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List of premodern combat weapons

This is a list of historical pre-modern weapons grouped according to their uses, with rough classes set aside for very similar weapons. Some weapons may fit more than one category (e.g. the spear may be used either as a pole weapon or as a projectile), and the earliest gunpowder weapons which fit within the period are also included.

Melee weapons

Hand or fist weapons and fans

Single-handed weapons not resembling a straight dagger blade, usually wielded without wrist action; often protects the forearm.

Edged and bladed weapons

Thrusting and slicing weapons for close quarters melee. Col. D.H. Gordon's classification has been used where applicable.[2][3]


Long swords were classified by Gordon as longer than 28 inches/71 cm.[2]

Curved one-handed swords
Straight one-handed swords
Curved two-handed swords
Hand-and-a-half and two-handed greatswords
  • Assamese dao (Indian, Southeast Asian)[1]
  • Boar sword (European)[1]
  • Changdao (Chinese)
  • Claidheamh Da Laimh, Highland sword (European)[1]
  • Claymore, Scottish Gaelic for "great sword", (Scottish, European)
  • Dadao (Chinese)
  • Espadon (European)
  • Executioner's sword, heading sword, sword of justice (European)
  • Flame-bladed sword, flambard, flammard, Flammenschwert (European)
  • Katana (Japanese)
  • Longsword, bastard sword, espée bastarde, hand-and-a-half sword (European)
  • Nagamaki (Japanese)[5]
  • Nodachi, Ōdachi (Japanese)
  • Parade sword, Paratschwerter (European)[1]
  • Wodao (Chinese)
  • Zanbatō (Japanese)
  • Zhanmadao (Chinese)
  • Zweihänder, Dopplehänder, lowland sword, tuck, two-handed sword, great sword, spadone, montante (European)

Delineated as 20-28 inches/51–71 cm total length.[2]

Straight shortswords
Curved shortswords
Axe-like swords

Generally, convex blades used for heavy chopping or slashing.

Other swords

Fighting knives and daggers

Sickles and sickle-like knives

Generally short, concave blades used for heavy cutting.

  • Arit (Indonesian/Madurese)
  • dashu (Japanese)
  • Karambit, kerambit, korambit (Indonesian/Minangkabau)
  • Kujang (Indonesian/Sundanese)
  • Kukri (Indian)
  • Mandau (Borneo/Indonesian,Malaysian,Brunei)
  • Pichangatti (Indian)[1]
  • Punyal (Philippines/Southeast Asia)
  • Sickle (Worldwide; improvised)
  • Sudanese sickle-knife (African)[1]
  • Wedong (Southeast Asian)

Picks and pickaxes


Clubs and blunt weapons

Wielded with one or two hands at close quarters with swinging motions.

Pole weapons and spears

Wielded mainly with two hands. Primarily for melee with sweeping, thrusting, and/or hooking motions.

Blunt staves


Thrown spears and javelins are listed under ranged weapons.

Polearms with axe-like blades

Polearms with spikes and hammers

Ranged weapons


Spears and javelins

All could be used as polearm spears, but were designed and primarily used for throwing.

Throwing sticks

Throwing blades and darts

Throwing axes

Could also be used as axe weapons, but were specifically designed for throwing.

Throwing balls



Recurved bows

Short bows and reflex bows



  • Kestros, cestrosphendone, cestrus, kestrophedrone (Mediterranean)
  • Sling (paleolithic, Mediterranean, European)
  • Stave sling, fustibale (Mediterranean)


Gunpowder weapons

An illustration of an "eruptor," a proto-cannon, from the 14th century Ming Dynasty book Huolongjing. The cannon was capable of firing proto-shells, cast-iron bombs filled with gunpowder.

Composite projectile weapons

Having a built-in gun or ranged weapon combined with some other type of weapon.

  • Ax match and wheellock (European axe with five barrells under a removable blade)[1]
  • Carbine ax (European axe)[1]
  • Halberd double-barreled wheellock (European Halberd)[1]
  • Mace wheellock (European mace)[1]
  • Matchlock ax/dagger (European axe, dagger, matchlock combination)[1]
  • Pistol sword (European sword)
  • War hammer wheellock (European pick/hammer)[1]

Flexible weapons


Used for whipping.

Sectional and composite

Having multiple handles or holdable sections.

Chains and ropes

Having a heavy object attached to a flexible chain or rope. Wielded by swinging, throwing, or projecting the end, as well as wrapping, striking, and blocking with the chain or rope, sometimes attached to another type of weapon.

Defensive weapons



Used not only to block strikes and missiles but also swung outwardly (or in quick upward motions) to strike an opponent. Also used to rush an opponent (known as shield bashing). Some shields had spikes, sharp edges, or other offensive designs.

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag Regan,Paula, ed. (2006). Weapon: A Visual History of Arms and Armor. New York: DK Publishing. ISBN 0-7566-2210-7.
  2. ^ a b c Cope, Anne, ed. (1989). Swords and Hilt Weapons. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 8. ISBN 1-55584-290-9.
  3. ^ Gordon, Col. D.H. (1953). "Swords, Rapiers and Horse-riders". Antiquity. Antiquity Publications Ltd. 27 (106): 67–76.
  4. ^ Levine, Bernard; Gerald Weland. Knives, swords, & daggers. New York: Barnes & Noble. p. 66.
  5. ^ Levine, Bernard; Gerald Weland. Knives, swords, & daggers. New York: Barnes & Noble. p. 200.
  6. ^ "Igorot Headhunting Axe 2".
  7. ^ []
  8. ^ "Northern Spear".