The Bugler

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Swords and Sabers

What's the difference?
First, let's clarify that a sword is any edged weapon in which the blade is substantially longer than the handle, with one or two sharpened edges and a pointed blade that is designed for cutting or thrusting. With the exception of the Marine Corps NCO Sword, the saber is a type of sword with a curved, single-edged blade and a large arched hand guard. It is designed chiefly for cutting rather than piercing. Why the difference in spellings between saber with an "er" and sabre with an "re"? The English word "sabre" comes from the French sabre. Then we Americanized the English word "sabre" into "saber."

There was a time prior to World War I that the Army officially considered the sword to be part of a cavalryman's fighting arsenal. While infantrymen preferred pistols and rifles and artillerymen shot cannon, the saber was the primary weapon of cavalrymen in the Revolutionary War. In 1861, the light cavalry saber replaced the Model 1840 heavy dragoon saber. In the Civil War, with the development of the revolver, Union and Confederate troopers could also engage each other with gunfire. In the early years of the twentieth century, the U.S. Army's Ordnance Department decided to replace the cavalry saber that had been in use since 1861. The new pattern, issued only in limited numbers to a portion of the then existing ten regiments, had the same shape and size of guard, grips, and blade as the Model 1861, but the guard of the new model was made of steel instead of the traditional brass.

The "Patton" Saber
At the time of the redesign, then Lieutenant George S. Patton, Jr., was "Master of the Sword" at the Mounted Service School at Fort Riley, Kansas. Patton was an expert with the sword. He had excelled at fencing while a cadet at West Point, and his skill with the sword helped him win a place on the U.S. Olympic modern pentathlon team at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912. The pentathlon was an event similar to the triathlon but with guns, swords, and horses. (He came in fifth due to a disputed technicality.) Patton later developed a 275-yard course that required a cavalryman to charge at a gallop, lunge first to his left and then to his right. After clearing a 5' broad jump, the soldier was to lunge again at a series of dummies. The top performers of the course were recognized with an award of a distinctive gold-colored metal swordsman badge. Since Patton had already designed a new cavalry saber (the Model 1913 and the last produced by the Ordnance Department), it was depicted on the new qualifying badge. Because of his involvement with and enthusiasm for the cavalry saber, Patton was given the first of many nicknames: "Saber George." Although the Army's last major conventional cavalry charge occurred in the Philippines in 1906, Patton and other cavalrymen did not know at the time that the saber's usefulness had ended. The swordsman badge was awarded until the end of the 1930s.

For more information ...

The M1913 “Patton” Saber:

The Mameluke Sword
The "Mameluke," as the sword is now called, is cross-hilted, curved, and scimitar-like and developed from the sabers of the Mamluk warriors of the Ottoman Empire in the seventeenth century. During the Napoleonic Wars, the French conquest of Egypt brought these beautiful and functional swords to the attention of Europeans, and the style became very popular for light cavalry officers in both France and Britain. In 1831, the Mameluke became a regulation pattern for British general officers; the 1831 pattern is still in use today. The American victory over the rebellious forces in the citadel of Tripoli in 1805 during the First Barbary War led to the presentation of bejeweled examples of these swords as a sign of respect and praise to senior officers of the U.S. Marine Corps. Today's U.S. Marine Officer Mameluke Sword closely resembles those first worn in 1826.

Swords and sabers today
Swords and sabers are no longer intended for use as weapons but serve primarily as ornamental side arms in ceremonial functions (or for arches in weddings).

Glendale sells swords and sabers for each branch of service, as well as all the accessories that go with them! Each sword and saber is encased in a scabbard. Our swords and scabbards are the finest quality in the world – made by Weyersberg, Kirschbaum & Co. (WKC), the oldest and largest sword manufacturer in Germany. WKC artisans have been hand crafting military swords and sabers since 1883. View our selection of Swords & Sabers.

Questions? We've got answers!

How to select the correct size for a sword or saber?

Height of user                Sword size
   5’6” to 5’7”                      28”
   5’8” to 5’11”                    30”
   6’0” to 6’3”                      32”
   6’4” and taller                   34”
More goes into selecting blade length than just an individual's height. Also part of the equation is the type of sword/saber, an individual's arm and neck length, and how the sword is carried. The correct blade length is that which will place the tip of the blade at about eye level when an individual carries the sword at the "Carry Sword" position. The most common is 30".

The easiest way to find the proper blade length is to hold the sword in the "Carry Sword" position to see how the length fits. That only works if you have access to a sword, however. If you don't, stand at a position of attention with your arm down at your side and your fingers pointing down. Measure from your ear to the "V" between your index finger and your thumb. Using this measurement, the correct sword length depends on the type of piece. For Army officer saber, Navy officer sword, and USMC NCO sword: take the measurement and subtract 3 inches. For USMC officer sword, Air Force sword, and West Point military style sword: take the measurement and subtract 2 inches.

How to wear a sword or saber?

How to care for a valuable sword or saber?
          Polish swords and sabers with a soft dry cloth or silicone-treated gun cloth.

Why is there a Star of David on U.S. sword blades?
          It is not a Star of David, though it is a six-pointed star. Think of it, rather, as a Star of Damascus. That star is historical in nature and most likely was used to signify that the blade had been manufactured in Damascus of forged steel. The manufacturing process of many layered folds of steel, perfected by the Persians, created blades with both strength and resilience. The six-pointed star once designated a sword of Damascus steel; now its use is symbolic.

Can sword and saber blades be engraved?
Glendale can engrave all swords and sabers except the U.S. Marine Corps NCO sword. The engraving charge for each is $30.

How to position a sword when displayed on a wall?

          If the sword is displayed horizontally, the tip is to the left and the handle to the right (when facing the sword). When the sword is displayed with the bend going up in an arc, the supposed cutting edge is facing up. This edge should not rest on the wall supports. While present-day swords do not have a sharp edge, they once did, and no one would rest that cutting edge down so it was touching something.
          As for the lettering "US" on Glendale swords, it is vertical with the blade - that is, you must hold the sword from top to bottom to be able to read the "US" correctly. The "US" lettering should not run along the blade from tip to hilt - though, admittedly, it would "read" better when displayed on a wall.
          By the way, if a sword or saber is only to be used for display, the length of the blade is of little importance.

Swords and sabers with slight imperfections are available!
Glendale has a few swords and sabers that have slight imperfections on them – scratches or rust spots smaller than the size of a pencil eraser. While supplies last, they are available “as is” in very limited quantities and at deeply discounted prices! These swords and sabers are not suitable for engraving and are not returnable. View our selection of Swords & Sabers with slight imperfections.

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