List of premodern combat weapons

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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[edit]

Hand or fist weapons and fans[edit]

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

Swords and bladed weapons[edit]

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


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

Straight shortswords[edit]
Curved shortswords[edit]


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

Curved one-handed swords[edit]
  • Ayudha katti (South and Southeast Asian)[1]
  • Backsword (European)
  • Cutlass, hanger, hangar (European)
  • Dao, Beidao, Zhibei dao (Chinese)
  • Dha (Southeast Asian)
  • Dussack, disackn, dusack, dusagge, dusegg, dusegge, dysack, tesak, thuseckn, tuseckn (European; debated. Although some list this weapon only as a wooden practice sword, others state that there are real, metal examples.)[1]
  • Falchion (European)
  • Hunting sword (European)
  • Hwando (Korean)
  • Kampilan (Philippines/Southeast Asian)
  • Karabela (European)
  • Kastane (Southeast Asia)
  • Khopesh, sappara, sickle-sword (Middle eastern)
  • Kilij (Middle Eastern, North Indian)
  • Klewang (Southeast Asian)
  • Krabi (Southeast Asian)
  • Kukri, Khukri (Nepal)
  • Liuyedao (Chinese)
  • Mameluke (Middle Eastern)
  • Messer, Großmesser, Hiebmesser, Kriegsmesser, Langes messer (European)
  • Nimcha (African)
  • Piandao (Chinese)
  • Pulwar (Middle Eastern)
  • Sabre, Briquet (European)
  • Schweizersäbel (European)
  • Scimitar, Saif (Middle Eastern)
  • Shamshir (Middle Eastern, Pakistani and North Indian)
  • Shashka (European)
  • Szabla (European)
  • Talwar (Indian)
  • Yanmaodao (Chinese)
Straight one-handed swords[edit]
Curved two-handed swords[edit]
Hand-and-a-half and two-handed greatswords[edit]
  • 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)
Axe-like swords[edit]

Generally, convex blades used for heavy chopping or slashing.

Other swords[edit]

Knives and daggers[edit]

Sickles and sickle-like knives[edit]

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)[1]
  • Punyal (Philippines/Southeast Asia)
  • Sickle (Worldwide; improvised)
  • Sudanese sickle-knife (African)[1]
  • Wedong (Southeast Asian)

Picks and pickaxes[edit]


Clubs and trauma weapons[edit]

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

Pole weapons and spears[edit]

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

Blunt staves[edit]


Thrown spears and javelins are listed under ranged weapons.

Polearms with axe-like blades[edit]

Polearms with spikes and hammers[edit]

Ranged weapons[edit]


Spears and javelins[edit]

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

Throwing sticks[edit]

Throwing blades and darts[edit]

Throwing axes[edit]

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

Throwing balls[edit]



Recurved bows[edit]

Short bows and reflex bows[edit]



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


Gunpowder weapons[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Ropes and whips[edit]

Sectional and composite[edit]

Having multiple handles or holdable sections.

Chain weapons[edit]

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.

  • Aspis, hoplon (Mediterranean)
  • Buckler (European)
  • Ceremonial shields, hide, leather, wickerwork (worldwide, tribal)
  • Heater shield, heraldic shield (European)
  • Hungarian shield (European)
  • Ishlangu (African)
  • Kite shield (European)
  • Scuta, oval scutum, tower or rectangular scutum (Mediterranean)
  • Targe (European)
  • Gun Shield (Egypt, Rome,Greece)

See also[edit]



  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 ah 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. ^ "Northern Spear".