Thursday, October 2, 2014

The derp of the sword (snark)

Smallsword, mid-18th century

Online discussion groups tend sometimes to be weird echo chambers where people repeat each other as authorities, add to and encourage one another's suppositions and at last come up with ideas existing only in the hothouse environment of online fora.

Case in point--While looking online for something else, I found some discussions in sword and fencing discussion boards that concluded that the smallsword must have been ineffective, lacking in "stopping power."

Let us grant that it is true that the smallsword was a deficient weapon. Then let us apply a little logic and see where that takes us.

We must conclude that the typical socket bayonet was likewise ineffective, since it had a smallsword blade profile: hollow ground, triangular cross section.

Top to bottom: Socket bayonet, another socket bayonet, rod bayonet, knife bayonet

The numerous triangular, cruciform and square section poniards, stilettos and bodkins coming down to us as relics of bygone eras were poorly conceived weapons, obviously. WWI trench knives made that way were likewise wrongheaded work.

U.S. Trench Knife M1917

We may likewise conclude that the inferiority of this blade type escaped the attention of military planners for a long time. Survivals of generally smallsword-like forms of bayonet may be seen even into the 20th century--pointed rods lightened by flutes, able only to make wounds like those from a smallsword. The Chinese SKS bayonet is an example familiar to many today.

The trouble is, I suppose, that back when people actually fought with and died by bladed weapons, they did not have the Internet to tell them that they were doing it wrong.

. . .

That is enough send-up, I suppose. I find the Internet verdict that the smallsword was ineffective to be flawed, because it is based on the wrong question. "Stopping power," the key criterion in the derpful evaluation, is an idea, and a term, from the world of firearms. Imposing it on a discussion of swords is misleading. First blood in a sword fight was not reliably decisive, whatever kind of sword was used. There were many instances of saber cuts as well as smallsword thrusts not being delivered with full effectiveness, due often to the opponent's efforts to avoid that very outcome. The question was often not how hard you could hit him if you got the chance to hit him as hard as you could, but whether you could hit him at all.

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