Arms & Armor Warhammer
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
The well-equipped knight of the 15th century would have done his best to outfit himself with the latest forms of protection. Plate armour during this period had evolved to protect most of the body, and a man wearing such armour was incredibly hard to kill. A sword's edge could do little against it, and therefore other weapons were devised to fight against a man in harness.
The warhammer is one such weapon designed for this purpose. It is a weapon of mass, having the ability to strike with shock and percussion through plate. Such strikes could injure the person underneath, or in some cases dent the armour's articulations and joints so that the wearer would be unable to move. Most hammers have a back spike to focus the impact in one small, piercing point, which could either be used to strike within the open gaps of the armour, or potentially to pierce thinner areas of the armour itself.
Arms & Armor of Minnesota is a mainstay in the reproduction sword world, but quite often their reputation as sword makers overshadows their efforts to make other styles of quality weaponry. A&A also makes a variety of related weapons, such as axes, maces, staff weapons, and in this case, warhammers. This warhammer is based on a French example from the middle of the 15th century that currently resides in The Wallace Collection. The replica is somewhat smaller than the antique. This may be because the original is thought to be a cut-down version of a two-handed hammer.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.
This is one of the liveliest warhammers I've ever held. It has some serious heft, with the mass centered around the head, and can deliver very powerful strikes because of it. At the same time, though, this hammer is quick enough to make fast recoveries should the first blow not land. Most warhammers I've handled are too heavy to recover easily, and this was noted by others who handled this weapon.
Experimenting with different grips, I found that I could change how I would use the weapon. When held one-handed near the butt of the haft, the hammer delivers the strongest strikes with a slower recovery. If held closer towards the head, the hammer becomes very easy to control and recover, but this sacrifices striking ability. In general I prefer to hold the grip about a hand span from the butt, though I could easily shift my grip if necessary. It is possible to use two hands on the haft, but this reduces the range of the weapon drastically. I would generally use this as a one handed weapon (along with a shield or buckler, or while holding the reins of a horse), but two-handed strikes are possible in certain close situations.
The hammer head has a pyramid-shaped protrusion on its face which focuses even more impact into a small area. The warhammer has a back spike, as was common with these weapons, but, even more, it has a spike on either side of the head. These side spikes are very sharp, and blend the usage of this hammer with that of a mace. Alignment of the hammer head isn't an issue at all with this weapon. There is also a large thrusting spike, making it very versatile.
Fit and Finish
This is a very attractive weapon. The hammer is well formed, and Arms & Armor did a remarkable job getting the subtle decorative elements down. There are incised lines around the bases of the spikes, and the hammer face has a scalloped edge, all of which look quite nice. The lines of the steel pieces are even and sharp. The langets are riveted to the haft, and the langets are held on by hand-made nails. The hardwood haft is sturdy and tight, and the edges are beveled for comfort.
This warhammer is one of the nicest ones I've seen reproduced. Arms & Armor has produced a top-notch weapon, and a good looking one at that. At $270 US, this seems like a very reasonable price as well. The market for historical warhammers is rather small, and many makers often assume these weapons are much clumsier than they really are. It is because of this that I am glad to see that A&A has done justice to their example.
About the Author
Bill Grandy is an instructor of Historical European Swordsmanship and sport fencing at the Virginia Academy of Fencing. He has held a strong passion (obsession?) for swords and swordsmanship for as long as he can remember. He admits that this passion comes from a youth spent playing Dungeons and Dragons, but he'll only admit that if there are no girls around.
Photographer: Bill Grandy