Category Archive 'Arms and Armor'
08 Jan 2016

Using the Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Knife

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The Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife is a stiletto with an overall length of 11.5 inches and a double-edged blade of 7 inches. There are a number of variations which include such differences as minor changes in the length of the blade, the design and shape of the pommel, manufacturer’s stamps, and handles that have different grip patterns and materials (metal, wood, and compressed leather washers).

The Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife was designed by William Ewart Fairbairn and Eric Anthony Sykes, and was based on the Shanghai Fighting Knife they designed while serving as constables in the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP), the multinational police force of Shanghai’s international community. Prior to World War II, Shanghai had the reputation of being the most dangerous city in the world.

Christopher Lee evidently used one during WWII. The Week:

Long before he embarked on his illustrious acting career, Christopher Lee… was a member of the British Special Forces in World War II, a unit that engaged in acts of espionage and subterfuge against the Third Reich, including blowing up bridges, disrupting supply lines, and, yes, killing Nazis.

It turns out his experiences in warfare came in handy in the filming of The Lord of the Rings, when his character Saruman was stabbed in the back by Grima Wormtongue in a scene that was not included in the theatrical release. As director Peter Jackson explained in the movie’s DVD commentary, he tried to get Lee to scream as he was stabbed, only to be corrected. “Have you any idea what kind of noise happens when somebody’s stabbed in the back?” Lee said he asked Jackson. “Because I do. [I]t’s more of a gasp because the breath is driven out of your body.”

Trooper Stan W Scott, No. 3 Army Commando, demonstrates how to use the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife.

06 Jan 2016

Powder Horn Used at the Battle of Concord, April 19, 1775

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By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

At James D. Julia’s Winter Fine Arts, Asia, Antiques Auction, February 3,4, & 5, 2016, Lot 2026:


In untouched, original condition and inscribed “Oliver Buttrick, OCT. 1774”, this important powder horn was carried at the first battle of the American Revolution. Early in April, 1775 word was passed on to the British command that rebel colonists had amassed arms and powder now hidden in Concord, MA. Lt. Col. Francis Smith was commander of about 700 British army regulars in Boston and on the morning of April 19th an expedition would march from Boston to Concord to capture and destroy these arms. Word of this action was discovered by the colonists and immediately spread to local militias. One of those individuals responsible for the alarm was Paul Revere who was immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”. The British arrived at Lexington first, however the minuteman militia had not had ample time to assemble in force and fell back. The British regulars then moved on to Concord. Concord however, was a different story. Enough time had passed so that a large contingent of minutemen had been alerted and a formidable force held the North Bridge in Concord defying the British regulars. The confrontation eventually erupted into gun fire which became known as “the shot heard round the world”. This historic battle is known as the first true major military engagement of defiance from the colonists with the British Empire. As such some consider it the most important military engagement in the annals of the evolution of the United States. Young Oliver Buttrick was one of seven Buttrick family members to join with other minutemen in this historic conflict. Oliver’s uncle, Major John Buttrick led the advance at the Old North Bridge that day. As referenced in his detailed pension application of 1834, Oliver was in David Brown’s Company and served alongside his brother William, who was killed three weeks later at Bunker Hill. Fellow Minutemen that day included Abiel Buttrick, Daniel Buttrick, Tilly Buttrick, Willard Buttrick and John Buttrick, Jr. (the 14-year old fifer). …

Oliver Buttrick fought in such celebrated arenas as Point Shirley, Bennington, Ticonderoga, Fishkills, and Soldiers Fortune (near West Point). He also performed guard duty on a prison ship in Boston Harbor. The date on the horn is significant. Unrest among the Patriots started years before this first skirmish. In the summer and fall of 1774, rebellion was at fever pitch. In fact, on October 4, 1774, the recently formed Massachusetts Provincial Congress issued what amounted to its own declaration of independence and on October 24, 1774, that same angry and determined Congress authorized the procurement or armaments. 18th Century American soldiers and militiamen identified their horns with their name and often the date it was made. The use of inked vellum under glass lens was a rare form of decoration and seen on only a few other 18th Century examples. This powder horn is among the few existing objects that can be directly associated with the first Battle for American Independence and to our knowledge this powder horn is the only Colonial horn used at this historic confrontation to ever be offered for sale. In fact, to our knowledge, nothing used by a minuteman at the Concord engagement has been sold at auction in many years. …

CONDITION: Very good with original surface, minor cracking and chipping near lip. Wood bezel has two chips which are well patinated as can be seen in photos and glass cover lens has a vertical crack. Original bailing wire loops are still present with smooth iron patina. 49789-5 (20,000-50,000)


21 Dec 2015

Medieval Poleaxe with Chemical Weapon

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From Fiore Furlano de’i Liberi’s (c. 1340s-1420s) The Flower of Battle, Axe in Armor, 16:

MS Ludwig XV 13 (Getty)

Questa mia azza era piena de polvere e si è la ditta azza busada intorno intorno et è questa polvere sì forte corrosiva che subito come ella tocha l’ochio, l’omo per nissun modo nol pò avrire e fuorse may non vederà più.

E azza son ponderosa crudele e mortale, mazori colpi fazo che altra arma manuale. E se io falisco lo primo colpo che vegno a fare la azza m’è di danno e niente più non vale. E se io fiero lo primo colpo ch’io fazzo tutte le altre arme manuale io cavo d’impazo. E se son cum bone arme ben acompagnada per mia deffesa piglio le guardie pulsative de spada. Signore nobilissimo Signor mio Marchese assay chose sono in questo libro che voy tale malicie non le fareste. Ma per più savere, piazavi di vederle.

This poleaxe of mine is full of powder and the said poleaxe has holes around. And this powder is so strong and corrosive that immediately as it touches the eye, the man cannot open it in any way, and maybe will not be able to see anymore.

And it is a heavy, cruel and mortal poleaxe, better blows it makes than other manual weapons. And if it fails the first strike that it comes to do, the poleaxe will still do damage and the opponent will be no more of any use. And if you fiercely make the first blow, you will avoid trouble from all the other manual weapons. And if accompanied with good armor for defense it will stand up to the hammer blows of swords. Very noble Lord, my Lord Marchese, there are many things in this book, featuring such malicious things as you would not do yourself. But to understand them better, please read of them.

MS Ludwig XV 13 (Getty)

Questa è la polvere che va in l’azza penta qui sopra. Piglia lo latte delo titimallo, e seccalo al sole overo in forno caldo e fane polvere, e piglia di questa polvere uno V e una onza de polvere d’fior d’preda, e mescola insembre, e questa polvere si de’ metter in la azza qui de sopra, ben che se pò far cum ogni rutorio che sia fino, che ben ne troverà di fini in questo libro.

This is the powder that goes into the poleaxe drawn above. Take the milk of the titimallo [some member of the spurge family of plants (genus Euphorbia)], and dry it over a warm oven and make it powdery, and take two ounces of this powder and one ounce of powder of the fior di preda, and mix them together. And put this powder in the axe which is above, as you can do it well with any ?rutorio? that is sharp, because you can find sharp things well in this book.

22 Nov 2015

Grutte Pier’s Sword


The zweihänder sword that belonged to Grutte Pier (1480-1520), Friesian pirate and warlord.


[A] great sword that is said to have belonged to Pier is on display at the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden. It measures 2.15 metres (7 ft) in length and weighs about 6.6 kilograms (14.6 lb). Some sources put his height at 7 ft.[20] Pier was alleged to be so strong that he could bend coins using just his thumb, index and middle finger. A huge helmet said to be Grutte Pier’s is kept in the town hall of Sneek. …

    Thee I’ll follow, noble Peter,
    Thou wert nobler far and greater,
    Than the noblest, home-kept lord,
    Battling like an ancient Roman,
    For his country with her foeman,
    Whom he chased with fire and sword.
18 Nov 2015

Flintlock Lantern Pistol

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Czernys International Auction House, Auction 55- Fine and Scarce Antique Arms & Armour, Saturday, December 12, 2015, Lot 252:

Circa 1800 provenance: Italy Smooth, round, 17 mm (.669) cal. barrel; flintlock (the screw of the hammer is missing), wooden stock with iron ramrod. On top of the lock is the grip, laced perpendicularly on the weapon, provided with iron guard and trigger; in front of the grip is an iron lamp with candle holder and lens, with opening screen and double cover. dimensions: length 30.5 cm (12″).

05 Nov 2015

Roman Cavalry Helmet


Roman Phrygian Type Bronze Cavalry Helmet, 100-250 AD. The helmet, terminating into the head of an eagle, has images of winged Victory. Warriors adorn the cheekpieces. Musee d’Art Classique de Mougins.

30 Oct 2015

Henry V’s Sword Displayed

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Henry V’s sword. Analysis


King Henry V’s sword was carried through London’s Westminster Abbey on Thursday as England celebrated the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, one of its greatest-ever victories in war.

A service was held in the royal church where the king is buried, six centuries on from the day when news of the victory arrived in London, triggering joyous celebrations.

The battle on October 25, 1415 saw a heavily-outnumbered and exhausted English army inflict a catastrophic defeat on the French that altered the course of the Hundred Years’ War.

King Henry was 28 and two years into his nine-year reign. His longbow archers routed the French nobility.

Westminster Abbey holds king Henry’s “funerary achievements” — the personal items carried at his funeral, namely his sword, shield, saddle and helmet.

His sword was carried through the church once again and placed on the altar next to his helmet.

Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, joined around 2,200 people at the service, many of whom were history buffs who snapped up the tickets.

The choir sang “The Agincourt Carol” in its original 15th-century English.

It begins: “Owre kynge went forth to Normandy / With grace and myght of chyvalry / There God for hym wrought mervelusly / Wherefore Englonde may calle and cry / Deo gratias!”


27 Oct 2015

US Military Small Arms Need Replacing

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Jim Schatz, in National Defense, makes an irrefutable case for replacing US primary-issue small arms. US forces need a more reliable rifle and both new rifles and new pistols firing more potent rounds.

Since the end of World War II, only 10 U.S tank crew members have been killed in warfare. This is an amazing testament to fighting vehicle technology and the money spent to develop and sustain that tactical edge over our enemies.

In that same period, the United States has lost some 60,000 soldiers in small arms engagements, an approximate one for one exchange.

Few foes on the planet could hope to dominate America in a tank, air or naval battle. Yet every bad actor with an AK-47 takes on U.S. and NATO ground forces in a small arms fight. We are no longer suitably armed to prevent it.

This happens because the current U.S. Army small arms development and acquisition system is dysfunctional and virtually unworkable, even for those within the system. It has not brought troops substantial evolutionary small arms and ammunition capabilities in years, or even decades, and too often not at all, and almost never on or under budget. Lives are often lost as a result. …

Small arms are the most deployed weapon systems in our arsenal, yet the age of America’s eight most numerous conventional military small arms are on average more than 35 years old. While we have replaced uniforms, helmets, body armor, radios, rations and footwear countless times in three decades, the weapons and ammunition we use in 2015 are little more than variants of Vietnam-era technology possessing the antiquated capabilities of a bygone era.

The Army continues to procure weapons with old performance specifications that have been repeatedly eclipsed by superior commercial small arms used by our allies, our top-tier special operations forces and sometimes by our enemies. Elite units — with a few exceptions — do not use the standard-issue U.S. Army small arms or ammunition. Why? Because they are inferior to the more advanced weapons selected by these units. There is a fundamental difference between their acquisition process and that of the “Big Army,” where there are hundreds of decisions makers and countless agencies and offices involved.

Read the whole thing.

Schatz doesn’t get into it, but I think the root of the problem is cultural. America has become, in recent decades, much more a nation of metrosexuals than a nation of riflemen. The shooting sports are completely alien to the largest urbanized sector of American society.

We now have to look to Germany & Italy to buy military-quality small arms. Colt is in bankruptcy. The Winchester factory in New Haven closed years ago, and Winchester today is just a revived trade name building its products in Japan. The American chattering classes are not concerned in the slightest with feminization of American men or the decline of our domestic arms industry. They’d like to confiscate and destroy all our guns.

22 Oct 2015

Hiker Found Viking Sword Along Ancient Path in Norway

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[A] man in Norway… recently stumbled across a 1,200 year-old Viking sword while walking an ancient route.

The find, which dates from approximately 750 AD and is in exceptionally good condition, was announced by Hordaland County Council.

County Conservator Per Morten Ekerhovd described the discovery as “quite extraordinary.”

“It’s quite unusual to find remnants from the Viking age that are so well preserved … it might be used today if you sharpened the edge,” he told CNN.

Outdoorsman Goran Olsen made the unusual find when he stopped for a rest in Haukeli, an area known for fishing and hunting about 150 miles (250 kms) west of capital, Oslo.

The rusted weapon was lying under some rocks on a well-known path across a high mountain plateau, which runs between western and eastern Norway.

The mountains are covered with frost and snow for at least six months of the year and not exposed to humidity in summer, which contributed to the sword’s exceptional condition, Ekerhovd said, adding that archaeological remains are often found along the paths.

He speculated that the sword could be from a burial site or may have belonged to a traveler who had an accident or succumbed to frostbite on the high pass.

The sword, which was found without a handle, is just over 30 inches long (77 centimeters) and made of wrought iron. From its type, archaeologists estimate it to be from around 750 AD — making it approximately 1,265 years old — but warn that this is not an exact date.

Swords like this were status symbols in Viking times because of the high cost of extracting iron, Ekerhovd said, and it’s likely this blade would have belonged to a wealthy individual.

02 Oct 2015

The Nugent Marathon Corinthian Helmet

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photo via Belacqui.

Royal Ontario Museum description:

The Corinthian helmet type is one of the most immediately recognisable types of helmet, romantically associated with the great heroes of Ancient Greece, even by the Ancient Greeks themselves who rapidly moved to helmet types with better visibility, but still depicted their heroes in these helmets. …

This specific helmet (ROM no.926.19.3) was purchased by the Royal Ontario Museum in 1926 [at] Sotheby’s (auction of 22 July 1926, lot 160). A skull (ROM No. 926.19.5) was said at one stage to be inside it, and in this condition was excavated by George Nugent-Grenville, 2nd Baron Nugent of Carlanstown, on the Plain of Marathon in 1834.

17 Aug 2015

Viking Battle Axe

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An iron battle axe of Viking type with its original wooden haft still intact. Circa 10th /11th century in date, it was recovered from the Robe River, Co Mayo, Ireland.

11 Aug 2015

River Witham Sword

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A double-edged sword, 13th century, possibly of German manufacture, but discovered in the River Witham in Lincolnshire, England in the 19th century (British Museum 1858,1116.5)

The British Library is currently exhibiting the above sword and is asking for help interpreting the inscription.

One of those objects is a double-edged sword, found in the first section of the exhibition, on loan to the British Library from our friends at the British Museum. The item in question was found in the River Witham, Lincolnshire, in July 1825, and was presented to the Royal Archaeological Institute by the registrar to the Bishop of Lincoln. It weighs 1.2 kg (2 lb 10 oz) and measures 964 mm (38 in.) in length and 165 mm (6½ in.) across the hilt; if struck with sufficient force, it could easily have sliced a man’s head in two.

An intriguing feature of this sword is an as yet indecipherable inscription, found along one of its edges and inlaid in gold wire. It has been speculated that this is a religious invocation, since the language is unknown. Can you have a go at trying to decipher it for us? Here’s what the inscription seems to read:


The comments have interesting guesses.


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