Arms & Armor Horseman's Axe
A hands-on review by Russ Ellis

11 people like this. Do you like this? yes no
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.
Click to enlarge
Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:3 pounds, 1.75 ounces
Overall length:23 1/4 inches
Head width:8 1/2 inches
Head height:5 1/4 inches
Grip length:6 5/8 inches
Haft thickness:5/8 inch
Haft length:21 1/4 inches

Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.

Handling Characteristics
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
Click to enlarge
Detail Photo

The Horseman's Axe was often the subject of large amounts of embellishment. A notable example owned by Giovanni Medici is highly decorated with both etching and gilding in a floral motif and features the Medici coat of arms. Arms and Armor's horseman's axe is a much simpler design. It has a simple half-moon axe blade, a long pick, and an all-metal handle with "rondels," or disks, at the top and the bottom of the grip. The handle between the rondels is then wrapped in cord and covered with leather. All of the components on the example I studied (head, haft, and rondels) were tightly attached with no noticeable gaps at the junctures. The finish of the blade and handle were up to Arms and Armor's usual high standards. The pick was symmetrically shaped and carefully ground to a point.

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

Click photos to enlarge:
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

All contents © Copyright 2003-2023 — All rights reserved

Open a printer-friendly version of this page

You must be logged in to access all the features of
Your name: I forgot my password
Register for an account
Password:  Log me on automatically each visit
Why register? See our Membership Plans for details.