Ryujin 65MN 13th Century Arming Sword Review Mar 19, 2021 9:53:39 GMT
Post by alexatarms on Mar 19, 2021 9:53:39 GMT
I’ve been lurking on the Sword Buyer’s Guide forums for years but this will be my first review. Full disclosure: SBG sent me this sword for the purpose of review. Hope you find the information useful!
What it is
This is the 13th Century Knightly Arming Sword (https://sbg-sword-store.sword-buyers-guide.com/product1053.html) available in the Sword Buyer’s Guide Store. It’s made by Ryujin Swords, though I could find no Ryujin branding on the packaging or the sword itself. The blade, a single-hand arming sword of a Type XII design going by the Oakeshott typology, is forged from 65MN spring steel, a Chinese grade of high-carbon steel commonly used to make knives and leaf springs. The blade is hand sharpened and polished. The hilt is comprised of stainless steel fittings, a wood core grip wrapped in cord and faux leather, and a peened pommel. Here are the specs straight from the SBG Store page:
Overall Length (with scabbard): 36"
Overall Length (without scabbard): 34 3/4"
Blade Length: 27 5/8"
Handle Length: 6 1/4"
Weight (without Scabbard): 2.6 lbs
Point of Balance (from guard): 4 1/2"
The sword arrived in a box that was slipped inside a thick, tight-fitting poly bag. After I peeled the bag away I noticed that the box was torn on one end. Luckily, the sword was undamaged despite the pommel end breaking through the foam it was encased in and hitting the cardboard. It’s my belief that the tension of the plastic bag held the box together and prevented the pommel from completely busting through. The bag did its job, but Ryujin should look into its packaging to prevent break-throughs from happening in the first place.
Once I got the sword unpacked, I was first struck by how sharp it was. The edge is paper-slicing sharp with no detectable secondary bevel. The blade is polished to a fine satin finish, but there were some flaws out of the box: a few small scratches near the edge and some swirl marks by the top of the fuller on one side.
Though it felt slightly heavy, I was initially impressed with its balance and feel in the hand. The weight of the blade is noticeable with each swing but I could still change direction and transition to different guard positions relatively quickly and easily. If this were my only arming sword, I’d be perfectly happy with it. But because I have a few other arming swords in my collection I had some points for comparison.
Taking a Closer Look
Evaluating the Ryujin arming sword in a vacuum, it handles just fine. But once I picked up my other swords (a Hanwei Tinker EMSHS, Kingston Arms Atrim Type XIV, and Black Fencer Type XIV blunt training sword), the Ryujin felt a bit slow and clunky in comparison. The weight is dead on with the specs at 2 lbs, 9 oz, which isn’t too heavy for a one-handed medieval sword. As it turns out, it weighs exactly the same as the Black Fencer Type XIV I use for sparring. They’re also very close in length, with the Black Fencer measuring 34.5 inches overall. The point of balance is only a quarter of an inch farther from the guard on the Ryujin, but the difference in how they felt in my hand was surprising. The Type XIV flows smoothly from action to action, while with the Ryujin I found myself fighting the weight more often. Again, it’s not bad. There are other production arming swords that handle better, though none at the Ryujin’s price point.
There’s not much distal taper to speak of, and honestly I don’t expect much in a sword under $200. My digital calipers indicated 6 mm thickness at the base of the blade, around 5 mm in the middle, and 4.4 mm at the end of the fuller. Interestingly, from there the blade thickens to 6 mm again before tapering to its point. The fuller is well done, with no visible signs of machining.
Here’s where I feel the Ryujin could use the most improvement. Of all my arming swords, the grip on the Ryujin is by far the thickest. The risers look cool, but don’t fit my hand well when held in a handshake grip. Holding the sword with a hammer grip is comfortable enough, but the chunkiness of the handle makes transitioning from one grip to another more difficult. This was problematic for me when practicing as I’m used to squeezing my bottom two fingers to get more power out of a cut. You can do it with the Ryujin, but it’s not as fluid in the hand as other arming swords I own.
Another issue I ran into was the rough finishing of the pommel. The edges aren’t sharp but they could be more rounded. When cutting, the pommel would often scrape against the inside of my wrist. It’s fine if you’re just chopping a few water bottles at a time, but after a while it starts to get uncomfortable.
With such a fine edge from the factory, I expected the Ryujin to glide through most of the various recyclables I had saved up—and it didn’t disappoint. The heft that I grappled with when doing flow drills gives the blade considerable authority in a downward cut. Slicing milk cartons and water bottles took almost no effort at all. You can just guide the edge and let gravity do most of the work. The sword was able to cut through a single rolled tatami mat, though not as cleanly as my Tinker. What surprised me most was the Ryujin’s ability to cut through more substantial targets. I cut about 75% into a dry piece of bamboo before it snapped. On a whim, I took a swing at a tree branch I had been meaning to trim anyway and cleaved into it more deeply than I expected.
By the end of the tests, the edges were noticeably duller. I could still cut through paper but the edge would get hung up right around the center of percussion, sometimes tearing and other times continuing to cut after applying more pressure and drawing slowly. The sword was still plenty sharp for cutting bottles a couple days later. The guard is still nice and tight after several hours of cutting (including those couple whacks at a tree limb and accidentally hitting my stand).
The wood core scabbard is well done. The faux leather wrap is soft to the touch yet durable. It seems fairly resistant to nicks and scratches, unlike my Tinker’s scabbard, which picks up scratches with a slip of a fingernail. The sword slides easily into and out of the scabbard, with just the right amount of pressure to draw it quickly while holding it securely in place when not in use. A small detail that I really appreciate is that you can sheath the sword both ways with no problem. No matter which edge you have facing out, the sword slides into the scabbard without binding and seats fully at the mouth. One minor complaint is that the throat is thicker than it needs to be. Shaving a few mm off that fitting would allow the guard to sit flush.
The belt, unfortunately, is basically useless. I fiddled with the straps for almost an hour and could never get the sword to sit any more upright than 90 degrees from my hip. The good news is that it’s free, and when you take it off the scabbard the stitched ribs that hold the belt loops on look pretty cool.
For the backyard cutting enthusiast, medieval reenactor, or casual collector, the Ryujin 13th century arming sword is an exceptional value. You get a functional sword that looks the part of a one-handed medieval sword and has 70-80% of the agility of its higher priced competitors. If you’ve ever been curious about this style of sword but don’t want to break the bank getting one, you won’t be disappointed with the Ryujin.
For the Historical European Martial Arts practitioner on a budget, I could recommend this as a first sharp sword to get started practicing your cutting. However, I’d advise eventually stepping up to something with better handling like the Hanwei Tinker, Kingston Arms Atrim, or, if you can afford it, make the jump to a sword from a high-end maker like Valiant Armoury, Angus Trim, Albion, Arms & Armor, Lockwood Swords, etc. But at $185, the Ryujin is a lot of sword for not that much money.
Suggestions for Ryujin
• Remove risers and work toward generally making the grip less beefy
• Round the edges of the pommel so it doesn’t bite into the wrist
• Reduce overall weight of the sword
• Consider adding distal taper starting at the end of the fuller (or even farther down the blade, if possible)
• Reshape the throat of the scabbard to make it flush with the guard
• Reinforce packaging with more foam
• Low price
• Ready to cut right out of the box
• Looks great for a budget sword
• Not as nimble as other production arming swords
• Grip and pommel could use ergonomic improvements