|In service||c. 1300–1500|
|Weight||avg. .96–1.4 kg (2.1–3.1 lb)|
|Length||avg. 75–113 cm (30–44 in)|
|Blade length||avg. 62–85 cm (24–33 in)|
|Hilt type||Cruciform, with pommel and nagel|
A messer (German for "knife") is a term for a class of single-edged sword defined by their knife-like hilt construction. While the various names are often used synonymously, messers are divided into two types:
Langes messers ("long knife") are one-handed swords by Bourgeoisie (middle-class civilians) for personal self-defence. They were about a meter long and may have evolved from the Bauernwehr ("peasant's sidearm"). They are also known as Großes Messer (Great Knife).
Kriegsmessers ("war knife") are curved weapons up to 1.5m long, used with one or two hands, and normally wielded by professional warriors of the 14th to 16th century, such as the Landsknecht.
Messers are characterized by their single-edged blades. The lengths and shapes of the blade can vary greatly. Messer blades can be straight or curved. Extant examples of langes messers seem to have an overall length of 30 inches (76 cm) with a 24.5 in (62 cm) blade, and a weight between 2–2.5 lb (0.91–1.13 kg).
The defining characteristic of messers is their hilt construction. Quite notable in its construction was the attachment of blade to the hilt via a slab tang sandwiched between two wooden grip plates that were pegged into place. Messers often include a straight cross-guard and a nagel: a nail-like protrusion that juts out from the right side of the cross-guard away from the flat of the blade, to protect the wielder’s sword hand. The lengths of hilts can range from one or two-handed grips.
Messers do not necessarily have pommels. Sometimes they may have end caps instead. However, messers with pommels generally are of the type that were 'drawn out' or curved to one side of the hilt (edge side), a feature known as a "hat-shaped pommel".
Fighting with the messer
The messer was part of the curriculum of several fencing manuals in the 14th and 15th centuries, including Lecküchner (dealing with the lange messer), Codex Wallerstein, Hans Talhoffer, Paulus Kal and Albrecht Dürer.
- Barbara Grotkamp-Schepers, Isabell Immel, Peter Johnsson, Sixt Wetzler: "Das Schwert. Gestalt und Gedanke: The Sword. Form and Thought" Deutsches Klingenmuseum. Solingen, 2015, ISBN 3930315408
- Anglo, Sydney; B. Norman (2000). The martial arts of Renaissance Europe. Yale University Press. pp. 102–103. ISBN 978-0-300-08352-1.