The Estoc | A Sword without an Edge

An estoc, used from the 14th to the 17th century, is an edgeless two-handed sword designed specifically for fighting against opponents who are wearing full suits of steel armour. Similar to a rondel dagger, the estoc is meant for finding its way into the niches of armor (armpits, neck, visor, the back of the knee, etc). Being edgeless also means that its wielder can use it like a mace more easily, indeed reverse it so use it like a polehammer.


Fauld vs Tonlet | Medieval Armor for the Waist

Faulds and tonlets are both pieces of armor worn below the breastplate to protect the groin and waist, but some major differences separate them.



Worn over a skirt of maille, a fauld is a piece of armor attached to the bottom of a breastplate, corresponding to a ‘culet’ which hangs from the bottom of a backplate on the other side (though in early to mid medieval times, culets were rarely worn as maille over the arse was deemed ‘good enough’). A fauld consists of steel lames connected by strips of leather, albeit other less popular methods were sometimes used to connect them. The leather strips allow expansion and contraction, which is absolutely necessary because the fauld needs to contract when the wearer mounts a horse. Oftimes, additional ‘tassets’ were hinged to the bottom of faulds to hang over the ‘cuisses’ and provide additional protection for thighs. In later medieval times, tassets grew to ridiculous lengths, stretching past the knees.



A tonlet is very similar to a fauld, but it’s more difficult to be comfortable on a horse while wearing one. You may need a hand mounting. This is because tonlets are thrice as long and don’t have as much flexibility, though by looking at many images, you can see how they would be able to contract somewhat, making jousting possible. Their purpose is to be rigid, supplying great if not desirable protection against lances or, depending on the century, lead balls. There’s no use attaching tassets to a tonlet because they already reach down close to the knees, depending on the particular size as many were built specially. Tonlets wrap around the entire waist like a skirt, so there’s also no need for a culet. They supply much more protection than faulds, as you can imagine, perfect against the deadlier weapons of the time, like crow’s beaks. Occasionally you would see tonlets on the battlefield, by men who wanted to keep their arses safe.

Faulds, on the other hand, were meant for open battle, meant to allow near-perfect maneuverability for the common knecht. With all that said, I’d much rather wear a tonlet behind a bulwark; thank you very much.

How to Load and Fire a Musket or Flintlock Pistol (explained briefly with appropriate jargon)

Part of the research I had to do for a book included learning how ‘muzzleloaders’ operate. So now I’ll briefly share what I’ve learned.

Muskets or any flintlock firearms are generally always reloaded via the muzzle like a cannon. First, a ‘powder horn’ or ‘powder flask’ is used to pour ‘grains of shot’ aka gunpowder down the muzzle and into the bore where it settles at the breech. Experts may be able to eyeball how much powder’s needed for a successful ‘fire’, but many people use a ‘measuring flask’ in order to make sure the correct amount’s inserted. For many later muskets, I believe 100 grains of shot is recommended.

After the gunpowder’s inserted, a cloth wad is placed on the muzzle and then the lead ball or bullet is placed on top of the wad. The wad isn’t always needed, but it helps to make sure the ball’s airtight within the barrel so that it won’t come rolling back out. The wad also helps to secure an airtight chamber in the breech which ultimately makes the ignition more effective. The detachable ‘ramrod’, which is usually always conveniently ready to withdraw from a tube underneath the barrel, is used to tamp the lead ball down the barrel until it’s snug with the powder in the breech above the trigger and below the pan.

Once the ball’s nice and snug, the ramrod is reinserted into its holder. The reloader then needs to ‘prime’ the gun before he or she can fire it. This is done by lifting up the mechanism known as a ‘frizzen’ where the abovementioned dish-like space known as a ‘pan’ sits underneath. A secondary smaller powder horn known as a ‘priming horn’ is used to fill the pan with a finer version of gunpowder known as ‘primer’ or ‘priming powder.’ It’s important that primer is put into the pan because primer contains less saltpeter aka potassium nitrate than normal gunpowder. Unlike your typical, coarse gunpowder, primer is smokeless when it ignites, and since the pan sits close to the operator’s eye when he or she is aiming, you can imagine why it’s a good idea to have a smokeless ignition. But of course in times of war, getting a shot off no matter what is far more important than avoiding smoke in your eye. And remember that primer is also much finer than regular powder. That means it can catch a spark more easily and therefore acts as an engine’s spark plug, while the powder in the breach is the fuel so to speak.

Once the pan is primed, the frizzen is locked down to cover it, protecting the primer from the elements. The next step is to pull back the ‘cock.’ The cock is the hammer-like mechanism attached to the trigger that holds the flint. Once the gun is fully cocked, all the operator needs to do is aim and pull the trigger. When the trigger’s pulled, the cock snaps forward, smacking the flint against the frizzen. The frizzen unlocks and opens up from the force, revealing the pan. This allows sparks from the flint to simultaneously fall into the pan and ignite the primer. A hole in the bottom of the pan allows the gunpowder behind the lead ball to also ignite forthwith. And presto! If everything is dry and loaded correctly, the bullet should zoom out posthaste. But aiming is a different story.

Historically, musketeers could reload a muzzleloader four times per minute on horseback.

The Swordbreaker | A Dagger to Catch Swords

A swordbreaker is a dagger or shortsword with deep notches on one side of the blade, used for catching and grappling opponents’ swords. They were most popular with the rise in rapier fighting during the Renaissance. Much like a shield, a swordbreaker is used in combination with a sword or other one-handed weapon. The notches on the blade, if used properly, can catch oncoming blades as it parries them, allowing the user to subdue their opponent’s weapon for a time. The name ‘swordbreaker’ is the accepted name for the tool, albeit they don’t actually ‘break’ swords. It may be possible for one to break a sword, but they are mainly just for catching and hooking, giving its user a deadly advantage. Swordbreakers take great skill to wield efficiently. They work best against thrusts with a sort of windmill-like motion. They come in many different shapes and sizes. Today, extant examples from history sit in museums around the world. Modern remakes are becoming popular as they capture the imagination of HEMA students.