Sunday, 15 March 2015

Artificer's Almanac, Episode 1, Gunblades

Once again greetings and salutations.

Today I am going to introduce you to my new series Artificers Almanac. In this series I will be looking at various weapons from fandoms and giving you my interpretation on what they were based on (if fantasy) and history, if they are used in the world we live in (Which everyone knows is Marvel 616 right?!)

So today in Episode one we will be looking at Gunblades.

Long ago on my 7th Birthday I received a Playstation and three games, those three games were Crash Bandicoot 2, Abe’s Odyssey and Final Fantasy VIII, these 3 games cemented my love of platformers and RPGS.
Final Fantasy VIII was so vastly different compared to the other two games it blew my 7 year old mind, that opening FMV sent shivers through me and to this day will still make me clap like an excited child. I could list all the reasons why I loved this game, the fight scenes, the story, the soundtrack etc. But for me, Gunblades, seeing that shimmering Hand of God fall from the sky and sink into the ground changed me forever.

So what is a Gunblade?
A gun fused with a sword duh! 

I joke it is not actually that simple, when you look at Final Fantasy VIII the Gunblade is a sword blade with a gun action built into the hilt, the barrel running inside the length of the blade. They are mostly used like normal swords, but triggering a round sends a shock wave through the blade as the weapon passes through an opponent to boost damage. This was the  debut appearance of the Gunblade, however in later games (Final Fantasy XIII) the Gunblade is a sword that can turn into a firearm. For this post I will be staying with Final Fantasy VIII’s version of the Gunblade.

In this game the Gunblade is the weapon of choice for Protagonist Squall Leonheart and his antagonist Seifer Almsy with the blades being named Revolver and Hyperion for the respective characters. Despite the moniker, this weapon cannot be used as a firearm, it has no barrel to fire a projectile from, however the firearm mechanism instead will detonate a round inducing a tremor within the blade to increase strike damage.
So let’s have a look at Revolver.

My replica of Revolver
Before I get started I will note that the etymology and nomenclature of swords and blades is both, long, broad and constantly argued so I will be using common terms where possible. So Revolver appears to resemble early Single Edge Swords from Germanic populaces. Also the width of the blade could also be linked to the Khanda, a south Asian sword both having relatively wide blades, however for blade width alone Revolver matches the traditional German Zwei-Hander swords of the 16th century. Really it is hard to really classify Revolver as a single type as sword as sword types varied based from bladesmith to bladesmith.

Germanic Single Edged Sword, circa 16th Century


When you look at how Squall wields Revolver, he prefers a two handed grip, which is rather interesting considering it is rather uncomfortable as it is an oversized ergonomic revolver grip. Seifer however utilises a one handed grip as Hyperion utilises a traditional semi-automatic pistol grip.

Look at these sexy beasts!

While gunblades are hard to classify as a sword there is actually a small subset of weaponry that these rather esoteric blades fit into, that is pistol swords. These do what it says on the tin, they are a sword, with an attached pistol in some sense, these were common in the 17th and 18th centuries, thus the pistols mainly utilised the flintlock action though a few have been noted to use the wheel lock action.

The history of these weapons is unfortunately very vague however they seem to have originated in Germany and were commissioned by Wild Boar hunters to be used as a secondary weapon to their flint-locks. These weapons were utilised primarily in Europe and were owned mainly by the nobility or the very rich, due to Swords being much more expensive than Axes, Knives, Polearms etc. Also since it was the rich commissioning these weapons many have excellent samples of fine engraving and filigree work.

In the golden age of piracy, a weapon that combined a flintlock pistol with a cutlass was used by pirates as well as navy officers, for boarding purposes. It has even been professed that Lord Nelson owned a pistol sword.

These early models would be designed with a single shot barrel attached parallel to the blade and would be discharged with a trigger mechanism located within the hilt or near the hilt of the sword.

So we have covered how Revolver resembles the blades of the past, let’s now look at the development of it.

The weapons were, in their original appearance of Final Fantasy VIII, designed by Tetsuya Nomura. At the time he was planning Squall's weapon, he was into silver accessories and Nomura felt he wanted Squall to have a silver weapon as well. Another key factor in creating Squall's weapon was how he wanted some new way for the player to control the weapon in battle. With both of these ideas combined, Nomura came up with a gunblade. Nomura has stated that upon reflection, it has a rather odd appearance.

These weapons have featured heavily in the Final Fantasy Universe as well in various other fandoms, (RWBY springs to mind, where a Maul turns into a grenade launcher), pistol swords are also available to use later in Assassins Creed IV, Black Flag. These rather odd and versatile weapons have stolen my heart whenever I hear the term Gunblade I remember my first time seeing these wonderful, wonderful weapons. In one of my previous posts I mentioned that I cosplayed as Squall, I have never had so many people comment on a costume before, I think that was because I had a Knife Steel Quality full size Gunblade, the only difference was that mine did not have the extended grip.

Now I am unaware of the stats of Revolver but I can give you the stats of my blade.

Overall length: 41 inches
Length of blade: 28 inches
Length of grip: 7 inches
Width of blade: 3.5 inches
Weight: 6.5 lbs

Now as I said the design of the blade and the grip is interesting and makes it rather odd to use in a battle scenario (trust me I know, check out My First Con Part 2 for evidence ) but after a while it seems to mold to shape and becomes easier to use, now I do not know whether it is because I began to get used to the weight or from the fact I am an amateur fencer. However in the games it is seen primarily as a slashing weapon, this is evident from the wide single edged blade and with the centre of mass being just above the grip about 1.5 inches up the blade.

So ladies and gentleman, Gunblades, weapons of great might? Or impractical lumbering behemoths? Either way they are freaking cool!

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