Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Close quarters weapons Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Dan K. F.




Location: Calgary, Alberta
Joined: 12 Aug 2013
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 32

PostPosted: Thu 26 Sep, 2013 10:18 pm    Post subject: Close quarters weapons         Reply with quote

I've been wondering lately why most swords I've seen dating from the Migration Period onwards seem to have longer blades. I can understand the advantages of a longer sword but what kind of weapons would have been used when there wasn't room to wield a longer weapon? When fighting indoors, on fortifications, or even in a close press on an open battlefield it seems like a sword with a 30+ inch blade would be severely disadvantaged. The ubiquitous dagger would be more maneuverable but I would think something the length of a gladius would be a superior compromise between length and weight when closer range combat was expected such as in a siege.

I haven't seen many swords in the 20 to mid 20 inch range other than the gladius and swords from antiquity that predated it. Is there a reason for this or do I just need to do more reading?
View user's profile Send private message
Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 26 Sep, 2013 11:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have to say that this time period really is not my area of expertise, and I am sure that there are others who can answer much more fully than myself. One thing I can tell you is that, during the Migration era and Early Middle Ages, the seax was a common side arm that is much shorter than most swords. See here for more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seax. Other than saxes, there would probably have been many people who might have carried knives that could function as a sidearm. Remember, the distinction between knives and daggers is a little bit loose, especially before the 13th century, which is when specialized daggers start to become much more common in Europe.
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,306

PostPosted: Fri 27 Sep, 2013 7:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

All we can really say is, It worked for them! I don't think there was much fighting indoors aside from tavern brawls. Fighting from foritifications would include spears and missile weapons. Even on an open battlefield, swords were *secondary* weapons, most of the fighting being done with spears. So any kind of sword or axe or seax was a backup weapon. And close combat was probably not always as crushed and dense as you might think, so there was generally enough room to use a sword. It should be noted that even the Romans preferred to have some elbow room when fighting, with each man having 3 to 6 feet of space--a formation that was so tight that shields overlapped was comparatively rare.

The nice thing about a sword is that it doesn't require a huge swing or a lot of space to do damage. A wimpy jab or an awkward slice can still lay flesh wide open. I don't know about you, but that would ruin MY day...

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
Joined: 05 Aug 2008
Likes: 23 pages

Posts: 449

PostPosted: Fri 27 Sep, 2013 8:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, for most people in Migration period, in most migrating cultures at least, sword would be rather precious thing, not commonly owned.

All kind of seaxes/fighting knives would be actually way more popular as sidearms, I would imagine.

Or even all-around utility knives/blades used as a weapon.
View user's profile Send private message
Ben Coomer




Location: Colorado
Joined: 06 Sep 2011

Posts: 184

PostPosted: Fri 27 Sep, 2013 12:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm with Matthew. Even with my longsword, its not all broad strokes and huge lunges. Even excluding half-swording, I've got master strikes, wrist powered strikes, stop thrusts, hilt strikes, grappling and simple punches and kicks that work for close quarters. I figure earlier warriors would have similar responses.

That swords are so ubiquitous is probably due to their versatility in so many situations. They may not be perfect for everything, but many will a least give you a chance in most combat situations.
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,177

PostPosted: Fri 27 Sep, 2013 5:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben Coomer wrote:
I'm with Matthew. Even with my longsword, its not all broad strokes and huge lunges. Even excluding half-swording, I've got master strikes, wrist powered strikes, stop thrusts, hilt strikes, grappling and simple punches and kicks that work for close quarters. I figure earlier warriors would have similar responses.

That swords are so ubiquitous is probably due to their versatility in so many situations. They may not be perfect for everything, but many will a least give you a chance in most combat situations.


Yeah, against bare skin damage can be done with very little effort with draw cuts or precisely targeted thrusts.

Armour, even light armour is mostly useful in preventing damage from low energy blows or cuts or weak thrusts, leaving only fully committed blows using power as even marginally useful using swords.

With good plate armour swords are almost useless unless one goes into half swording or one uses the sword after having rendered the opponent vulnerable using wrestling techniques.

Now, halberd, maces, warhammers, bec de corbin, poleaxes or in close with rondel dagger can do damage or kill with a bit of luck and skill.

Unless one finds a chink in the armour, one almost has to use wrestling techniques or seriously outnumber a fully armoured fighter and wear him down until he becomes too exhausted to defend himself.

Still swords are not useless because not every fighter on the battlefield is armoured head to foot, and also depending on time period, sword could give some decent concussive blows on maille even if it didn't penetrate the maille, and in early periods, armour coverage was limited to mostly body and head with little to no arm or leg armour.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 1,494

PostPosted: Fri 27 Sep, 2013 6:38 pm    Post subject: Re: Close quarters weapons         Reply with quote

Dan K. F. wrote:
The ubiquitous dagger would be more maneuverable but I would think something the length of a gladius would be a superior compromise between length and weight when closer range combat was expected such as in a siege.


I'm not so sure that you'd expect closer range close combat during sieges than battles in the open field.

Perhaps during things like boarding ships, ships often having very cramped spaces below (but we still see plenty of full-sized naval swords). What about fighting in buildings (which can occur during sieges)? It might be that there is enough space to use full-sized swords, but the chances of sudden encounter with an enemy makes shorter weapons better. In more recent times, we see a preference for short weapon for activities such as trench raiding. Given that soldiers carried rifles in the trenches, there was space for rifles, but short weapons would let a raider - at night, attacking by surprise, fight in-close when it's harder for a defender to bayonet/shoot them.

Dan K. F. wrote:

I haven't seen many swords in the 20 to mid 20 inch range other than the gladius and swords from antiquity that predated it. Is there a reason for this or do I just need to do more reading?


There are plenty of swords in this length range: wakizashi, various Chinese dao, Moro kris, various Philippine/Indonesian bolos, various swords from Borneo, some Tibetan swords, kora/khunda, various Indian swords, choora/Khyber knife/salawar yataghan, kindjal/qama, some yataghans, lots of African swords, lots of hunting swords and hangers, long dirks and seax, artillery/engineer swords, military machetes, espada ancha, longish cinquedea, various messers, and probably many, many more.

Then we have lots of axes and maces of this kind of length as well.

IMO, lots of these are of such a length so that they're longer than shorter weapons, but not so long as to be inconvenient to carry/wear everywhere. If people were seriously going out to fight, they'd often take spears, bows, guns, polearms, or bigger swords.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Guy Bayes




Location: United States
Joined: 07 Oct 2012

Posts: 64

PostPosted: Fri 27 Sep, 2013 7:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daggers are a good companion to swords. A lot of the longsword treatise emphasize dagger as well as longsword. Especially once it turns into wrestling daggers are awesome
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Henrik Granlid




Location: Sweden
Joined: 17 Apr 2012

Posts: 103

PostPosted: Sat 28 Sep, 2013 2:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A man on reddit described the battlefields well, the press just wasn't there, everybody risked dying from a small cut, everybody could get hit by a stray spear. If you were in the press, nobody could tell who's side you were on.

The long and short of it is, nobody would smash into an enemy block. The blocks would close to non-spear-to-face distance and try to goad the other block (or their own) to attack. Once the psych was there to go, go, go, the blocks would close into swinging distance and either one would get the upper hand and grind/crush into the enemy block for the actual press, or they'd both back off and catch their breath before trying to psych up another attack. The crush would happen with heavier elite troops or wedges pushing in to break the enemy, most casualties were when footsoldiers broke and ran or when blocks became encircled and the systematic slaughter began.

In short, average battlefield encounter distance (until pikes and muskets) was so that you could hide behind your shield and lash out at an exposed head behind another shield, making the three foot sword a lot more logical. Especially when we look at the fact that once greatswords replaced longswords, we get the 25-30 inch katzbalger swords as the secondary weapons for once the pikes have been cut off.
View user's profile Send private message
Ben Coomer




Location: Colorado
Joined: 06 Sep 2011

Posts: 184

PostPosted: Sat 28 Sep, 2013 9:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Yeah, against bare skin damage can be done with very little effort with draw cuts or precisely targeted thrusts.

Armour, even light armour is mostly useful in preventing damage from low energy blows or cuts or weak thrusts, leaving only fully committed blows using power as even marginally useful using swords.

With good plate armour swords are almost useless unless one goes into half swording or one uses the sword after having rendered the opponent vulnerable using wrestling techniques.

Now, halberd, maces, warhammers, bec de corbin, poleaxes or in close with rondel dagger can do damage or kill with a bit of luck and skill.

Unless one finds a chink in the armour, one almost has to use wrestling techniques or seriously outnumber a fully armoured fighter and wear him down until he becomes too exhausted to defend himself.

Still swords are not useless because not every fighter on the battlefield is armoured head to foot, and also depending on time period, sword could give some decent concussive blows on maille even if it didn't penetrate the maille, and in early periods, armour coverage was limited to mostly body and head with little to no arm or leg armour.


Well, if I knew what was coming, I'd be pretty careful in choosing what I'd take, but in a general everything, anything, and nothing might happen, I'd go with a longsword and dagger. They, together would give me a response to nearly every situation (massed archery being a definite exclusion that comes to mind) while retaining portability.

Honestly, I think the ease of carry is often an overlooked aspect of swords. When not in use, it hangs off your waist with the dangerous parts usually covered and protected. It doesn't weigh much, with a little practice, it doesn't get in the way (too much). Its also there almost instantly with an array of offense and defense abilities for many situations. Spears and halberds may be better weapons, but they are clunky, particularly for doorways and crowded areas. Axes and hammers and the like are often shorter and less portable with blades and pointy bits sticking out in inconvenient spots. And medieval ranged weapons are definitely cumbersome for everyday activities.

Obviously I'm a bit biased here, but a sword really is a good general purpose weapon.
View user's profile Send private message
Ben Coomer




Location: Colorado
Joined: 06 Sep 2011

Posts: 184

PostPosted: Sat 28 Sep, 2013 9:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Yeah, against bare skin damage can be done with very little effort with draw cuts or precisely targeted thrusts.

Armour, even light armour is mostly useful in preventing damage from low energy blows or cuts or weak thrusts, leaving only fully committed blows using power as even marginally useful using swords.

With good plate armour swords are almost useless unless one goes into half swording or one uses the sword after having rendered the opponent vulnerable using wrestling techniques.

Now, halberd, maces, warhammers, bec de corbin, poleaxes or in close with rondel dagger can do damage or kill with a bit of luck and skill.

Unless one finds a chink in the armour, one almost has to use wrestling techniques or seriously outnumber a fully armoured fighter and wear him down until he becomes too exhausted to defend himself.

Still swords are not useless because not every fighter on the battlefield is armoured head to foot, and also depending on time period, sword could give some decent concussive blows on maille even if it didn't penetrate the maille, and in early periods, armour coverage was limited to mostly body and head with little to no arm or leg armour.


Well, if I knew what was coming, I'd be pretty careful in choosing what I'd take, but in a general everything, anything, and nothing might happen, I'd go with a longsword and dagger. They, together would give me a response to nearly every situation (massed archery being a definite exclusion that comes to mind) while retaining portability.

Honestly, I think the ease of carry is often an overlooked aspect of swords. When not in use, it hangs off your waist with the dangerous parts usually covered and protected. It doesn't weigh much, with a little practice, it doesn't get in the way (too much). Its also there almost instantly with an array of offense and defense abilities for many situations. Spears and halberds may be better weapons, but they are clunky, particularly for doorways and crowded areas. Axes and hammers and the like are often shorter and less portable with blades and pointy bits sticking out in inconvenient spots. And medieval ranged weapons are definitely cumbersome for everyday activities.

Obviously I'm a bit biased here, but a sword really is a good general purpose weapon.
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,177

PostPosted: Sun 29 Sep, 2013 11:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben Coomer wrote:

Well, if I knew what was coming, I'd be pretty careful in choosing what I'd take, but in a general everything, anything, and nothing might happen, I'd go with a longsword and dagger. They, together would give me a response to nearly every situation (massed archery being a definite exclusion that comes to mind) while retaining portability.

Honestly, I think the ease of carry is often an overlooked aspect of swords. When not in use, it hangs off your waist with the dangerous parts usually covered and protected. It doesn't weigh much, with a little practice, it doesn't get in the way (too much). Its also there almost instantly with an array of offense and defense abilities for many situations. Spears and halberds may be better weapons, but they are clunky, particularly for doorways and crowded areas. Axes and hammers and the like are often shorter and less portable with blades and pointy bits sticking out in inconvenient spots. And medieval ranged weapons are definitely cumbersome for everyday activities.

Obviously I'm a bit biased here, but a sword really is a good general purpose weapon.


Well, that is why one has a sword as an " always with you weapon ", and as a backup because it's versatile and you can lose your primary weapon or tactically need a shorter weapon in a tight spot.

The sword is generally effective unless facing someone in full plate armour who is as good a fighter as you are, and even more so if you are not also in armour.

When you know you are going to be in a battle you take your sword, but you choose something else as your primary weapon.

A 5' or 6' poleaxe is usable in all but the tightest places, but I also like the " Rondel Dagger " for armour close combat combined with wrestling: If you can dislocate a limbs of someone out of armour, you can just as easily dislocate the same limbs as armour doesn't do much to prevent this from happening.

Discussing the advantages of other weapons doesn't mean that one is saying anything negative about swords. Wink Big Grin Cool

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Henrik Granlid




Location: Sweden
Joined: 17 Apr 2012

Posts: 103

PostPosted: Mon 30 Sep, 2013 12:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Furthermore, weren't large quantities of weapons in the field actually stored in wagons? Making the items you carry be those you came across at great personal expense if the rest of your wagon-buddies weren't trustworthy. This certainly cuts down on the "too clunky to carry" argument for weapons such as poleaxes, pikes, large swords and other such things.
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Close quarters weapons
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum