Classification of Swords by Hilt Type

Close view of basket-hilted sword

What Is a Sword Hilt & More

Swords of Northshire specializes in making samurai swords that have a very specific hilt type, but we also create a number of fully functional historical replicas and pop culture replicas that have unique variations in the hilt, guard, and pommel. If you want to learn more about classifications of swords by hilt type, read on here for information from our experts.

What is a Sword Hilt?

Simply put, the hilt is the part of the sword where you hold it. A hilt is made up of several parts including the pommel, guard, and grip. There are hundreds of variations on hilt designs because every region, culture, and country developed its own aesthetic and functional preferences in weapons design. Some swords have minimal hilt design, like a katana, while others have very elaborate designs, like a European broadsword.

  1. Basket-Hilted Sword

basket-hilted sword

A basket-hilt is one classification of swords by hilt type that is characterized by a basket-shaped guard to protect the wielder’s hand. This type of hilt was developed in the Late Middle Ages and attaches the basket directly onto the crossguard, or quillon, of a sword. Today, the basket-hilted sword is usually referred to as a broadsword.

  1. Alternative Guard

While most European and many Asian swords have a crossguard, one classification of swords that either doesn’t have this piece or has a circle guard is the samurai sword. From katanas and wakizashi to tanto and nodachi, a samurai’s weapons generally have circle guards. There are a number of benefits to this type of hilt design. For one, the guard is too small (or nonexistent) to get tangled in your clothing, limbs, or hair while wielding it. Even more important, it pares down the weight of the sword, making the weapon easier to swing and increasing a swordsman’s speed in combat.

  1. Handedness

Another classification of swords by hilt is the handedness of a sword. Some swords are meant to be used two-handed, so their hilt is much longer in order to accommodate both palms. Other swords are meant to be used with one hand (like a rapier), so their hilts are shorter. There are also swords that can be wielded with either one or two hands. Some two-handed swords include:

  • European Longsword

  • Scottish Claymore

  • Bidenhänder Sword

  • Katana

Swords designed for single-handed use include:

  • Hanwei
  • Rapier

  • Short Sword

  • Jian

  • Saber

Why The Hilt Matters

hand forged samurai sword

Classification of swords by hilt type is important for many reasons. They balance the weight of the blade, affect the length of the overall weapon, and determine how comfortable it is to actually hold the sword. Now that you know some of the reasons hilts are shaped a certain way, you can decide what hilt type is best for you.

If Japanese and Chinese inspired weapons are your preference, explore Swords of Northshire to find swords for practice, ceremony, and decoration.

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