Review: SZCO Rondel Dagger (Triangular Blade)

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Review: SZCO Rondel Dagger (Triangular Blade)

Postby MEversbergII » 20 Apr 2016 17:15

I put this review over at SBG, but I figured I'd port it over here for posterity. Didn't want to fiddle with this forum's implementation of IMG tags, so I just left them as raw links.

==SZCO Triangular Blade Rondel Dagger==

Little is known about SZCO. They have produced two forms of rondel dagger - one with a triangular blade, and one with a more "cutting" style blade. This review is about the former. (CORRECTION: I found out later that there is a third model)

Here is the dagger (top) compared to a sharp and a Purpleheart wooden rondel:

http://imgur.com/v8LaAkj

http://imgur.com/fPI3zlA


Vital Stats

Weapon Weight: 396g
Scabbard Weight: 62g
Blade Length: 28.5cm http://imgur.com/sDgSsYM
Point of Balance: 0mm
Scabbard Length: 34.5cm
Grip Length: 10.5cm http://imgur.com/3xfWgzl
Rondel Thickness: 5mm http://imgur.com/PlYpj3x
Blade Material: Carbon Steel
Grip Material: Stained Wood
Rondel Material: Carbon Steel
Scabbard Material: Leather and Carbon Steel
Tang: Welded http://imgur.com/jbIPBsT
Hilt Construction: Threaded with Nut http://imgur.com/dfNKgmy and http://imgur.com/SAQqzjX


All in all, this is not a bad object. Construction is solid, and the weight is not terrible. For a number of reasons, though, this comes up short next to a number of other training weapons on the market.

Here's the skinny:

Blade

http://imgur.com/gI2LGjX

http://imgur.com/GEZWifY

The blade was obviously ground down from square carbon steel bar stock ( http://imgur.com/vAWUe6T ). It is thick at the base - 12mm - and ground on two faces to form a triangle. THe blade is very stiff, and tempered - I wasn't able to flex it in any noticeable manner with my arms. The tip is finished in a round facing, about 5mm across, giving this a decent distal / profile taper. If I were to take this to my belt sander and finish it to a sharp tip, I might have a serviceable rondel dagger.

But there's the problem - the tip is narrow and the blade stiff. Great for sharps, not so great for training weapons. I'm not going to go having someone jab me with this, but I suspect it would be quite uncomfortable, compared to something like the Purpleheart wooden rondels, or Cold Steel's polypropylene examples. At least it would be more comfortable than my sharp. Here's another shot of it:
http://imgur.com/Z4XUI6b and http://imgur.com/N49WOyn

The edges of the triangle are also pretty acute (well, equilateral, as it is a 60 degree angle on each). This was the complaint of /u/MightySquidWarrior , as one would expect a rapid hooking technique would have this dig in easily if you're not gloved/sleeved up.

The blade is some kind of carbon steel - I can stick a magnet to it. Unfortunately, I have no hardness files to check for you. This is good, because the blade will be strong. This is bad because dagger fighting has a lot of blade-on-arm contact, and that sweat and oil will mean this will need attention every time it is used (more so than swords or any other materiel).

Hilt

http://imgur.com/bAAFL9w

http://imgur.com/YI5PABv

The hilt is very solid. The grip is smooth, stained wood of some description. It tapers down to the 3/4 from the "pommel" before flaring out again, and sits in the hand pretty nice. Someone with big hands might have issues, however.

The carbon steel rondels are heavy duty. This keeps the point of balance right at the front disc. Again, as it is carbon, it will require care after use. Fortunately, I would expect this thing to hold up to heavy use - dropping, chance impacts from various weapons, etc.

The tang is welded on pretty well (see vital stats) without any clear signs of sloppy technique. Really, it is the bluing that gives it away. Threading is clean, and it is all secured with a basic nut. It goes together solid - I had to apply percussion to disassemble it while the nut was removed.

Here is the weapon in "hammer" and "ice pick" grips:

http://imgur.com/wU1LyQV

http://imgur.com/qajSDHy

Scabbard

http://imgur.com/F7X8HUJ

http://imgur.com/QI24FSn

http://imgur.com/OgKqhbS

http://imgur.com/QBuLPKW

The scabbard is not this piece's strong suit. It doesn't really need to be, though, and frankly I'm kind of surprised they even included one. To my knowledge, this is the only mass market training dagger that has one.

The scabbard is leather, though what I call "couch" or "chair" leather. It is quite strongly stitched, however, and includes a functional belt loop. The stitching up the back is, unfortunately, kind of ugly. It also doesn't quite fit the dagger right. The square section of the blade doesn't mesh with the oval opening of the scabbard well, which results in this: http://imgur.com/aG81fPd

It was clearly tube constructed, with little to no tapering, and more or less stuffed into the chape. It is useful for training drills where the dagger wielding person actually has to draw his weapon (I see videos that claim to train this, but they don't DRAW OUT so much as SWING OUT into a ready position). Unfortunately, while the belt loop works really well to keep the dagger upright, I would not trust the dagger to stay in while I am actively moving around and trying to fence with another weapon. It might, but I suspect it could bounce its way loose and possibly become a hazard.

The chape is carbon steel, and actually looks pretty neatly made.

Weapon by the side: http://imgur.com/ScvGMuH

Note, I (well, my wife) took a few with the hand off the hilt just at an "attention" stance, but it didn't turn out; didn't realize until just as I was finishing this up. It -does- stay upright on it's own, though, even while walking. At my height, however, that upper rondel is right at my "floating" rib. It would really, really suck if I fell on this thing in sparring.

Summary

PROS
Solid Construction
Strong Materials
Not unattractive price

CONS
Relatively high maintenance (all steel parts are rust prone)
Scabbard can't be counted on to retain it
Tip is too narrow
Edges are pretty "sharp"
Flex, it does not

Conclusion

If any improvement needed to be made, it would be a bigger tip. Since this is machined down from 12x12x12mm stock, you could still put a pretty substantial tip on there - better than the 5mm or so one it has now, at least. Aftermarket upgrades - some kind of rubber cap, for example - could do it, though it would make the scabbard completely unusable. Flexible blades at this length are tough to make, without risking them being noodles, so the tip has to come under extra scrutiny.

Less vitally, I would say the rondels and chape could be done in stainless without any trouble. The blade is, at this scale, best left as is. Sure, it could be chromed or something, but that just adds cost and is a marginal benefit. Just keep an eye out for rust.

These could probably be ground down to make sharps, if that's your thing. I've done similar things with "double wide" epee blades in the past.

Would I suggest buying these? Eh, maybe. They're not horrible. You can improve the tip and they'd probably work fine. If you're the type of group that pulls their blows anyways, these aren't a big deal. Unfortunately, for $35, you're already above Purpleheart, and WAY above Cold Steel's new black polypropylene daggers.

What would I suggest using these for, then? Well, as a general thing, they would probably function better than wood or polypropylene in an environment where you are utilizing metal trainers. If you want to do longsword vs dagger, or other such weapons and they have steel blades, these would probably have better longevity. They are also closer looking to the real weapon than Cold Steel or Purpleheart's training examples. This appeals to someone, I'm sure. These may also be of use in the hands of advanced students, where the potential for more pain is a positive reinforcement for defending yourself better.

Yes, those kinds of clubs exist. No, I don't run one.

As a general thing, I wouldn't suggest these if you are doing exclusively dagger vs dagger scenarios, or if you are using nylon training weapons. I'd suspect these would be harsh against nylon wasters, if you parried a blow with one of the edges. Don't have any nylon wasters to test this on, however.

Ultimately, it appears this may be a moot point anyways - from what I'm able to find out though my connections, this product line is being discontinued. This is unfortunate, as now there is less out there in the marketplace. Were these BAD weapons? No. But, they had competition that was simply more practical, at a lower price point.

With any luck, I hope to snap up a pair of the bladed style ones before they're gone for good, as I'd like to see how they'd behave. Edged knives aren't something the treaties deals with much, unfortunately, but it would be nice to have if only for curiosity's sake.

Thanks for reading! I hope this was informative! If there's any detail you'd like to know more about, don't hesitate to ask.

Cheers!

M.
When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
The people scattered gold-dust before my horses feet;
But now I am a great king, the people hound my track
With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.

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