Arms & Armor Horseman's Axe
A hands-on review by Russ Ellis
The distinctive horseman's axe doesn't appear until the later years of the 15th century. It was at this time that full plate armour was at the height of its development. Against this late highly developed armour, the most cherished weapon of the knight, the sword, was all but useless. Warriors were forced to search for other methods of defeating armour-clad opponents and a range of impact and piercing (rather than cutting) weapons surged in popularity. Few members of this class of weapons have the elegance and aesthetic appeal as the sword but the horseman's axe is the exception. Many of these axes showcase the same decorative styles and technical abilities as the very finest examples of sword hilts and armour.
These axes are well-suited to their task. Most horseman's axes have a short curved blade at the front which is balanced with a hammer or spike (often called a pick) at the back. Many examples also have a formidable top spike. The damage either through impact or puncture to those unfortunate enough to have been on the receiving end of blows from these axes must have been considerable.
The particular axe which is the subject of this review was built by Arms & Armor of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is based on one from circa 1540 housed in Spain's Armoria Real. Christopher Poor founded Arms & Armor in 1982. He and his company have been building some of the finest medieval replicas available to the public ever since. Most of the replicas they make are recreations of actual historic pieces.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.
This axe is an interesting study in handling. The overall length is rather short, but a lot of weight is concentrated in that short length. When swung, this axe delivers a huge impact. The full force of that impact is focused in either the small surface area of the blade edge or the even smaller surface area of the pick. This leads to devastating force to the target when struck. The shortness and the solid all-metal construction lead to a minimum of vibration upon impact.
Fit and Finish
Aesthetically, this axe by Arms & Armor, although not as highly decorated as some of its ancient counterparts, is still very pleasing. The fit and finish of this axe are excellent and the construction is solid. At its price I believe that this piece is a bargain and I fully intend to purchase one myself.
About the Author
Russ Ellis is a Systems Engineer working for Northrop Grumman by day and a scabbard maker by night. He has been a student of medieval history for many years and this eventually led him to the world of sword collecting. He currently resides in Alabama with his wife and three children.
Photographer: Chad Arnow