THE ITALIAN IMPROVED SWORD HANDLE

Illustrated with the

Italian cavalry officer's sword model 1873

By Jean Binck

 

What immediately draws the attention is the typical hilt with the indentation for the thumb. This kind of hilt appeared first on the Italian cavalry trooper sword model 1871. It was the result of research undertaken by the Capitano Settimo del Frate in order to improve the equilibrium of the sabre and to facilitate a firm grasp of the handle.

Let's listen to the explanation of the Capitano Settimo del Frate :

" The equilibrium of the sabre, and the facility of firmly grasping the handle, are the two prime requisites for a good weapon.

"When properly balanced and easily held, the sword calls for less exertion of strength; and the quickness and true direction of the Cuts are greatly facilitated. In direct proportion of the economy of force, we find the swordsman enabled to continue his exertion.

"However well made and scientifically poised be the blade, it is subject to several variations of equilibrium according to the position in which it is held.

"The nearer the centre of gravity approaches the hilt, the lighter and the better balanced will be the weapon, and vice versa.

"Therefore, it should be our principal object to effect this improvement without changing the proper centre of percussion and the other requisites for offence and defense."

The following pictures illustrate the difference in grasping a conventional handle and the Italian improved handle.

The design of the conventional handle does not allow the thumb to be easily extended on the round back of the grip. In this position, the other fingers cannot rest against the hilt.

 

(French cavalry officer's sword M1822)

With the Italian improved handle, the flat checkered back piece and the thumbhole allow the thumb to be extended while the other fingers are stopped against the hilt. The curved rear part of the grip prevents the hand slipping backward.

The hand is closer to the centre of gravity of the sword than with the conventional handle.

(Italian cavalry officer's sword M1873)

 

Focusing on the Italian Cavalry Officer's sword Model 1873

 

Full length: 1025 mm (40.35in) / Blade length: 870 mm (34.25in) / Curvature: 8 mm (0.3in) / Thickness at ricasso: 5.5 mm (0.22in) [quill back] / Width at ricasso: 24.6 mm (0.97in)

Grip made of black ebony / Steel scabbard

The whole sword was burnished as requested by the Italian regulation of 1915 for use during WW1.

The rather frail blade would imply that this sword is a production of the late 1890s or early 1900s, but the marking of the Solingen manufacturing company F. HORSTER would, on the contrary, tend to indicate that it is an early production.

Little is known about F. Horster after the mid 1870s; it is likely that the firm ceased operations, or that it merged with the more important firm of E&F Horster.

Any additional information or comments from the readers would be very welcome.

Bibliography:

BURTON Richard F., A new system of sword exercise for infantry (Appendix of), London, U.K. 1876.

CALAMANDREI C., Storia dell' Arma Bianca Italiana, Firenze, Italy, 1999.

WALTER John, The sword & bayonet makers of imperial Germany, London, U.K., 1973.

Special thanks to Paul Kilmartin (NZ) for information regarding Burton's treatise.

Pictures and text are the property of the author.

Update: August 9, 2000

Contact the author: jeanbck@hotmail.com

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