The classic Italian Longsword from Balaur Arms returns with a twist – we asked swordmaker and martial artist LK Chen to not simply reproduce the original model, but to further optimize it to create a performance longsword. In addition to a host of material and construction improvements, LK Chen was able to achieve outstanding balance and performance characteristics with the use of substantial distal taper and faithfully executed hollow-ground blade. In the hand the sword is a natural extension of the arm and deft enough to be used with a single hand if necessary, but it truly comes into its own when wielded in two hands. A quick striker with a fast recovery, this is a sword that can keep pace with the speed of your mind in the duel.
The sword itself takes its inspiration from late 14th and mid 15th century century longswords, namely an unnamed longsword with an acutely tapered blade in the collection of the Royal Armouries, the longsword attributed to Edward the Black Prince and also inspiration for the hilt in the form of the famed Brescia Spadona in the Musueo Civico in Brescia, Italy.
The blade is forged from GB 60Si2MnA high carbon alloy spring steel and is well tempered to a 54-55 HRc hardness. This version of the Italian Longsword has a sharp edge as factory standard from the manufacturer for a smooth edge that removes the efficiency loss from a secondary bevel for optimal cutting. The hollow ground blade cross section not only reduces weight, but also ensures that there is minimum drag as the blade bites into and passes through its target. The blade has a tapered profile and is intended for efficient cut-and-thrust use – it retains the necessary rigidity for thrusting and will handle half-sword technique well for defeating an armored harness. LK Chen was able to optimize the tip shape and blade rigidity to bring out the full potential of this longsword for thrusting as a fine match to its already excellent cutting ability. The sword will reliably slice through tatami when matched with practiced technique.
The crossguard and pommel are crafted from stainless steel with a satin polished finish. The crossguard resists loosening because it has an internal wedge-shaped channel that ensured a tight friction fit when mounted onto the blade tang and shoulder. The The tang was then hot-peened over the pommel to anchor the blade into the hilt and ensure a robust construction. The hardwood grip is crafted from two halves of wood which were glued at the seam over the tang and then bound in tight leather. This construction method for the grip ensures that even if the wood were to shrink slightly over time it would not compromise the tightness of the sword hilt. Swords with friction-fit peens can loosen over time if the wooden grip shrinks and then leaves a gap in that friction-fit for the hilt. This alternate method used for this Italian Longsword removes that possibility by keeping the grip fitting separate from the pommel and guard.
The sword is paired with a tough wooden scabbard which is tightly bound in well-stitched black leather and completed with a stainless steel chape.
N.A. (verified owner) –
For the price, this is an excellent longsword. It gets things right that most other manufacturers in the low-mid range tend not to. It’s got significant distal tapering, a very sharp and cleanly done edge (which is unfortunately still rare to find on even high-end euro swords), tight hilt construction, and a fairly attractive execution of the Brescia-style hilt furniture.
The included scabbard is a little bulkier than traditional ones, but is otherwise very well made, and feels leagues above the average vinyl/pleather-wrapped fiberglass things you get with most budget blades. The fit is excellent, with virtually no rattle, and just enough retention.
It is also incredibly light and quick in the hand, to the point where I might have even preferred a longer and/or wider blade with more presence, as it almost feels like a lightsaber at times. Even compared to other “light” or “quick” longswords out there, this thing feels like a featherweight.
There are still a few things that keep it from being a truly “high-end” sword, beyond the price. There are numerous small but notable issues with the presentation – the blade has a couple of lateral scratches, and could’ve overall had a slightly more even finish (though to be fair, it is harder to properly execute a hollow-ground blade like this). The leather feels nice and was wrapped well, but the seam is quite visible (though not tactile) and ugly in places, and for some reason there is a good bit of visible fraying along the edges where it meets the guard and pommel. While I haven’t had a chance to handle the older Balaur Italian longsword, I have handled other Balaur swords, and the leatherwork here is just less tidy than I’ve come to expect from the line.
The guard is tightly wedged to the tang, but the gap before the blade’s shoulders meet that guard is not only quite large, but it’s also got an unattractive plain-rectangular shape that doesn’t match the blade cross-section at all and seems like it’d be easy to refine.
To balance out some of the aesthetic issues, I will say that the shape of the pommel is overall executed really well, with evenly done facets, a good amount of symmetry, and an attractive peen decoration at the end. There was one edge that was slightly damaged, but not enough to mar the presentation. The guard is maybe a little wider at the blade than it needs to be, but the quillons are nice and slim, and the general shape is quite good, with some subtle dimensioning (this is something that other Balaur swords I’ve handled didn’t do a great job of). There are no sharp ledges, and it’s all very comfortable to hold.
Overall, while there are a lot of (mostly-aesthetic) nitpicks, and there’s certainly room for improvement, the good aspects easily outweigh the bad, and for the price, there’s no denying you’re getting a very good deal. I do hope LK Chen continues to work on more European swords going forward, as they seem to do things well that most other forges still struggle with.
Colt (verified owner) –
Simply put, I am happy with my purchase.
This sword is well constructed with no looseness or rattling in the scabbard. Everything seems straight and level, with no crooked or sloppy lines on the blade. My only issue is with the aesthetics of the grip. The stitching is a bit sloppy. As it does run down the grip in a straight line. Rather it starts off straight and then strays away.
This issue is only aesthetic as it doesn’t affect the handling or indexing of the sword when swinging. As I do not feel the stitching when holding the sword. Still talking about the grip, there is a bit of excess leather where the grip and pommel meet. It would’ve been nice to see this removed.
Just to nitpick, I am not a fan of the chape on the scabbard. It is the same generic chape used on hundreds of other cheap, low-quality swords. I wish they would’ve elected to use another type of chape.
Still, everything else about the sword is great. It is well-constructed and will be a valued part of my collection for years to come.
alientude (verified owner) –
I wanted to love this sword. And I don’t. I like it, but not love. The first generation of this model, the original Balaur Arms Italian longsword, is probably my favorite budget sword ever. This one, while the fit and finish is definitely better (although could still use improvement), the reprofile of the blade went too far in narrowing the blade for my taste. Weighing 2.5 lbs and being balanced at 1.5″, there’s pretty much no authority in the cut, and the blade is so narrow that it struggles to deliver good cuts on any target other than pool noodles.
There are huge improvements here though! The primary one, without a doubt, is the edge bevelling. The old Italian longsword came with a massive blunt edge, probably around 2mm. That requires either a large secondary bevel to get sharp, or a lot of grinding to develop a proper apple seeded edge. This one made by LK Chen is a very nicely bevelled sword, with a very fine and even microbevel throughout. It is paper-cutting sharp out of the box, which is very appreciated.
For a much more in-depth look and comparison, check out my YouTube review: https://youtu.be/Xx0xvTz8gDA