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Spasimir Ivanov




Location: Bulgaria
Joined: 27 Oct 2013

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PostPosted: Sun 27 Oct, 2013 4:53 am    Post subject: Axe vs Halberd         Reply with quote

Hi guys,
I've been a long time reader here, so I finally decided to register and start posting too.
The last couple of weeks I've been researching and reading online about axes and polearms containing axe heads in particular. From what I found out, there aren't many surviving historical texts about axe fighting techniques. The halberd and the poleaxe, being one of the more popular weapons in the late medieval ages, does get a lot more spotlight. I guess the fighting techniques between a two-handed axe and a halberd or poleaxe wouldn't be that much different, excluding the added versatility of the halberd. For the sake of this comparisson I will not speak about poleaxes more, since although there are different kinds of them, a typical halberd is a lot closer to a two-hand Danish axe (axe with head Petersen type M) about which I am talking about here.
So do you think such an axe has some advantage over a halberd or is the halberd the evolution of the two-handed Danish axe, like modern firearms are evolution to flintlocks? However, I've come to notice that, especially when talking about melee weapons there are not simply evolving, more like adapting to fight the different armors and weapons. Axes are, in my opinion, a fine example of weapon that has been declining and re-emerging in popularity over the ages. Obviosly, when you add more iron to a weapon, it becomes heavier so the axe will be a bit faster. However, I don't think a spike on top and hook on the back will weigh enough to make much of a difference. More versatility in combat is always good, but I think that can be also used against you by giving more things to grab and block (like using to handle of the axe to pull away the halberd by the hook on the back). Also, the halberd is a bit longer, especially with a longer spike on top - longer reach is nice, but it can also reduce mobility on the battlefield. However, the difference is not big enough to consider them weapons of different range.

So do you think such an axe have some advantage over a halberd or is the halberd simply better weapon?
Just to avoid confusion, I am speaking about battle of warriors that are afoot and lightly armoured (like chain mail and stuff). Therefore, halberd main strong point of fighting cavalry is not counted.

“I do not love the bright sword for it's sharpness, nor the arrow for it's swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend”
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Oct, 2013 5:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I'm no expert on combat....but...It seems to me that if you came charging at me with a long-shafted halberd, my Dane axe could swat it aside and probably remove your head on the backswing. Eek! Long-shafted weapons are going to be slower to maneuver than a 'two-handed' weapon, whether it be an axe or sword or what have you. If I had to go into medieval combat, for real, right now,......I would choose a two-handed bearded axe, shield, and dagger....with a sword being my last ditch weapon. You need some real estate for a long-shafted weapon. I doubt that many early warriors were ever downed by a halberd, but I bet a bunch of horses were. Poor hosses...they didn't pick a fight. Sad ............McM
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Augusto Boer Bront
Industry Professional



Location: Cividale del Friuli (UD) Italy
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Oct, 2013 5:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm very fond of axes too, but I moved to poleaxes. They a so much better and so more deadly =).
On a more serious note, the halberd have a major huge advantage: you can thrust with it.
It can be used both as spear or axe, and that is great, especially on the battlefield.
It's a little bit more unwieldy, yes, but it's all counterbalanced by the reach and the thrusting ability.
And they can have a bottom spike, wich ir really nice too if you know how to use it.
The limitations of a simple two handed axe is its simplicity. You can basically just slash and cut with it. You can do a little bit of bottom handle action, if it's long enough (more than 1,2m though), but the lack of a butt spike limit's its lethality a lot.

This whole concept is valid for the poleaxe too, the only difference being that one is a infantry line weapon while the other is a knightly one.

Just my two cents.

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Joe Fults




Location: Midwest
Joined: 02 Sep 2003

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PostPosted: Sun 27 Oct, 2013 9:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Have owed and cut with a halberd so I'll note that if you're not aware and alert the halberd has the potential to hit you when you think you're safe on your approach. The hit is not going to be one that you're going to deflect easily. In fact I think you're going to void or the halberd has a chance to overpower your guard. If the blow lands that halberd is hitting you like a locomotive. Even if the attack misses, because of its range and because a decent halberd does not have to be that slow (all those holes in many of them are not just decoration) there a good chance for it to recover before you close. If the guy using it has any clue about what he's doing it will recover. In a group its a nasty piece of work because of all that reach. It can still hit you with somebody else in the mix to keep you from closing (and to make you cover multiple lines). Its not a super weapon...its not something I'd imagine as my favorite toy for up close mano y mano play. The rub is getting there.

Poleaxe is just a nasty, flexible and fun piece of work all around (owned one of those too). I'd take one over just about anything other than a projectile weapon at range any day and I know I don't really know how to use it.

Big axes specifically I don't have any meaningful experience with. I've always had the impression that they brought power to the mix but did not have the range of the halberd or the ability to really thrust. So my uneducated guess is that the range and flexibility of the halberd gives it some level of advantage.

"Our life is what our thoughts make it"
-Marcus Aurelius

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
-John F. Kennedy


Last edited by Joe Fults on Sun 27 Oct, 2013 8:57 pm; edited 4 times in total
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Daniel Wallace




Location: Pennsylvania USA
Joined: 07 Aug 2011

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PostPosted: Sun 27 Oct, 2013 11:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

if you think it over, an axe is going to have a primary attack of a cut, think of the amount of distance you have to close within it in order to get that cut to land effectively. then think about a halberd keeping a person at bay by just poking away at them.

in all, i think the two handed axe can fall within the two handed sword when comparing them against pole arms, there's pros and cons to both, and which is more effect depends on the user and the type of combat they encounter.
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Tom King




Location: florida
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Oct, 2013 2:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wish I could find it, but awhile back I watched a youtube video of a botn style battle where a man with a 18 odd foot on glaive/proto halberd Hits a charging man square in the head, who drops to the ground and doesn't get up.

As easy as it is to armchair general this discussion, it is pretty hard to get past the kill zone of a competent spear/haliberdman. And when you do, as you cover the 15ft to get to him, He'll draw that katzbalger or baselard and put YOU at the disadvantage as far as CC combat weapons.
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Gregg Sobocinski




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Oct, 2013 8:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm on the halberd side of this debate, for reasons of balance and versatility. Being more balanced, it won't twist as much on impact as an axe. That back spike you dismiss as a liability can be used to pull down a shield, or to punch through weak points in armor which would deflect your axe. The victim wouldn't like your axe, but an armored opponent would more likely survive, even if it is to be bludgeoned by you again.

Others have pointed out the spearing capability, which might also follow-up after a shield hook. The length of the halberd would be useful against mounted opponents, as well as putting that back spike to use for hooking reigns, stirrups, or body parts of that opponent.

One point prevalent in the book Hafted Weapons in Medieval and Renaissance Europe: The evolution of European staff weapons between 1200 and 1650 (John Waldman 2005), is that halberds evolved to be more durable than other axe types. The hafts survived much longer.

In the end, it still comes down to having the correct tool in properly skilled hands for that particular situation. The wide variety of weapons on the battlefield is proof-enough that there is never one correct answer. If you like your axe, become the best axeman there ever was!
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Oct, 2013 9:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the long haft makes a big difference to the amount of energy you can deliver. When I prune trees with a bill, I find I can go straight through limbs using a long-hafted bill, given room to swing it, that would need multiple axe chops.
"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Loring Palleske




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Oct, 2013 2:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What of the relative weights. It seems that aside from the spear thrust that the halberd would take longer to recover.
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Roderick Stacey




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Oct, 2013 2:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Moore wrote:
Well, I'm no expert on combat....but...It seems to me that if you came charging at me with a long-shafted halberd, my Dane axe could swat it aside and probably remove your head on the backswing. Eek! Long-shafted weapons are going to be slower to maneuver than a 'two-handed' weapon, whether it be an axe or sword or what have you. If I had to go into medieval combat, for real, right now,......I would choose a two-handed bearded axe, shield, and dagger....with a sword being my last ditch weapon. You need some real estate for a long-shafted weapon. I doubt that many early warriors were ever downed by a halberd, but I bet a bunch of horses were. Poor hosses...they didn't pick a fight. Sad ............McM



If you use the halberd as a spear, your axe is less effective as you would like it to be. I hate fighting spears with my 13th C axe.
The halberd is not an axe where you need room to swing, think of a kyak paddle

Also you don't need much room to swing a halberd as you would think, also its the long speary thing the guy on the horse has keeps you well away from the horsey.

As I have learnt some polearm technique this year, the polearm is a very effective weapon.
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Ben Coomer




Location: Colorado
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Oct, 2013 5:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've fought axes and polearms. I'd take on an axe over a halberd any day. Less range, less versatility, and generally limited series of attacks. Heck, even with a big Danish axe, I have the range advantage with my longsword. None of those apply to a halberd.

Don't get me wrong, axes are fine weapons, but its really hard to compete with a halberd with ANY weapon (excepting maybe a spear...)
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