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[1][2]French sabre of the sailors of the Guard, First Empire.The sabre or saber (see spelling differences) is a kind of backsword that usually has a curved, single-edged blade and a rather large hand guard, covering the knuckles of the hand as well as the thumb and forefinger. Although sabres are typically thought of as curved-bladed slashing weapons, those used by the world's heavy cavalry often had straight and even double-edged blades more suitable for thrusting. The length of sabres varied, and most were carried in a scabbard hanging from a shoulder belt known as a baldric or from a waist-mounted sword belt, usually with slings of differing lengths to permit the scabbard to hang below the rider's waist level . Exceptions not intended for personal carry include the Patton saber adopted by the United States Army in 1913 and always mounted to the cavalryman's saddle.


[hide] *1 Etymology


The English word sabre derives from the French sabre which is akin to the Hungarian szablya, Polish szabla, and Russian сабля (sablya). Owing to contamination with Hungarian verb szab, which means "to cut" (cognate with the English "stab"), the term is believed to originate from the Kipchak Turkic selebe.[1]

Origins of the weaponEdit

[3][4]Medieval (12th century) Eastern European szabla blade.Sabre-like curved backswords have been in use in Europe since the medieval period (falchion), or indeed since antiquity (makhaira), but the introduction of the sabre proper in Western Europe, along with the term sabre itself, dates to the 17th century, via influence of the Eastern European szabla type. The weapon gained widespread use in the early 19th century, inspired by the Mameluke sword, a type of Middle Eastern scimitar.

The original type of Szabla or Polish sabre was used as a cavalry weapon, probably inspired by Hungarian or wider Turco-Mongol warfare. The Karabela was a type of szabla popular in the late 17th century, worn by the Polish, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian nobility class, the Szlachta. While designed as a cavalry weapon, it also came to replace various types of straight-bladed swords used by infantry.[2] The Swiss sabre originates as a regular sword with a single-edged blade in the early 16th century, but by the 17th century begins to exhibit specialized hilt types.


[5][6]The briquet, typical infantry sabre of the Napoleonic Wars.[7][8]French Navy sabre of the 19th Century, "boarding sabre".[9][10]Lieutenant Colonel Teófilo Marxuach's M1902 Officer's Sabre and Scabbard at the National Historic Trust site at Castillo San Cristobal in San Juan, Puerto RicoThe sabre saw extensive military use in the early 19th century, particularly in the Napoleonic Wars, during which Napoleon used heavy cavalry charges to great effect against his enemies. Shorter versions of the sabre were also used as sidearms by dismounted units, although these were gradually replaced by fascine knives and sword bayonets as the century went on. The sabre faded as a weapon by mid-century, as longer-range rifles made cavalry charges obsolete, even suicidal. In the American Civil War, the sabre was used infrequently as a weapon, but saw notable deployment in the Battle of Brandy Station and at East Cavalry Field at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Many cavalrymen—particularly on the Confederate side—eventually abandoned the long, heavy weapons in favour of revolvers and carbines. Although there was extensive debate over the effectiveness of weapons such as the sabre and lance, the sabre remained the standard weapon of cavalry for mounted action in most armies until World War I (1914–18). Thereafter it was gradually relegated to the status of a ceremonial weapon, and most horse cavalry was replaced by armoured cavalry from 1930 on. In the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (16–18th century) a specific type of sabre-like melee weapon, the szabla, was used. The Don Cossacks used the shashka, which also saw military and police use in the Russian Empire and early Soviet Union.

Adoption by Western Armed ForcesEdit

[11][12]A British Hussar general with a scabbarded kilij of Turkish manufacture (1812)Europeans rekindled their interest in sabres due to their confrontations with the Mamelukes in the late 18th century and early 19th century. The Mamluks were originally of Turkish descent, the Egyptians bore Turkish sabres for hundreds of years. During the Napoleonic Wars, the French conquest of Egypt brought these beautiful and functional swords to the attention of the Europeans. This type of sabre became very popular for light cavalry officers, in both France and Britain, and became a fashionable weapon for senior officers to wear.

The elegant but effective 1803 pattern sword that the British Government authorized for use by infantry officers during the wars against Napoleon featured a curved sabre blade which was often blued and engraved by the owner in accordance with his personal taste.

In 1831, the "Mamaluke" sword became a regulation pattern for British general officers (and is still in use today). The American victory over the rebellious forces in the citadel of Tripoli in 1805 during the First Barbary War, led to the presentation of bejewelled examples of these swords to the senior officers of the US Marines. Officers of the US Marine Corps still use a mameluke pattern dress sword. Although some genuine Turkish kilij sabres were used by Westerners, most "mameluke sabres" were manufactured in Europe; their hilts were very similar in form to the Ottoman prototype, however, their blades, even when an expanded yelman was incorporated, tended to be longer, narrower and less curved than those of the true kilij.

During the 19th and in the early 20th century, sabres were also used by both mounted and dismounted personnel in some European police forces. When the sabre was used by mounted police against crowds, the results could be appalling, as in a key scene in Doctor Zhivago. The sabre was later phased out in favour of the baton (or night stick) for both practical and humanitarian reasons. The Gendarmerie of Belgium used them until at least 1950.[3]

In the United States, swords with sabre blades are worn by Army, Navy, and Coast Guard officers. Marine officers and non-commissioned officers also wear such swords. They are not intended for use as weapons, however, and now serve primarily in ornamental or ceremonial functions. One ceremonial function a sabre serves is the Sabre Arch, performed for servicemen or women getting married.

Modern sport fencingEdit

The sabre is one of the three weapons used in the sport of fencing. It is a very fast-paced weapon, with bouts characterized by quick footwork and cutting with the side of the blade. Sabre is often claimed to be modelled after the weapon that cavalry used when fighting upon horseback (the allowed target area is only from the waist up, the region a mounted man could reach on a foe on the ground), although, more reasonably, most scholars believe the sabre was modelled after the lighter Italian style duelling sabre.

Sabre is a right-of-way weapon, which means that the fencer must take certain actions to get the right to score a point. Because sabre is such a fast weapon, the window of time each fencer is allowed to get their light on during electric fencing (to score a simultaneous hit after being hit by an opponent) is very, very small. In 2005, the FIE changed the timing from 300-350 milliseconds down to approximately 120 milliseconds. What this means is that if Fencer A hits Fencer B, Fencer B has only 120 milliseconds to hit Fencer A before the scoring machine will not allow any new lights to come on.

In appearance the modern fencing sabre bears little resemblance to the traditional weapons on which it is modelled. Rather than a wide, flat, curved, single-edged blade, sports sabres have a thin, straight blade 88 cm long, with a V, Y or square cross-section.


In a marching band or a drum & bugle corps, the colorguard is a non-musical section that provides additional visual aspects to the performance. The marching band and colorguard performance generally takes place on a football field while the colorguard interprets the music that the marching band or drum & bugle corps is playing via the synchronized spinning of flags, sabres, rifles, or through dance. In the Winter colorguards, or Winter guard perform indoors on gymnasium floors and usually performs to interpret recorded music.

Unlike in traditional, military colorguards, the sabre, and rifle are used as apparatus for spinning, tossing and as an extension to interpretative movement. The sabre is considered one of the more advanced of the equipment used by the guard members.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Marek Stachowski (2004). "The origin of the European word for sabre". Studia Etymologica Cracoviensia (Krakow) 9.,%20SEC-9.pdf.
  2. ^ Alaux, Michel. Modern Fencing: Foil, Epee, and Sabre. Scribner's, 1975, p. 123.
  3. ^ BELGIUM SAYS 'NO' TO LEOPOLD (Newsreel). Pathé News. 3 August 1950.

External linksEdit

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