The Valiant Armoury Practical Long Sword was an extremely popular sword..
Designed by modern sword legend Angus (Gus) Trim and brought to life by Valiant Armories Chinese based forge, these swords were revolutionary..
I hesitate to declare them officially discontinued at this point, even though they have not been produced again since 2010.. Perhaps they were a 'loss leader' - a low cost taste of what Valiant had to offer for their signature series swords.. I can't say for sure. But what I can say is that SBG is actively working with Valiant to bring them back..
Read on to find out why..
Review by Mike Harris, Texas, USA
It's no secret now that Valiant Armoury owner Sonny Suttles has partnered with Gus Trim to design a line of "practical" swords. These were designed to reflect Gus' thinking on the basics of what makes a good sword. The goals were to produce a set of swords that embody what Gus and Sonny think is important in a good handling, high-performance sword. And to do it at a price that most folks can afford. That's the whole point of the "practical" series. Good utilitarian looks that couple with durability and high-end performance. And make them available with a sub $300 price tag.
As soon as these were announced I plopped down my payment of $239 with Paul Southren's on-line sword store and waited for the new swords to arrive stateside. Here's what I got at the end of a relatively short wait.
This sword is one of the first batch to arrive in the U.S.Specs:
Blade: 36.25 inches
POB: 5.8 inches from base of guard
After looking over this sword and handling it a bit I have to keep reminding myself that it's a $250 sword, not a hand-made ATrim. So I have to judge it a bit more leniently than I would a $650 longsword from Gus Trim. That said, I will not be a pushover and say it's a great value just because it's inexpensive.
Something you should know about the blades on the practicals is that they are hand forged in China from 1060 high carbon steel. So there's a bit of variation from one sword to the next. Then they are heat treated to much harder than is the norm for Chinese-made swords. Gus tells me these were specified to fall in the 45-48 RC range. But when examining the first batch he found them to run 52-54 RC. That's close to the top end of how hard a good medieval sword blade should be. There was initial concern that it might be just a little too hard. But this sword, and all the others that have been tested, seem to indicate that this is not only a hard and flexible blade, but one that will take a lot of abuse without chipping.
I say there is some variation as I have made detailed measurements on three and handled a fourth. The thickness of the blade at the guard varied from 0.210" to 0.255" on the four. The ones that are overweight have been removed and sent to Gus for regrinding. I personally MUST have one of the ones he's "fixing" as I love longswords that start as thick as possible, and taper distally to the thinnest possible point. But that's just my preference. So, back to this particular sword.
The fuller is straight and very cleanly executed. It ends at 9 inches from the tip. The edges show no hint of a secondary bevel. The angle of the blade flat ends in the edge. This is very rare in a production sword, is totally historically accurate, and results in a blade that projects a very thin edge into a target when cutting. This usually makes for a sword that cuts very well.
The blade is of flattened diamond cross section. This is where the first batch of longswords differ from the original specification. The blade was supposed to be of lenticular cross section. To get that, it's necessary to round off the points of the diamond down the center of the blade. Having this cross section adds a bit of weight past the fuller, resulting is a change of feel and balance to the sword. All four of these longswords I've handled have a bit more of a tip-heavy feel than a corresponding longsword from Gus. However, that is neither good nor bad. It's just subtly different. One thing it does seem to do, is make the portion of the blade past the fuller stiffer. For thrusting, this could be a real benefit. The jury's still out on the desirability of this feature. I'm planning on getting one of the "enhanced version" that will feature a re-ground blade. I really want to compare the two before deciding which I like best.
Here is a shot comparing the AT304S (bottom) blade tip to that from a recent AT1566 (top) from the "Pay off the damn machine" sale. If you look closely you will see where the center of the ATrim blade has been ground into a thinner cross section, maintaining the distal tap
This characteristic really affects the amount of distal taper in the blade. The blade on this AT304S is only 0.210" thick at the guard. It tapers distally to 0.155" at the end of the fuller. Then it swells out to 0.200" just past the fuller (that flattened diamond thing), and tapers to 0.145" an inch behind the tip.
That's not much distal taper on this sword. It starts pretty thin and doesn't get much thinner as the blade progresses. That usually makes for a poor handling sword. Luckily, this one is an exception, as it handles well. Though I suspect the lack of distal taper causes a little whippyness in this blade.
However, bare in mind that since these are hand forged swords they vary a bit from one to the next. Of the four I've handled, all varied a bit. One was about 0.250" tapering down to 0.175", then down to 0.155" an inch behind the tip. The blade on that one was much stiffer. The ideal, and what the enhanced versions are going to be, are something like 0.250" at the guard, tapering to 0.155 at the fuller end, then down to 0.135 an inch behind the tip. There will be no change in thickness at the end of the fuller.
What all these measurements and numbers means, is that this sword has a hint of whippyness. Not bad, just a little that can be seen in some of the slo-mo of the following video. But this one is on the small end near the guard. If yours is thicker near the guard, it won't be. But please don't take this as a harsh criticism. I just really became aware of it during video editing.
All in all, it is very similar to some of the thinner ATrim swords I've cut with.
The hilt of the practical series swords are look-alikes with ATrim swords, at first glance. On close inspection, I noticed that the cord used for the over wrap imprint is a little larger. Not better or worse than a real ATrim. Just subtly different, and kind of unique.
The pommel looks like something Gus would make, except for a very slight indentation left in the middle of the pommel where it was held in the lathe during manufacture. It's very clean and precise in appearance.
The biggest difference is the pommel nut. It's built just like ATrim pommel nuts, except instead of being fitted for a 5mm hexhead wrench it is slotted for a large flathead screwdriver. And I don't care for this feature in the least. The pommel nut on my sample worked loose after cutting a few plastic bottles, as I would expect on a new sword with this construction. Definitely not a big deal. So I removed it, followed SOP with an ATrim sword and applied a liberal amount of red loctite to the exposed threaded tang and tightened the nut. All worked well after that. However, when I wanted to remove the nut to photograph the tang... no WAY was it coming off. The slot in the pommel nut stripped off, so now it is a "permanent hilt" design unless it works loose enough to get the nut off.
I hope Sonny takes this hint and makes sure the Chinese manufacturer uses hexhead nuts for the next batches. (Editors Note: since this review was posted, this criticism has been taken on board and future batches will indeed use hexhead nuts).
One of the best things about this offering is the real, honest-to-goodness wood core scabbard with leather overwrap. The four I looked at were consistently good quality. And as an added bonus, they fit my AT1566 perfectly!
I like this scabbard so much that I immediately made a leather suspension system for it, to fit my Christian Fletcher longsword belt!
I could hardly wait to see how the AT304S handled during cutting. It was sharp and very fast. And stopping this sword on a dime is soooo easy it's child's play. The light weight allows you to accelerate it in a very short space, making it very good in forward snap cuts from dead still, thus not telegraphing the cut.
It cut plastic jugs and bottles with ease. It had a little more trouble with tatami. All I had soaked on the day I did this testing was one doubled roll with two tatami mats. These are 4 foot wide mats and the tops are notoriously difficult for me to cut. A double roll is about 9-10 inches in diameter, and is solid all the way through.
And of course, I am not very good at cutting tatami yet. So please realize that a more proficient tester wouldn't likely have had much difficulty making cleaner cuts.
Here's a little video, but I would like to have had a lot more tatami to test on. I tried to show how the blade handles through a fairly wide variety of cuts. BTW, I've used this music before, but I thought it appropriate for this one too.
VIDEO: Test Cutting
Test Cutting with the VA Longsword against a variety of targets
I like the sword. It handles and cuts well. It seems durable, and the steel and heat treat is outstanding. If the problems with consistency are corrected, and the proper distal taper is ensured by the folks in China... and the tang nut gets the hexhead treatment... this will be THE line of swords everyone will be raving about. It will, in fact, be almost indistinguishable from a real "made by Gus" sword, at about 1/3rd the price. And in my opinion, Gus makes some to the best handling swords available anywhere on the planet. So it runs in good company.
I hope this review of the VA Longsword has been helpful. To return to Affordable Replicas of Medieval Swords from Valiant Armoury Practical Long Sword Review click here