Philipp Selman - 30 Apr 2014
Having previously purchased a Destreza Training Sword, I already knew I was going to love the blade itself. The balance and distribution of mass are exceptional, and the distal taper both reinforces the forte and puts the flex in the foible where it belongs. These are qualities you're not likely to find in even an expensive trainer, let alone such an affordable model. So, lets move on to the guard. While the Bilbo guard itself may lack the aesthetic appeal of Darkwood's pierced plates, there's something reassuringly solid about the feel of this design. Mine has already taken a few healthy beatings and is holding up admirably, and I can tell it's going to be in my collection for many years. The spacing is delightfully broad, especially for guys with big hands, but the coverage is more than adequate, offering plenty of protection when wielded off hand. At the same time, for as substantial as it is, the Bilbo guard doesn't offset the balance of the rig very much maintaining the versatility of the Destreza Training sword for both thrusting and cutting. And when you're doing moderate to full-speed cutting, that extra hand protection sure pays off. So, if you're on the fence between this or the standard Destreza Trainer rig, and you plan to do fast-paced cut and thrust combat, I'd suggest spending the small amount of extra cash—your hands are worth it!
Justin Reis - 20 Jun 2016
Versatile side-sword at an excellent price and EXCEPTIONAL customer service as well. First, Darkwood should be commended for the prompt and unconditionally excellent service they offered me. My hilt was damaged a bit in shipping: the sword arrived protruding from the packaging with the shells bent. The sword was almost certainly still functional and I was willing to try bending them back in place myself. However, when I contacted Scott for advice he immediately offered a replacement. Which arrived in perfect condition within a week. I couldn't be more pleased regarding the service. The sword itself has much to recommend it. The Bilbao-style hilt offers good protection and a unique look that I quite enjoy. It is protective enough that I am perfectly comfortable using a light glove, even for vigorous cut-and-thrust sparring. That said, the guard is open enough to accommodate a protective glove (even a bulky lacrosse glove fits for me) which is certainly a plus. The cross is sufficiently narrow to be gripped comfortably, an issue with some swords for those of us with smallish hands. In use, the sword handles well. The blade feels very stiff, remarkably so in fact and gives a communicative bind. Even with the unusual blade geometry the cutting dynamics feel very similar to a Darkwood Arms&Sidering with sidesword blade, just a bit lighter overall. Still heavy feeling enough to punish you if you throw a sloppy cut at an off angle. If you like the handling of other Darkwood cutters, the Bilbo won't disappoint. Those who do not like the feel of other Darkwood swords won't find the Bilbo substantially different. A few quibbles: the edges are actually quite square and mine had a raised bur along most of the edges that cut paper towels when I tried to clean the blade. These had to be filed off just so I could wipe it down and oil it. The square edges have also been readily damaged in use. The resulting nicks have been sharp enough to require filing each time I've used the sword. To be clear this is not a big deal and doesn't interfere with function in any way. I expect the problem will be reduced over time as the edges wear down (or I may just round them myself). Lastly the edges are square and sharp on the ricasso as well. This makes the sword uncomfortable to use with two fingers above the quillon (with one finger over I'm mostly in contact with the quillon and not the blade). Again, easily fixed with a file and essentially a non-issue at this price point. Overall an excellent value for a quality training sword which one could reasonably use for a number of different styles. Highly recommend.
Justin Reis - 22 Nov 2016
Update (Nov_2016): I've got about 50, fairly vigorous, bouts and almost 5 months of weekly training logged on this sword. I'm still pleased with the sword for the price, but a few concerns have surfaced with extended use: First, the shells are not strong enough. Receiving cuts on the shells rapidly bends them down towards the hand. Training once per week, I need to hammer the smaller shell back out every other week or else it gets flat enough to expose my fingers. Having a bent shell somewhat ruins the (otherwise very nice) aesthetic of the sword—which is disappointing. More importantly, I suspect the metal will simply fail at some point from all the bending back and forth. Second, the hilt itself is made of fairly soft metal. So much so the I've accumulated a number of deep notches on my quillons & knucklebow. These notches are not important, but my training partner (who purchased a Bilbo with the standard pommel) has found that his knucklebow will bend on of line with the handle. My sword, with the wheel pommel doesn't seem to have this problem since the knucklebow rest against (and is this supported by) the larger pommel. Again, this is not hyper-violent tournament use, just normal training and bouting. Third, the blade has developed a slight, but obvious S bend. Among my regular training partners we have 3 of Darkwood's destreza blades (one trainger & two Bilbos) and all three have similar bends. Since this is an unusual blade geometry, this might be perfectly normal, but we're wearing our jackets now even for drills out of concerns about broken blades. Neither of our two Darkwood SideSword blades are bent at all despite similar use. Lastly, and this could be considered praise for Darkwood more than a criticism: the handling of our swords, purchased between May & June 2016m while perfectly acceptable, are noticeably inferior to a new Destreza trainer purchased this Fall. The thick forte on the new sword does not extend as far down the blade as it does on our swords (about an inch less). The result is a sword that rolls very nicely in the cut, arresting it's own energy as the cut ends. Our older model swords also cut with authority, but their momentum must be arrested before the sword can be redirected. This may sound minor, and again, the handling of our swords is fine for a $300 training blade, but the new sword is substantially better—handling as well as substantially more expensive swords. Perhaps this one newer example is a fluke, in which case our man was very lucky! If it is a design improvement, however, kudos to Darkwood. Update summary: Still an eminently usable training weapon with a good-looking (imo) hilt design that provides good protection while being open enough to accommodate very protective gloves if desired. If the shells and blade hold up for a reasonable period of time then this is definitely a great buy. There are, however some concerns with the knucklebow and particularly the shells getting bent out of place and needing to be hammered out regularly.