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Rob Sully




Location: Bristol UK
Joined: 17 Mar 2012

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Thu 02 May, 2013 7:06 am    Post subject: Halberd length and butt spike?         Reply with quote

Hi i have a question about the larger polearms such as halberds and billhooks etc. I can only find images of the heads which doesn't help my query.

Is there a rough length range for these weapons or did it vary too much to answer even generally?

As halberds are longer than poleaxe etc did they ever have a butt spike or would it be useless? Or was there ever any counterweight or reinforcement of the butt end, i.e. langets?

many thanks
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Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

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PostPosted: Thu 02 May, 2013 1:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Writing at the end of the sixteenth century, Sir John Smythe and George Silver recommended 5-6ft total length for bills and halberds intended for the press of battle. Based on artwork, however, many sixteenth-century halberds tended toward the 7-8ft range. Smythe considered this length ideal for skirmishing in loose formation but undesirable in a melee.

Various authors recommended butt spikes. Expect on pollaxes, it's unclear how common they were in practice. One sixteenth-century writer - Smythe I believe - mentioned that staff weapons often had iron hoops/bands on the butt end to protect the wood.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
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Phil D.




Location: Texas
Joined: 23 Sep 2003
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PostPosted: Thu 02 May, 2013 2:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a pic or re-enactors using shorter length pole arms.I don't know how common they may have been but seem very practical...
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
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PostPosted: Thu 02 May, 2013 11:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Looking at sources, and from experience, there are basically two kinds of polearms:
"Personal" polearms, for melee fighting, and "full lenght polearms".

The first ones, like Benjamin describes, are generally around head height, Typically about 6 ft. This includes polaxes, short helbards and long hafted daneaxes.

The later are spear length; Silver gives a rule for their length that puts them at about 9ft, the same as his half pike. In Silver's work, these include glaives, partisans, and similar weapons. But, to add to the confusion, it was not uncommon to mount helbards on full length shafts. I have seen references to Landsknecht helbards that are more than 3m long...

As for buttpikes, they can be practical on personal poles, as these are short enough to effectively use the cue. On a full length, however, you have the point forward at all times, and simply going for your backup is a better and more practical idea.

Another major factor here is that personal polearms held head forward are to sluggish to effectively parry spear thrusts. Which links their popularity closely with heavy armour.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

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PostPosted: Fri 03 May, 2013 6:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
The later are spear length; Silver gives a rule for their length that puts them at about 9ft, the same as his half pike. In Silver's work, these include glaives, partisans, and similar weapons. But, to add to the confusion, it was not uncommon to mount helbards on full length shafts. I have seen references to Landsknecht helbards that are more than 3m long...


The period artwork I've seen suggests 3m would have been uncommon. Sixteenth-century Italian sources apparently give approximately 8ft as the standard. Here Tom Leoni specifies 7-8ft.

Quote:
On a full length, however, you have the point forward at all times, and simply going for your backup is a better and more practical idea.


Silver's short staff indicates otherwise. The artwork shows it shod and sharp at both ends, and Silver instructed stabbing with the rear point when up close.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Rob Sully




Location: Bristol UK
Joined: 17 Mar 2012

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Thu 09 May, 2013 10:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sorry for the late reply that was all the info i needed and more.

Many thanks
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