The ubiquitous longsword seems to have a special place in the hearts of many students of medieval weapons and practitioners of the combative arts. What is it about this relatively simple weapon that makes it so particularly popular?
The basic longsword seems to possess many attributes that make it an almost ideal weapon. Its over-all length is most commonly between 40 and 48 inches. This makes the longsword moderate in reach without being too tasking to carry for long periods of time. The average weight of the longsword is from 2.7 to 3.5 pounds. This again is a comfortable weight for most people. With little training and practice most people seem to be able to carry and wield this weight with little difficulty. The overall balance of most longswords is closer to the guard, usually within 3 inches. This too contributes to the general “handiness” of the weapon by providing a pleasing and fluid movement.
The grip is usually what can be termed as a hand-and-a-half or “bastard” length of between 5 and 8 inches. Bastard meaning that the length is between that of a two-handed sword length and single hand sword length, thus it cannot be legitimately claimed to be either and is instead a “bastard” grip. This length of grip provides a solid balance for a single hand and yet has enough space to add a second hand for extra power or control.
The hilt design itself is usually fairly simplistic and straight forward. This is not to say that more complex hilts did not exist, for they most certainly did, especially in the later 15th century, but by and large longsword hilts lacked side rings and such. A simple guard rests flatter against the body when walking, sitting, riding a horse, etc. Pommels for longswords are often wheels, disks, scent-stoppers, or various truncated wedges and fish-tail designs. Moderate weight, flat and stream-lined design, excellent balance, bastard-length grip, and a flexible blade design make for a sword with wide appeal.
The longsword is my personal favorite and the type of sword that my brother and I use quite often in live steel combat demonstrations and practice. I particularly enjoy hand forging longswords. Their overall clean lines and shape appeals to my eye.