By far, the most common weapon of the 18th century aristocracy was the French Small Sword, a weapon that came into vogue in Europe around the fourth quarter of the 17th Century. The smallsword is instantly recognizable for its hilt, typically featuring an 8-shaped plate, a single short quillon, two small arms (that get progressively smaller in the course of the 18th Century) and a knucklebow.
REPRODUCTION OF FRENCH SMALL SWORD:
Civilians carried it for as long as swords remained an integral part of fashionable dress. Its primary advantage was its stiff, lightweight blade which was forged in a triangular cross section. It was a highly lethal weapon, ideal for thrusting, and hung conveniently from a sash, baldric, or belt. The hilt (compared to the rapier’s) was simple and smartly functional, consisting of no more than an elliptical plate, or two shells and a light knuckle guard. The smallsword blade is generally between 29 and 35 inches long, and may be of flattened diamond, oval or triangular section, and its weight is typically around 1 to 1.5lbs.
The smallsword is one of the most overlooked and misunderstood among historical weapons. Traditionally associated with effeminate 18th-Century fops, it has been often maligned as being little more than male jewelry. Also, the 18th Century lies on the chronological edge of many students of history, thus making the weapon used in that time a passing curiosity at best.
The smallsword is almost essentially a thrusting weapon; although records exist of its occasionally being “sharpened as a razor” for dueling (naturally applicable only for those blades that could physically take an edge), the major French smallsword instruction treatises focus solely on the thrust.
THRUSTING TECHNIQUE OF THE SMALL SWORD: