A Tale of Two Gladii — You Don’t Always Get What You Pay For
As most of you have probably noticed I have really diversified my content lately, posting a lot more than just antique firearms, but antique arms in general such as swords, daggers, archery, armor, and other melee weapons. So recently I decided to buy some swords. Since I’m big into ancient Roman history I had to get a gladius. My first purchase was a cheap display piece, blade isn’t even sharpened, not even worth mentioning. About a year ago I purchased the “murmillo gladius” produced by Devil’s Edge, which can be found for sale at Kult of Athena for around $130. Recently, after receiving a small tax refund, I decided to use that money to upgrade, selling my older murmillo gladius to pay back student loans. I then purchased the Mainz Pattern Gladius from Windlass Steelcrafts for $215, plus another $18 for sharpening services as the blade comes unsharpened unless requested. When I got my new gladius, I was greatly disappointed.
The Devils Edge gladius is actually a nice sword for it’s price. It features a polished bone handle, a 1095 carbon steel blade which is very sharp, not razor sharp, but still quite impressive. Unlike Windlass Devil’s Edge sells their blades sharp, so no need for extra sharpening services. The sword feels nice in the hand, it’s fairly well balanced, lightweight, and easy to swing. It comes with a leather sheath. At first the sheath was too tight, making it hard to draw the sword, but it loosens up with repeated use, basically it needs to be worn in. I noticed the sword fits in the scabbard from my cheap display sword, so I mostly keep it in that rather than the leather sheath. The sword seems a little rough around the edges, but otherwise not bad for $130.
Now onto the Windlass Mainz Gladius. At first glance this looks like a great sword. Finish is nice, it’s very decorative, I love the look of the Mainz pattern blade. But on more scrupulous inspection, this sword has some major problems. This sword is advertised as having a “faux ivory grip”. Now I understand that Windlass can’t use real ivory, but I did not expect “faux ivory” to be plastic. I was expecting something more like polished and bleached bone like other gladius makers use in place of ivory. Furthermore, the “brass” decorative mountings on the scabbard I suspect are plastic. When I was purchasing something for $230 I was not expecting any plastic to be on it. That’s pretty pathetic. The leather sheath by Devil’s Edge is much more tasteful. Speaking of the scabbard, the sword doesn’t fit right. It’s so loose that it will easily fall out if tipped slightly. I paid $18 for extra sharpening services, but the sword is not sharp. It barely has an edge. Might be good for cutting butter or cheese, but not barbarians. Finally the handle is very uncomfortable, mostly caused by the squared ridges along it’s length. Swinging it causes abrasions which feels like it will blister, and my hands are very delicate from washing them 100 times a day (I work in healthcare). It’s balance is better than the Devil’s Edge sword, but not that much better. Overall the smooth handle of the Devil’s Edge is a big plus and is much better than Windlass’ rough plastic handle.
So I’m disappointed. I should have sent the sword back with complaints, but I didn’t. Soon I’m going to get around to selling it on ebay while keeping the Devil’s Edge Gladius.
Now I do have to mention one caveat. Apparently Devil’s Edge has had issues with the heat treating and hardening of their blades, as demonstrated in Skallagrim’s review of the Devil’s Edge Xiphos
Now supposedly they’ve fixed this problem. Plus I haven’t seen any similar complaints with their gladius in other reviews. I haven’t done any torture tests to see if the blade is strong. Regardless I still like the Devil’s Edge better.
When I pay off my student loans I’m going to buy a Mainz Pattern Gladius from Albion Swords. Only costs around $750. Devil’s Edge compared to Albion is like Boone’s Farm compared to Dom Perignon.