Medieval Weapons

There are a number of different weapons a medieval soldier could use in battle. While there are a large number of weapons, they can be broken down into a few broad categories. A lot of these weapons had different heads and different shaft lengths. Many polearm weapons (weapons with long handles), such as a poleaxe or war hammer, would be similar to the same weapon with a shorter handle. For example, a battle axe and a pole axe were basically the same thing except for the length of the handle.

Bladed Weapons

This group of weapons includes swords, axes, and knives. They came in different sizes and were designed to cut or puncture an opponent. These weapons were designed for one-on–one combat and required enemies to get close to one another.

Axe: Axes were typically used by common soldiers although they were occasionally used by knights. It is mainly used as a cutting weapon and could penetrate armor plate and shields. An axe could cut off an opponent’s arm in one blow.

They were fairly easy to use without the need for a lot of skill although it takes more skill if the soldier wants to throw the axe. The axes were single (one edge) or double-headed (two edges) weapons and could also be thrown if necessary.

The axe could be placed on a short handle of wood (under a meter) or on a much longer wooden shaft (1.5 meters). Most medieval axes had socketed heads which meant the wooden shaft could be placed into the socket of the axe head.

Swords: Swords have both a hilt to hold on to and a blade to attack with. The blade can be either curved or straight and have a single edge or a double edge. The edge is used for cutting and hitting while the point of the blade is used for thrusting.

Swords are popular with knights and could be as one-handed or two-handed weapons.
Daggers: Daggers are short knives typically used as a stabbing weapon. It had a hilt and a blade similar to a sword but was a lot shorter. A typical dagger was between fifteen to fifty centimeters long. The knife blade could be sharp on one or two edges and was a close combat weapon. It was a secondary weapon that was used with one hand.

Blunt Weapons

This group of weapons include maces, hammers, and flails. These blunt weapons were designed in response to the better armor that was being developed. Even if the weapons couldn’t penetrate the armor, the force of the blow from these blunt weapons could still do a lot of damage to a soldier’s opponent. They could shatter shields and break bones through a person’s armor.

Maces: Maces had a blunt, heavy head on the end of a shaft. The head was typically made of stone, iron, bronze or steel and the shaft of the mace was either wood or metal. Maces were easy to make and did not cost a lot of money. The shaft of the mace could be short or long (up to 1.5 meters long).

Maces were mainly used by foot soldiers but could also be used from horseback.
War Hammers: The war hammer looks like an actual hammer, just bigger. It also had a longer shaft than a regular hammer. Sometimes, the back of the hammer head had a sharp spike that could be used to attack an enemy’s horse. War hammers had shafts similar in length to maces (30 to 150 cm).

The heads of war hammers were typically made from iron, steel or bronze with wooden or metal handles.

Flails: Flails were popular weapons that were easy to make and use. As with the other blunt weapons, a flail had two parts: a head and a shaft. The difference is that the head and shaft were not directly connected to each other. A length of chain would be attached to one end of the shaft and the other end of the chain would be attached to the head of the flail.

A flail could be used to attack around or over an opponent’s shield with was a good advantage but the flail was not very good for close-up combat since the soldier couldn’t swing it well enough in close quarters.

Ranged Weapons

Ranged weapons were developed to attack a group of enemies from a distance. Longbowmen and crossbowmen were highly effective and were often instrumental to winning a battle. This group of weapons include the longbow, the crossbow, and hand cannons.

Longbows: During a battle, bowmen did not target a single individual. A group of bowmen fired numerous arrows into a group of enemies in order to disrupt the ranks before the cavalry charged. Bows fired quickly and were much quicker than the crossbow or the guns that had been developed up to this point. The longbow took a lot of training and conditioning in order to be able to repeatedly fire arrows at opponents.

Crossbows: The crossbow was similar to a bow but was horizontal. It had a trigger and took only minimal skill or strength to fire. It used a mechanical device to draw back the crossbow string so the crossbow delivered its arrows (or bolts) with much more force. They were not as accurate as a longbow but were much easier to use. Crossbowmen needed very little training.

Hand Cannons: Hand cannons were the first firearms that were effective. They had a range of around 50 to 300 meters. The hand cannon could be carried by one person but it needed two or more soldiers to make it work. The cannon had to be loaded, aimed and the fired by lighting the gunpowder in a small hole in the side of the cannon.

There are a lot more weapons (or variations of weapons) that have been used throughout the Middle Ages. This list only gives you a small idea of some of the weapons used in the many battles that occurred throughout this time period.