Modern COMBAT swords - who, where, what and, how much?

Oct 14, 1998
I have been thinking for swords recently. As I searched various 'net outlets I saw general trends in the things offered but, since I lack any practical experience in such things I am not able to distinguish what is fact from fiction.

What is a modern combat sword? How do you define it? What are you looking for? I am not a Japanese warrior so, wonder if that is the correct blade for me. I don't ride horses much so, calvery sabre's appear to be out. I am not built like Conan the Barbarian so, a heavy sword would not work for me.

When you look at value, what are looking for? Cheaper imports are definitely affordable but, after you break a couple they really aren't cheap. The other end of the scale just is out of reach for most people so, that multi-thousand dollar Japanese piece may be the best but, very few people are going to buy it and fewer will actually use it.

The general trends I have seen indicate a price range of ~$300 to ~$1,000 for most high quality swords and most of them seem to be in the Japanese patterns. Steels seem to be the 10XX series or 5160. Certain stainless steels seem to be gaining favor when treated properly. Carry methods and sheaths? You got me here - what do you recommend?

Thanks in advance,
Let me just say, I've been exposed to various antique swords. I will always want one over a modern sword.

Blackwind/Ontario has a line of swords with kydex sheaths.

Newt Livesay makes a two handed swords, I believe Steve Harvey has one.

MD Enterprises has the Saxon primarily.

Kris Cutlery makes swords good for practice and capable of harsher events. The scar on my hand is from one of their pieces. also sports a line of swords.

A good rule of thumb is to take a sword in your dominant hand and let it hang on your side tip down. If the tip just barely clears the ground, then that is your optimum length.

Also consider your preference of 1 or 2 hands. Some like both.
I just ordered one from
he has a very good rep. on the swordforums.
His prices are not bad at all. I personally don't know how good his stuff is but he sure get of raves on the other forums.

-Greg Johnson

I don't know anything about them, Sid, but Rob Simonich has a nice looking short sword on his web site. Click on the "available" link.

Rob Simonich is in the process of making me this out of A-2; 18" blade, 24" OAL
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Check out the sites below. These folks have done a decent amount of research on swords. is the Highlander Sword Shoppers Guide main page Here they have an interesting article on the swords of today and how they compare to yesterday's. There are also links here on a few other informative sites.

On this page: They have reviews on a few places that sell swords and have some bios on some sword makers.
Be sure to check out the Traditional Japanese Swords vs. American Implementations section on this page.

PS - I love that sword in the pic! It fits in perfectly with the style of martial arts (Kali/Silat) I'm getting into!


[This message has been edited by Portert (edited 19 April 1999).]
Have you seen Rob Criswell swords? i see him all the time at gun shows here i handlded his work and it is very good..Brad
His site is

One of the choices is work from Howard Clark or Randal Graham.

Their L6 katana with banite body and martensite edge can be real tough and hold a great edge!

Hollow grind and flat grind can't take the punish of heavy combat situation. Go for a convex grind like the traditional Katana.

As a student of iaido, I own a Howard's Kat in 1086 and it's real good.....but his new L6 has pushed the limit of well controlled heat-treatment to a new level.

A shorter sword, with <24 inches and straighter blade will be more effective for your purpose..... that is.... a wakishashi

Joe Leung

Don't forget the American Kensai from Busse Combat. This looks like one serious piece of steel! And if it's half as tough as his knives... well, you know. Really like the looks of the Simonich piece as well.
Can anyone tell me more about the Busse Kensia. Is it utility or defense? What are its dimensions, its price? Do they still make it even. I/ve never heard it mentioned before?

thanks in advance and take care

Did you see my review of the Black Cloud Knives new generation Short Sword I and the Rob Criswell Wakizashi over on review forum?

The Criswell is a great value for the price, but not being a Japanese swordsperson, I am really not sure how good a Wakizashi it is. The workmanship is superb for the price.

I am an Eskrima student, and for the Serrada fighting style that I am learning, the NG SS1 is simply extraordinary. It is fast, light, sharp, and beautiful. It comes with a decent kydex sheath with adequate attachment points for a Bladerigger sword sling, which basicly attaches to the scabbard and rides on one shoulder with your head and one arm through the loop. It works really well.

I am having Ernie at Black Cloud make me another sword, a Short Short Sword, and then I think I will save for a working katana from Howard Clark.

Sid, I've got to back Steve up on Black Cloud Knives' "Short Sword". My reasoning was I wanted 1) a strong, long utility blade, and 2) a very viable 2-hand combat blade. Ernie's Short Sword really fit my bill. I spent some time down in Eduador, and the standard Mil Machete did okay, but not in the thicker/hardwood jungles. I even broke one machete! I haven't yet, but I'll be getting one of Bladerigger's Sword Slings (from Tactical Options) for carry.

When I think of combat blade, it's easy to see a katana-style blade; for me, that's too much of a single-purpose blade. You first have to define what you want in a long/combat blade; what's its primary and/or secondary purpose? Do you plan on practicing via a MA-style? Mine doesn't work as good as a machete on soft-material, nor does it excell as a true combat blade; but it does fit my needs perfectly.

Hope it helps,

Thanks everyone. Hopefully, this weekend I will get a chance to spend some time online looking at swords. I guess my basic problem at the moment is a lack of education and knowledge about these things.

I know I do not have enough free time to practice a formal martial art with any hopes of success. I also lack the sheer strength to use a heavy sword properly but, to my surprise, the models I have looked at all run around 2.5 pounds. The prices for some of what appear to good quality working swords has surprised me.

How do I contact Howard Clark or Randal Graham? Do they have websites? A phone number would be most helpful as email has been a thorn in my side the past couple of weeks.

Steve, great review. Thanks!

Thanks everyone!
Sorry to keep plugging discontinued products, but:

I don't think you can talk about combat swords without mentioning Blackjack's Vorpal Sword. It was designed by Tom Maringer in a loosely Chinese broadsword-like shape, but small and light and wickedly fast. Blade was about 18" of convex-ground, cryo-treated 0170-6. I was just talking with a friend who sold knives for several years about these things. We both had the same feeling: no matter how many guns or knives you may handle, you can't hold the Vorpal without being a little scared. If you've ever seen the edge Blackjack knives used to come from the factory with, imagine it on a foot and a half of steel and you'll understand.

I made one "combat sword" myself, though I designed it as a "combat machete." My philosophy was to make something that would perform as a large (albeit slightly heavy) machete but stronger and with a better edge, yet give the user an enormous advantage over a combat knife in a melee encounter. Machete first, sword second, because a soldier isn't going to carry a sword just for that once-in-a-blue-moon encounter, but if he has one already, against a knife he has a huge advantage.

What I ended up with was like a cross between a large bowie and a kukkri. It had a 14" blade with a slight recurve and a straight 10" clip that could be sharpened (though for its utility use I don't think that's a good idea). The handle had an integral single guard and an oversized pinky-hook, both drilled so that a lanyard run between them could serve as a knuckle-guard in heavy foliage.

This sword was fully flat-ground of 3/16" ATS-34, which I'm sure seems light to many folks. I believe most modern knives are in stock that's too thick and have grinds that are too short for a combination of realistic strength and best geometry. I cut down several saplings with this sword, hacked my way through a hardwood 4"x4," cut heavy cardboard tubing, and generally abused it as best I could; I believe it was plenty strong enough that I'd break before it did. I also cut through stacks of 6 pennies with it using only mild swings; I'm sure it could have done ten if I could hit a penny while swinging full-force.

Sorry to ramble, but it was an interesting experience and the biggest piece I ever made. My point is that I feel a combat sword should have functional use first as a heavy machete or similar large knife, and only a secondary weapon use. If you ever face a combatant he will not have a sword - he will either have a gun, in which case you're in trouble, or a knife. A combat sword, even a small, utilitarian one, holds all the aces in the latter situation.


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
I am working on a test sword out of CPM3V.
And with the tests I have done on smaller pieces it should be outstanding.
If you are looking for a custom in the $400-$500 range I can do it.
Mr. Schott,

I must say that the thought of CPM 3V in a good using sword has more interest up. Expect a call from me soon.


The combat sword you designed sounds remarkably similar to a traditional Nepalese khukuri design called a Sirupati. You can see a picture of one at the Himalayan Imports site at . This is not a bad choice for someone looking for a sword-like implement that also has utility uses.