Beyond the Sword and Shield: The Strange and Unusual Weapons of Medieval Knights

When we think of medieval knights, we often imagine them wielding a sword while clad in heavy armor.

However, the knights of the Middle Ages had access to a wide array of weapons, some of which were strange and unusual by modern standards!

Medieval Knight Close Combat weapons
A selection of knights ground fighting weapons including a mace and morning star

From the deadly to the downright bizarre, these weapons were used by knights in battle and often proved to be effective. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the strange and unusual weapons used by medieval knights.

“Medieval knights often used weapons that were both innovative and brutal. These weapons, such as the flail and the morning star, allowed knights to adapt to changing battlefield conditions.” – Kelly DeVries, Professor of History at Loyola University Maryland and author of “Medieval Weapons: An Illustrated History of Their Impact”

Maces and Flails

While swords were the most common weapon used by knights, maces and flails were also popular choices. Maces were typically made of iron and had a heavy, spiked head that could crush armor and break bones.

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Flails, on the other hand, consisted of a spiked ball attached to a chain or rope. The weapon was swung around and could deliver devastating blows to the enemy. Both weapons were particularly effective against heavily armored opponents.

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War Hammers

Another unusual weapon used by knights was the war hammer. The weapon featured a heavy, blunt head that could be used to crush an opponent’s armor or helmet.

Warhammer Weapon Parts

War hammers often had a spike on the opposite side of the head, which could be used to pierce through armor or strike an opponent’s face.

The weapon was particularly effective against heavily armored opponents and was often used by knights on horseback.

Medieval Warhammers
There were two types of warhammer one was short and the other had a longer handle commonly known as a maul

“The weapons of medieval knights were not just instruments of destruction, but symbols of power and status. The fanciful designs and ornate decorations of these weapons reflected the prestige and wealth of their owners.” – Tobias Capwell, Curator of Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection in London and author of “Armour of the English Knight 1400-1450”


Polearms were long weapons that were used by knights to keep their opponents at a distance. The most common type of polearm was the spear, which had a sharp point that could be used to impale an enemy.

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Halberds and pikes were also popular polearms that were used by knights. Halberds had a blade on one end and a spike on the other, while pikes were long spears that were designed to be used in formation.

Halberd Weapon
The Halberd Weapon The weapon was innovative for its age, effective and particularly cheap to produce


While bows were commonly used by knights, crossbows were also popular weapons of choice. Crossbows were easier to use than bows and could be fired with greater accuracy.

Medieval Crossbow Weapon

They also had more penetrating power and were able to pierce through armor more easily. The weapon was often used by knights in siege warfare or when defending a castle.

Crossbow Weapon Information

“The variety of weapons used by medieval knights reflects the complex nature of medieval warfare. From longbows to lances, each weapon was designed to serve a specific purpose on the battlefield.” – Ian Heath, Military Historian and author of “Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 1: The Hundred Years’ War, the Wars of the Roses and the Burgundian Wars, 1300-1487”


Towards the end of the medieval period, handguns began to replace traditional ranged weapons such as bows and crossbows.

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Medieval Handcanon

Handguns were first introduced in the 14th century and quickly gained popularity due to their ability to pierce armor.

However, the weapon was not without its drawbacks. Early handguns were heavy, inaccurate, and took a long time to reload.

Unconventional Weapons

In addition to the more traditional weapons used by knights, there were also some unusual and unconventional weapons used in battle. One such weapon was the bec de corbin, which had a spike on one end and a hammer-like head on the other.

Medieval Poleaxe Weapons
Medieval Knights used Poleaxes which were ideal medieval weapons

The weapon was used to penetrate armor and could also be used to deliver a powerful blow. Another unusual weapon was the boar spear, which had a crossguard at the base of the blade to prevent an injured boar from charging up the shaft.

Medieval Spears

“The strange and unusual weapons of medieval knights, such as the halberd and the war hammer, were often underestimated by their opponents. However, these weapons allowed knights to exploit weaknesses in enemy armor and to take advantage of gaps in their defenses.” – John Clements, Founder and Director of the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts and author of “Medieval Swordsmanship: Illustrated Methods and Techniques”

The Importance of Armor

No matter what type of weapon a knight used, armor was essential for survival. Knights wore a variety of armor, ranging from chainmail to plate armor.

The armor was designed to protect the knight from the weapons of the enemy, but it was not foolproof. Armor could be pierced by certain weapons, and the weight of the armor could make it difficult for the knight to move and fight.

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Created with GIMP

The Toll of Combat

While knights were celebrated for their bravery and skill in combat, the reality of medieval warfare was brutal and deadly. Battles were often long and bloody affairs, and the toll of combat was felt not only by the knights themselves but also by their families.

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By the end of the medieval period, gunpowder had been introduced to Europe, and firearms started to appear on the battlefield. However, early guns were often unreliable and slow to reload, so they were not immediately popular among knights. Nonetheless, as firearms technology improved, they became more widespread, and the era of the medieval knight came to an end.

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The medieval period was a time of great upheaval and conflict, and knights played a significant role in the wars of the time. While swords and armor are the most iconic weapons of the knightly class, there were many other weapons used by knights, both conventional and unusual.

The weapons on this list highlight the inventive and creative nature of medieval warfare, as knights and their enemies sought to gain any advantage they could on the battlefield.

While the knightly class may be romanticized in popular culture, the realities of medieval combat were often brutal and deadly. Knights were trained to fight from an early age and often fought in battles that could last for hours or even days. The weapons they used were designed to inflict maximum damage and were often as deadly to their users as to their enemies.

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Overall, the strange and unusual weapons of medieval knights provide a fascinating insight into the mindset and tactics of the knights of the time. From spiked clubs to crossbows and firearms, these weapons were designed to give their users any advantage they could on the battlefield, and their legacy lives on in the popular imagination to this day.