Sabre

 
French Navy officers' sabre of the 19th Century
French Navy officers' sabre of the 19th Century
From left to right: two bayonets, a short curved infantry or artillery briquet, a straight infantry officers' sabre, and a carbine.
From left to right: two bayonets, a short curved infantry or artillery briquet, a straight infantry officers' sabre, and a carbine.

The sabre or saber (see spelling differences) traces its origins to the European backsword and usually but not always 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. Exceptions not intended for personal carry include the famed Patton sabre adopted by the U.S. Army in 1913 and always mounted to the cavalryman's saddle.

The word sabre is ultimately derived from the Hungarian word szablya (lit. "tool to cut with," from szabni "to cut." ). The origins of the sabre are somewhat unclear, and it may come from designs such as the falchion or the scimitar (shamshir) used in the Middle Ages by such Central Asian cavalry as the Turks, Tatars, and Mongols. The sabre first appeared in Europe with the arrival of the Hungarians (Magyars) in the 10th Century. Originally, the sabre was used as a cavalry weapon that gradually came to replace the various straight bladed cutting sword types on the battlefield. As time went on, sabres became insignia of rank in many armies, and dress use of sabres continues to this day in some armed services around the world.

The sabre saw heavy military use in the early 19th century, particularly in the Napoleonic Wars, where Napoleon used heavy cavalry charges to great effect against his enemies. 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 - abandoned the long, heavy weapons in favour of revolvers and carbines.

In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (16-18th century) a specific type of sabre-like mêlée weapon, the szabla, was used. The Don Cossacks used shashka.

During the 19th and in the early 20th century, sabres were also used by some police forces. The sabre was later phased out in favour of the baton (or night stick) for humanitarian reasons.

A derivative of this weapon is used under this name in the Olympic sport of fencing.

See also

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