the left ventricle and is, consequently, less able to close a wound.�

With respect to penetrating (stabbing) wounds to the heart the location, depth of penetration, blade width, and the presence or absence of cutting edges are important factors influencing a wounded duelist’s ability to continue a combat. Large cuts that transect the heart may be expected to result in swift incapacitation due to rapid exsanguination, and immediate loss of pressure, but stab wounds, similar to those that might be inflicted by a thrust with a sword with a narrow, pointed blade may leave a mortally wounded victim capable of surprisingly athletic endeavors. Knight cites a case of one individual who, stabbed “through” the heart, was still able to run over 400 meters before he collapsed. Yet two more striking cases are also reported of victims who survived wounds to the heart, one of which is described as, “a through-and-through stab wound of the left ventricle that transfixed the heart from front to back.”�

Wounds to the Major Thoracic Blood Vessels The vital area located in the center of the chest is not occupied by the heart alone. The large thoracic blood vessels converge with the heart in such a way as to present an area nearly equal in size to that presented by the heart. Consequently, a sword-thrust that penetrates the chest but fails to find the heart may nevertheless pierce or incise one or more of these large vessels.�

Normally, blood pressure in the major arteries located in the chest (thorax) averages approximately one hundred millimeters of mercury, with a maximum pressure of some one hundred twenty millimeters at end-systole. Subdivisions of the aorta greater than three millimeters in diameter offer little vascular resistance. Consequently, the average blood pressure in these vessels is nearly the same. Since the thoracic arteries confine blood under considerable pressure, and because the walls of these vessels are relatively thin, compared to the walls of the ventricles, punctures or cuts in these vessels may allow blood to escape quite rapidly, depending on the size of the opening.�

The major thoracic arteries then, are more vulnerable to stabbing wounds than are the ventricles of the heart. While a good deal smaller in diameter, a puncture or severing of the coronary arteries, because they supply blood to the walls of the heart’s ventricles, may also result in rapid incapacitation of a duelist. Forensic pathologists Dominick and Vincent Di Maio point out that especially vulnerable is the left anterior descending coronary artery which supplies the anterior wall of the left ventricle. Stabbing wounds which transect this small vessel may be expected to result in sudden death.�

Nevertheless, cases have been reported in which stabbing victims, whose thoracic arteries were penetrated, remained physically active for a surprisingly long period of time. An example may be found in the case of a twenty-three year old man who was stabbed in the chest with a kitchen knife. At autopsy a wound tract was disclosed that penetrated both the aorta and the left ventricle. Blood issuing from these wounds into the chest cavity amounted to a volume of two liters. Despite the serious nature of his wounds, the victim nevertheless managed to walk more than 100 meters before collapsing and remained alive until shortly after he had been taken to the hospital. Another example is that of a twenty-five year old man whose subclavian artery and vein were severed by a thrust delivered by a kitchen knife. Losing a total of three liters of blood, he was able to run a distance of four city blocks before finally collapsing.�

Wounds to the Major Blood Vessels of the Neck The aortic arch branches into arteries that service the upper body, including the head. Of these, the left and right common carotid arteries are of significant interest with regard to dueling practice because these vessels supply the larger share of blood to the brain and because they extend unprotected, in the neck, on either side of the windpipe (trachea). While these arteries are not externally visible, one can understand why a stroke delivered to the neck with an edged weapon such as a sabre, or thrust with an edged smallsword or rapier, would seem to be an effective means of incapacitating an adversary. Certainly, the severing of a common carotid artery will immediately terminate a large portion of the blood supply to the brain.�

Nevertheless, the victim of such a wound may remain conscious for from fifteen to as many as thirty seconds; a more than ample amount of time for a dying swordsman to execute a number of cuts, thrusts and parries. In addition to the carotid arteries, the neck also encompasses the jugular veins, which return blood from the brain, face, and neck to the heart. While the escape of blood under high pressure is a concern for wounds to the vessels of the arterial system, wounds to the jugular veins pose a different problem. By the time blood reaches these vessels, its pressure is nearly zero.�

In fact, during the inspiratory phase of the respiratory cycle, when contraction of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles creates a negative pressure within the thorax, pressure in the jugular veins also falls below zero. As a consequence, an opening in the jugular vein which communicates with the external environment may allow small bubbles of air to be entrained into the vessel. As the air enters, a bloody froth can be produced which, when drawn into the heart, may render the pumping action inoperative (valve lock). Whereas a severed vein is not usually considered to be as serious an injury as a severed artery, air embolism due to a cut jugular vein may cause a victim, after one or two gasps, to collapse immediately.�

As the neck encompasses the cervical spine, carotid arteries, trachea, and jugular veins in a relatively small space, a sword-thrust to this area would seem very likely to sever or impale a vital structure and disable an adversary almost immediately. And so it was, during the reign of Louis XIII, for one Bussy D’Ambrose who was run through the throat while acting as a second for the Marquis de Beuvron. The chance of combat, however, is a fickle companion to the duelist, as Sir Hatton Cheek discovered in 1609 in his duel with Sir Thomas Dutton. Each, armed with rapier and dagger, met the other on the sands of Calais. On the first pass Cheek directed a dagger thrust to Dutton’s throat, close to the trachea, and ran him through. One may imagine with what surprise Cheek found that the wound proved to be entirely ineffective.�

In fact, despite the seemingly serious nature of his injury, it was Dutton who concluded the combat by running Cheek through the body with his rapier, and then stabbing him in the back with his dagger. If we are surprised at Dutton’s ability to continue the combat, it is with horror that we find that Cheek, after having been so grievously wounded, not only failed to drop to the ground, but continued on with the combat, gathering enough strength to rush yet again upon his adversary. The conflict continued until Dutton, noticing that Cheek began to droop on account of massive blood loss, wisely adopted a defensive strategy, keeping his distance until Cheek finally collapsed from loss of blood.�

Wounds to the Major Abdominal Blood Vessels�
Within the abdominal cavity are found the abdominal aorta and its two major branches, the common iliac arteries; and their venous counterparts, the inferior vena cava and the common iliac veins. These vessels are large, relatively speaking, and they confine blood under end-systolic pressures similar to those found in the major thoracic arteries. All of these vessels are located in close proximity to the spinal column and lie behind the bulk of the abdominal viscera.�

In the present-day United States, wounds delivered by thrusts or cuts from a sword are almost entirely unheard of; knives are by far the most common weapon involved in stabbings. Obviously, the depth to which a knife may penetrate the abdominal cavity is less that that for the blade of a sword. It is important to bear this point in mind with respect to a finding that less than half of all stab wounds do any serious injury to the abdominal viscera. Longer blades might well increase the morbidity and mortality of such injuries. Wounds to the abdomen which do prove fatal usually involve the large blood vessels and/or the liver, which is a highly vascular organ itself.�

The rate of blood loss from even a grievously wounded liver is not likely to be sufficient to cause sudden cardiac collapse, however, since the vascular resistance within this organ is very high. Complete transection of the abdominal aorta could be expected to incapacitate a duelist relatively quickly, but some degree of good fortune would be required to introduce the blade in such a way as to impale this relatively narrow structure within the bulk of the abdomen, or draw the blade’s edge along the artery’s wall to transect it.�

A sabre stroke would certainly be an effective means of severing the major abdominal arteries and veins, but because they are located against the vertebral column, the stroke would have to be made with considerable violence in order to pass the blade through the skin, the underlying abdominal muscles, and the viscera situated in front of the vessels. Were such a stroke delivered, violating the integrity of the large vessels would be a moot point in any case since the sudden loss of intra-abdominal pressure and the attendant cardiac return would induce immediate cardiac collapse.�

For a cutting action to do so much damage the type of sabre would be an important consideration. While a heavy cavalry sabre with a curved blade would have sufficient mass and dynamics to yield the necessary force, a cut delivered to the abdominal wall by the lighter and shorter dueling sabre with a straight rather than a curved edge would likely prove inadequate to the task and could leave the adversary still capable of posing a serious threat.�

Wounds to the Blood Vessels of the Upper Limbs�
Although relatively far removed from the heart, the arteries of the arms are still of sufficiently low vascular resistance to carry blood under pressures similar to those found in the greater thoracic arteries. Of the major arteries of the arm, the brachial artery is the largest and lies along the medial surface of the bone of the upper arm (humerus). As it descends, it progressively courses anteriorly to the crook of the arm, where it is well exposed to a sword-thrust or cut. From the crook of the elbow it divides into the ulnar and radial arteries.�

Wounds to any of these vessels can be extremely life-threatening, especially if the vessel is only partly severed, since the muscular walls of a completely transected artery will naturally retract and impair the rate of hemorrhage. Incisions in the radial artery are a well-recognized cause of death in suicide victims. Nevertheless, because of their relatively smaller diameters, immediate incapacitation due to blood loss from the severing of these arteries cannot be expected.�

The veins of the arm are far more numerous than the major arteries. They are significantly more narrow and intravenous pressures are normally less than ten millimeters of mercury. As a consequence, incisions or even complete transections of these vessels can be expected to result in no immediately serious consequences.�

Wounds to the Blood Vessels of the Lower Limbs�
Much like the arms, the legs each are serviced by one large artery which divides into two major branches. The femoral artery lies in front of the hip joint and descends along the medial surface of the thighbone, (femur). Unlike the brachial artery, however, the mid and distal portion of the femoral artery is not altogether vulnerable to the blade of the duelist. As it approximates the knee joint it spirals around the femur and passes directly behind the knee in the form of the popliteal artery, which subsequently bifurcates to become the anterior and posterior tibial arteries.�

Like the arm, the leg is laced with a complex network of veins. Most of these are relatively narrow and deep and the pressure of blood confined within these vessels is low. The rate of blood flow through these vessels is relatively slow and wounds severing one or more of them cannot be expected to result in consequences of any interest to the duelist.�

Cuts or thrusts to the major arteries of the legs can be serious enough to cause death. Nevertheless, an adversary seriously wounded in a femoral artery ought still to be considered an extremely dangerous adversary because blood loss is unlikely to be so rapid as to result in immediate collapse. In the last of the judicial duels fought in France in 1547 between Francois de Vivonne, Lord of Chastaigneraye and Guy de Chabot, the oldest son of the Lord of Jarnac, Chastaigneraye was wounded by cuts to the back of the knee of both legs. Hamstrung, Chastaigneraye lay helpless on the ground while a lengthy exchange of words followed between him and his adversary.�

Jarnac offered to spare Chastaigneraye if he would admit that his accusations, over which the trial took place, were in error, but Chastaigneraye refused to recant and Jarnac, loth to take his opponents life, pleaded with the attending monarch, Henry II, to intervene and save Chastaigneraye’s life. Initially, the king refused to interfere, however. Hemorrhaging uncontrollably from at least one artery, Chastaigneraye remained upon the ground while Jarnac continued to plead back and forth with both Chastaigneraye and the king to end the combat. After Jarnac’s third appeal, the king finally interceded, but Chastaigneraye’s pride had been mortally wounded. Refusing to allow his wounds to be treated, he finally succumbed after “a little time” from loss of blood.�

It is important to note that Chastaigneraye was considered to have been a swordsman of extraordinary skill as well as an excellent wrestler. Following the cutting stroke to his leg, the extended period during which he lay hemorrhaging to death was certainly of sufficient length to have afforded him a number of thrusts, strokes and parries. Had the slash to the backside of his right leg not crippled him, Chastaigneraye might well have been the victor in this combat, severed artery notwithstanding.�

In conclusion, fencing tempo is a vital element of swordsmanship, but clearly for the duelist hitting before being hit is not at all the same thing as hitting without being hit. Exsanguination is the principal mechanism of death caused by stabbing and incising wounds and death by this means is seldom instantaneous. Although stab wounds to the heart are generally imagined to be instantly incapacitating, numerous modern medical case histories indicate that while victims of such wounds may immediately collapse upon being wounded, rapid disability from this type of wound is by no means certain. Many present-day victims of penetrating wounds involving the lungs and the great vessels of the thorax have also demonstrated a remarkable ability to remain physically active minutes to hours after their wounds were inflicted. These cases are consistent with reports of duelists who, subsequent to having been grievously or even mortally wounded through the chest, neck, or abdomen, nevertheless remained actively engaged upon the terrain and fully able to continue long enough to dispatch those who had wounded them.�

The Dubious Quick Kill – Part II�

Because exsanguination is the most frequent cause of death in stabbing and incising wounds1, the first installment of this work covered the subject of wounds to the cardiovascular system. Anecdotes of duels fought with rapier, sabre, or smallsword, and forensic literature based upon present-day coroner’s reports of homicides in which knives and other sharp instruments were used convincingly showed that mortal wounds to the major vessels and even to the heart itself do not always lead to instant incapacitation of the victim.�

The veracity of these accounts is supported by a 1961 survey conducted by Spitz, Petty and Russell which found that of seven victims stabbed in various regions of the heart, none expired immediately. While two were quickly incapacitated, the remaining five were not, and of these one, despite a two-centimeter incision in the left ventricle, walked a full city block, armed himself with a broken beer bottle, and collapsed only after he returned to the scene of the crime to re-engage the individual who had stabbed him. This case in particular makes it clear that for the duelist, mortally wounding an adversary, even in the heart, may not necessarily be enough to place him hors de combat. This final installment will address other organ systems of the human body with an aim to further explore the question of instant incapacitation by thrust or cut.�

The Respiratory System�
To understand the mechanisms of incapacitation and death caused by sharp force injury to the respiratory system, a brief explanation of the anatomy and mechanical function of this system will be helpful. Air entering the nose and mouth is conducted to the lungs by way of the windpipe (trachea), a nearly cylindrical conduit passing down through the neck toward the chest cavity where it divides into the right and left bronchi. Each bronchus further bifurcates into a series of subdivisions within the lungs. In the chest, within the spaces (pleural cavities) found on either side of the heart, lie the lungs.�

Divided into a number of lobes, these organs are exceptionally light, porous, highly vascularized, and elastic. The movement of air into the lungs is governed by a number of muscles which increase the volume of the chest, and hence, the volume of the pleural cavities within. As these cavities expand, a drop in intrathoracic pressure is produced. Provided the airway is clear, air rushes in along the pressure gradient to equilibrate the intrathoracic pressure with outside pressure, thereby inflating the lungs which expand as they fill the larger volume. Upon exhalation the process is reversed, generally through a passive mechanism produced by the elastic character of the lungs, chest wall, and abdomen.�

Wounds to the Respiratory System�
As long as the pleural cavities remain closed to the outside atmosphere, the mechanics of respiration function normally. If the chest wall is opened, however, intrathoracic pressure will equilibrate as outside air enters, not just into the lungs, but directly into the pleural cavity through the incision (pneumothorax), thereby causing the lung inside to collapse. A sabre stroke penetrating the intercostal muscles and opening the chest wall will produce a pneumothorax, resulting in the immediate loss of function of the lung. Of course to do so, the cut would either have to fall between and run parallel to the ribs, or be of sufficient force to cut through the bone. Since the right and left lungs are each isolated within their own pleural cavities however, a wound to only one side of the chest would leave the lung on the opposite side functional.�

A point thrust inflicted by a smallsword or rapier may produce somewhat different results. While a penetrating wound inflicted with these weapons may appear on the surface to be much smaller than the incising wound produced by the stroke of a sabre, the track of a penetrating wound may extend completely through the body, damaging even the most deeply located structures. In addition, such a wound may be inflicted with little effort since the entire force of the thrust is delivered by a sharp point over an extremely small surface area. Depending upon the size of the blade, the hole in the chest wall may be small enough to close itself partially upon withdrawal of the blade, producing only a slow leak of air into the chest cavity. If the victim were well profiled when the thrust was delivered, the blade could enter one lung and easily pass through the chest to the opposite side, causing pneumothorax in both pleural cavities. In this case air would enter the pleural cavity not only through the hole in the chest wall, but also through the holes in the lungs themselves, with each respiratory cycle.�

Death caused solely by pneumothorax is generally a slow process, occurring as much as several hours after the wound is inflicted. However, because lung tissue is so heavily vascularized, a blade penetrating not only the chest wall but the lung as well will also cause hemorrhaging into the pleural cavity (hemothorax); the amount of blood and the rate of its flow being dependent upon the dimensions of the wound, blood pressure, vascular structures compromised, and clotting factors.�

While blood loss alone may produce incapacitation and death, it is important to consider that, in the case of stab wounds to the chest, most of the blood lost usually remains confined within the pleural cavity because the elastic nature of the tissues around the site of entry tends to at least partially close the wound. Consequently, as the cavity fills with blood, the lung becomes increasingly compressed and less able to function, contributing to the cause of death. Today, most fatalities due solely to stab wounds which penetrate the lungs are caused by hemothorax, with pneumothorax sometimes also present.�

As is the case with pneumothorax, neither death nor incapacitation by hemothorax is rapid. Spitz reports a typical case of a twenty-nine year old man stabbed in the chest. Immediately after the stabbing the victim ran across the street to ask for help. He eventually collapsed, but remained alive for one and a quarter hours before expiring. Autopsy revealed a 2.5 centimeter wound track in the lung and a volume of blood in the pleural cavity in excess of two liters.8�

Consistent with the findings of Spitz and other present-day investigators, numerous examples taken from dueling anecdotes indicate that sword-thrusts to the lungs were not always effective in immediately placing a determined duelist out of the combat. The duel fought in 1613 between the Earl of Dorset and Lord Edward Bruce is a typical example. According to the account, the Earl received a rapier thrust, which entered the right nipple and passed “level through my body, and almost to my back.”�

It seems certain that a blade introduced in this fashion would penetrate some part of a lung. Nevertheless, Dorset remained engaged for a considerable period of time and ultimately ran his adversary through with two separate thrusts. Dorset’s wound was, indeed, serious for his complete incapacitation followed immediately afterward; as is evidenced by the necessity of one of his seconds to intervene to defend him as one of Lord Bruce’s friends, in a moment of uncontrolled temper, attempted to dispatch Dorset where he lay.�

This duel almost seems a copy of the duel described by Deerhurst in which a mortally wounded combatant received a through-and-through rapier thrust just above the nipple. With the blade still protruding from his back, the dying man remained upright and fully engaged, repeatedly attempting to drive his own blade into his adversary’s throat. Losing a number of fingers while attempting to parry away the thrusts with his hand, the ill-fated defender was eventually impaled. Each transfixed upon the blade of the other, both men remained upright and locked in a death grip for some time before collapsing.�

Another example may be found in the duel between Sawyer and Wrey, in which the latter was initially stabbed in the left chest. As Wrey failed to collapse on the spot, Sawyer quickly launched another attack, this time wounding him in the left arm. Despite his chest wound, Wrey nevertheless remained an active, capable, and dangerous adversary. Upon the increasingly confidant Sawyer’s third attack, Wrey reversed the fortunes of his as yet unscathed opponent and ran him through.�

Given the typically sketchy character of dueling anecdotes, it is often difficult to ascertain satisfactorily the precise nature of the wounds involved since duelists who survived their wounds were not examined at autopsy. However, the account of a duel fought in 1765 between Lord Kilmaurs and an unnamed French officer is an uncommonly illuminating one. The likelihood that a lung was penetrated through-and-through seems, in this case, to be well supported by the details of the anecdotal evidence. According to the account, after one or two attacks, the Frenchman delivered a thrust, which entered the “pit” of Kilmaurs’ “stomach” and exited through his right shoulder.�

It seems probable that, given the sites of entry and exit, the blade of the officer’s weapon would have had to pass through some portion of a lung. In support of this probability, the account goes on to state that subsequent to the termination of the combat, Kilmaurs was nearly “stifled with his own blood.” The sign of blood in the airway, combined with the description of the manner in which the blade entered and exited the victim’s body, strongly suggests that a lung had been pierced.�

It is impossible to know how this affair would have ended since, after the wound had been delivered, the duel was immediately interrupted by spectators. In fact, despite the horrific nature of his wound, Lord Kilmaurs was reported to have seemed hardly aware that anything was amiss. Consequently, assuming that this account is reasonably accurate, Kilmaurs appears to have been, for some time, capable of continuing the combat, potentially reversing the fortunes of his adversary.�

The account goes on to say that His Lordship eventually became speechless and demonstrated every sign of impending death for several hours. Incredibly, after just a few days, Lord Kilmaurs’ condition improved and over time the gentleman ultimately recovered. Curiously, the Earl of Dorset also recovered from his chest wound and lived an additional thirty-nine years.�

As an historical aside, given the current forensic literature one may accept that a swordsman grievously wounded in the lung may nevertheless remain a dangerous adversary for a considerable period. However, one may yet wonder why Dorset and Kilmaurs did not eventually succumb due to pneumothorax or hemothorax. Of course, without medical records or any other information one can only speculate as to why these men survived.�

Aside from almost impossibly good luck, their survival may be explained by the fact that because tuberculosis was more prevalent during those times, each of these men may have been previously afflicted with this disease. If so, the scarring of lung tissue may have left portions of their lungs poorly vascularized and slow to hemorrhage. While the evidence of blood in the airway strongly indicates that a lung of Lord Kilmaurs was penetrated, it may be that the rate of blood flowing from scarred lung tissues was low enough to allow clotting to take place before His Lordship bled to death.�

Sword-thrusts to the lungs are certainly a serious matter as far as the question of long-term survival is concerned, but it is clear that wounds of this type offer no guarantee that an opponent will immediately be rendered helpless. A thrust or cut to the throat, on the other hand, is a very different matter. As everyone knows, the inadvertent aspiration of even a small amount of fluid into the airway can instantly produce powerful coughing and choking reflexes and acute respiratory distress. Stab wounds or cuts to the neck, which penetrate or transect the trachea or larynx will allow blood to flow directly into the airway, quickly causing incapacitation and death by asphyxiation.�

On May 12, 1627 Bussy D’Amboise, while acting as a second in the duel between Francois de Montmorency and the Marquis De Beuvron, was reported to have received such a wound. Immediately disabled, D’Amboise was said to have “just had time to cross himself and die.” The evidence for the neck as a choice target for quick kill seems compelling, but by no means should it be taken as a guarantee. In the 1609 duel between Sir Hatton Cheek and Sir Thomas Dutton, Cheek plunged a dagger into Dutton’s throat, “close to the windpipe.” With so many vital structures compactly situated in the area, it is hard to imagine how Dutton could have survived. Nevertheless, the blade seems to have narrowly missed the trachea, neatly avoiding the common carotid and vertebral arteries and the internal jugular vein as well. As luck would have it, Dutton survived both the wound and the affair, killing Cheek with a rapier thrust through the body, and a dagger thrust to the back as well.�

The Musculature�
In order to effect locomotion, the human body is invested with an ingeniously designed array of contractile tissues; the voluntary, or skeletal muscles. These muscles are composed of numerous, relatively long muscle fibers gathered together in parallel to form bundles (fasciculi) which, in turn, are bundled together to form individual muscle organs, e.g., the deltoid, biceps or calf muscles with which most of us are familiar. To effect locomotion, muscles must span the joints of bones and attach directly to them at some point by means of masses of strong connective tissues called tendons and aponeuroses16. Upon contraction, the tension between the attached muscle ends pulls one bone toward the other with the joint acting as a pivot or hinge.�

The fibers which compose a muscle are generally aligned in a parallel fashion, much like the hairs in a horse’s tail. Consequently, a penetrating wound delivered by a narrow blade may have little immediate effect upon the functionality of a muscle since all it does is separate slightly the fibers which compose the muscle as a whole. Similarly, a cutting stroke from an edged weapon which results in an incision running parallel to the fibers of a muscle may not necessarily render an adversary immediately helpless. On the other hand, a cut which incises a muscle at right angles to the longitudinal axis of its fibers can be expected to compromise the function of that muscle to a degree commensurate with the severity of the cut. The same may be said for cuts, which sever the tendons. Should a muscle, a group of muscles, or their tendons be severed, voluntary movement of the body part serviced by that muscle or muscle group will be immediately terminated.�

Wounds to Musculature of the Forearm�
Incising wounds, delivered with the cutting edges of a sabre or rapier, which transect tendons or muscle groups servicing the sword arm or hand may be expected to serve as an effective means of immediately terminating an adversary’s ability to pose a menace. In a duel with the fencing master of the Chasseurs de Vintimille, Marshal Ney, the Duke of Elchingen is said to have wounded his adversary in this fashion. Surgical techniques being as crude as they were in those days, the wound left the victim permanently crippled. The dorsal surface of the forearm of a sabreur in the guard of second is particularly exposed. An examination of the anatomy of the forearm, however, suggests that a single cut to this area may not necessarily succeed in severing a sufficient number of the muscles at this site before the bones around which they are so elaborately entwined prevent the blade from transecting the entire muscle mass.�

Cuts transecting the palmar surface of the forearm can sever muscles and tendons required to flex the fingers as they effect a grip on the weapon, and to flex the wrist. An incising wound delivered to this region may incapacitate an adversary more effectively, especially if the cut is placed across the wrist itself because the tendons of so many muscles pass over this site. The palmar surface of the wrist is not well exposed, however, by the sabreur maintaining guards of second, third, or fourth. In rapier play, guards or invitations of second or third suppinate the hand and displace the arm in such a way as to leave the palmar surface of the wrist more vulnerable, but the protection afforded by rapier hilts, whether swept or cup, makes such a cut not so easy a thing to accomplish.�

Wounds inflicted by point thrusts through the muscles of the forearm most certainly do not guarantee the immediate disability of an adversary. In the account given by Deerhurst, one of the two combatants received a rapier thrust which entered the inside of the sword arm and exited at the outside of the elbow.18 This description indicates that the track of the wound, rather than transecting the muscles of the arm, ran a course more or less parallel to them and likely did relatively little damage. In fact, after springing back and dislodging the hostile blade from his arm, the combatant was still able to wield his weapon with dexterity sufficient to enable him to run his adversary through.�

In the duel between the Earl of Dorset and Lord Edward Bruce, Dorset also received a “great” wound to the arm. Nevertheless, subsequent to the injury, Dorset was able to deliver not one, but two thrusts, each of which passed through his adversary’s body. The affair between Sawyer and Wrey, is yet another example. According to this account, Captain Wrey is reported to have received two wounds, one to the left chest and one to the left arm. Because both injuries are located on the same side of the body, it is likely that Wrey was left-handed. If so, it was his sword arm which, though wounded, nevertheless remained serviceable enough to dispatch his antagonist on his third attack.�

Wounds to Musculature of the Leg and Thigh As in the case for the forearm, attempts to immediately incapacitate an adversary by directing thrusts or cuts to leg muscles may not have been particularly effective. In the first place, the leading leg of a swordsman in the guard position faces forward to present a fairly heavy bone, the tibia (shin bone), situated just beneath the skin, on the leg’s anterior and medial surfaces. Unless a stroke is delivered with enough force to part the bone, a cut placed across this region of the leg is not likely to transect a great deal of muscle. Although considerably more muscle lies on the lateral side of the leg, a stroke to this region would have to be delivered across the target from right to left (in the case of two right-hand swordsmen) with the tibia once again affording some measure of protection.�

Regarding the thigh, in the guard position a duelist presents the leading thigh forward in such a way as to expose the femoral muscle group, the quadriceps femoris. This group is composed of four muscles of relatively massive proportions which lie in front and on either side of the thigh bone (femur). All four of these muscles cooperate in extending the leg. The posterior femoral muscles, commonly known as the hamstrings, work together to flex the leg. Because the individual muscles in these groups are massive, and because the individual muscles of each group share common functions, a single cut or thrust to either muscle group may not do enough damage to cripple a leg instantly.�

One example illustrating this point may be found in the sabre duel between St. Aulaire and Pierrebourg in which St. Aulaire, quickly seizing what appeared to be an opportunity, delivered a cut to his adversary’s knee. While the massive tendons of the quadriceps extend over this site, the account makes no mention of Pierrebourg being either seriously wounded or incapacitated. In fact, the stroke proved to be a costly one for St. Aulaire in that, upon delivering the cut, St. Aulaire exposed his upper body. Seeing the opening, Pierrebourg took advantage and gave point to his opponent’s chest. St. Aulaire expired a few minutes later.�

Another example of the damage a leg may sustain without loss of function may be found in the duel in 1712 between the Duke of Hamilton and Lord Mouhn, in which Hamilton had been mortally wounded. After he had expired an examination of the body revealed numerous wounds, including one that penetrated his right leg to a depth of eighteen centimeters as well as another wound on the left. Despite these injuries, the Duke was able to inflict three wounds to his adversary, including one to the groin and another, which penetrated the right side of the body, clear through to the hilt.�

Because exsanguination is the most frequent cause of death in stabbing and incising wounds1, the first installment of this work covered the subject of wounds to the cardiovascular system. Anecdotes of duels fought with rapier, sabre, or smallsword, and forensic literature based upon present-day coroner’s reports of homicides in which knives and other sharp instruments were used convincingly showed that mortal wounds to the major vessels and even to the heart itself do not always lead to instant incapacitation of the victim.�

The veracity of these accounts is supported by a 1961 survey conducted by Spitz, Petty and Russell, which found that of seven victims stabbed in various regions of the heart, none expired immediately. While two were quickly incapacitated, the remaining five were not, and of these one, despite a two-centimeter incision in the left ventricle, walked a full city block, armed himself with a broken beer bottle, and collapsed only after he returned to the scene of the crime to re-engage the individual who had stabbed him.2 This case in particular makes it clear that for the duelist, mortally wounding an adversary, even in the heart, may not necessarily be enough to place him hors de combat. This final installment will address other organ systems of the human body with an aim to further explore the question of instant incapacitation by thrust or cut.�

Wounds to the Skeletal System�
With the exceptions of the enamel and dentin of the teeth, bone composes the hardest structures in the human body. Durable and slightly elastic, it is capable of sustaining considerable force. Although violent strokes delivered by massive weapons such as cavalry sabres can produce forces sufficient to divide bone, cuts or thrusts by the duelist’s rapier, sabre or epee may fail to have any immediate incapacitating effect. In fact, some duelists who delivered cuts or thrusts which met with their antagonist’s bones were sometimes left at a serious disadvantage. A classic example may be found in the duel fought with rapier and dagger between Lagarde and Bazanez in which a stroke was delivered by the former to his adversary’s head. No doubt to Lagarde’s surprise, the stroke proved to be ineffective, as the steel merely bounced off his adversary’s skull, leaving the blade inconveniently bent.�

In the encounter between Baron de Mittaud and Baron de Vitaux, a thrust to the chest by Vitaux also resulted in a disfigured blade. It had been argued that it was a flesh-colored cuirass, concealed beneath the Baron’s shirt, that had caused the steel to bend, but tricks of this sort were not unknown, and in fact, both Vitaux and Mittaud had been properly examined by seconds before the duel began. No doubt for this reason it had also been suggested that it was the impact of the point on one of Mittaud’s ribs that had bent the blade; a suggestion which may lead one to conclude that such occurrences may have been witnessed before or since. In any case, Vitaux was left with nothing to do but hack away at his adversary until, after “four well-applied cuts,” Mittaud finally ran him through.�

Yet another example may be found in the 1777 affair between Captain Stoney and a Reverend Mr. Bate. In this combat a thrust delivered by Bate is said to have struck the captain’s breastbone. The Reverend’s weapon was left so badly bent that his chivalrous opponent felt obliged to pause in order to allow his adversary an opportunity to restore his blade to its proper alignment.�

Wounds to the Peripheral Nervous System�
Because they lie close to and often between the bones, the larger nerves of the peripheral nervous system are generally not well exposed to the blade. As they extend farther away from the central nervous system, both motor and sensory nerves repeatedly subdivide, ultimately forming a complex network of individual fibers.35 By virtue of its wide distribution this network, as a whole, is capable of sustaining a localized cutting or penetrating wound with little effect to the overall motor function of the body in most cases. Severed pain fibers, of course, are still capable of relaying sensory information, which the brain interprets as pain. The deeply distressing sensation of a cut from a sharp kitchen knife is an experience with which nearly everyone is familiar.�

It is not unreasonable, therefore, for one to anticipate that the pain resulting from a sabre or rapier blade drawn across the flesh or passing through the chest, abdomen, or a limb would be severe enough to be immediately disabling. The dueling accounts cited in this essay, however, suggest that even in the case of mortal wounds, pain may not reach levels of magnitude sufficient to incapacitate a determined swordsman. Considering the great emotional stress under which these combats were fought, the adrenaline-mediated “fight or flight” response undoubtedly played a significant role in attenuating the pain of many wounds.�

The stress of modern warfare has also provided numerous present-day examples of similar cases in which combat soldiers who, despite extremely serious and even mortal wounds, were surprisingly unaware of their injuries until the engagement was concluded or they noticed blood. Some of these men were reported capable of amazing physical feats and collapsed only when the sequelae of their injuries made further action physically impossible.�

Wounds to the Central Nervous System�
The central nervous system is well protected by the vertebral column and by the skull. Because of the thinness of bone in the orbits and at the site of the temples however, a point thrust may penetrate these areas with relative ease. Other vulnerable areas of the skull are also found in the frontal, maxillary, and nasal sinuses. The vulnerability of the face was clearly appreciated early in the history of rapier-play.�

In Vincentio Saviolo’s treatise, “His Practice in Two Books,” published in 1595, the master makes it plain that he advocates actions directed to the adversary’s face, especially time thrusts. Also, a generous number of illustrations of various fencing actions, described in the treatises published by Capo Ferro and Alfieri in the first half of the 17th century, depict rapier thrusts entering the forward area of the head. In England, fencing master John Turner was reported to have developed considerable skill in dispatching adversaries with thrusts to the eye. In one case Turner is reported to have delivered a thrust to the eye of a combatant “so far in the brain at the eye that he presently fell down stone dead.”�

That one would instantly fall down “stone dead” as a consequence of a stabbing which penetrates the brain through a breach in the skull may seem an outcome to be reasonably expected. Modern medical case reports, however, show that stab wounds of the skull and brain are, in general, not immediately fatal. In fact, victims have frequently been reported to have walked, and in some cases run away from their attackers. In some instances, victims may not even realize that they have been wounded.�

A report by Adam describes a case very much analogous to a sword thrust penetrating the frontal sinus of the skull. According to the report, the victim sustained a wound from a blade eleven centimeters in length which passed through the frontal bone in the region of the frontal sinus and penetrated deeply into the brain. The patient was found to be conscious and coherent upon admission, and after forty days, recovered completely. In another incident, a young man was accidentally shot through the head with an arrow which penetrated to a depth of twenty to twenty-five centimeters. The patient remained conscious, and while being transported to the hospital, attempted to extricate the projectile himself. The arrow, which entered through the face, was finally withdrawn through the back of his skull.�

Summary and Conclusions�
Early American motion pictures have frequently misrepresented virtually every aspect of authentic swordplay. This seems to have been especially true of the industry’s depiction of the manner in which swordsmen fell before the blades of their opponents. While anecdotes of duels may have been biased by politics or personal vanity, modern forensic medicine provides ample evidence to support historical accounts of gravely wounded duelists continuing in combats for surprising lengths of time, sometimes killing those who had killed them.�

In the first installment of this essay modern forensic evidence indicated that exsanguination is the principal mechanism of death caused by stabbing and incising wounds, but that death by this means is seldom instantaneous; victims frequently capable of continued physical activity, even after being stabbed in the heart. Similarly, victims of sharp force injuries to the lungs are not infrequently able to carry on for protracted periods of time. Wounds, which result in the introduction of blood into the upper airway, on the other hand, are likely to incapacitate and kill an adversary quite rapidly.�

Duels featuring penetrating wounds to the muscles of the sword arm appear in some cases to have left duelists fully capable of manipulating their weapons. Thrusts to the thigh and leg may have been even less efficacious. Strokes with the cutting edges of swords to the limbs may result in more serious wounds to the musculature than the penetrating variety, but historical accounts of duels demonstrate that immediate incapacitation of an adversary stricken with such wounds was by no means guaranteed. Incising wounds, which sever tendons, however, can be expected to immediately incapacitate the muscles from which they arise. Recent medical reports of sharp force injuries to the brain suggest that even a sword-thrust penetrating the skull ought not to have been expected always to disable an opponent instantaneously.�

While severe pain is usually incapacitating, the stress of combat may mask the pain of gravely serious wounds, enabling the determined duelist to remain on the ground for a considerable length of time. The immediate consequences to a duelist of wounds inflicted by thrusts or cuts from the rapier, dueling sabre or smallsword were unpredictable. While historical anecdotes of affairs of honor and twentieth century medical reports show that many stabbing victims collapsed immediately upon being wounded, others did not. While a swordsman certainly gained no advantage for having been wounded, it cannot be said that an unscathed adversary, after having delivered a fatal thrust or cut, had no further concern for his safety. Duelists receiving serious and even mortal wounds were sometimes able to


Buckskinner Notes

We can all take lessons from what was carried in an 1800’s Mountain Mans pack. If they could survive with minimal equipment. There should be no reason why we couldnt do the same, in similar circumstances. The following is from the Buckskinners Notebook. The last time I checked the link and site were no longer available.


When going on treks, be they day long scouts, two day trips, week long or longer treks, there are some items that are essential to ones survival, if not then to ones comfort. These supplies are carried in a Haversack or Knapsack, or are sometimes rolled up in a blanket which is slung over the shoulder by a leather strap.


This is generally a bag with flap made of either light canvas or natural linen with a shoulder strap made of the same material. The flap cover is secured with one to three buttons, (pewter, brass, horn, or antler). These bags will vary in size but the average haversack will measure approximately 15″ X 15″. The Haversack strap is slung over the shoulder and across the chest and the bag hangs at the side about hip high.


The knapsack is constructed similar to the Haversack with the exception of it having two adjustable straps (generally made of leather) and is worn high on the back like a modern day-pack. There is a tie strap which when secured to the leather straps across the chest prevents the shoulder straps from slipping off the shoulders. From the bottom of the shoulder straps a blanket roll can be attached to hang below the Knapsack.

NOTE: Use of either the Haversack or Knapsack is historically correct. My personal use of them depends on the duration of the trek. For short treks where less gear is required the Haversack does well and may be used to carry little more then some food for the day. For long treks I prefer to use the Knapsack which carries more items much more comfortably.


In the following list are items that I carry on long treks. These items can be varied depending on the duration of the trek and when they are all carried are for living very high on the hog.

1. A small forged iron Fry Pan with a folding socketed handle. (The socketed handle allows the addition of a longer green branch to be added to extend the handle).

2. A Copper Corn Boiler with lid. (A tin boiler can also be used in place of the Copper Corn Boiler).

3. A Wooden Spoon.

4. A Sewing Kit containing the following:

(A). A wooden or antler needle case with sewing needles.�
(B). A small pair of iron scissors.�
(C). A bone bobbin of linen thread.�
(D). A leather awl.�
(E). A hunk of bees wax�
(F). A small bundle of leather scraps and thongs and a small roll of linen material.

5. A cloth bag Toilet Kit containing the following:

(A). A bar of Castel Soap carried in a greased leather bag (this soap will lather in hot, warm or cold water and can even be used with salt water and was a favorite of early explorers and sailors).�
(B). A Bone handle, bore hair tooth brush.�
(C). A Horn Comb.

6. A cloth or leather bag Fire Kit containing the following:

(A). A fire steel.�
(B). Flint shards�
(C). A small tin container of char cloth�
(D). A charring Tin (for making char over a fire) containing scraps of linen or wood punk.�
(E). A couple bees wax candle stubs�
(F). A huck of tow�
(G). A piece of pitch pine

7. A Salt Horn and Horn or Tin Container of Cyan Pepper.

8. Assorted Food Sacks

NOTE: All these items fit nicely into a Haversack or Knapsack and the total weight will average around 6 to 8 pounds. Packing in a Haversack or Knapsack of this size forces you to pack lightly.


The following list of food is historically correct and can be varied per trek length and personal taste. Although the list is relatively small it offers a surprising verity of fair. When supplemented with wild game, fowl, and fish it can not only keep you going but can provide an excellent and tasty diet.

1. A cloth or leather sack of Stone Ground Corn Meal Flour (generally carried in the fry pan with the handle folded over it).

2. A sack of Unsweetened Hunks of Chocolate and a Sugar Cone (Sugar Cones are made from the left over or junk sugar remaining after the processing of sugar. It is like brown sugar with a slight taste of molasses) This sack is carried inside my Corn Boiler.

3. A small sack of Ground Coffee (also carried inside the Corn Boiler). Loose leaf tea can be carried in place of the coffee or in addition to it. Roasted Coffee Beans may be carried but must be pounded or ground before use.

4. A sack of dry Split Peas.

5. A sack of Flour Mix ( I make this using brown flour, cornmeal, and brown sugar – see Stick Bread in the recipe list below)

6. A sack of Dry Corn (whole kernels)

7. A sack of Parched Corn (see recipe section below)

8. A cloth sack of Jerk (Jerky was simply called Jerk in the 18th century. If carried in a cloth sack where air can get at it, Jerk will last indefinitely)

9. A greased sack of Smoked Salt Slab Bacon (This type of bacon does not require refrigeration).

10. A sack of Stone Ground Oatmeal (Scottish Oatmeal).


A good wool blanket is a must. This is your bed and provides warmth on the cold nights. It can be used to wrap around your shoulders to keep the chill off in the evenings or when the weather turns unexpectedly cold and can be used to carry supplies when needed. Wool, even when wet, will help keep you insulated from the cold.

Choose a Whitney or Hudson Bay blanket if possible. These blankets have been around for a long time, are historically correct and were a standard trade items. They are made of thick 100% virgin wool and are well worth the price.

My favorite size is the 4 point blanket which is 72″ X 90″. I find this just the right size for making a primitive sleeping bag. After folding it in half the long way I fold up about 18″ of one end and secure it with two blanket pins. One along the side through all four layers and one in the middle through the first three layers. This provides my feet with three layers of blanket on top and one layer underneath.

In my blanket I roll up an extra pair of moccasins and a canvas bag stuffed with dry tinder and some bees wax candle stubs. This bag makes a great pillow at night and when protected on stormy nights assures me of having some dry tender to get my morning fire started with.

When rolled tightly and tied with leather thongs the blanket can be carried with a shoulder strap or attached to the bottom straps of my knapsack. On short treks or in emergences I can roll up my supples and gear inside the blanket for transport.

When not carrying an oil cloth (ground cloth) I use a small piece of canvas wrapped over the blanket roll to help keep it dry in the event of rain.


There are times when the whether and mother nature make the use of an oil cloth almost a necessity. An oil cloth can serve as a ground cloth insulating you from the cold or snow covered ground. It will help keep your blanket dry and can be used as a shelter. Its one draw back is its added weight as it can almost double the weight of your blanket roll.

While easy to make it takes about two weeks or more to finish. It can be made of light weight canvas or better still out of natural linen material which is a bit lighter in weight.

To make an oil cloth start with a piece of material 3 feet wide by 9 feet long (1 yard x 3 yards). Pre-shrink the material by washing it in hot water. You can pre dye the material with black walnut dye or you can add pigment during the waterproofing process. It is a good idea to hem the raw edges of the material to prevent them from unraveling.

Hang the material loosely on the north or shady side of a shed, cabin, or other structure. Use linen thread to string the material to nails. The thread placed through the material with a sewing needle will separate the fibers rather then produce holes. Apply Boiled Linseed Oil with a paint brush allowing it to penetrate the cloth. If you did not dye the material beforehand you can add pigment to the linseed such as red iron oxide (which produces a brown color) or yellow iron oxide (which produces a yellow color). Add the iron oxide to the Linseed and stir well. Add enough to make it the consistency of paint. It should stay on the brush without running off. Carefully work the Linseed into the fabric with the brush.

Once the entire surface is painted leave the material to hang for a week to 10 days. This will assure that the linseed oil is dry and properly cured. Don’t try to hurry this process. When the linseed is dry turn the material over and apply another coat to the back of the material. Leave the cloth hanging to dry for another week to 10 days.

Once the linseed is completely dry and cured rub the material lightly with a smooth round stone (being careful not to tear or rip the material). This last process will help soften the fabric which will be stiff from the linseed oil. The treads used to hang the material to the wall will seal the spots where it was pushed through the material and the excess thread can be cut off.


Corn, corn, and more corn. Corn was the staple diet of the longhunter, backwoodsman, early colonist and Indians alike. Woodland Indians could travel for days on no more then a handful of parched corn a day.

The standard corn ration was a handful a day given to hunters of organized hunting parties, militia groups and some military groups and one pound ( 1 lb) of corn was considered a months ration per man.

True, these hunters supplemented their meager supplies with game meat from the hunt but when traveling in hostel territory where hunting was often out of the question they survived primarily on the supplies carried with them.

Here are some simple and tested recipes for the trail along with preparation tips.

1. Johnny Cakes (Also called Hoe Cakes and Ash Cakes depending on how they are cooked. Hoe cakes where often prepared by slaves in the fields and were cooked on the flat of a hoe. Ash Cakes as the name implies were cooked in the hot ashes of a camp fire (the ashes brushed off before eating).

Open your corn meal bag and form a little divot in the corn meal (corn flour, or wheat flour) and add a small amount of water. Mix with you fingers until you have a dough (add more corn meal or water as needed) that can be formed into a round flat cake.

This cake can be cooked in a frypan, on a hot flat rock, or in the hot ashes of a fire. My favorite method is to first fry up a few pieces of bacon, remove the bacon from the skillet and set aside on a piece of bark and cook the cake (or cakes) in the bacon grease until the cakes are lightly browned.

2. Stick Bread

This is made from a Flour Mixture I prepare in advance of a trek. The mixture consists of 2 cups brown (wheat) flour, 1 cup of cornmeal (or corn flour) and 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Note: The brown sugar must be left out in a bowl to dry first and then sifted into the flour before mixing.

As in the Johnny Cake above, open your sack, make a small divot in the flour mixture, add a small amount of water and form a dough with your fingers. Because of the natural glutamates in the flour this will form a better and more elastic dough then if made with just cornmeal.

Wrap the dough around the end of a green willow stick and hold or support the stick over the coals until golden brown. Eaten with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate this is a rewarding treat.

Note: On a trek once, we were in a dry camp having only a canteen of water each to get us through the night. One of members of our small party had a small bottle of homemade apricot wine (almost a brandy) and we used this to make our stick bread dough with. The result was a very tasty treat that was enjoyed by all on that cold wet night.

3. Hot Chocolate

Add a few chucks of unsweetened chocolate with equal amounts of sugar carved or hacked from your sugar cone to some water and heat over the coals stirring until the chocolate has melted. While not as rich and thick as homemade hot chocolate it still produces a good hot beverage.

For a thicker hot drink add some cornmeal to your hot chocolate after it is made. Stir in the cornmeal while reheating the chocolate. The will be especially enjoyed on those cold damp nights.

4. Corn and Jerk Soup

Add a handful of dry corn and some pieces of Jerk to water and boil over the coals. Add salt and cyan pepper to taste. The dry corn will reconstitute itself and this makes a tasty soup.

5. Cornmeal Mush

Cornmeal mush can be prepared in several ways to provide some variety to the diet.


Mix cornmeal with water in your fry pan and heat over the coals stirring until it becomes thick (add more cornmeal or water as needed). Add salt and cyan pepper to taste.


Fry up some bacon , set it aside, and to the bacon grease stir in some cornmeal and then some water. Heat until thick stirring occasionally. You can crumble up the bacon and add to the cornmeal mush or eat it separately. The cornmeal mush will be flavored by the bacon grease. Add cyan peeper and salt (if needed) to taste.


Make your cornmeal mush using some of your hot chocolate drink in place of water to give it a chocolate taste.

6.Split Pea Soup

Place a handful of dry split peas into your boiler and add water. Boil over the coals of you fire stirring frequently until the peas are soft, add some pieces jerk or cut up bacon and continue to cook. Spice with salt and cyan pepper to taste. Depending on the amount of peas used and how well the peas are cooked they can be mashed up with your spoon and can be almost the consistency of porridge.

7. Hot Oatmeal

Easy to prepare and makes a great breakfast. A cup of hot oatmeal will stick to the ribs and is a great way to start a new day of trekking.

Add a handful of oatmeal to your boiler. Add water and bring to a boil stirring constantly. You can make your oatmeal as thick or thin as you choose by adding more oatmeal or water while cooking. Stir in some sugar while hot. Lacking milk or cream on treks I like to make my oatmeal a little on the soupy side.

8. Parched Corn

To make Parched Corn you will need corn which has been dried on the cob. Dry corn was produced by opening the husks (but not removing them) and hanging the corn in the rafters of the cabin to dry.

Prior to leaving for a trek remove some dry corn from the cobs and place in bowl. There are two methods of making parched corn. The first method is to place no more then a hand full at a time into a hot dry skillet. Stir constantly until the corn pops and becomes a light brown in color. Remove from the pan, separate from any burnt kernels and lightly salt. The trick here is to parch the corn and not let it burn.

The second method is to fry some bacon and while the bacon is frying add a hand full of dry corn stirring constantly as it browns and pops in the bacon grease.

Place the parched corn in a bag for travel. Parched Corn can be used as a trail snack or as a quick meal along with some Jerk. It can be ground to a powder, mixed with water to form a paste and eaten as is until camp is made. The ground parched corn can be used like cornmeal though it has a much smoother consistency

NOTE: If the Parched Corn is to be ground the dry parch method works best. One of the best types of corn to use for this is called Hickory King. This is an Heirloom corn that has been around for over two centuries and it produces large flat white kernels.


In addition to adding game to your diet in season the woodsman is always on the lookout for edible plants. One of my favorites is wild onions. When I find them I pick enough for more then one meal. Carried in a cloth sack they will keep for awhile and even dried they are usable.

There are other items which can be found or carried on your treks. Dried fruit is always a welcome treat as is fresh berries found in the late summer. Berries can be added to most anything you prepare.

Keep in mind that the foods you carry should be those that our forefathers had at hand and that whatever you take will add weight to your Haversack or Knapsack and must be carried on your person unless you are making a canoe or horseback trek. Select your supplies carefully and take only what you will need and be creative with what you have.