The term "Battle Ready" as it applies to swords has
been in use for a long time. It was already an established term
when we founded this website in 2000. However, despite it's long
history, many people do not really understand it's exact meaning.
To make matters worse, different sites will sometimes use the
term in different ways.
In the most
basic sense, a Battle Ready sword is a sword made in a similar
way to a historic sword. In other words, it can be used as a weapon,
as opposed to a decorative sword designed only as a display piece.
What all battle ready swords have in common
There are really only three traits common to all swords
worthy of the battle ready listing.
#1) It needs a functional type of steel
#2) It needs to be heat treated
It needs a strong tang construction
That's it. Those are the only three things you can deduce from
the battle ready tag. It means that the sword meets the minimum
requirements to be considered a functional weapon instead of just
a display piece.
#1 The Steel
Typically you will see it said that a battle ready sword
will have a carbon steel blade. This is true to an extent, but
is a gross over-simplification. All steel has carbon, carbon is
what makes the difference between iron and steel. Even the much
maligned stainless steel has carbon. In this case, "carbon
steel" is being used to differentiate from "stainless
steel". Stainless Steel gains it's rust resistance by the
inclusion of chromium in the steel alloy, but this also makes
the steel somewhat brittle, rendering it a poor choice for a long,
sword length blade. Usually, a functional sword blade will have
a higher carbon content, aka "High Carbon Steel" as
opposed to mild steel with a low carbon content. There are many
different types of blade steels in use and it is not as simple
as higher carbon content equals "better", there are
many other factors involved and lots of trade offs. We'll talk
more about different types of steel in another post, but for now
it is enough to know that a steel blade with a decent level of
carbon is one of the defining characteristics of what makes a
sword "Battle Ready".
#2 Heat Treatment
Without the proper heat treatment even the best quality steel
would be rather useless as a sword blade. The second aspect of
a battle ready blade ensures that it has been heat treated to
some degree. The heat treatment is actually two processes, quenching
and tempering. Quenching hardens the blade so it will hold a cutting
edge, but a hard blade is also a brittle blade. The tempering
basically pulls back some of that hardness and allows the blade
to gain flexibility, so it will not snap or shatter in a strike.
#3 The Tang
The last part of the battle ready recipe is the blade's
tang. Basically the tang is the portion of the blade that extends
into the grip. A well tempered blade of good quality, high carbon
steel is still not a functional sword if the blade files out of
the hilt when you swing it, so the tang and how it is affixed
to the hilt are just as important as everything else. Most people
will tell you that a battle ready sword needs a "full tang",
but this is not actually true. See more about tang types here.
What it needs is a "functional tang" and that is what
the battle ready tag will indicate. Different types of swords
will use different types of tang construction and the battle ready
tag does not differentiate between different types of functional
tangs. Battle ready simply means that the tang on the sword will
be one of the functional types as opposed to a decorative only
What Battle Ready is not
You will notice that nothing about these three aspects
says anything about the blade being sharp or how strong the blade
is. One of the biggest mistakes we see are people adding their
own sets of expectations onto the battle ready term.
Here are some common misconceptions
Battle Ready does not mean the blade is
The sharpness is a separate aspect from a blade's functionality.
Yes, logically, if you are ready to go into battle with your sword
it will need to be sharp. However, that can not be assumed from
the battle ready term. This is an illogical part of the way the
term is used, but it is what it is. You will find battle ready
swords with both sharp and blunt edges, but a blunt battle ready
sword can be sharpened.
ready is only a basic indicator of durability
A sword being battle ready does not mean it is indestructible.
In fact it does not even mean it is exceedingly strong. What it
literally means is that the sword is functional, nothing more.
Some functional swords are going to be more durable than others,
so being battle ready should only be considered a starting point.
The battle ready term should be used as an indication of minimum
acceptable aspects for a weapon quality blade, not as a guarantee
of extreme durability. Battle ready swords range in price from
around $50 or so to several thousand. Just being "battle
ready" does not render those price differences insignificant.
There are many factors that go into how durable a swords is, qualifying
as battle ready is only the start.
Ready does not mean that it handles well
I've seen people try to make the argument that a particular
sword is not battle ready because it is too heavy or clumsy. Again,
this is a different aspect from a sword's general functionality.
Yes, if a sword is too heavy to use properly that will impact
it's functionality, but that is projecting more onto the term
than is intended. A battle ready sword can still be heavy, poorly
balanced or clumsy. Just being battle ready does not change that.
This is why it is important to consider all of a sword's specs
when making a selection. Being able to properly balance weight
with durability is one of the aspects that separate good manufacturers
from great, and great will usually come at a higher price than
Battle Ready replicas vs. historic swords
This is where things can get more complicated. Many people
have incorrect assumptions about the durability of historic weapons.
This is understandable, as movies, video games and pop culture
in general, do not portray historic weapons correctly. They have
been elevated to a near mythic level with unrealistic and historically
inaccurate levels of strength and durability. In truth, medieval
and ancient weapons were damaged and broken in battle frequently.
Swords hit edge to edge would chip and need to be reground, some
swords could bend and would need to be straightened, others would
suffer blade breakage in combat. Modern reproductions are no different
in this regard. Not only will they function like their historic
counter parts, but they can break like their historic counter
parts as well. In most cases, the quality of steel and manufacture
on modern replicas far surpasses the originals, but they are still
not going to be indestructible. Breaking or damaging a sword does
not mean that it is not battle ready. By that logic most weapons
throughout history were not battle ready, which is obviously a
Where the Battle Ready term falls apart
This term is only truly useful for swords, and steel swords
at that. What about a bronze sword? That's not carbon steel, and
bronze blades were not heat treated, they were work hardened.
Can a bronze blade be "battle ready"? Not under the
literal meaning of the term. But, bronze swords were battle weapons.
What about knives? Strictly speaking a stainless steel knife would
not be "battle ready" but can clearly be a fully functional
weapon. How about a spear, carbon steel head on a wood shaft?
The head may be strong, but the shaft could break rather easily.
Wooden club? Does not fit any of the battle ready requirements
but is still a fully functional weapon. The point is that this
term becomes much, much less important when you are talking about
other weapon types. This is because what is needed to make a functional
club, mace, spear or knife is far less than what is needed to
make a functional sword. The obvious line between decorative and
functional swords is not only blurred with some of these weapons,
but may be non existent.
"Battle Ready" is not "Battle Ready"
Although this term is pretty well established and most
North American dealers use it in the same way, many European dealers
use the term differently. On many European websites a "battle
ready sword" refers to a sword used for sport fighting, while
a sharp sword is referred to as a "decorative sword"
by contrast. While somewhat similar, cutting swords and sport
or stage fighting swords have some significant differences. Sport
swords are generally thicker with much thicker edges and usually
a softer temper. They are not made to be sharpened and typically
will not hold a good edge. Also the blade geometry does not lend
itself to being sharpened. We refer to these as "Stage Combat"
swords as opposed to "Battle Ready": swords.
Ready" vs. "Stage Combat" vs. "Decorative"
These are the three basic types of swords and what is right
for you depends on your intended usage. Pick the type that fits
with what you want to do, but understand their limitations.
As the name implies these are great for decorating, hanging on
the wall, costuming or collecting. They are not suitable for any
type of usage. Unless stated otherwise, consider all swords you
see offered for sale anywhere as decorative.
Basically a modern recreation of a historic weapon with the same
abilities and weaknesses. The only choice for any type of cutting
practice or true weapons usage. Edges are usually too thin for
any type of edge to edge contact even when dulled.
A blunted, safer sword designed with edge to edge contact in mind.
Allows for stage or sport fighting will less chance of killing
your partner. Not suitable to be sharpened.
please keep these points in mind when you make sword selections.
It is safe to assume that a battle ready sword will survive normal
light cutting activities. Better ones can handle heavy cutting
or even abuse. But, do not assume that a particular sword will
handle whatever you throw at it, simply by nature of it's battle
ready construction. And remember that if you manage to break or
bend a sword, that does not mean that it is not battle ready.
It just means that, barring the possibility of some kind of defect,
it was pushed past it's limits. To preserve your sword investment,
don't stress it to that point. Stick to normal cutting materials
such as water bottles, rice mats, pool noodles, cardboard tubes,
etc. Stay away from hard materials and never try to chop wood
with a sword.