The Writer’s Guide to Medieval Battlefield Weapons

I hope you have enjoyed my previous posts on sword myths. Today we will be moving on to other common medieval weapons with a focus on those used on the battlefield. Although swords are synonymous with fantasy and a lot of historical fiction, they were not used excessively in battle during the Middle Ages. There were several other weapons that were more effective than the sword, although quite a few soldiers carried them as a back-up weapon.

Writer’s Tip: Including weapons other than swords in your novel is a great way to expand your fantasy or historical arsenal, include weapons that are vastly under-represented in fiction, give an indication of social standing, use military tactics other than sword stances and inject some realism.


Polearm is the name for a class of weapons with a long wood pole. The most basic and common polearm is the spear. Starting in ancient times as a sharpened stick, the spear was improved first with a chipped stone head then bronze, iron and steel. Differently shaped heads were developed, often adapted from farm implements, resulting in the military fork, trident, partisan, pole-ax, glaive, bill, halberd and hammer, all of which had multiple variations. Polearms have the advantage of reach, ranging from the height of a person to about 16 feet (4.8 m) in the case of 17th century pikes. Also, infantry armed with polearms can be tightly packed into multiple ranks, creating a virtual hedge of protection. [1]

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Clubs, Maces and Picks

The club is probably the first purposely created weapon. On the Bayeux tapestry, William the Conqueror is depicted several times carrying a club. [2] Over the centuries, the club has been improved upon and by the Middle Ages there were flails, maces, picks, and war hammers.


Throughout most of human history, an axe with a common household tool, necessary for cutting wood for the fire. As a result, it became a handy weapon. Archers during the Hundred Year’s War carried axes on their belts to be used for cutting sharpened stakes for protection as well as self-defense if they were attacked by infantry. [3]


Originally developed for hunting, the bow was used to great effect in medieval warfare in such battles as Agincourt and Crécy during the 15th century. It was a common weapon that was not that expensive to buy nor too difficult to make. Most of the bowmen in a medieval army were yeoman, free commoners or part of the lower end of the middleclass. I will be delving deeper into archery myths in future posts.

I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions by using the Contact Me form on my website or writing a comment. I post every Friday and would be grateful if you would share my content.

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Let’s get writing!

Copyright © 2020 Rebecca Shedd. All rights reserved.

[1] Weapons: An International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D.. The Diagram Group (1980). Diagram Visual. p. 56-62. ISBN 0-312-03950-6.
[2] Weapons: An International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D.. The Diagram Group (1980). Diagram Visual. p. 14-15. ISBN 0-312-03950-6.

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