Arms & Armor Nordland Axe Prototype
A hands-on review by Joseph Fults

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Many kinds of weapons played significant and important roles on the medieval battlefield. Some weapons were created as special purpose martial and military appliances, while others evolved from the tools people tended to have at hand for times of need. Inevitably, some tools became popular as weapons and spawned new versions of themselves dedicated to fighting and warfare. One tool that often found its way onto the field of battle, and then spawned specialized fighting versions, was the axe.

Using the axe as a weapon is compelling for many reasons. Most people were, and still are, familiar with axes. The basic use of an axe is immediately evident upon grasping it, and even an unskilled axe wielder can still deliver a very powerful blow with an axe since it efficiently concentrates force at the end of the lever. It is also generally accepted that axes are easier and cheaper to produce than swords, and they can also be produced in volume by less skilled craftsmen.

Arms & Armor (A&A) is a well-known North American manufacturer of reproduction weapons, armour, and accessories. Primarily noted for their production work, the Minneapolis-based firm also takes on custom commissions for a variety of items from time to time.

The Nordland Axe reviewed here is a prototype of a model that A&A plans to introduce as a low-cost item that can be produced and sold in volume at the renaissance fairs and medieval festivals where they maintain a retail presence. Its target market is the stop-and-shop crowd that wants to buy something, but may not be able or willing to purchase other items in the standard A&A product portfolio.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:1 pound, 10 ounces
Overall length:19 inches
Head width:6 inches
Head height:4 1/2 inches
Haft length:17 3/4 inches
Haft thickness:1 1/8 inche x 7/8 inch (oval)

Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.

Handling Characteristics
The Nordland Axe Prototype is designed as a single-handed weapon. Its fairly light weight makes it easy to use as a hand weapon and also makes it easy to throw. Thus far mine has proven to be accurate at short to medium ranges. Long range accuracy is, I suspect, more limited by my ability than any property of the axe.

I have also discovered that this axe is a capable wood chopper. The woodpile and fire pit in my backyard really enjoy the kindling it has created. Functionally, it feels and performs like a camp axe in this application.

The edge has held well through all my use. Thus far the haft of the axe has also remained tightly attached to the axe head; a definite plus.

Due to it size and weight, the Nordland Axe is not a weapon I can envision sundering a shield. It does concentrate quite a bit of punch, but as I expected, not enough that I can split wood with it.

Fit and Finish
This weapon exhibits A&A's standard attention to detail. Assembly is tight and secure without gaps and looseness. It is finished in a matte black coating and appears to be cast when carefully examined. The finish and coating do a good job of hiding the casting seams in my opinion, especially at the price point of less than $50 US where this axe sells. There is nothing that appears to be a structural weakness in the weapon. The haft is shaped and tapers from a radical oval near the head to a more neutral oval shape at the base.

This piece is a nice addition to my collection from a reputable vendor at an exceptional price. The Nordland Axe does not represent a specific historical piece but it does manage to maintain a historically plausible feel. The plausibility factor may not be ideal for re-enactors, but it is not something that is likely to trouble more casual collectors who seem to be the target market of this product. Overall, it is a comfortable size and shape and should work nicely as a costume piece, which is probably its intended role. It also works well as a fun thrower and as a camp axe. In my opinion this axe represents a solid value and an interesting concept.

Arms & Armor was reliable and courteous throughout this transaction, as always. This is a consideration that is easy to overlook when buying, and that is unfortunate. There is something to be said for setting accurate expectations and meeting them. A&A has earned my trust and I will happily purchase from them again in the future.

About the Author
Joseph Fults is a technology manager in the Columbus metropolitan area. For all intents and purposes a career student as long as he can remember, Joseph has been intrigued by history and tales of adventure. Long driven to learn about anything that intrigued him, over the last few years Joseph has nurtured a growing appetite for information about the medieval period of European history. Today his curiosity draws him to the people, items, and regional events of the Rhine basin in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.

Photographer: Chad Arnow

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