The Renaissance Side Sword by Hanwei (not to be confused with the almost identical, but unsharpened Practical Side Sword also by Hanwei) is both affordable, quite historically accurate and surprisingly for Hanwei - who are often a bit hit or miss in the sharpening department for their line of European swords, quite a nice little cutter.
In this review, we take a closer look at this particular sword to see how it looks, handles and performs - and discover that even for people who are not generally fans of Renaissance weaponry, this sword wins hearts and minds wherever it goes...
Review by 'Odingaard', USA
First of all, this is not my personal weapon. As a few of you know, I am not a big rapier / cut-and-thrust fan. For me personally, the rapier entered a little late in the game for my personal liking, outside the early realm of knights and chilvary and into the late era of puffy shirts and pirates.
After a few months of deliberation, my best friend selected the Paul Chen / Hanwei side sword for his girlfriend's high school graduation present. Since I am a part-time distributor for Paul Chen, I was able to get it to him for about half the retail cost. I asked him if he would mind me reviewing it for SBG before he picked it for.
My understanding is that this side sword was a civilian development in the early 1600s as the sword left predominant military usage and became a civilian status symbol and means of personal protection. Later, this type of sword would have evolved into or alongside the different rapier styles. I have seen the side sword referred to as the 'Gentleman's Sword', and it is not difficult to imagine a sword like this used in duels or beating off brigands across 16th and 17th century Europe.
The sword arrived from my distributor well packaged and without damage. It was contained inside of a padded re-mailer box and rewrapped in plastic and bubble wrap. I paid wholesale cost, but I believe this sword retails for around $249 and can be found online for between $170 and $190.
Taking the sword from its container, my first impression was of just how light it was...
The satin-finished blade is 30" long with a steep taper ending in a formidable tip. There is a 1/3 length fuller present. The finish inside of the fuller is polished to a mirror gloss. The first half of the blade is unsharpened and the edge tapers towards itself. Slightly past the fuller's end, the blade becomes razor sharp. There is no obvious bevel present which I found surprising.
The blade is well-tempered with a lot of spring in it. This is true to form for this type of sword and does not interfere with functionality. The blade also has a nice ringing quality which I found very attractive.
There are no hammer flaws on the blade or inconsistencies. It's almost too perfect!
The grip is wood core with a silver-braided wire wrapped handle. Each end of the handle is adorned with intricate silver wire Turkish Knots. The detail on the handle was amazing, giving it a custom sword look.
The wraps are even and without flaw. There are two tiny steel rivets holding the Turkish Knots in place, but these are barely noticeable and if seen, they seem to add to the visual detail of the weapon.
The guard is constructed of a satin-finished steel and is very detailed in its build. There are no welds visible, and all of the lines are smooth and flowing.
The swept-hilt style of the guard allows for left or right handed grips, though designed with the right-handed swordsman in mind. The guard wraps around the leather covered ricasso and has rings on either side for pistol gripping the sword.
The onion-type pommel is lightly fluted on each side giving a very nice aesthetic and excellent counterbalance. I did not attempt to disassemble the sword, so I am not sure if it is peened or screw-on. There is a nicely finished round peen block present which denotes to a riveted tang, but as I said, this is purely conjecture on my part.
The scabbard is constructed of thick grade leather and fixed with a steel chape and locket. The scabbard fits the sword well, gripping it slightly. There is no play of the blade in the scabbard whatsoever.
The Side Sword handles like a dream. It is light with an extremely close point of balance and VERY, VERY fast - as a rapier-type weapon should be. Wielding the Side Sword is like wielding an epee, its completely effortless to put this sword onto whatever target you desire.
I have a ping-pong ball hanging from the ceiling of my garage I test point thrusting with. I thrust the weapon from the hip, so it is fairly accurate in portraying how your weapon reacts in your hand. Out of 10 trys, I hit the ping-pong ball 10 times. You cannot do any better than that.
It's not my sword, so I did very limited test cutting. In fact, I did one test cut. I tried a snap cut from the wrist at a box I had sitting on my work bench. Here is the result:
One snap cut sheared this unsupported Priority Mail box near completely in half. It is held together with a 1" piece of cardboard. This sword definitely performs to standard and beyond. This simple cut has changed my opinion of the cut and thrust type sword.
This Side Sword has impressed me pleasantly. Though I am not a rapier guy, I am seriously consider adding one of these to my collection just because of the beauty and functionality of it. Even at the retail price, I see this as an exceptional value on a beautiful weapon.
At it's price point, I would have a hard time arguing anything else coming remotely close to this nice little sword. It's not my forte, but it has tempted my interest. It is made to a high standard and should suit well those seeking such a weapon. It has been some time since I have seen such quality in a off-the-shelf weapon, but the Paul Chen Side Sword leaves me smiling.
I hope this review of the Hanwei side sword has been helpful. To return to Renaissance Swords from Renaissance Side Sword Review, click here