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Medieval Polearms

Medieval polearms are what they lead you to believe they are: weapons on a pole. This pole could be anywhere from 5 to 16 feet long. And the term "polearm" covers a lot of different weapons, and these weapons changed over the centuries. The predominant advantage to a polearm was its reach. With it you could attack your enemy from a distance. And if your enemy had shorter weapons this could be quite an advantage. Often the bearer of a polearm also carried a smaller weapon such as a sword or dagger for fighting that got inside the reach of the pole. Polearms were also popular with tournament fighting knights.

Unknown Polearm


Do you recognize this polearm? A web visitor received it as a present but is having trouble identifying it. Is it a Voulge? A Halberd? Or Something else. Take a look at some more pictures and see if you can identify it. The Unknown Medieval Polearm






Some of the uses of Polearms:

1. A group of soldiers could form a line with extended polearms making an almost impentrable and very dangerous barricade of spiked points. They were effective as a group weapon.

2. A polearm was a very useful weapon that a foot soldier could use to attack a knight or soldier mounted on a horse. It enabled him to reach up and attack. And some variations of polearms also enabled the bearer to reach up, hook the mounted rider and pull him down. They were effective as solo weapons.

The Pole of a PolearmPolearms were very effective and saw a lot of variations and a lot of use throughout the 14 -16th centuries. They had variations that included uses as a spear like thrusting weapon such as in the Ahlspeiss, and they had variations as slicing weapons such as the Glaive. They also had percussion like variations such as the Bec De Faucon. And they sometimes had a hook that was used to pull an opponent - often off of a horse.

The Parts of a Polearm: There were a lot of variations in polearms and these variations were mostly in the type of weapon or head that was mounted on the end of the pole.




Head styles of polearms

But here are some general similarities:

  • They varied in size between 5 and 16 feet in length ( Jousting Lances could reach as long as 20 feet but these were non combat)
  • The handles were made of wood
  • The Weapon head was made of metal
  • The Weapon head was often attached to the wooden handle by means of something called Langets. Which were metal straps.


Below is an illustration showing the relative sizes and the head shapes of various polearms.




Sizes and shapes of Polearms


The Major Polearms

  • Ahlspeiss - a wooden handled polearm with a metal spike on the end. It was a stabbing weapon. The handle was usually around 5-6 feet and the spike around 3 feet.
  • Bardiche - A pole weapon with a slicing blade on the end. The distinction of a bardiche is that the blade is attached to the pole in two places.
  • Bec de Corbin - (french for crow's beak) Had a curved end for attacking, it had a hammer at the other side as a balance for the beak. Also had a spike at the end. The curved beak was the major weapon for attack. The hammer was predominantly a counter weight.
  • Bec de Faucon - Similar to the Corbin except the shape of the beak was more like that of a falcon.
  • Bill - (also known as a Bill-Hook) A bladed weapon with the addition of a hook on the blade.
  • Boar Spear - A typical spear used for stabbing with the addition of two prongs at the base of the spear point. These prongs stopped enemy horses from moving up the spear toward the wielder. The prongs also stopped the spear from plunging too deep and getting stuck in an enemy.
  • BrandiStock - (featherStaff) An unusual weapon that had a hollow end. In this hollow end were three spiked points. Normally it was held like a walking stick and the three points concealed in the stick. But with a quick sharp motion the three points could be jerked out of the staff and locked into position.
  • Corseque - A three pronged polearm. The central spike was very long and the two side spikes were straight and typically at a 45 degree angle forward. The spikes had to be straight. If they were curved the weapon would be a Ranseur.
  • Fauchard - A bladed polearm similar to a glaive but having only one sharpened edge - the outer or concave edge. In early centuries it was this way but it developed to also have a hook on the opposite side of the sharpened edge.
  • Glaive - A polearm with a single edged blade. Sometimes it would also have a hook on the opposite side of the blade.
  • Glaive Guisarme - A glaive with a hook on it.
  • Guisarme - A hooked polearm. The important aspect was the hook that could be used to grab and dismount an opponent. In the early centuries it was just a hook on a pole but over time a spearpoint was added and a blade. There are many variations that are still considered a guisarme.
  • Hache - A generic term for a polearm.
  • Halberd - An axe pole weapon. There are three major parts of a Halberd: the Axe head, The hook opposite the axe and the spiked tip.
  • Lance - The lance has several meanings. It can mean any type of long poled thrusting weapon that is not suitable to be thrown. It also specifically refers to a long thrusting weapons specifically designed for tournament jousting. The lance is generally the longest of polearms.
  • Lucerne Hammer - A poled weapon with a stabbing point and a hammer head. The hammer head is typically separated into between two and four spikes. This was an effective percussion weapon that could penetrate armor.
  • MorningStar - A pole weapons with a mace head. The mace head would have spikes on it. This is what separates it from a normal mace. The morning star did have length variations and smaller one handed versions were used. But it also came in a polearm two handed version that was as much as six feet in length.
  • Partisan - A poled spearhead with protruding blades on each side that could parry opponents weapon blades.
  • Pike - An extremely long pole weapon with a spear end. The pike could reach as long as twenty feet.
  • PoleAxe - A polearm with an axehead at the end. The poleaxe differed from the halberd in that the ax blade was smaller.
  • Ranseur - A pole weapon similar in look to a trident with a single long spike at the top and two smaller crescent shaped tips at the hilt.
  • Scythe - A polearm with a curved blade.
  • Sovnya - A Russian polearm with a curved blade much like a Naginata.
  • Spear - A pointed polearm that could be used for throwing or for thrusting.
  • Spetum - A pole weapon of the 13th century . It was 6-8 feet in length and had three Prongs or blades. A main spear head at the top and two smaller ones on the side.
  • Svardstav - Sword Staff, a swedish polearm that is a two edged sword blade mounted on a six foot long pole
  • Voulge Similar to the Glaive but the Glaive was a slicing axe. The voulge is more designed for hacking.
  • War scythe - a long thin bladed polearm.


Is this a polearm? It was found in a river in Great Britain. I believe that it is. You can see more pics and my analysis of what it is right here. The mysterious polearm in the river.







Video Tutorial on how to make a medieval Polearm:


Make a Medieval Poleaxe or BattleAxe with cardboard and a broomstick This is neat tutorial with a video that shows you how to make a pole weapon using cardboard and a few other around the house materials. Lots of different styles you can make and I show you how to make the poleaxe and the battle axe. Make a medieval polearm


polearms Polearms Of Paulus Hector Mair Paulus Hector Mair was perhaps the most intriguing figure in the Liechtenauer tradition of German Renaissance martial arts. An enthusiastic practitioner of fencing, wrestling and other martial arts, he was determined to preserve the knowledge of the combat arts of his time. His dream is realized in this remarkable book by authors David James Knight and Brian Hunt.

Mair collected a vast combat library, including works by Jörg Wilhalm, Antonius Rast, Gregor Erhart and Sigmund Ringeck, as well as copies of both the Codex Wallerstein and the Königsegg-Talhoffe manuscript. Circa 1540, Mair produced the Opus Amplissimum de Arte Athletica , or Ultimate Book of the Art of Athletics , a massive compendium heavily influenced by the earlier works in his library but surpassing them in content and depth. Today only three complete manuscripts of his Opus survive in German and Austrian collections.

In Polearms of Paulus Hector Mair , authors Knight and Hunt make their contribution to the endeavor that Mair began so many centuries ago. Working from both the German and Latin versions of Mair's Opus , they present chapters on combat with the poleax, halberd, spear and shortstaff, and lance and longstaff, with text in the original German and Latin, along with the English translation. The illustrations, taken from the Dresden codices, C93 and C94, have been meticulously restored to give a clear view of the techniques.

This amazing volume, a labor of love of the arts of combat, belongs in the library of everyone with an interest in Renaissance martial arts.


Bardiche Polearm

AH3508 - Battle Axe

A pole weapon or polearm is a close combat weapon in which the main fighting part of the weapon is placed on the end of a long shaft, typically of wood, thereby extending the user's effective range. Spears, glaives, pollaxes and bardiches are all varieties of polearm. The idea of attaching a weapon onto a long shaft is an old one indeed, as the first spears date back to the Stone Age. The purpose of using pole weapons is either to extend reach or to increase angular momentum-and thus striking power-when the weapon is swung. Pole weapons are relatively simple to make, and they were fairly easy for most people to use effectively as they were often derived from hunting or agricultural tools. For example, the Chinese Monk's Spade, with its shovel-like end, served two purposes for the monks who used it: if they came upon a corpse on the road, they could properly bury it with Buddhist rites; and the large implement could serve as a weapon for self-defence against bandits. Massed men carrying pole weapons with pointed tips (spears, pikes, etc.) were recognized fairly early in the history of organized warfare as effective military units. On defense the men holding the polearms were hard to reach; on the attack, as in the Greek phalanx, they were devastating to those units which could not get out of the way. With the advent of armored fighters, especially cavalry, pole weapons frequently combined the spearpoint (for thrusting) with an axe or hammerhead for a swinging strike which could pierce or break armor. .

Sigmund Ringeck's Knightly Arts Of Combat: Sword and Buckler Fighting, Wrestling, and Fighting in Armor

The lessons of influential 15th-century fencing master Sigmund Ringeck are brought to life once again by David Lindholm and Peter Svärd, the duo behind Sigmund Ringeck's Knightly Art of the Longsword. This lavishly illustrated companion to Longsword examines Ringeck's instruction on fighting with the sword and buckler, fighting in armor with longsword and spear, and wrestling. These disciplines and more are fully explained both by Ringeck's text (offered in the original old German as well as the authors' English translation) and detailed captions for the step-by-step illustrations. The timeless works of Ringeck, who is best known for his interpretations of the teachings of grand master Johannes Liechtenauer, offer a rare opportunity to experience a firsthand account of this important period in the development of the Western martial arts. This book will be treasured by aficionados of the medieval arts of combat for generations to come. Foreword by John Clements.