Gross Messer: Destructive Testing

The Gross Messer (German for 'Big Knife', as known as a 'Lange Messer' - Long Knife) is an interesting beast. Historically, these swords were not technically classified as swords because the hilt was constructed with a slab tang like a knife, and so they skirted the law at a time in German history when civilians were not permitted to carry 'swords' ('but officer, it's not a sword - it's just a big knife!').

In terms of affordable replicas, the Cold Steel version is the only real production replica of its kind on the market - and while it tends to be somewhat more overbuilt and heavy than the historical examples - as you can see from the official Cold Steel videos, it has a reputation for extreme cutting ability...

VIDEO: Cold Steel Official Promotional Video

While this is more of an advertisement than objective testing, the results are very impressive

However, in the last few years - the reputation of the Gross Messer was tarnished by some unexpected failures of this promising blade to live up to its fearsome reputation. But in the interests of evaluating the current offerings - the following review by SBG contributor Robert Betts (Suvurov on the SBG Sword Forum) puts the Messer through hell to see if the offerings available in late 2007 have seen any improvements...

WARNING: Destructive tests of this manner are NOT recommended as standard test cutting exercises. These tests were conducted after careful examination of the swords structure and blade geometry to determine probable breaking points. The medieval sword was designed primarily to cut human flesh and bone, with a little extra to deal with secondary unintended targets like shields, armor, etc. Breakages in battle were commonplace and if you attempt to recreate these tests, no manufacturer in their right mind would cover you for damages!

Cold Steel Gross Messer

Review by Robert Betts, Valley, USA

Point of Balance    
Price Range

1065 Carbon Steel
US$287 to $459

Over the years I've read a lot of negative comments regarding this sword, mainly faulting poor construction, but I always felt that most of those comments held an underlying dislike of Cold Steel (thus weren't exactly unbiased).

The stats:

  • Overall length 42.5 inches
  • Blade length 32 inches
  • Blade width, at hilt 1.75 inches
  • Blade width, widest 2 inches
  • Blade thickness, hilt 0.25 inches
  • Hilt width 10 inches
  • Hilt thickness, less ring 0.22 inches (avg, approx)
  • Ring height 2 inches
  • Ring width 2 inches
  • Handle length, less pommel 8 inches
  • Handle width 1.25-1.5 inches (tapers from hilt to pommel)
  • Handle thickness 0.90 inches (avg, approx)
  • Pommel length 2 inches
  • Pommel width, widest point 2.125 inches
  • Pommel width, narrow 1.25 inches
  • POB 4.25 inches from hilt
  • COP 18.25 inches
  • Weight sorry, still no scale

The blade is "standard" Messer shape, kind of like an enormous bowie for those not familiar with the sword type (grosse messer translates roughly to "large knife" I think), the hilt iron or mild steel, grip is rosewood (very functional and to me, attractive), mild steel pommel. Hilt and pommel are blackened.

My son and I needed to work off a bit of frustration, so we dug out old the old shield target for what became its final hurrah. The cutting session lasted about an hour all together, with both of us giving the sword a turn through its paces. The pics of the sword hanging and lying were made after the session. All of the pics below are of cuts made with the swords factory edge.

First, the sword

Hilt close up (the dark spot on the hilt is sweat, the hilt is a uniform color)

The Blade

The target (may it rest in peace)

And on to the other side...

Underhand, one hand thrust (almost 2.5 inches of penetration)

After all of that, you might expect the blade to be in bad shape, but far from it.

Other than a few light scratches, the only marks on the blade came from when it split the shield and hit the iron post support the arm rest of the futon to which it was strapped. Image magnified 200%

So, do I believe those other posts? Nope. This sword is a serious piece: fast to use, solidly made, and one that delivers powerful cuts. A person could do a whole lot worse in buying a sword, and probably not a lot better in the performance department.

Buy one and see for yourself...


  • EXTREMELY durable and with extreme cutting power
  • Very sharp and good to go straight out of the box

  • Well balanced and very fast, despite it's significant (4lb) weight
  • 'Modern' look and feel, not especially historically accurate


The Gross Messer retails for US$349.99 direct from Cold Steel, however even though it is clearly a good value for money buy - you need not pay anywhere near as much for this blade….

The best place to buy it is HERE at Kult of Athena for just US$287.49 - a full $172 less than what you would pay buying from Cold Steel directly, but with the same (if not better) quality control, customer service and fast shipping..

I hope this review of the Cold Steel Gross Messer has been informative. To return to Slicers, Scimitars and Choppers, from Gross Messer: Destructive Testing, click here

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