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The New Hossom Black Espada in CPM-3V

Oct 19, 1999
Greetings All!

I just put Jerry Hossom's- http://www.hossom.com - first Black Espada back in the mail to him after testing it intensely over the last two weeks. This Espada is the first example of CPM-3V being used in a sword-length blade that I know of, so I thought that you all might be as interested to learn how it performs as I was.

As some of you may recall, I tested Jerry's original prototype Millennium Espada, made from 1/4" A-2 stock. Those tests led me to believe that future Espadas could safely be made of thinner stock, thereby achieving several things:

1. Further decreasing weight. Lighter is faster and easier to wield.

2. Increasing the blade's flexibility. A sword blade's flexibility determines its ability to absorb shock and its feel. A more flexible sword(within reason) is more 'alive' in the hand.

3. Further increasing the blade's cutting ability against wide, hard materials such as plywood sheets(which represent shields and heavy body armor).

Here is Jerry's answer to my recommendations- the Black Espada in CPM-3V:


Stunning isn't it?! The design is at once modern and yet classically beautiful, and very evocative.

But why CPM-3V, which is an extremely expensive high-speed steel that is notoriously hard to work with? Precisely because the very characteristics which make 3-V so difficult to work- its toughness and wear resistence- make it(on paper at least) an ideal steel for combat-worthy sword applications where the blade simply must be able to withstand incidental impact against another blade, varying forms of armor, buckles, shields, and so on. But, good on paper doesn't cut it, so Jerry built it and sent it to me to test.

First, The Specs:

Steel- CPM-3V stock, 0.170" thick(slightly less than 3/16"), heat treated by the incomparable Paul Bos to a uniform Rc of 59. Cryogenically stress-relieved to minus 300 deg.

OAL- 29".

Weight- only 23oz.! That's less than a pound and a half.

Blade Length- 22 3/4". The first 4" forward of the guard are a reinforced, unsharpened forte area used to block and potentially break an opponent's blade, then 18 3/4" of shaving sharp edge.

Point of Balance- 4" forward of the guard. This is ideal for a one-handed sword of this OAL.

Centers of Percussion(sweet spots)- Two, one 10" back from the tip; the second at the handle.

Flex- The blade flexes reproducibly to 80 deg and snaps back to true.

Handle- Jerry's signature ergonomic handle with bird's beak pommel, palm swell, and full lower guard that protects the fingers from an opponent's blade sliding down the edge onto them. Black micarta scales and stainless steel bolsters. The pins are hollow stainless.

Edge- The edge of the swedge and of the primary edge for the first 8" back from the tip is parabolic in shape, with the curve extending about 0.150"-0.170" back from the edge. These areas are sharpened shaving sharp. The rest of the primary edge continuing back to the forte is a more acute parabola and sharpened further to hair-popping sharpness. The blade thickness behind the parabolic edge(in the hollow grind) throughout the entire blade is about 0.060".

Jerry tells me that he created this variable edge to 1. Further strengthen the tip and the edges where statistically the greatest percentage of impacts occur- namely near the tip; and 2. to determine which edge type(if any) performs better.

Fit and Finish:

The Black Espada(Blk E), with its classic profile, sharpened swedge, and curved guard and pommel is beautiful. The blade is polished to a satiny glow. The grind lines are symetrical. It is a work of art and clearly up to Jerry's usual standard.

Feel and Maneuverability:

I think that the most remarkable aspect of the Blk E is its feel. It is so light and agile in the hand, that with my eyes closed I would swear that I was wielding one of my medium weight Eskrima sticks or a good bowie rather than a two and a half foot long sword. Flows and changes of direction are effortless.

I have a hanging target made from a practice golf ball hung from the ceiling by a springy wire. It hops and bounces erratically, making it quite a challenge to hit continuously with a knife, much less a sword. With the Blk E, I can attack the ball as well as with my favorite bowie. This sword is so fast in the hand that it makes my A-2 Espada feel mediocre by comparison, and leaves every other one-hander that I own in the dust.

Impact Resistence:

As I've stated before, a combat worthy sword must be able to withstand incidental blade on blade, as well as blade on shield and blade on armor contact without shattering, permanently bending, or destroying its edge.

To test the Blk E's ability to withstand impact, I repeatedly slapped the flat of the blade hard against the edge of my oak desk. No problem. The blade has a terrific tight springiness to it that really absorbs shock into the hand.

Next, I hung up my De Cuerda and attacked it with gusto. I slashed, backcut, blocked and parried with abandon, using the flat as well as both edges and the spine of the blade. The Blk E sent large chunks and shavings of rattan flying with both its primary and secondary edges. Plus, I discovered that I could fight the De Cuerda as easily with this sword as I can with my 12" Millennium Bowie- its that responsive. Afterwards, the blade was pristine- no bends, rolled edges, chips, scratches, nada.

Finally, I once again recruited the help of my neighbor for some parrying practice. I secured the steel blade from one of my training swords to the end of a pole and had him attack me at will- full speed, full power- with thrusts and slashes. I performed proper sliding parries with the flat of the blade, as well blocking with the flat, the spine, and the forte. The Blk E again performed beautifully- the blade flexed just enough to absorb the shock of impact, without feeling at all wobbly. The handle felt completely secure in my hand throughtout. Afterwards, examination of the Blk E's blade once again revealed not a scratch, ding, or chip.


As usual, I hung a cardboard sheet with Sharpie dots on it, set it swinging and thrust at it with the Blk E. I was easily able to hit the dots or within a quarter inch at will. I also drew some lines in from the edges of the cardboard and could hit them with slashes of either the primary edge or the swedge within a fraction of an inch. Outstanding.

Other hanging target tests like that of the practice golf ball described above also revealed terrific accuracy.

Cutting Ability:

Sword makers and afficionados alike have developed many tests to determine the cutting ability of their swords. I repeatedly performed every one that I could think of with the Blk E. When I sat down to write this review, however, I realized that to report each and every result here would take up way too much space, so instead I will give you the most important or interesting highlights. The bottom line, however, is that the Blk E cut as well or better than the original A-2 prototype in every single test.

Here are the pertinent results:

Floating sheets of paper- cut neatly in two.

Thrown pizza boxes- cut cleanly in two.

Sheets of 1/4" cardboard layered to create a sheet 1 1/2" thick- with the primary edge, I can consistently slash a straight cut 2 feet long in from the edge at any angle. With the 4" sharpened swedge, I can consistently backcut 12" in from the edge.

6" diameter cardboard carpet tubes- cut neatly in half with no tearing.

8" dia. bundles of reeds- transected cleanly with no tearing.

3" dia. dry bamboo- cut cleanly in two with no tearing or turning up or down into the cut.

1" thick manau rattan pole- 8 out of 10 cuts cleanly transected the rattan, 2 showed slight tearing where the blade exited the rattan.

1" by 2" rock maple stock- clamped 24" long sections into my vice and slashed at them the wide way. 7 of 10 cuts transected the stock cleanly, 3 showed some tearing where the blade exited the wood.

1/2" thick exterior grade plywood sheet- consistently cut in 6-8" from the edge(more than double what the thicker spined A-2 E could do). Thrusts penetrated completely through the plywood.

Water-filled 2.84 liter plastic 'Tropicana' O.J. containers- Stood three up side-by-side the wide way and cut them all cleanly in two.

4 gal. heavy plastic buckets filled with water- The above 'Tropicana' test was so easy that I decided to see if the Blk E could cut one of these. I had four buckets- two I cut horizontally across the middle, two diagonally through the lid, the extruded ridges area below the lid, and on out. The two buckets that I slashed horizontally, I cut cleanly in two. The first of the two buckets that I slashed at diagonally I completely transected. The second one I didn't quite make it all the way through- the top section was left attached to the lower half by a 2" wide strip.

After all of the above tests and several more, the E's blade remained in perfect condition- no rolled edges, chips, dings, damaged tip, or scratches.

Finally, the piece du resistance, the meat cutting test- In nearly two weeks of trying, my butcher could not find me a big enough shank of beef on the bone to test, so instead he found me an enormous pair of pork shoulders. Each was 14" long by 12" wide by 9" thick and covered in rind. At its thin end, the bone was 2 1/2" in dia., while at the thick end it was 3 1/4" in dia. The rim of cortex around the bone was over 1/4" thick.

I hung one of these puppies above the joint and took an exploratory #3 angle horizontal slash through the lower third. Plop! I cut it completely in two- through 12" of rind, flesh and bone. The 2 3/4" dia. bone itself was cut cleanly- no shattering of the cortex.

The blade edge remained pristine.

Next, I took a #1 forehand diagonal slash through the thickest part of the shoulder, just below the joint. The Blk E cut through 7" of rind and muscle, cleanly through the 3 1/2" of bone on the diagonal, and almost all the way out the other side- the piece was left hanging by a 1" wide strip of rind. Awesome!

Examination of the primary edge by feel and then under bright light revealed a tiny roll- approx. 1/16" long- at 9 1/2" back from the tip- so in the more finely profiled and sharpened section of edge.

Next, I hung up the biggest remaining piece and slashed at it with a #4 backhand horizontal cut- again the E cut it completely in two.

Next, I hung up the other shoulder and threw a series of fast backcuts at it with the swedge- using flicks of my wrist. The backcuts easily cut through the rind and muscle- in ~6"- and consistently about 1 1/2" or so into the bone. Some of the cuts into the bone were perfectly clean, others showed some fracturing of the cortical rim. Afterwards, examination of the swedge revealed no damage to its edge.

Finally, in order to test the strength of the tip and distal edge, which Jerry made stronger, I threw a series of rapid full power thrusts and slashes with the very tip of the blade. I hit(and cut into) the bone several times. Afterwards, the tip and distal edge were perfect upon inspection.

So, there you have it.

Overall Impressions:

For me, the most fascinating aspect of Jerry's new Black Espada is its incredible feel and maneuverability. Sure, it cut like a demon, but having previously tested the A-2 Espada, as well as CPM-3V fighters and bowies, I fully expected that it would cut well. In fact, with its thinner blade- assuming that I could generate enough momentum with a sword this light- I anticipated that the Blk E would cut better than the A-2 prototype. And it did.

That said, the real questions in my mind were 1. how well would the thinner 3V blade handle impact; 2. how well would it absorb shock, thus saving the sword arm; and 3. how would such a light sword feel in the hand? Would it feel alive or too floppy? It would be wicked fast, but would it generate enough momentum to flow well and cut well through dense targets? Remember that, traditionally, forged one-handed swords of this OAL weigh in at 2 to 2 1/2 Lbs, so the Black Espada really pushs the envelope.

Well, now I, and you all, know.

The CPM-3V handled everything that I could throw at it, never breaking, chipping, or deforming under impact, and sustaining only one tiny roll in the thinner, ultra-sharpened section of edge, even after all of that cutting. Sharpening the entire edge of future swords as Jerry did the first 8" of this one will clearly address this issue.

The lighter, thinner, more flexible Blk E absorbed shock significantly better than the thicker A-2 prototype without feeling the slightest bit wobbly or suffering in cutting performance. In fact, the feel is golden- beyond all my expectations. This sword moves like thought- absolutely effortlessly.

Normally, good swordsmanship takes practice. Just picking up a live sword for the first time and starting to swing it around is a pretty good way to hack off a piece of your anatomy. But this new Black Espada is so wonderfully light and agile, so well balanced, that I believe anyone with the slightest knife or stick experience at all could pick it up and wield it very effectively in minutes.

That's it. Bravo Jerry! You've redefined the genre.



Tuvo muy mala suerte...se callo en mi cuchillo.

[This message has been edited by Gaucho (edited 10-05-2000).]
Gotta love Mario's reviews...
Almost as good as getting one

Thanx for the great job!
Ebbtide out.
PS: I bet it was hard to send back!

Greetings! I'm glad you liked the review. And yeah, it was extremely hard to send it back. And after I did, I decided that I just couldn't live without a Blk E of my very own...So I ordered one

Mine is going to have gorgeous exotic handle scales(material as yet undecided) and fancy mosaic pins.

What the hell, what else is life about if not to treat yourself once in a while?



Tuvo muy mala suerte...se callo en mi cuchillo.

AWESOME REVIEW!!!!!! I was waiting to hear this one. I have done some Eskrima work and love swinging them sticks!! Because of that, I developed a liking for short swords. This blade is amazing to look at. And by your testimonial, amazing to weild. Also, we have further info about 3V. thanks Gaucho. Must have been hard WORK to test Jerry's blade. If you ever get tired of all that WORK, I'd be glad to help you out

"Come What May..."
EXCELLENT review, Mario! I enjoy reading every one of your reviews, but this one is just awesome. I have been looking for it since Sep. 11, after talking with Jerry at the SECK Show. He mentioned then that he had just sent a blade in 3V to you to review.

I was simply AMAZED when I picked up a couple of his bowie-sized knives. The weight was unbelievably light. I see he works that same magic with his swords.


Great review. Almost like being there. I can't wait to order a couple of knives from Mr. Hossum. The problem I have is in deciding on which ones.
gee whiz...no body is going to read ANYTHING that long.....and how come the knife is kinda yellow up by the front?
Nice Job, Guacho. I agree Jerry's pushing the envelop - successfully -- with some his MBC stuff.

I think you should test one of Tom's TNT next. But keep it short so Tom will read it.


AKTI #A000356
Good morning, Guys!

Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad that all my hard work
hasn't been for naught.

I enjoyed myself thoroughly testing this sword. When I took it out of its packing case and swung it for the first time, it gave me the same feeling of, "No way! Not possible!" otherworldliness that I had the first time I held one of Jerry's Millennium Bowies. Being so used to much heavier swords, my only fear was that it would actually prove to be too light to cut really well. But, fortunately it cut like a laser. I wish that you guys had been around for the fun

Oh, BTW, for those of you that like to practice cutting but can't quite bring yourselves to waste meat, cutting those big 4 gal. plastic buckets filled with water horizontally is as close to cutting a shank of meat on the bone as anything I've ever tried- even better than cutting rolled tatami mats.



Tuvo muy mala suerte...se callo en mi cuchillo.

[This message has been edited by Gaucho (edited 10-06-2000).]
Thanks for the excellent review. I have a Knife on order from Jerry for about a month now but have made no final decision. The 23.5" blade lenght is too lonf for me. Something in the 7-9" range but with the swedge sharpened as on the Espada. We will see what Jerry comes up with!

Nice to meet you

Take a look at this-


This is my personal small fighter- the Millennium Black Challenger- made by Jerry. 0.170" CPM-3V stock, 11" OAL, weight 9 oz, 6.25" primary edge, sharpened swedge, balance point right at the guard, concealment style handle with stabilized maple burl scales. I have both an appendix carry and a shoulder rig concealex/leather sheath for it made for me by Matt Draper- our very own Waxes Eloquent. Both are whisper quiet and wicked comfortable to wear.

This bad boy moves and cuts with both edges like you wouldn't believe. The handle just melts in your hand. I cut one of the above pork shoulders with it and it consistently cut through rind and 7" of muscle on the diagonal and a full 2" into the bone- cleanly with no shattering. And that's a hog bone mind you, not a much lighter lamb bone. Backcuts likewise cut all the way in through the rind and muscle and 1" into the bone.

I hope that this helps in your decision.



Tuvo muy mala suerte...se callo en mi cuchillo.

[This message has been edited by Gaucho (edited 10-06-2000).]
Great review Mar, I hope you didnt get any tears on that blade as you were packing it up to send back..HA!!
Jerry in a word....WOW!... That is one SWEET looking peice.

Take Care
Trace Rinaldi
Very impressive! It seems I just gotta have a 3V knife at one point.

What really got my attention in this review is the cut through a 3" bamboo. That's quite a feat! Could you please give us some more details as how you supported the bamboo and at which angel you cut it?


Nice to meet you

I have a stand that I made to hold rolled tatami, reeds, and so on. The stand has a 12" post that sticks up upon which I impale the target material. The bamboo I just slip over this post. I cut it with forehand and backhand diagonal slashes.

To tell you the truth, bamboo is not nearly as hard to cut cleanly as solid rattan or maple stock.

Take Care,



Tuvo muy mala suerte...se callo en mi cuchillo.


Yes, returning the Blk E provoked quite a personal crisis. First there were the tears, of course. Then the disbelief, the anger, the feelings of worthlessness. I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, couldn't get myself out of bed. I was looking at electroconvulsive therapy and a prolonged psychiatric hospitalization until my wife finally agreed that the only way back for me was to order a Blk E of my own. Now I'm feeling stronger every day...



Tuvo muy mala suerte...se callo en mi cuchillo.

not putting this here to put you down, but some might be confused...cryo is for full martinsite (i think thats the word) transformation not for stress relief. Paul stress relieves the blades in a pre heat treat process before he hardens them for the first time.

Thanks for the clarification. I knew that the cryo treatment converted the steel to full martensite by allowing the molecules to line up correctly. I mistakenly thought that that in turn stress-relieved the steel. What then, in your understanding, does the cryogenic process achieve? By having the steel 'fibers' all lined up nice and neat without imperfections, does it make it less likely to fail under load?



Tuvo muy mala suerte...se callo en mi cuchillo.

Gaucho, thanks for testing the Black Espada for me. As usual, you have done all I can imagine to challenge a maker's capacity to sleep at night.
80 Degrees?!

More than anything else though, this testing has allowed me to better define appropriate edge geometry for these swords. Swords are built for abuse by definition, so it is difficult to know exactly where the strength versus sharpness line should be drawn. For 3V, I think I now know.

I've used a new edge design on this and other of my more recent tactical blades, and am pleased with the way it seems to be performing. I recently put this same edge on my old $20 Ontario Machete and was stunned at how easily it cut down saplings with no visible edge deformation.

We might be onto something. Once again, thanks for your help.

Jerry Hossom
The Tom & Jerry Show

You are more than welcome. I can't tell you how much pleasure I've gotten from playing my tiny role in the ongoing evolution of your designs.

And deep down inside, you know that you wouldn't have me test your blades any other way



Tuvo muy mala suerte...se callo en mi cuchillo.