Anatomy of a Sword

Posted by Devin on 11/25/2013 to U.S. Military Swords
While the sword used in today's military dress uniforms is designed strictly for ornamental purposes, it still represents a long and storied history of its role as the military man's primary weapon. Since the first recorded use of a firearm wasn't until the year 1364, swords, and the men who wielded them, dictated the results of battles for centuries. If you exclude the scabbard or the sword frog - a simpler form of early sword scabbard designed for use with different-sized swords - the sword or saber can be broken down into two primary areas, the hilt and the blade, each with its own characteristics and individual features.

The blade of the sword varies greatly, based on the style of sword and its intended purpose, but can usually be laid out with two primary areas, the edge and the point, with other features like rain guards, blood channels and elevated ridges existing only on certain styles of sword. The point and edge do the dirty work; the edge for slashing, and the point for jabbing. Their purpose was never in question: to kill the person you are fighting. The metal tempering and folding techniques that evolved over the centuries is an article unto itself, but suffice it to say that the stronger the metal and the sharper the edge and point, the better the sword.

The hilt of a sword contains four primary functional components; the grip, the guard, the pommel and the knot. The grip's purpose was obvious, as the swordsman needed to hold on to their weapon. Grips have been made from a wide range of materials over the years, from leather to horn to the plastic forms used in today's swords. While they could serve an ornamental purpose, the grip was primarily a functional aspect of the sword. The sword's guard was designed to prevent another combatant's sword blade from sliding down yours during combat and clicing up your hand. Sword guards have come in a wide range of shapes and styles over the years, almost always from metal to provide the greatest protection. 

The pommel of a sword is the accoutrement at the end of the grip, and was designed to keep the sword from falling out of the soldier's hand during combat. They often are elaborately formed and decorated. The sword knot was originally made from a stout leather cord for mounted cavalry, with one end tied to the hilt of the sword and the other looped around the wrist of the horseman's wrist. It's purpose was simple, prevent the soldier from losing his sword as his horse galloped across the battlefield. The decorative aspect of the sword knot began when  officers started getting more ornate knots than the enlisted, and they evolved from leather cords to woven gold, silver and other metallic threads. The craftsmen who made military sword knots were known as passementiers.