The Musketeer Sword: The Secondary Weapon of the Musketeers
What’s in this article?
The Musketeer sword is a single or double-edged weapon that was used by real infantry footsoldiers alongside their muskets or by the heroic chivalrous swordsmen in the classic and well-known French novel, “The Three Musketeers,” by Alexandre Dumas.
In this article, you will find out about the real Musketeer swords and the ones found in the novel. We shall go over the types of swords used by the real Musketeers and explain their characteristics and uses. Then we shall conclude the article by taking a glance at the Musketeer Sword found in the famous novel by Dumas.
What is a Musketeer?
A Musketeer was an infantry foot soldier that used a musket as his primary weapon of choice while having a halberd or a Musketeer sword as his secondary and backup weapon. The Musketeers were used throughout the world in early modern warfare, and there are many types of musketeers spanning from China to the Kongo of Africa, but the origins of the Musketeer are in Europe.
The origin of the term Musketeer comes from the French word “Mousquetaire,” which literally translates to infantryman with a musket. The Musketeers were formed in 1622 as part of the King’s Guard, having the famous blue tabard with the cross and fleurdelys, a decorative French symbol. Musketeers were the bulk of the European infantry from the 17th until the 19th century when they were replaced by riflemen and their rifles.
Types of Swords used by the Musketeers
The most iconic weapon used by the Musketeers were their muskets, so there is no real definition of a Musketeer sword, per se. While that is the case, whether they are seen in active battles or not, they are always seen carrying a backup sword. They came into use during melee and close-quarter fights when the musket took too long to reload to be reliably used
Here we shall list different swords used and seen in many historical paintings, archives, and documents on European Musketeers.
The most common weapon that could be seen as a backup weapon hanging on the belts of the Musketeers is the Side Sword. This continuation of the Arming Sword was highly popular in Europe, even before the musketeers became an official infantry unit. It was widespread and familiar to civilians and the nobility alike, which is why it was accepted very easily.
Its blade, weight, and small enough length, which offered very effective hack-and-slash types of attacking motions, came in handy for close-quarter fights making it more useful than the slim fencing Rapier that prioritized thrust attacks.
The most popular weapon that is linked to the Musketeers is the long, thin Rapier. This weapon was highly used by the Musketeers in duels and was a symbol of prestige. It is a very effective weapon to use for thrusting and stabbing attacks, but because of its long length, it could’ve been a nuisance to carry around. Also, some musketeers were part of cavalry units where stabbing attacks would not have been useful.
Half-Rapier or Musketeer Rapier
The Rapier Musketeer sword, better known as the Half-Rapier, looks just like the civilian Rapier, just with a modified blade. The blade of the Musketeer rapier was slightly shorter, wider, and heavier than the regular rapier. A wider blade meant that it could be sharpened on either side, making it deadly when used to slash at enemies. The shorter length also made it easier to carry around and wield in combat.
The very short and light sword that hung off the belts of many European infantrymen, including the musketeers, was the Hanger sword. This type of musketeer sword was often seen in Western Europe. It is just a crude, military shortsword that can be carried on marches while also being very effective for slashing strikes, thanks to its curved blade.
Curved European sabers, influenced from the east by Poland and Hungarian Sabres, were also in the arsenal of weapons for the musketeers. A Musketeer saber can mean any type of saber with a blade length that is not incredibly long so that it can be used as a one-handed thrusting and slashing weapon.
The Musketeer Smallsword evolved directly from the longer and thin Rapier. This weaponry was used for military efforts as well, but it was primarily a light sword of social status that the musketeers enjoyed for a period of time. It is slightly shorter than the Rapier and features a D knuckle guard with many decorations on it.
The Musketeers were known for having a dagger as their third weapon of choice. Although sometimes this dagger can be as simple as the modern bayonet, there might be times, just as seen in Dumas’s novel, when they used an intricate and prestigious-looking weapon like the Main-gauche dagger or short sword.
How much did the Musketeers really use Swords in Battle?
Musketeers appeared alongside the renaissance invention of the musket, which was an early type of rifle that took a long time to fire and reload and was extremely inaccurate compared to today’s rifles. Most of these muskets were very hard to make and heavy to carry around. They could weigh more than 22 lbs (10 kg) at times and be as long as 6 feet (2 meters) too.
Furthermore, each musketeer was responsible for paying for his own gear, which included a horse if needed, clothes, and weaponry that he used during the course of his service. As a result of the lower cost of swords compared to guns, many musketeers preferred to be equipped with swords rather than muskets. That is why all of the Musketeers can be seen with a sword, and although they are named for their muskets, Musketeer swords were used by almost every Musketeer.
Use of the Musketeer Swords
The three pieces of weaponry that the Musketeers had were the musket, sword, and dagger. That explains the secondary and backup use of the Musketeer swords. They are used as a one-handed weapon that can be short or long but is very light to use and offer quick slashing and thrusting strikes.
Although having a long-ranged weapon like the musket is very valuable to any army of musketeers, most of the battles would come down to a hand-to-hand combat situation. That is why the Musketeer swords were always ready for battle and came in handy when the early musket needed a long time to reload. Also, some Musketeers, like the French Musketeers, used Dragoon-style rushing cavalry that attacked enemy lines with muskets and swords.
Decorative & Modern
As time passed, the sword was mainly relegated to the soldiers’ belts and rarely came off it as rifles improved. Musketeer swords were becoming highly decorative pieces to show symbols of status, rank, or sometimes dynasty symbols. Most Musketeer swords eventually became pieces based on looks or purely for fencing and duels.
Today they play a vital role in all types of cosplay and LARP where muskets are used. Most of the time, the cup-hilt rapier sword can be seen in reenactments because of The Three Musketeers, but there are also replicas of other types of Musketeer swords used in history as well.
What was the Sword used by the Three Musketeers?
The sword that is most often associated with musketeers because of the famous French historical novel, “The Three Musketeers,” is the Rapier sword. This 700-page historical story, set in the 17th century, has characters like D’Artagnan, Athos, Aramis, and Porthos, who are brave, honorable, and gallant swordsmen that fight for what is right using their swords.
Thanks to this novel, the biggest misconception is that the musketeers used the dueling and fencing rapier in their battles as the primary weapon. The writer Alexandre Dumas loved “rogue stories,” which the Spanish called “picaros.” He thought sword fighters were brave and interesting heroes, so he sought to write a story about cool sword fights, friendship, and fun adventures.
Although the misconception that the musketeers used swords more than their muskets is widespread, the Musketeer’s swords are very interesting to try out in fencing and roleplay as one of the legendary Musketeers of Dumas.