Types of Melee Weapons

comprehensive guide to melee weapons

In a world where steel clashes and battles are fought face to face, the very essence of power lies within the grip of a melee weapon. From the graceful sway of a sword to the thunderous strike of an axe, these weapons embody the strength and skill of their wielders.

In this article, the myriad types of melee weapons will be explored, revealing the diverse array of tools used throughout history to wage war and defend honor.

Key Takeaways

  • Swords are versatile and deadly weapons used for combat and self-defense, with different cultures having unique sword fighting techniques and strategies.
  • Axes are common melee weapons known for their powerful strikes and ability to cleave through armor, with different types of handles and heads to suit different needs.
  • Maces are formidable weapons on the battlefield with heavy heads and sturdy handles, providing an effective means of crushing or penetrating armor.
  • Flails are unique melee weapons characterized by a striking head attached to a handle by a chain or rope, still used in certain martial arts and historical reenactments.


Swords, which are versatile and deadly weapons, have been used throughout history for combat and self-defense. Sword fighting techniques have evolved over time, with different cultures developing their own unique styles and strategies. From the ancient Greeks and Romans to the medieval knights and samurais of Japan, swordsmanship has played a crucial role in warfare.

One of the most famous swordsmen in history is Miyamoto Musashi, a legendary samurai from 17th-century Japan. Musashi's skill with the sword was unparalleled, and he's known for his innovative techniques and undefeated record in duels. His book, 'The Book of Five Rings,' is still studied by martial artists today.

In Europe, there were also renowned swordsmen like the Italian fencer, Fiore dei Liberi, who wrote a comprehensive treatise on sword fighting techniques called 'Fior di Battaglia.' His work detailed various techniques for different types of swords and emphasized the importance of footwork and timing in combat.

Sword fighting techniques continue to be practiced and studied to this day, both as a form of martial art and for historical reenactments. The art of swordsmanship showcases the skill, precision, and discipline required to wield these deadly weapons effectively.


Axes, another common melee weapon, have a long history of use in combat and are known for their powerful strikes and ability to cleave through armor and obstacles. Here are some interesting facts about different types of axe handles and axe heads:

  • Different types of axe handles:
  • Wood handles: These are the most common type of axe handles and are known for their durability and comfortable grip. They're usually made from hardwood such as hickory or ash.
  • Fiberglass handles: These handles are lightweight and resistant to weathering and splitting. They're a popular choice for those looking for a low-maintenance option.
  • Composite handles: Made from a combination of materials like fiberglass and wood, these handles offer the benefits of both worlds – the strength of fiberglass and the natural feel of wood.
  • Different types of axe heads:
  • Double-bit heads: These axe heads have blades on both sides, making them versatile for different tasks. They're commonly used in forestry work.
  • Single-bit heads: These axe heads have a blade on one side and are the most common type of axe heads. They're suitable for chopping, felling trees, and splitting wood.
  • Tomahawk heads: These smaller axe heads were originally used by Native Americans for hunting and warfare. They're lightweight and have a shorter handle, making them ideal for throwing.
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Axes are versatile tools that have evolved over time to suit different needs and tasks. Whether it's for chopping wood or engaging in combat, axes continue to be a reliable choice for those seeking a powerful melee weapon.


Maces, with their heavy heads and sturdy handles, were formidable weapons on the battlefield. One interesting point of discussion is the comparison between maces and morningstars, as both were used in close combat but had distinct differences in design.

Additionally, exploring the historical variations of maces, such as the flanged mace and the spiked mace, can shed light on the evolution of this weapon and its impact on battles throughout history.

Mace Vs. Morningstar

When comparing maces and morningstars, it's important to note the distinct differences in their design and functionality. Here is a comparison between the two weapons and the pros and cons of using them in combat:

  • Design:

A mace typically consists of a long handle with a heavy, metal head at the end.

On the other hand, a morningstar features a similar handle but with a spiked ball or chain attached to it.

  • Functionality:

Maces are known for their simplicity and brute force. They deliver powerful blows, capable of crushing armor and bones.

Morningstars, on the other hand, offer a combination of blunt force and piercing damage, making them effective against both armored and unarmored opponents.

  • Pros and Cons:

Maces are easy to wield and require less skill, making them suitable for beginners. However, their lack of versatility and reach can be a disadvantage.

Morningstars offer more versatility with their spiked ball or chain, but they require more skill to handle effectively.

Historical Mace Variations

Throughout history, various types of maces have been developed and used in combat. The evolution of maces has played a significant role in warfare.

Maces were originally simple weapons consisting of a wooden handle with a heavy metal head. Over time, different variations of maces emerged, each with its own unique design and purpose.

One such variation was the flanged mace, which featured multiple metal flanges protruding from the head, causing more damage upon impact. Another type was the spiked mace, with sharp metal spikes attached to the head, delivering devastating blows.

These variations allowed warriors to adapt their tactics and overcome different types of armor. The significance of maces in warfare can't be underestimated, as they provided an effective means of crushing or penetrating armor, making them indispensable weapons on the battlefield.

Mace's Impact on Battles

The impact of maces on battles was significant, as these weapons provided a formidable advantage to warriors on the battlefield. The effectiveness of maces in medieval warfare can't be overstated. Here are three key points to consider:

  • Crushing blows: Maces were designed to deliver powerful strikes, capable of inflicting devastating injuries even through armor. Their heavy, blunt heads could shatter bones and cause severe concussions, incapacitating opponents quickly and efficiently.
  • Versatility: Maces were versatile weapons that could be used by foot soldiers and mounted knights alike. Their compact size and weight made them easy to wield, allowing warriors to strike with precision and agility.
  • Role in sieges: Maces played a crucial role in sieges, where they were used to breach fortifications and dismantle enemy defenses. The concentrated force of a mace made it an ideal tool for breaking through doors, gates, and armor, enabling the attacking forces to gain strategic advantages.
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While often associated with medieval warfare, flails are still used in certain martial arts and historical reenactments. Flails are unique melee weapons characterized by a striking head attached to a handle by a chain or rope. The construction of a flail typically consists of a wooden or metal handle, ranging from one to three feet in length, with a chain or rope measuring around two to four feet. At the end of the chain or rope, a striking head is attached, which can vary in design and material.

When comparing flails to morningstars, there are notable differences. While both weapons are considered to be in the same category of melee weapons, flails have a greater range due to the length of their chains or ropes. This allows for a wider range of swinging motions and increased striking distance. Morningstars, on the other hand, have a solid metal head with spikes or flanges, which can deliver devastating blows upon impact.

In modern times, flails are primarily used in martial arts styles such as the Filipino martial art of Eskrima or in historical reenactments to recreate the combat techniques of the past. These unique weapons continue to captivate the imagination and serve as a testament to the ingenuity of ancient warriors.


Spears, like flails, are another type of melee weapon commonly used in various martial arts and historical reenactments. They're long-range weapons that consist of a long shaft with a pointed blade at one end.

Here are some key aspects of spears:

  • Spear throwing techniques:
  • Throwing a spear requires skill and precision. Different techniques involve either throwing the spear directly or using a throwing stick to increase the velocity and distance.
  • One popular technique is the overhand throw, where the spear is held above the shoulder and launched forward with a powerful thrusting motion.
  • Another technique is the underhand throw, where the spear is held below the shoulder and propelled forward using an upward motion.
  • Different types of spearheads:
  • The spearhead determines the functionality and purpose of the spear. Common types include leaf-shaped, barbed, and socketed spearheads.
  • Leaf-shaped spearheads are versatile and suitable for thrusting and slashing attacks.
  • Barbed spearheads have protrusions that make it difficult for the weapon to be pulled out after penetrating the target.
  • Socketed spearheads have a socket that allows for easy attachment and removal from the spear shaft.

Spears have been utilized by various civilizations throughout history due to their effectiveness in combat and hunting. Their long reach and piercing capabilities make them formidable weapons in close-quarters combat.


Polearms, such as halberds and glaives, are versatile and deadly melee weapons commonly used throughout history. These long weapons consist of a blade or point attached to a long pole, offering reach and power to the wielder. In medieval warfare, polearms played a crucial role on the battlefield, offering advantages over other weapons like swords and spears.

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One of the most well-known types of polearms is the halberd. It features an axe-like blade on one side, a spike on the other, and a hook on the back. This combination allowed the halberd to be effective against armored opponents, allowing soldiers to cut, pierce, and disarm their enemies. Another popular polearm was the glaive, which had a single-edged blade on a long staff. The glaive was a versatile weapon, capable of slashing, thrusting, and dismounting enemies from horseback.

Polearms provided soldiers with an extended reach, allowing them to strike opponents from a distance while remaining relatively safe. They were also effective against cavalry, as their long shafts and sharp blades could unhorse riders. Additionally, polearms were often used to repel charging infantry, creating a defensive barrier that could be difficult to penetrate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are There Any Historical Examples of Swords or Melee Weapons Being Used in Warfare?

Historical warfare saw the extensive use of swords and melee weapons. These weapons evolved differently across cultures, with each civilization creating unique designs and techniques. The historical significance of these weapons cannot be understated.

Can Flails Be Used Effectively in Close Combat or Are They Mainly Used for Intimidation?

Flails in close combat can be effective weapons, contrary to their reputation as mere intimidation tools. While their swinging motion can be unpredictable, skilled users can deliver powerful strikes, making them formidable in battle.

What Materials Were Commonly Used to Make Maces and How Did They Affect the Weapon's Effectiveness?

Historically, maces were commonly made from materials such as iron, steel, and even bronze. These materials greatly influenced the effectiveness of the weapon, providing durability and weight necessary for devastating blows in close combat.

How Were Polearms Used Tactically in Battle, and What Advantages Did They Provide Over Other Melee Weapons?

Polearms, with their long reach and versatility, offered tactical advantages in battle. They allowed soldiers to strike from a distance, keeping enemies at bay. Their various types, like the halberd and spear, catered to different combat situations.

Were Spears Primarily Used by Foot Soldiers or Were They Also Used by Mounted Warriors?

Spear usage by mounted warriors depended on the time period and region. However, spears were commonly used by both foot soldiers and mounted warriors due to their versatility, reach, and ability to penetrate armor. The advantages of polearms in battle were evident in their effectiveness against cavalry charges.

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