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List of premodern combat weapons

This is a list of historical weapons, divided into categories of melee weapons and ranged weapons. They are further subdivided by weapon type and then ordered alphabetically. Although primarily consisting of cold weapons, early gunpowder weapons are also included.

Weapons are 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). Bladed hilt weapons follow Col. D.H. Gordon's classification where applicable.[1][2]

Melee weapons

Main article: Melee weapon

Hand or fist weapons and fans

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


Thrusting and slicing weapons for close quarters melee.


Main article: Shortsword

Delineated as 20-28 inches/51–71 cm total length.[1]

Straight shortswords
Curved shortswords


Main article: Sword
Further information: Types of swords

Long swords were classified by Gordon as longer than 28 inches/71 cm.[1]

Curved one-handed swords
Straight one-handed swords
Curved two-handed swords
Hand-and-a-half and two-handed greatswords
Axe-like swords

Generally, convex blades used for heavy chopping or slashing.

Other swords

Knives and daggers

Main article: Knife
Further information: List of daggers
Sickles and sickle-like knives

Generally short, concave blades used for heavy cutting.

  • Arit (Indonesian/Madurese)
  • Karambit, kerambit, korambit (Indonesian/Minangkabau)
  • Kujang (Indonesian/Sundanese)
  • Mandau (Borneo/Indonesian,Malaysian,Brunei)
  • Pichangatti (Indian)[3]
  • Punyal (Philippines/Southeast Asia)
  • Sickle (Worldwide; improvised)
  • Sudanese sickle-knife (African)[3]
  • Wedong (Southeast Asian)

Picks and pickaxes


Main article: Axe

Trauma weapons (clubs)

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

Pole weapons

Main article: Pole weapon

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

Blunt staves

Main article: stick fighting


Main article: Spear

Thrown spears and javelins are listed under ranged weapons.

Polearms with axe-like blades

Polearms with spikes and hammers

Ranged weapons

Main article: Ranged weapon


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.



Recurved bows

Short bows and reflex bows



  • Blowgun, blow tube, blowpipe (worldwide)
  • Bolas (South Americas)
  • Fukiya (Japanese)
  • Kestros, cestrosphendone, cestrus, kestrophedrone (Mediterranean)
  • Sling (paleolithic, Mediterranean, European)
  • Stave sling, fustibale (Mediterranean)

Gunpowder weapons

File:Ming Dynasty eruptor proto-cannon.jpg
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)[3]
  • Carbine ax (European axe)[3]
  • Halberd double-barreled wheellock (European Halberd)[3]
  • Mace wheellock (European mace)[3]
  • Matchlock ax/dagger (European axe, dagger, matchlock combination)[3]
  • Pistol sword (European sword)
  • War hammer wheellock (European pick/hammer)[3]


Sectional or composite

Having multiple handles or holdable sections.

Chain weapons

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


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 Cope, Anne, ed. (1989). Swords and Hilt Weapons. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 8. ISBN 1-55584-290-9. 
  2. ^ Gordon, Col. D.H. (1953). "Swords, Rapiers and Horse-riders". Antiquity (Antiquity Publications Ltd) 27 (106): 67–76. 
  3. ^ 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 ah Regan,Paula, ed. (2006). Weapon: A Visual History of Arms and Armor. New York: DK Publishing. ISBN 0-7566-2210-7. 
  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. ^ "Northern Spear".