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A pole weapon or polearm is a close combat weapon in which the main fighting part of the weapon is placed on the end of a long shaft, typically of wood. The purpose of using pole weapons is either to extend reach or to increase angular momentum—and thus striking power—when the weapon is swung. The idea of attaching a weapon onto a long shaft is an old one, as the first spears date back to the Stone Age.

Spears, glaives, poleaxes, halberds, and bardiches are all varieties of polearm. Staff-weapons in Medieval or Renaissance England were lumped together under the generic term "staves"

Pole weapons are relatively simple to make, and easy for most people to use as they were often derived from hunting or agricultural tools.

Massed men carrying pole weapons with pointed tips (spears, pikes, etc.) were recognised early in the history of organised warfare as effective military units. On defence the men holding the polearms were hard to reach; on the attack they were devastating to any units that could not get out of the way.

With the advent of armoured fighters, especially cavalry, pole weapons frequently combined the spearpoint (for thrusting) with an axe or hammerhead for a swinging strike which could pierce or break armour.

Today, the military use of pole weapons is restricted to ceremonial guards, such as the Papal Swiss Guard or Yeomen of the Guard. They also remain a common sight in many schools of martial arts that study weapons. The bayonet of a modern rifle (especially sword bayonet or knife bayonet), when attached, can still be regarded as a form of pole weapon.

Quarterstaves Edit

A quarterstaff is an English weapon that was used during the medieval period and up to the 18th Century. The term refers to a shaft of hardwood between five and seven feet in length, sometimes with metal tips, ferules or spikes.

The origin of the weapon's name is uncertain. The name may come from the way that the staff is held: one hand at the centre of the staff, and one hand halfway between the centre and one end. However, this grip is not prescribed in early sources. Another theory links the word to its length being equal to the wielder's height plus another quarter.

Swetnam writing in 1615 differentiates the quarterstaff of 6 or 7 feet in length from the long staff of 12 feet and the pike of 18 feet. Perhaps the most likely origin of the word is in its relationship to the "great" staff or pike, that was used to fight cavalry. Unlike its bigger cousin, a quarterstaff is literally one that is held and used in "close quarters" for personal combat, able to defend all four quarters of the body.

A simple weapon to manufacture, the quarter staff has a long history of use, and a wide cultural dispersion. The quarterstaff proper was a common weapon in England, where it is featured in the Robin Hood legend as the favourite weapon of Little John.

During the 1500s quarterstaves were favoured as weapons by the London Masters of Defence and by the 1700s the weapon was associated with gladiatorial prize playing. English fencing authors of the 16th to 18th Centuries insist that the quarterstaff is the most effective of all hand weapons and devote lengthy portions of their works to its use.

The quarterstaff is held with the back hand at the butt end of the staff and the other hand about a foot above it, as a two-handed sword would be held. The body is turned so the forward hand and forward foot are both facing the opponent, the feet taking the same stance as is used in sword or rapier fighting. This basic position is known as the low guard.

Assuming the butt is gripped with the left hand, moving the staff slightly to the right to defend blows is called the outside guard. Moving it slightly to the left is called the inside guard. Raising the butt end up and pointing the point of the staff at the opponent's face to parry a blow to the head is called the middle guard.

Raising the staff directly back over the head letting the tip point back at the ground behind oneself and looking under the butt end of the staff in front of oneself is called the open or hanging guard. The George guard or St. George guard is formed by grasping the staff at the thirds and raising it horizontally overhead to ward a direct overhead downward blow.

Of these the low guard is considered the central guard. Blows were primarily delivered downwards either directly or at angles. Parries of blows to the legs were done either by lifting the leg away from the line of attack or by thrusting one end of the staff into the ground and releasing the foremost hand which was in danger of being struck. Thrusts were often performed with the release of the forward hand and a step with the forward leg like a fencing lunge, stretching forward the back hand as far as possible. Longer thrusts were delivered with a full step forward with the back leg accompanying the back hand. It was recommended that when delivering a blow that at the end of it the back leg and foot should be compassed about so as to fall roughly into a line with the front foot and the point of the weapon. The same circling round of the back leg was applied to parries also. Singularly among the three authors, Swetnam recommends preference of thrusting over striking. Silver and Wylde describe striking and thrusting as equally valid attacks.

Spears Edit

A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a sharpened head. The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft, or it may be of another material fastened to the shaft, such as obsidian, iron, or bronze. The most common design is of a metal spearhead, shaped like a triangle or a leaf. Spears were one of the most common personal weapons from the Stone Age until the advent of firearms. They may be seen as the ancestor of such weapons as the lance, the halberd, the bill and the pike. One of the earliest weapons fashioned by human beings and their ancestors, it is still used for hunting and fishing. Its influences can still be seen in contemporary military arsenals as the rifle-mounted bayonet.

Spears can be used as both ballistic and melee weapons. Spears used primarily for thrusting may be used with either one or two hands and tend to have heavier and sturdier designs than those intended exclusively for throwing. Those designed for throwing, often referred to as javelins, tend to be lighter and have a more streamlined head..

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the spear and shield continued to be used by almost all Western European cultures. Since a medieval spear required only a small amount of steel along the sharpened edges (most of the spear-tip was wrought iron), it was an economical weapon. Quick to manufacture, and needing less smithing skill than a sword, it remained the main weapon of the common soldier. The Vikings, for instance, though often portrayed with axe or sword in hand, were armed mostly with spears, as were their Anglo-Saxon, Irish, or continental contemporaries.

Spears were either designed to be kept in hand (thrusting spears), or to be thrown (throwing spears). Within this simple classification, there were a remarkable range of types.

Notable types of Early medieval spears include the Angon, a throwing spear with a long head like a Roman pilum used by the Franks and Anglo-Saxons and the winged (or lugged) spear, which had two prominent wings at the base of the spearhead, either to prevent the spear penetrating too far into an enemy or to aid in spear fencing . Originally a Frankish weapon, the winged spear was also popular with the Vikings. It would become the ancestor of later medieval polearms, such as the partisan and spetum.

The thrusting spear also has the advantage of reach — being considerably longer than other weapon types. Exact spear lengths are hard to deduce as few spear shafts survive archaeologically but 6 ft. - 8 ft. (1.8m - 2.5m) would seem to be the norm. Some nations were noted for their long spears, including the Scots and the Flemish. Spears were usually used in tightly ordered formations, like the shieldwall or the schiltron To resist cavalry, spear shafts could be planted against the ground. William Wallace drew up his schiltrons in a circle at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298 to deter charging cavalry, but it was a widespread tactic, sometimes known as the "crown" formation

Throwing spears became rarer as the Middle Ages drew on but survived in the hands of specialists such as the Catalan Almogavars. They were commonly used in Ireland until the end of the 16th. Century

Spears began to lose fashion among the infantry in the 14th. Century, being replaced by pole weapons which combined the thrusting properties of the spear with the cutting properties of the axe, such as the halberd Where spears were retained they grew in length, eventually evolving into pikes which would be a dominant infantry weapon in he 16th. and 17th. centuries

Cavalry spears were originally the same as infantry spears and were often used with two hands or held with one hand overhead. In the 11th. Century, after the adoption of stirrups and a high-cantled saddle, the spear became a more powerful weapon. A mounted knight would secure the lance by holding with one hand and tucking it under the armpit (the couched lance technique). This allowed all the momentum of the horse and knight to be focused on the weapon's tip whilst still retaining accuracy and control. This use of the spear spurred the development of the lance as a distinct weapon which was perfected in the medieval sport of jousting.

In the 14th century, tactical developments meant that knights and men-at-arms often fought on foot. This led to the practice of shortening the lance to about 5 ft. (1.5m.) to make it more manageable. As dismounting became commonplace, specialist pole weapons such as the pollaxe were adopted by knights and this practice ceased

The development of both the long, two handed pike and gunpowder in renaissance Europe saw an ever increasing focus on integrated infantry tactics. Infantry not armed with these weapons carried variations on the pole-arm, including the halberd and the bill. Ultimately, the spear proper was rendered obsolete on the battlefield. Its last flowering was the half-pike or spontoon, a shortened version of the pike carried by officers and NCOs. While originally a weapon, this came to be seen more as a badge of office, or leading staff by which troops were directed . The half-pike, also known as a boarding pike, was also used as a weapon on board ships until the 19th. Century

At the start of the Renaissance, cavalry were still predominantly lance armed; gendarmes with the heavy knightly lance and lighter cavalry with a variety of lighter lances. By the 1540s, however, pistol-armed cavalry called reiters were beginning to make their mark. Cavalry armed with pistols and other lighter firearms, along with a sword, had virtually replaced lance armed cavalry in Western Europe by the beginning of the 17th. Century, though the lance persisted in Eastern Europe, from whence it was reintroduced into the European mainstream in the 19th. Century.

Winged Spears Edit

The winged (also lugged or barred) spear was a common type of thrusting spear during the early Middle Ages. It consisted of a leaf or lozenge shaped head, beneath which on the socket there were prominent wings. The earliest use of barred spears for hunting is recorded by Xenophon in the 4th. Century BC and illustrations of Roman examples are known[34]. Its use in war, however, seems to relate to German tribes in the Early Middle Ages, particularly the Franks[, and it was used by the Vikings. The type is commonly illustrated in Early Medieval Art, including the Bayeux Tapestry and the Golden Psalter of St. Gallen.. The winged spear is shown used by both cavalry and infantry. Although some authors claim the intention of the wings was to prevent the weapon from penetrating too deeply into an enemy, others see them as an aid to spear-fencing. In the later Middle Ages a number of polearms derived from the winged spear evolve. Some, such as the Bohemian ear spoon, differ little from the original. Weapons such as the Spetum, Ranseur, Corseque and Partisan show a greater evolutionary change.

Lances Edit

The word lance is a catchall term for a variety of different pole weapons based on the spear. The name is derived from lancea, Roman auxiliaries' javelin.. A lance in the original sense is a light throwing spear, or javelin. The English verb to launch "fling, hurl, throw" is derived from the term (via Old French lancier), as well as the rarer or poetic to lance. The term from the 17th century came to refer specifically to spears not thrown, used for thrusting by heavy cavalry, and especially in jousting.

A thrusting spear which is used by infantry is usually referred to as a pike.

The Roman cavalry long thrusting spear was not called lance, but contus (from Greek language kontos, barge-pole). It was usually 3 to 4 m long, and grasped with both hands. It was used by equites contariorum and equites catafractarii, fully armed and armoured cataphracts.

The use of the basic cavalry spear is so ancient, and warfare so ubiquitous by the beginning of recorded history, that it is difficult to determine which populations invented the lance and which learned it from their enemies or allies.

The best known usage of military lances was that of the full-gallop closed-ranks and usually wedge-shaped charge of a group of knights with underarm-couched lances, against lines of infantry, archery regiments, defensive embankments, and opposition cavalry.

It is commonly believed that this became the dominant European cavalry tactic in the 11th century after the development of the cantled saddle and stirrups and of rowel spurs which enabled better control of the mount. Cavalry thus outfitted and deployed had a tremendous collective force in their charge, and could shatter most contemporary infantry lines.

While it could still be generally classified as a spear, the lance tends to be larger - usually both longer and stouter and thus also considerably heavier, and unsuited for throwing, or for the rapid thrusting, as with an infantry spear. Lances did not have spear tips that (intentionally) broke off or bent, unlike many throwing weapons of the spear/javelin family, and were adapted for mounted combat. They were often equipped with a vamplate, a small circular plate to prevent the hand sliding up the shaft upon impact. Though perhaps most known as one of the foremost military and sporting weapons used by European knights, the use of lances was spread throughout the Old World wherever mounts were available. As a secondary weapon, lancers of the period also bore swords, maces or something else suited to close quarter battle, since the lance was often a one-use-per-engagement weapon; after the initial charge, the weapon was far too long, heavy and slow to be effectively used against opponents in a melee.

Because of the stopping power of a thrusting spear, it quickly became a popular weapon of footmen in the Late Middle Ages. These eventually led to the rise of the longest type of spears ever, the pike. Ironically, this adaptation of the cavalry lance to infantry use was largely tasked with stopping lance-armed cavalry charges. During the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, these weapons, both mounted and unmounted, were so effective that lancers and pike men not only became a staple of every Western army, but also became highly sought-after mercenaries.

In Europe, a jousting lance was a variation of the knight's lance which was modified from its original war design. In jousting, the lance tips would usually be blunt, often spread out like a cup or furniture foot, to provide a wider impact surface designed to unseat the opposing rider without spearing him through. The centre of the shaft of such lances could be designed to be hollow, in order for it to break on impact, as a further safeguard against impalement. They were often 4 m long or longer, and had special hand guards built into the lance, often tapering for a considerable portion of the weapon's length. These are the versions that can most often be seen at medieval re-enactment festivals. In war, lances were much more like stout spears, long and balanced for one handed use, and with sharp tips.

The mounted lance saw a renaissance in the 18th century with the demise of the pike; heavily armoured cuirassiers used 2 to 3 m lances as their main weapons. They were usually used for the breakneck charge against the enemy infantry.

The Crimean War saw the most infamous use of the lance, the Charge of the Light Brigade, though lances continued to be used into the twentieth century.

Pikes Edit

A pike is a pole weapon, a very long thrusting weapon used extensively by infantry both for attacks on enemy foot soldiers and as a counter-measure against cavalry assaults. Unlike many similar weapons, the pike is not intended to be thrown. Pikes were used by European troops from the early Middle Ages until around 1700, and wielded by foot soldiers deployed in close order. While the soldiers using such spears may not have called them "pikes", their tactical employment of these weapons ran along broadly similar lines. The pike was an extremely long weapon, varying considerably in size, from 3 to 6 metres (10 to over 20 feet) long. It had a wooden shaft with an iron or steel spearhead affixed. The shaft near the head was often reinforced with metal strips called "cheeks" or langets. When the troops of opposing armies both carried the pike, it often grew in a sort of arms race, getting longer in both shaft and head length to give one side's pikemen an edge in the combat; the longest pikes could exceed 6 m (22 feet) in length. The extreme length of such weapons required a strong wood such as well-seasoned ash for the pole, which was tapered towards the point to prevent the pike sagging on the ends, although this was always a problem in pike handling.

The great length of the pikes allowed a great concentration of spearheads to be presented to the enemy, with their wielders at a greater distance, but also made pikes unwieldy in close combat. This meant that pikemen had to be equipped with a shorter weapon such as a sword, mace, or dagger in order to defend themselves should the fighting degenerate into a melee. In general, however, pikemen attempted to avoid such disorganised combat, at which they were at a disadvantage. To compound their difficulties in a melee, the pikeman often did not have a shield ..

On the battlefield pikes were often used in "hedgehog" formations, particularly by troops such as rebel peasants and militias who had not received a great deal of training in tactical manoeuvres with the weapon. In these, the troops simply stood and held their pikes out in the direction of the enemy, sometimes standing in great circles or squares with the men facing out in all directions so that the enemy was confronted by a forest of bristling pikeheads, and could not attack the formation from the sides or rear.

Better-trained troops were capable of using the pike in an aggressive attack, each rank of pikemen being trained to hold their pikes so that they presented enemy infantry with four or five layers of spearheads bristling from the front of the formation.

As long as it kept good order, such a formation could roll right over enemy infantry, but had its own weaknesses – as the men were all moving forward, they were all facing in a single direction and could not easily turn to protect the vulnerable flanks or rear of the formation, and the huge block of men carrying such unwieldy spears could be difficult to manoeuvre, other than for straightforward movement.

As a result, such mobile pike formations sought to have supporting troops protect their flanks, or would manoeuvre to smash the enemy before they could themselves be outflanked. There was also the risk that the formation would become disordered, leading to a confused melee in which pikemen had the vulnerabilities mentioned above.

Though primarily a military weapon, the pike could be effective in single combat, and a number of 16th-century sources explain how it was to be used in a duelling situation; fencers of the time often practiced with and competed against each other with long staves in place of pikes.

In the Middle Ages, the principal users of the pike were urban militia troops such as the Flemings or the peasant array of the lowland Scots. For example, the Scots used a spear formation known as the schiltron in several battles during the Wars of Scottish Independence including the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, and the Flemings used their geldon long spear to absorb the attack of French knights at the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302, before other troops in the Flemish formation counterattacked the stalled knights with plancons. Both battles were seen by contemporaries as stunning victories of commoners over superbly equipped, mounted, military professionals, where victory was owed to the use of the pike and the brave resistance of the commoners who wielded them.

These formations were essentially immune to the attacks of mounted men-at-arms as long as the knights obligingly threw themselves on the spear wall, but the closely-packed nature of pike formations rendered them vulnerable to enemy archers and crossbowmen who could shoot them down with impunity, especially when the pikemen did not have adequate armour. Many defeats, such as at Roosebeke and Halidon Hill, were suffered by the militia pike armies when faced by enemies who employed their archers and crossbowmen to thin the ranks of the pike blocks before charging in with their (often dismounted) men-at-arms.

Medieval pike formations tended to have better success when they operated in an aggressive fashion. The Scots at the Battle of Stirling Bridge (1297), for example, used the momentum of their charge to overrun an English army while the Englishmen were halfway through the process of crossing a narrow bridge. And then, at the Battle of Laupen (1339), Bernese pikemen overwhelmed the infantry forces of the opposing Habsburg/Burgundian army with a massive charge before wheeling over to strike and rout the Austro-Burgundian horsemen as well. It was not uncommon for aggressive pike formations to be composed of dismounted men-at-arms, as at the Battle of Sempach (1389), where the dismounted Austrian vanguard, using their lances as pikes, had some initial success against their predominantly halberd-equipped Swiss adversaries. Dismounted Italian men-at-arms also used the same method to defeat the Swiss at the Battle of Arbedo (1422).

The Swiss solved the pike's earlier problems and brought a renaissance to pike warfare in the 15th century, establishing strong training regimens to ensure they were masters of handling of the long pike on manoeuvres and in combat, the Swiss having also introduced marching to drums for this purpose. This meant that the pike blocks could rise to the attack, making them less passive and more aggressive formations, but sufficiently well trained that they could go on the defensive when attacked by cavalry. German soldiers known as Landsknechts later adopted Swiss methods of pike handling.

The Scots also still used pikes heavily by now, but were dropped in masses after ineffective use after a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Flodden. Swiss and Landsknecht phalanxes also contained men armed with two-handed swords, or Zweihänder, and halberdiers for close action against both infantry and attacking cavalry.

The high military reputation of the Swiss and the Landsknecht again led to the employment of mercenary units across Europe in order to train other armies in their tactics. These two and others, who had adopted their tactics, faced off in several wars leading to a series of developments as a result of these confrontations.

These formations had great successes on the battlefield, starting with the astonishing battlefield victories of the Swiss cantons against Charles the Bold of Burgundy in the Burgundian Wars, in which the Swiss participated in 1476 and 1477. In the battles of Grandson, Morat and Nancy, the Swiss not only resisted the attacks of knightly foes, as the relatively passive Scottish and Flemish infantry squares had done in the earlier Middle Ages, but also marched to the attack with great speed and in good formation, their attack columns steamrolling the Burgundian forces.

The deep pike attack column remained the primary form of effective infantry combat for the next forty years, and the Swabian War saw the first conflict in which both sides had large formations of well-trained pikemen. After that war, its combatants – the Swiss (thereafter generally serving as mercenaries) and their Landsknecht imitators – would often face each other again in the Italian Wars, which would become in many ways the military proving ground of the Renaissance.

T the rise of firearms and artillery in the sixteenth century made the big pike columns vulnerable to being shot down despite their awesome close-combat power. The decline of the combat column of pikemen was starkly displayed at the terrible Battle of Bicocca in 1522, for instance, where arquebusiers contributed to the heavy defeat of a force of Swiss pikemen.

Corseques Edit

A corseque has a three-bladed head on a 6-8ft. (1.8m-2.5m.) haft which, like the partisan, evolved from the winged spear or spetum in the later Middle Ages. It was popular in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Surviving examples have a variety of head forms but there are two main variants, one with the side blades (known as flukes or wings) branching from the neck of the central blade at 45 degrees, the other with hooked blades curving back towards the haft. The corseque is usually associated with the rawcon, ranseur and runka. Another possible association is with the "three-grayned staff" listed as being in the armoury of Henry VIII in 1547 (though the same list also features 84 rawcons, suggesting the weapons were not identical in 16th century English eyes). Another modern term used for particularly ornate-bladed corseques is the chauve-souris.

Fauchards Edit

A fauchard is a type of polearm used in medieval Europe from the 11th through the 14th centuries. The design consisted of a curved blade on top of a 6–7-foot long pole. The blade bore a moderate to strong curve along its length. Unlike a glaive the cutting edge was only on the conc side. This made the fauchard blade resemble that of a sickle or a scythe. This was not a very efficient design for the purposes of war, and was eventually modified to have one or more lance points attached to the back or top of the blade. The modern name for this weapon is a fauchard-fork, but is very often erroneously referred to as a guisarme or bill-guisarme since it superficially appears to have a "hook".

Glaives Edit

A glaive is a polearm consisting of a single-edged tapering blade similar in shape to a modern kitchen knife on the end of a pole. The blade is fixed in a socket-shaft configuration similar to an axe head, both the blade and shaft varying in length. Illustrations in the 13th century Maciejowski Bible show a short staffed weapon with a long blade used by both infantry and cavalry. Typically however, the blade was around 18 inches (55 cm) long, on the end of a pole 6 or 7 feet (180–210 cm) long. Occasionally glaive blades were created with a small hook or spike on the reverse side. The modern term for these is glaive-guisarmes.

Guisarmes Edit

A guisarme (gisarme, giserne or bisarme) was a pole weapon used in Europe between 1000–1400. It was used primarily to dismount knights and horsemen. Like most polearms it was developed by peasants by combining hand tools with long poles, in this case by putting a pruning hook onto a spear shaft. While hooks are effective for dismounting horsemen from mounts, they lack the stopping power of a spear especially when dealing with static opponents. Early designs were simply a hook on the end of a long pole. Later designs implemented a small reverse spike on the back of the blade.

Eventually weapon makers incorporated the usefulness of the hook in a variety of different polearms and guisarme became a catch-all for any weapon that included a hook on the blade.

Halberds Edit

A halberd (or Swiss voulge) is a two-handed pole weapon that came to prominent use during the 14th and 15th centuries but has continued in use as a ceremonial weapon to the present day. First recorded as "hellembart" in 1279, the word halberd possibly comes from the German words Halm (staff) or Helm (helmet), and Barte (axe).

The halberd consists of an axe blade topped with a spike mounted on a long shaft. It always has a hook or thorn on the back side of the axe blade for grappling mounted combatants.

Early forms are very similar in many ways to certain forms of voulge, while 16th century and later forms are similar to the poleaxe. The Swiss were famous users of the halberd in the medieval and renaissance eras, with various cantons evolving regional variations of the basic form.

The word halberd is also used to translate the Chinese ji and also a range of medieval Scandinavian weapons as described in sagas, such as the atgeir.

Danish Axes Edit

The Danish Axe (also Broad Axe, Dane-axe) is a weapon with a heavy crescent-shaped head mounted on a haft 4ft. to 6ft. (1.2-1.8 m.) in length. Originally a Viking weapon, it was adopted by the Anglo-Saxons and Normans in the 11th century, spreading through Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries.].

Variants of this basic weapon continued in use in Scotland and Ireland into the 16th century.

Sparths Edit

In the 13th century, variants on the Danish axe are seen. Described in English as a sparth (from the Old Norse sparðr) or pale-axe], the weapon featured a larger head with broader blade, the rearward part of the crescent sweeping up to contact (or even be attached to) the haft. Another development extended the forward part of the crescent. In Ireland, this axe was known as a Sparr. Originating in either Western Scotland or Ireland, the sparr was widely used by the galloglass. Although sometimes said to derive from the Irish for a joist or beam, a more likely definition is as a variant of sparth. Although attempts have been made to suggest that the sparr had a distinctive shaped head, illustrations and surviving weapons show there was considerable variation and the distinctive feature of the weapon was its long haft.

Bardiches Edit

A bardiche (berdiche, or long poleaxe), is a type of polearm known in medieval and renaissance Europe, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia where it was used instead of halberd. Occasionally the weapons of such form were made in Antiquity and Early Middle Ages, but the regular and massive usage of bardiches started in the late 14th century.

It was probably developed from the Scandinavian broad axe, but in Scandinavia it appeared only in the late 15th century. In the 16th century bardiche became a weapon associated with streltsy, Russian guardsmen armed with firearms.

Pollaxes Edit

In the 14th century, the basic long axe began to evolve, gaining an armour piercing spike on the back and another on the end of the haft for thrusting. This evolved into the pollaxe of the following century. The pollaxe evolved to break through plate armour and featured various combinations of an axe-blade, a back-spike and a hammer.

It was the favoured weapon for men-at-arms fighting on foot into the sixteenth century[.

Mauls Edit

The maul is a long-handled hammer with a heavy metal head, either of lead or iron. It is similar in appearance and function to a modern sledgehammer but is sometimes shown as having a spear-like spike on the fore-end of the haft. The use of the maul as a weapon seems to date from the later 14th century. In 1382, rebellious citizens of Paris seized 3,000 mauls from the city armoury, Later in the same year, Froissart records French men-at-arms using mauls at the Battle of Roosebeke, demonstrating it was not only a weapon of the lower classes.

A particular use of the maul was by archers in the 15th and 16th centuries. At Agincourt, English longbowmen are recorded as using lead mauls, initially as a tool to drive in stakes but later as an improvised weapon. Other references during the century suggest continued use. They are recorded as a weapon of Tudor archers as late as 1562.

Becs de Corbin Edit

A bec de corbin is a type of pole weapon that was popular in medieval Europe. The name is Old French for "crow's beak". Similar to the Lucerne hammer, it consists of a modified hammer's head and spike mounted atop a long pole. Unlike the Lucerne hammer, the bec de corbin was used primarily with the 'beak' or fluke to attack instead of the hammer head. The hammer face balancing the beak was often blunt instead of the multi-pronged Lucerne, and the beak tended to be stouter; better designed for tearing armour. Also, the spike mounted on the top of head was not nearly as long and thin as in the Lucerne. Bec de corbin occasionally becomes a catchall for any type of warhammer, such as a maul or a horseman's pick.

A similar name bec de faucon (meaning 'falcon's beak') refers to a related weapon called a poleaxe or, more specifically, to the hook on its reverse side.

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