I receive questions about how to properly size a sword or saber. Contrary to much of the information that is “out there”, the sword and saber blade length is not simply a function of a person’s height.
The correct length is the blade length that will place the tip of the blade at approximately eye level when an individual carries the sword at the Carry Sword position pictures below). The correct blade length is a function of the individual’s arm and neck length and the type of weapon (curved, saber, or straight, sword, blade).
Why is blade length important?
For those intending to mount the sword or saber on a wall and having no intention of executing manual of arms (draw sword, present arms, parade rest, etc.), blade length is not critical. A 30-inch blade length is the most common length, generally fitting those between 5’8″ and 5’11” in height.
Regulation Drill: For those intending to execute manual of arms, blade length is important. A sword blade that is too long not only looks odd and non-uniform, but also risks knocking off headgear or increases head movement when going to the “Carry Sword” position.
Ceremonial Drill: A longer sword/saber is necessary due to executing Ceremonial at Ease. In this position, the weapon tip is placed on the deck centered between the feet, sword vertical, right hand flared pointing down and left hand wrapped around it with thumb and index finger wrapped at the wrist. For the measurements described in 3, below, do not subtract inches.
What sword or saber length do I need?
- The best way to size a sword or saber is to hold another sword or saber in the “Carry Sword” position to see how the length fits.
- If one does not have another sword or saber on hand, measuring for the fit is possible. Stand at a modified position of attention with your arm extended down at your side and your fingers extended down.
- Measure from your eye level to the “V” between your thumb and your index finger. Using this measurement, the correct sword length depends on the type of weapon:
- Army Officer Saber, Navy Officer Sword, Coast Guard Officer Sword, USMC NCO sword, NOAA Commissioned Corps Sword, and Public Health Service Sword – above measurement minus 3 inches.
- Army NCO Sword, USMC Officer Sword, Air Force Sword, and academy swords (West Point, or Army Academy) – above measurement minus 2 inches.
- If you are within a 1/2-inch of a sword size: round up to the nearest size.
- If you are within 1-inch of a sword size: round down to the nearest size.
- For 1-1/2-inches: since most swords are sized in 1″ increments (a few are offered in 2″ size increments) it would be rare to have a 1-1/2-inch rounding issue, unless we were back-ordered on some sizes and you needed a sword very quickly. We would generally suggest against rounding 1-1/2-inches or more, but if necessary, we would suggest rounding down to the nearest size. It is easier to compensate for a shorter length sword by slightly raising your hand/arm’s position (to bring the point up to eye level) than it is to compensate for a longer sword by lowering your hand.