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just a simple question, are hurlbats a genuinely historical weapon? i know lutels makesdecent stuff, but it looks very fantasyish to my mind


as i understand the hurlbat was a swiss weapon, its essentially an all steel throwing axe, which looks a lot like a small halberd head.
They are similar to African throwing knives that are/have been employed in the Sahara region and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Don't ask me where I found it mentioned, but I think these hurlbats were experimental Renaissance weapons. Perhaps you can look at it like this: my pistol is not working, so I throw it. Well, it would be even better to throw something sharp. Hey smith, can you make me something with many spikes and blades for that purpose?
begs the question though... where do you hold it...it seems sharp the whole way round.
Kurt Scholz wrote:
I think these hurlbats were experimental Renaissance weapons.

From what I understand, they date back quite a bit farther. I vaguely recall reading about archaeological evidence of iron and even bronze ones being discovered, but I can't seem to google up a source.
William P wrote:
begs the question though... where do you hold it...it seems sharp the whole way round.

Not all blades of such a weapon need to be equally sharp because an axe causes blunt as well as cutting damage. Another option is to throw it out of a container that contains some sharp parts of the object and is not thrown. For the depicted item I'd use a knife scabbard as a container that can be held in hand.

G K Vaughn wrote:
Kurt Scholz wrote:
I think these hurlbats were experimental Renaissance weapons.

From what I understand, they date back quite a bit farther. I vaguely recall reading about archaeological evidence of iron and even bronze ones being discovered, but I can't seem to google up a source.

These sources would interest me. I always thought the hurlbat only thrived in Africa and had a limited appearance elsewhere.
These weapons are also known as wurfhaken or mordhaken. They were mostly a 15th-16th century Germanic weapon, especially in eastern Europe. Called a hajitobard or something similar in Hungary. There is a thread on myArmoury that discusses these.
We have an older wurfhaken at Castlerock Arms and Armor Museum, where I work. I believe it is 14 c, but I will check for sure on my next shift. It is considerably shorter than the Lutel Hurlbat: definitely no longer than a foot (30.5 cm). It also lacks the bladed handle, but still has a butt spike.

Honestly, it is one of my favorite pieces in the museum and I hope one day to get a reproduction (or two) made for myself.

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The projection on the camera side of the shaft emanating from near the head is a belt loop, I believe. [ Download ]
Very nice pic Luke, thank you for posting it. If it is indeed 14th c, that would be very interesting, as most I have heard of were dated 15th c. I too would love to have a reproduction of that wurfhaken. Forging it from bar stock may be beyond my current capabilities, but perhaps I could cut out a cross shape from some thick plate and forge it from that. Or maybe one could be forged from a tire-iron. Could you provide some further approximate measurements, especially, about how thick it was at handle or base of blade?
I'll get the measurements and double check the date when I work next, hopefully this Friday.
It turns out the axe is about 13 inches long, which is slightly longer than my original estimate. It is a German wurfbeil, and while it has no mark on it, our curator claims he has research which dates it somewhere between 1350 and 1450.
Thank you Luke. The later end of 1350-1450 puts it right in line with other examples that I have heard of.
lutels also has some VERY odd lookign throwing knives
ok what? if the hurlbats are real i get the feeling these might be too but it looks so gaudy, not in terms of decorations, but the shape, like something out of a marvel comic or a ninja movie.

that said i get why it might be like that, lots of points, when thrown = more chance of sticking into a target
I have seen some Wurfdolchen with some interesting shapes. Unfortuneately, I don't have any pics available. I think maybe Herman Historica had some? One of the Talhoffer manuscripts has some illustrations of some throwing knives that iirc looked like Pompei-style gladii with another point where the hilt would usually be (if that makes sense?)
The African throwing knives are quite well published and sought after collector's item because they come in the strangest shapes. A short range thrown metal object with blades and spikes can come in a wild variety of shapes that still make it hurt and hard to predict.
Terence Wise (1976:79) seems to argue that hurlbats were thrown from horseback by knights:
"In the late fourteenth century a throwing axe was ... developed for use by cavalry which took the form of a cross, having four blades with a short handle and three spikes between them. This was thrown just before two sides met."
REFERENCE: http://www.forensicfashion.com/1403GermanRobberKnight.html , http://www.forensicfashion.com/ReferencesInPrintEnglishW.html

I approach this (unsourced) claim with skepticism, but haven't done the research to confirm or deny it. Perhaps one of you has?
The use of thrown axes or similar by cavalry makes good sense.
However, throwing them before contact would be quite pointless.

In a melee situation, where you are sitting on a prancing horse while trying to fight the enemy, a short range throwing weapon could be handy.
This can be compared to the use of pistols by 18th century cavalry, who would charge to contact with the sword, and subsequently use their pistols to fend of attackers at point blank.

On the other hand, the hurlbat design itself amply illustrates the problems with such a weapon. Since it is a question of luck if the axe hits blade first, additional spikes are added to increase the likelyhood of something sharp hitting home.
Byzantine cavalrymen, for their part, solved the problem by using throwing hammers instead.
A javelin would also be cheaper and easier to use.
The tournament book of Maximillian I (Freydal) shows fully armoured knights using wurfhaken in one-on-one dismounted combat. Talhoffer, iirc, shows them stuck in the ground around a tent, kind of like caltrops. So, aside from their obvious utility in mounted combat, they could be used in a lot of different situations.

Elling, I agree that javelins would be cheaper, but I personally feel that wurfhaken would be much more convenient to use on horseback, but that may just be because I am more of an infantry kind of guy.
Here is the link: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=20219
Does anyone know where the term HURLBAT comes from? Is this just a modern name or was it used in period?

Some information from the book "The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons Edited by Leonid Tarassuk & Claude Blair"

Throwing Ax
"A missile weapon shaped as a cruciform hatchet, made of steel. Its blade was forged into a sharp tip and balanced by a pointed fluke; the short handle was similarly pointed at the bottom and often extended into a spike on the top. Analogous in use to the WAR HAMMER, throwing axes were quite popular in central Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries."

War hammer
[Last paragraph)]
"From the 14th to early 16th centuries, a special type of the war hammer was used in central Europe as a missile weapon, which was given a spinning motion in flight. Functionally similar to the throwing axes, these war hammers had a conical pointed head with a spike and a fluke, and the steel handle was also sharply pointed at the bottom. In its simplest form, the throwing hammer had the form of a Latin cross whose four pointed arms were designed to inflict a wound however the weapon hit."



[ Linked Image ]

Any idea how effective these hurlbats would have been against plate armour?
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