Hanwei Raptor Review - Nanbokucho Zukuri

This Hanwei Raptor review is of their Nanbokucho Zukuri Katana - so named because it was a popular type of Japanese sword in the 14th century during the Nanbokucho period, where longer blades with longer kissaki (tips) were the order of the day.

Recreated to the specifications of Shihan James Williams of the Bugei sword trading company, they are a tough, no nonsense design - all with a raptor, bird of prey theme, hence the name..

So do they really live up to the expectation created by their promotional video? In our Hanwei Raptor review one of our newer members gives the Nanbokucho a try, explaining it from the point of view of your average casual sword enthusiast..


Hanwei Raptor Review - Nanbokucho Zukuri

Review by SBG member Whitefeathers


I found this one on sale at KoA (Kult of Athena) for $160. Shipping surprisingly was fast. I had it literally in 52 hours since I clicked the order button.

Form fitted sytrofoam is a plus to protect the sword in transit

First thing was when I unsheathed it was "wow this thing is dirty", it had what looked like sawdust all over the blade from inside the saya.

I turned the saya upside down and tapped it and a cloud of the stuff came out. Second thing I noticed was one of the seppa was put on way off center. Only then was when I noticed the weight of this beast. Definitely lets you know there's a sword in your hand. She means business.

Raptor at Bottom and the other sword, the classic Practical Plus Katana (PPK)

Statistics

OAL--44 1/4"
Nagasa--30"
Weight--2lbs 13.5 oz.
POB-- 5 3/8 in from tsuba
tsuka length--13 1/4
Thickness: 8.3 mm - 5.3 mm
Width: 32.3 mm

The Blade

Nice, straight blade with a decent level of polish

Nanbokucho zukuri geometry with an attractive o-kissaki. It definitely has that authoritative feel to it. 30 inches of steel. They didn't have sori measurements but it curves more than the PPK's 0.6 in sori.

One part I see is that when the kissaki starts there is a ridge on both sides of the blade. I'm not sure if that is intentional or not. My PPK has a smooth transition. (I'll be comparing to the PPK since that's the only other modern made sword I have at the moment). You can see it and definitely feel it when wiping the blade. And at that ridge line the edge is not as sharp as the rest of the blade.

EDIT: I have been educated- this is a good thing and its supposed to be there - and is a geometric yokote.

Both swords have the notorious 'ax handle grip' - but the Raptors is decidedly worse

If you are curious about the other sword in the photos click here to jump from the hanwei raptor review to the PPK review. Its another oldie but the sword has not changed over the years.

I didn't think it was possible to make a wider axe handle than my PPK. I was warned about this too. Its of course 13 inches but super wide and thin.

The thinness is nice but its so wide it almost doesn't feel sword-like anymore. I have an issue with this as my hands are wide with short fingers. Measures 6 3/4 inches from the that crease where it meets your wrist to the tip of the middle finger.

The menuki are the gold feathers which I love. I have no idea how they're attached on to the ito but they aren't going anywhere. I had to take a file to one of them though. In the first 5 minutes of holding the sword I got scratched by a sharp edge on the one.

Speaking of Ito it is the katatemaki (battle wrap) pattern and the nice grippy suede stuff. Done very solid too, have to put some serious pressure to move it. Some of the diamonds are uneven but it doesn't bother me.

The same is real and its in panels. I can see the wood in some places. When they drilled the holes for the mekugi the edges stick up and its rough. My thumb just happens to rest right on top of one of those so I had to pick at the same until it was more tolerable.

I attempted to disassemble the sword but I couldn't get further than removing the pins. They came out very easily. Either my technique sucks, or everything is a really tight fit. I tried the method of holding the end of the tsuka and hitting the wrist with the other fist.

Tsuba

Nice and tight assembly with all iron fittings

Neat looking bird perched on a branch. It feels kind of thin and whatever its coated with is starting to flake off already. It doesn't shift or rattle or anything.

Seppa

Not very happy with the seppa..

Now this is a sore spot. Either the holes are way too big and they're just off center or what it just looks bad in my opinion. I would have liked to get a better look at them If I would have been able to get the darned sword apart. The one seppa is noticeably a bigger diameter than the other. And with the way they hang over the cut outs in the tsuba bothers me. One of them has a brownish stain too.

Fuchigashira

More birds! The fuchi and kashira are a bit boring but they fit the swords theme well. I did notice a big gap between the fuchi and the tsuba though. Even with that gap nothing moves. Kashira is glued on because I could smell the glue. The habaki fits nice to the blade- no gaps.

Saya

ts the same black textured one as the PPK. It feels narrower. The kurigata has this blemish on it, but it doesn't bother me. Gives it character. The blade rattles really bad inside despite the narrower feeling saya. Very soon I will have to shim this one too. I can tip it upside down and give it a little shake and the sword will fall out.

Most of the newer Raptor and Renshu series swords come with the sageo loose and untied

Handling

Background of me: I'm vertically challenged standing a whopping 5 ft 3 in. and probably 125 lbs. I didn't think it was that heavy until I tried a couple tentative swings. My ceiling is low in the apt and I have to watch it with the 27 in. blade on the PPK. So I was pretty busy making sure I didn't whack the ceiling or lop off my foot. I still felt like I had control over it though. It doesn't have a cumbersome feeling and is lively going through different cuts.

It feels more tip heavy than my PPK does. Nothing rattles or shifts or shakes. The suede ito provides good grippy feeling even with 'wide ax handle syndrome'. I certainly would not want to be at the business end of this sword. Funny part was when I set this sword down and picked up the familiar 2.5 lb PPK it felt like a feather! No test cutting results today, I don't have the resources to do it. If I ever get a chance to cut with this sword I will update this review.

Conclusion

Overall I say I'm happy with the Raptor. On mine fix the seppa and the saya. On the Raptor in general I would love to change the tsuka shape. I would definitely buy from Kult of Athena again. Awesome quick service and good sale.

PROS

  • I love the attractive looks of the blade. deep sori, yokote and okissaki
  • Tight grippy suede ito
  • All fittings are tight
  • Although heavy, still feels agile in the hands

CONS

  • Saya-already loose fit to habaki and the blade rattles
  • One of the menuki scratched me (all fixed now though)
  • Lousy seppa fit and stain on one of them
  • Super wide tsuka ( infamous axe handle shape)

WHERE TO BUY

The Hanwei Raptor Review here is a little on the old side - there is no way you can pick up a Nanbokucho Zukuri Raptor for anything even remotely like $160 these days. Indeed, the price over at Cas Iberia - the official distributor is now $450. But KoA come through with the best price for it online these days, which is $296.95.


I hope this Hanwei Raptor review has been helpful. To return to The Ultimate Guide to Authentic Japanese Swords from Hanwei Raptor Review - Nanbokucho Zukuri, click here



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