IN­TER­RO­GAT­ING

THE UN­USUAL SUS­PECTS

Recoil - - Interrogating -

COLD STEEL

MIZUTORI KATANA

411:

Ap­pear­ing around the 1400s in Ja­pan, the katana was a twohanded, sin­gle-edged curved sword that’s now con­sid­ered by many his­to­ri­ans as one of the most re­spected cut­ting weapons in mil­i­tary his­tory — not just for its slash­ing and stab­bing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and its dura­bil­ity, but also for the in­tri­cate crafts­man­ship that went into mak­ing each one. This Cold

Steel model has both the form and func­tion of an an­cient katana, but made from top-notch ma­te­ri­als us­ing mod­ern tech­nol­ogy. It comes with a lac­quered wooden scab­bard.

PROS:

High-qual­ity katana that would make Miyamoto Musashi smile. Mean­ing “crane” in Ja­panese, the Mizutori fea­tures an el­e­gant bird mo­tif.

In­cred­i­bly strong, ridicu­lously sharp, and just plain badass

CONS:

Some might scoff at the $770 MSRP (though the street price is far lower, which is still way cheaper than the thou­sands [or tens of thou­sands] for an au­then­tic made-in­Ja­pan katana).

BOKER MAG­NUM

AKITO

411:

The Akito from Boker’s Mag­num lineup is a fan­tas­tic (and rel­a­tively af­ford­able) re­cre­ation of the samu­rai’s weapon of choice. A fully func­tional sword, it can be used for Iaido (the art of draw­ing the blade), tameshi­giri (the art of test cut­ting), and for kata (pre­ar­ranged move­ments of tech­niques) prac­ticed in many mar­tial arts.

The Akito comes with a lac­quered wooden scab­bard and fea­tures an au­then­tic ha­mon

(the tem­per line along the side of the blade that’s cre­ated dur­ing the blade­smithing process).

PROS:

As a part of Boker’s Mag­num lineup of af­ford­able edged weapons, the Akito is a great price.

The blade is laser sharp, whether you’re swing­ing, draw cut­ting, or punc­tur­ing.

Sub­tle good looks ac­cented with qual­ity fur­ni­ture.

CONS:

Our re­view sam­ple ar­rived with a loose

habaki (or metal col­lar at the base of the blade above the guard), so the sword can pop out of the scab­bard when we’re not care­ful.

DRAGON KING

KUNGFU JIAN

411:

Dis­trib­uted in the states by CAS Ibe­ria, the

Kungfu Jian kinda has a mis­lead­ing name. Jian refers to the dou­bleedged straight sword from China that dates back 2,500 years — and not nec­es­sar­ily that it’s used only by kung-fu prac­ti­tion­ers. It’s of­ten de­picted in clas­sic nov­els and films as “the gen­tle­man of weapons.” Un­like the laugh­ably bend­able jian that wushu ath­letes use for flashy ex­hi­bi­tions (but not com­bat ap­pli­ca­tions), the Kungfu Jian is a flex­i­ble but re­al­is­tic replica with solid con­struc­tion.

PROS:

Light-years bet­ter in qual­ity than the “wall­hang­ers” we find in var­i­ous Chi­na­towns or flea mar­kets.

Han­dle feels good in hand, and blade feels well bal­anced. Com­pos­ite scab­bard looks like wood but will last longer.

CONS:

It’s un­sharp­ened, which is a shame be­cause it has the qual­i­ties and ma­te­ri­als of what would have been a re­li­able work­ing sword.

HANWEI FORGE

KOUGA NINJA-TO

411:

As the an­cient equiv­a­lent to to­day’s spe­cial op­er­a­tion forces, the ninja served as spies, body­guards, sabo­teurs, gueril­las, and some­times assassins. Ac­cord­ing to Ja­panese lore, two schools orig­i­nated the art of nin­jutsu: Koga-ryu and Iga-ryu. Though spelled dif­fer­ently, the Kouga Ninja-To from Hanwei Forge is a trib­ute to the for­mer school. (U.S. whole­saler CAS Ibe­ria also of­fers Hanwei’s Iga Ninja-To.) De­spite be­ing con­structed in China, the sword is sturdy, well made, and at­trac­tive.

PROS:

The iron hand­guard (or

tsuba) and 1566 high­car­bon steel blade are sur­pris­ingly ro­bust. Bal­anced for both a one- or two-handed grip.

If you’re a kid of the ’80s ( Re­venge of the

Ninja, any­one?), you’ll love the sword’s moviein­spired aes­thet­ics.

CONS:

Could this nin­jato lop off a tyran­ni­cal shogun’s head? Sure, but its edge wasn’t as ra­zor sharp out of the box like some of the other blades in this buyer’s guide.

CON­DOR

DY­NASTY DADAO

411:

Don’t mis­take the dadao for a ma­chete. It was cre­ated cen­turies ago for one pur­pose: hack off heads and limbs. Though the lit­eral trans­la­tion is “big knife,” it’s more ap­pro­pri­ately in­ter­preted as “war sword” or

“grand saber.” It be­came (in)fa­mous dur­ing World War II when Chi­nese sol­diers used them against the in­vad­ing Ja­panese. Con­dor’s Dy­nasty Dadao is un­ex­pect­edly not made in China, but rather in El Sal­vador. Con­dor spe­cial­izes in shov­els, ma­chetes, and other hard-use tools, so this dadao will hold up.

PROS:

Need to in­tim­i­date a Griz­zly or fight off an un­dead horde? This’ll do the job.

Thanks to its thick blade and bal­anced weight, this is a beastly chop­per.

Great value for the price

CONS:

The guard and ring have 90-de­gree edges that could re­sult in hot spots on your hand af­ter pro­longed use. Our test cut­ting sur­pris­ingly scuffed up the 1075 car­bon steel blade.

TFW

BANYAL

411:

Stu­dents of kali, es­crima, or other sim­i­lar Filipino mar­tial arts might mis­take this for the gi­n­unt­ing (the of­fi­cial sword of the Philip­pine Marines), but this TFW sword is ac­tu­ally a mod­ern re­pro­duc­tion of the banyal, which like the barong comes from the Moros of the South­ern Philip­pines. The for­ward-weighted banyal was meant to be a light and fast hacker, but with an ef­fec­tive tip for thrust­ing. It comes with an or­nately de­signed scab­bard and, like all of TFW’s edged weapons, a blade made from a blend of 5160 and D2.

PROS:

It chops like an ax, cuts like a laser, and stabs like a dag­ger.

The combo of 5160 and D2 steels gives the blade a bal­ance of strength, tough­ness, wear re­sis­tance, and edge re­ten­tion. Per­fectly bal­anced for fast one-handed tech­niques

CONS:

The scab­bard’s spring lock, which holds the blade in place, ar­rived cov­ered in rust — a not-so-friendly re­minder that the Philip­pines is a re­ally hu­mid place.

TFW

BARONG

411:

This leaf-shaped blade is one of the most dis­tinc­tive weapons of Filipino war­rior cul­ture … and one of the most feared. Pop­u­lar­ized by the Moros of the South­ern Philip­pines, the barong can chop, slash, and stab with tremen­dous force.

And its curved han­dle is great for strik­ing, trap­ping, and re­ten­tion. Though based in Con­necti­cut, TFW has pre­served this short sword’s clas­sic looks and dead­li­ness by hav­ing it hand­made in the Philip­pines from a mod­ern blend of 5160 steel and D2 tool steel.

PROS:

TFW owner Ron Kosakowski is a mar­tial arts mas­ter — and it shows in the qual­ity and au­then­tic­ity of his prod­ucts, in­clud­ing this barong.

Crazy sharp cut­ting edge

Blade re­mains tough and re­silient af­ter our test cuts.

CONS:

Scab­bard lacks re­li­able re­ten­tion, us­ing only fric­tion to keep the blade in place.

There’s a small gap in the seam be­tween the wood planks that make up the scab­bard, which could let in mois­ture and de­bris over time.

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