Eric McHugh Custom Halberd
A hands-on review by Eric Nower

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Polearms—the workhorse weapons of medieval and renaissance infantry—came in a variety of forms, including the halberd. Like many such arms, the halberd's origins may be peaceful and agricultural, evolving from axes and billhooks, with the addition of a spear's thrusting capability.

The halberd reached its peak of functional design by the late 15th century and began to decline into a largely decorative and ceremonial object after that time. Later halberds often had a long, thin spike and a large, crescent-shaped blade and extensive decoration. These were carried by guards or used in ceremonies. In its peak period of service, however, halberds dominated the battlefield.

Like most other polearms, the halberd was used in mass formations. It proved especially effective in unhorsing mounted opponents and significantly influenced armour and tactics in its heyday.

I have always been fascinated by polearms—halberds in particular. There is something about them that demands respect. But where was I to find one? While some companies offer a limited selection of polearms, these weapons generally are under-represented in the modern consumer market, which focuses mainly on swords and armour. Eric McHugh, Head of Research and Design for Albion Armorers and a custom weapon maker, accepted my challenge to create a custom halberd and delivered a classic weapon in the style of the late 15th or early 16th century. Eric had never made a halberd before so this was going to be a learning experience for both of us.

Eric began researching and developing the drawings, consulting with swordsmith Peter Johnsson as needed. At one point the pair even visited the Chicago Museum of Art to view some period pieces. Eric kept in touch with me through the whole development process and it was a pleasure dealing with him.

The halberd Eric created is forge-welded from three separate pieces of steel and hafted with a 100-year-old piece of oak rescued from a barn being torn down in Wisconsin.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:~ 4 pounds, 10 ounces
Overall length:86 1/4 inches
Spike length:11 1/2 inches
Spike width:3/4 inch at base
Blade length:7 1/4 inches
Blade width:3 3/4 inches at the top tapering down to 2 inches
Haft thickness:1 1/4 x 1 3/8 inches
Haft length:70 inches from the bottom of the head

Replica created by Eric McHugh.

Handling Characteristics
The balance of this weapon is quite pleasing. In a proper stance, with the dominant hand placed in the center of the staff, the weight of the head does not seem to matter. The haft is long enough to allow staff fighting if necessary and it flows from guard to guard with relative ease.

True to historical form, this is a "mish-mash" weapon, combining traits of various other weapons in a single form. I find the back spike to be a great asset for hooking. The blade seems to be sharp enough to cause wounds even on a weak cut. The spike is long enough for an effective thrust, but not so long that it is unwieldy. Overall, I find this halberd to be a sweet-handling weapon that responds quickly and effectively. Combined with armour and an aggressive attitude, this truly would have been a weapon to be feared.

Fit and Finish
The overall appearance of this halberd is very pleasing. The head is polished to the smooth satin finish typical of Albion products, which given Ericís affiliation with them is no surprise. The pierced cross design adds a bit of personality to the weapon, while not compromising the blade. The sturdy and well-made oak haft is treated with Danish oil to help seal and protect it.

I think this is an outstanding piece that truly reflects how original halberds appear. Eric McHugh was very informative and his professionalism should be commended. I would not hesitate to order another polearm should he choose to make another. I have a new-found love for these weapons and hope to see increased popularity for the weapons in the consumer market.

About the Author
Eric Nower lives in Bouckville, New York. He has had an interest in swords and armour ever since he first saw the original Beastmaster movie and the dream of owning a real sword came true when he ran into Albion Armourers through armourers Mercenary's Tailor. He's interested in all sorts of medieval arms and armour, especially that of the late 13th and early 14th centuries.

Photographer: Eric Nower

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