Reddit Asked Us Anything

They asked. We replied. They shook their heads.

They asked. We replied. They shook their heads.

So, last week, the Reddit Fantasy community asked us to answer questions about us, our company, weapon and armor history, and the best ways to make fried plantains. We actually provide Reddit Fantasy’s engraved Stabby Awards, bestowed upon fantasy authors deemed worthy by the community. I have not been given one yet, but I’m certain that’s just a clerical oversight, soon to be remedied.

Stabby

Mine’s coming soon, right Reddit?

These are what the Stabby Awards look like, by the way (shown at right). We provide the daggers and engravings for these. Not sure if readers are aware, but we also engrave swords for weddings (engraved tankards and daggers do well too), churches, and businesses (and just about any other occasion when you need an engraved gift). Pretty cool stuff.

But I digress. The Ask Me Anything questions on Reddit were by turns fascinating, hilarious, and absolutely insane. But we expected no less from our readers and customers. I’ve highlighted a few of the questions and posted them below. Feel free to visit our Reddit AMA to read the rest.

The Questions and answers:

Anti-dragonWeapon

The Dragonator 5000

Q: What’s the best weapon to slay a dragon with? A two-handed battle axe or a claymore? How about a chimera? Are your weapons crafted by you, or someone else? What’s the biggest weapon you’ve had someone ask for?

A: The best weapon to slay a dragon is a probably an M116 Pack Howitzer, with explosive shells. If you can’t find one, and are reduced to medieval weapons, then I would go with a pike and a good battle axe. A chimera is tricky. You need a good shield, first and foremost, and then I would probably use a good, sharp arming sword. Chimeras are quick, so an axe wouldn’t work well. A spear might be good until the chimera gets inside your range. Our weapons are made all over the world, from the US and Scandinavia, to India, the Philippines and China. Many of our weapons are made specifically for us, to our standards and measurements. As far as the biggest sword… we’ve had someone ask us for a Zweihander, which we don’t actually carry at the moment. Although we do carry our own exclusive fantasy Buster Sword.

And this is just her dagger...

And this is just her dagger…

Q: I see a great number of very improbable and awkward-looking weapons in fantasy. What, in your opinion is the worst you’ve seen, and explain why the design would be impractical for real-world application. Additionally, what is your favorite fantasy weapon and why? Finally, what do you think is the finest overall hand-held weapon in history?

A: Excellent questions. I think one of the most consistently inaccurate weapons in fantasy is the double-bladed battle axe. They look awesome, and fearsome, but, short of some Babylonian, ceremonial weapons, you don’t see them in history. Why? Well, most likely because warriors have to be efficient in battle. Why put two heavy pieces of identical steel on a staff? All you need is one good killing edge. It’s far better and lighter to put a spike or a hammer on the other side–then you have a different type of weapon, to pierce or crush armor.

My favorite fantasy weapon is the arming sword, I think. A basic knightly sword, with a 36-inch blade. I think most of us fantasy authors grew up with knights, and their swords have always held a special place in my heart.

The finest over-all hand-held weapon in history is probably the M-16 assault rifle. Kidding. The finest medieval hand-held weapon varies, depending on the situation. I think the Roman Gladius was a beautifully efficient weapon that worked masterfully for what it was intended. The pike was brilliant on the battlefield. But if we’re talking best all-around weapon, I might have to go with the poleax. An axe-blade on one side, a hammer on the back, and a spike on top. Short enough to be quick in combat, and long enough to get good leverage on a swing.

But my favorite weapon will probably always be the knightly sword.

The casebearing leaf beetle actually *does* use feces as armor.

The casebearing leaf beetle actually *does* use feces as armor.

Q:If you were going to provide armor [to] a large, large army of quasi-expendible soldiers, what would have a good cost/benefit trade-off? How would the need to provide standardized sizes for humanoids who vary wildly in body type make a difference?

A: I, personally, would cover them in feces. This would make it difficult to fight them, and would increase the shock value. And feces is an equal-body-size armor. One size fits all. If you actually want to protect them, I would go with hardened leather, assuming you are in an environment with enough animals to provide the raw material. Leather is fairly inexpensive and easy to tailor. If you have more time and money, then chainmail would be your next bet. But mail takes more time, and requires more maintenance. If you’re really cheap, then give everyone quilted gambesons. Or feces.

Q: Say I were planning to go up against the Rabbit of Caerbannog, a small yet vicious foe. What’s the best weapon to combat “sharp, pointy teeth?” (P.S. Beautiful work.)

A: Assuming you don’t have a Holy Hand-grenade around, you should have a strong shield and find a Holy Cauldron of Stewing. Thanks very much for the kind words. I’m in love with our latest line, the Esterlina Swords.

+20 Health.

+20 Health.

Q: Which sword is best suited for cutting plantains?

A: I like a nice Japanese katana. They tend to make the best cuts, and the trace of clay in the metal gives the plantains a more earthy flavor. But that’s just me…

Q: How would you go about making the best sword possible, using any kind of modern technology with an unlimited budget?

A: Hmm. Now there’s an interesting question. The great thing about modern technology is all the composite materials we have around. Stuff that is stronger than the best steel, and light as balsa wood (well, almost). Scientists are doing some groundbreaking work with nanotechnology, creating metals that are lighter and harder than anything we’ve ever seen.

For your sword, I would start with that. Nano-tech, composite metal. Make a blade that is feather-light and sharper than a razor. Use the same material for the guards. Add an ergonomic, composite grip, and a nice counterweight of your choice for the pommel. Salt to taste.

MyStabby800

I have a placeholder until r/Fantasy gets the clerical mistake corrected and sends me my Stabby award.

Q: New life goal. Write a book so that I can get a dagger with my name engraved on it.

A: I know, right? I’ve written six. Where’s my damn Stabby? I watch them go out like a cat staring at minnows in a fishbowl..

 

Many more questions await your perusal at our Reddit AMA. Go have a look if you’re enjoying the banter I’ve highlighted here. Thanks for reading, and see you next time, when we interview the Strongblade sword design contest winner.

 

 

The Strongblade Free-Forge Contest Results!

SwordContestThe Strongblade Sword Design Contest was a stunning success! More than fifty brave souls offered us the results of their earthly toils– more than fifty blades to be scrutinized by peers, inspected, judged and voted on. We didn’t know quite what to expect on our first go around of this, but we were simply blown away by the enthusiasm, creativity, and mad skills that flooded our servers.

We received an incredible variety of sword, created in a plethora of different mediums. The swords were hand drawn, computer designed, carved from wood, cardboard or metal, and, in one case, sculpted from dairy-free, low-trans-fat mayonnaise. Wait. No, that last one was a dream I had.

Winenr_Gondolin

The Gondolin Cleaver, By Zach L. One part Elven. One part Dwarf. Three parts awesome.

So, the results?

Our winner was the exquisitely designed, elven-esque short sword “Gondolin Cleaver,” by Zach L. It’s not surprising that this skillfully rendered sword received the most votes (check back soon to read an interview with Zach and his techniques for designing swords). But there were other entries that gave this one a run for its money. Lots of others! We had a brilliantly conceived rapier with flat guards. An antler-hilted sword. A dueling saber and an Irish short sword. We were treated to a lovely 17th century polish saber, a wanderer’s sword, a lethal looking falcata and a double bladed cutlass. Some of the swords had thorns, some had teeth, all had inspiration and insane creativity to them.

I wish I could speak on each and every one, but I would get nothing done for the rest of the week and this post would reach manifesto length. So I will pick out a few designs that really caught my eye, for one reason or another. Beginning with our winner…

 

The Gondolin Cleaver
By Zach L.

It’s not often that someone can improve on the designs of New Zealand-based WETA Studios, but Zach manged to do just that. This sword is based on a beloved blade from classical fantasy, and Zach knocked it out of the park.  Not only is the weapon elegant and beautiful, but it has a marvelous efficiency of design. The lines flow freely and with grace. There is no clutter. And note the opposing curve of the blade and the hilt. A truly gorgeous weapon, conceived and drawn by someone with enormous artistic talents. My next post will be an interview with Zach, so come back to the Strongblade Edge next week for that!

 

TheCourtiersBladeThe Courtier’s Blade
By Phillip T.

Full disclosure: As some of you know, I am an author of historical fiction and fantasy. The novel I am currently writing is a fantasy set in a 16th-century-ish time period. So rapiers are on my mind…

The idea of combining a flaring leaf blade from Greek swords into a rapier is a stroke of genius. The flaring tip is not so wide that it would throw off the balance, but wide enough to give the sword a real uniqueness and beauty. I do wonder if the flaring tip might not be a little superfluous on a rapier, but it certainly looks awesome. My challenge for Phillip is to come up with a sheath design…

 

BerserkersSeaxThe Berserker’s Seax
By Michael K.

I love the brashness of this weapon, and had fun reading Michael’s description. What’s not to like about a hand-and-a-half seax? Beautiful angles, a squat guard shaped like ravens, and a pommel sculpted to look like Yggdrasil, the Norse Tree of Life. Great work Michael!

 

 

 

 

FragmentedBladeFragmented Blade
By Eric T.

An utterly unique design, with panels cut out from the sword. The panel shapes and positioning remind me a little of stained glass—if stained glass was made to cut you into little pieces. A beautiful juxtaposition of delicate and fierce.

 

 

DaedricDaedric Great Sword
By Simon H.

A wonderful show of fantasy craftsmanship. Simon put this sword together from cardboard. No easy feat considering the meticulously carved curves and the razored teeth on the large blade. This is a savage looking weapon, two-pronged and long-hilted. Great work.

 

ShredderShredder
By Russ S.

This one wins the “lethal” category, hands down. Or hands off (yeah, severed). Every inch of the sword is a killing tool. It doesn’t matter what direction an enemy comes from–only pain awaits him (or her). I imagine a gladiator using this type of sword might take wounds of his own from the pommel spikes from time to time, but what’s a little self-laceration in the face of the sheer terror of this murderous sword.

 

 

 

JulianDouble-Bladed Cutlass
By Julian C.

It’s a little difficult to make out all of the wonderful details of this sword, but the design is brilliantly conceived. Simple–but wide–hand guard, and a second edge on what is traditionally a back-bladed weapon. Well done, Julian.

 

 

 

RoyalRapierThe Royal Rapier
By Israel T.

And to close out the highlights, here’s another dazzling rapier entry. The blade is more reminiscent of a tuck, but the hilt is undeniably rapier. Beautifully color-coordinated, with brilliantly designed and drafted swept guards. Another madly talented artist, rounding out our snapshot of the entries we received.

 

Apologies to all the other entrants. Any one of the entries could have been highlighted in this post. They were all *that* good. In the end, we resorted to the time-tested rochambeau (rock-paper-scissors) to decide between a few of the swords. If you entered the contest, please watch your inbox for an email from Strongblade (and check your spam filters, just in case).

We want to thank each and every one of you for your entry, and hope to see more entries in our next contest.

Until next time. All hail the Strongblade Forgemaster, Zach L!

 

Anatomy of the… polearm?

AnatomyOfPolearmLogoEverything I’m about to say is wrong.
I will speak with an authoritative voice. Everything I talk about will be well researched and investigated. I will quote famous arms collectors and prattle about language origins. Yes, everything I say will sound right and true.
But it’s all a bunch of guff.
Why am I saying this?
Because there were no concrete delineations between different polearms. There were *attempted* delineations, sure. Lots of lineating was tried. And some polearms even fit into the proper categories. But there were too many different shapes and styles in the world of pole weapons. Some fit into multiple groups. Some didn’t fit into any. Some fit into one group, but were classified in a group they didn’t really belong in. God, this sounds like high school all over again.

Okay, so, I know that pole arms are not swords. And I know this series is titled “The Anatomy of the Sword.” But this branch of the arms tree is so convoluted, I thought it was worth including here. So that I could convolute it even more.

What is a polearm?
Pole arms (also known as pole arms (get used to the “also known” folks) are weapons mounted on a long pole. So, yes, a spear is considered a pole arm. Some axes can be considered polearms, and some pole arms can be considered axes. In fact, many polearms start with the premise of an axe-blade on a long staff, and then start accessorizing with spikes and hooks and hammers, and dead gophers. Some polarms are loaded, so that they look like Swiss Army knives on a stick. Which is interesting, since Swiss pikemen and halberdiers were some of the most feared polearm soldiers in history. The whole Swiss-Army-Knife quality is what makes pole weapons so hard to classify. There are so many variations, and the naming rules don’t seem to apply uniformly.

Rather than speak at length about the forms and styles, I thought it best to simply list some of the most popular polearms in history, and let you see how horribly confusing it the whole thing is.

PA_HalberdHALBERD(ish):
Ah! The glistening spine of the polearm family. A short axe blade on one side, a hooked spike on the other, and a deadly straight-spike at the top. Some halberds had a thorn on the hooked spike, to better tangle opponents (not to be confused with a guisarme, which is a thorn to better tangle opponents. Yeah, I know. It gets worse.). Some halberds had a thorn both on top and bottom of the hooked spike. Halberd blades were usually convex (curving outward for you dictionally challenged), but some had concave (figure it out) blades instead .
All in all, halberds were extremely versatile and looked really cool. So cool that the Pope himself adopted them for use by his personal Vatican Guard. The guards still use halberds today. I guess you don’t really need guns when your master is God’s BFF. The aforementioned Swiss soldiers of the 15th century used halberds to become some of the most feared warriors in history. They eventually switched to pikes (See below) for more efficiency in battles and better general dental hygiene, but it was the halberd that got them to the top of the warrior food chain.

GUISARME(ish):
Are you confused yet? If so, then abandon all hope, because it gets worse. Let’s get this next term out of the way, so we can have some false confidence when going into the next one. A guisarme is a thorn or hook or barb , if you will, that curves in the opposite direction of the main weapon blade on the head of the polearm. So, if you had an axe blade on one side of the staff, the guisarme would, typically, be on the backside of this blade. The curved hook on the halberd does not count as a guisarme. Why? Because it doesn’t. Don’t argue.

PA_Glaive

 

GLAIVE(ish):
A glaive is a staff with a long, spearfish sort of blade at the top. Except the spear blade long and curved and sharped along both edges. And the point isn’t really sharp. So, yeah, nothing like a spear at all. If you are into Japanese weapons, then you might recognize the similarity between the glaive and the naginata. Sometimes. To further confuse things, sometimes a guisarme was added to one side of a glaive, to better catch an opponent with. These were called glaive-guisarmes. Later-day glaives were fitted with long spikes on the top of the staff, for added stabiness, and these were called glaive-stabbies. (Editor’s note: No, they weren’t).

 

 

PA_Fauchard

 

FAUCHARD(ish):
Fauchards are basically glaives, but only one side of the blade is sharpened, which is awesome when you’re pressed up against a wall while fighting an opponent, or when you’re a character in a 2D video game. Not so awesome when you’re in a 3D blood-spattering, bowel-cleansing, honest-to-god battlefield. Fauchards often had guisarmes, like glaives, because someone thought it was better to have a hook on that side than another lethal edge. These type were called fauchard-guisarmes.

 

 

PA_Voulge

 

VOULGE(ish):
Take a meat cleaver, tie it onto a long broomstick. Congratulations. You have earned the Voulge trophy. Sometimes, voulge blades were really long, so that they looked less like cleaver blades and more like really thick spear blades that are sharpened on one side. Which reminds me of a certain weapon we discussed above. Yes, a voulge can look like a fauchard, but it’s never a fauchard, it’s a voulge. It just is. Sometimes, voulges had a hook or thorn on the backside, and this made it a voulge-guisarme.

 

 

PA_Pike

 

PIKE(ish):
Pike’s were spears. But they were really really long spears. Like, 10-20 feet long or longer. If you play D&D, you can’t bring a pike into the Temple of Elemental Evil. Pikes can’t be checked as baggage on planes, even as sporting equipment. Pikes have one purpose and one purpose only: To destroy infantry and drive back cavalry in battles. Okay, that’s two. Swiss mercenaries refined their battle prowess when they switched to the pike. So much so that the Germans copied them, forming the famous landsknecht warriors. The Germans eventually outdid the Swiss by coming up with the Zweihander sword—a ridiculous-looking two handed sword with saw teeth and barbs used for cutting pikes in half and leaving swiss mercenaries holding broomsticks.

 

PA_Poleax

 

POLEAXE(ish):
Also known as a poleax, which was also known as a pole axe, which sometimes was referred to as a pollax, or pollax, or Jackson Pollock. Poleaxes had small axe-blades on one end of the staff, and a hammer or spike on the back, and a blade or spike on top. How does this differ from a halberd? It just does, okay? Polaxes could deliver ridiculously powerful blows and were short enough to be carried by men-at-arms and archers alike.

 

 

 

PA_BecDeCorbin

 

BEC DE CORBIN(ish):
Translated from French, this can mean “Put the automobile in reverse because you’ve hit the garbage can,” or “Beak of the Crow.” This was basically a a hooked spike attached to a pole, with a war-hammer head on the opposite side and as pike on top. It is not to be confused with the Lucerne hammer, which is a hooked spike attached to a pole, with a pronged war-hammer on the opposite side and a spike on top. Except that sometimes the bec de corbin’s hammer head was also pronged. But even with the pronged hammer head, it was still a bec de corbin. Unless it was a Lucerne hammer. Don’t argue. Just accept it.

 

 

PA_Bardiche

 

BARDICHE(ish):
The bardiche is a long axe blade attached to a long pole. Bardiches were shorter than most poleaxes, rarely reaching a height of five feet. They were faster than their longer cousins, but still had enough weight to crush armor. Bardiches are not to be confused with the Scottish Lochaber axe, which is a long axe blade attached to a long pole. Yeah. I did try to warn you.

 

 

 

 

PA_Bill

 

BILL:
The superintendent at my apartment complex. Nice guy, but don’t get him drunk. Also, a European polearm that looks a bit like those hooked butter knives that your mom keeps in the back of the silverware drawer. The bill came from an old medieval farming implement used to cut crops. In fact, many polearms had their origins in farming tools. If you add a hook curving in the opposite direction to the bill’s curve what do you have? A bill-guisarme? Probably! Who knows? Do you know? I don’t really know.

 

 

PA_Ranseur

 

RANSEUR(ish):
A wide spear blade mounted on a long pole, with hooked wings at the base with which to parry. Not be confused as the Ranseur, which is a wide spear blade mounted on a long pole, with hooked wings at the base. You can tell them apart because the hooks on the ranseur are sharpened and used for attack as well as defense. Sometimes. Oh, and did I mention that both of them are very similar to a Spetum? Yeah. They are. Except the spetum hooks are longer and thinner.

 

So there you have it. A comprehensive study of polearms. Sort of.
I have joked a lot, but the reality is that these weapons had a lot of different names and styles, based on regional preferences. It’s not so strange, really. If you order a grinder in Arizona, they’ll look at you like you’re crazy. Order a Hoagie in Idaho? You’re liable to get punched. But a grinder and a hoagie and a subway and a big sandwich are all the same thing. Maybe slightly different from place to place, but still a sandwich. So it was with polearns.
Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

The Esterlina Line of Premium Swords!

BC1When I ring in the new year, it’s with alcohol and apologetic phone calls the next morning to everyone I offended or peed on. When Strongblade rings in the new year, they do it with gorgeous, live steel.

I’d call for a trumpet flourish as I make my next announcement, but my head still hurts. So, I will quietly announce Strongblade’s newest (and perhaps most exciting ever) sword lines. I present The Esterlina line of premium battle-ready swords.

What makes these swords so exciting, you may ask?

BC5Have a look at them.

Seriously.

Check out the images in this blog post.

They are some of the most creative, lovingly crafted, pieces of artwork that we sell on the site. And you know the best part? These beautiful pieces of art are fully functional! They can split a bamboo mat as easily as Japanese katanas. Let’s see you try to split a cutting roll with a Rembrandt. You see? These swords are better than multi-million dollar paintings!

Each of these oil-hardened weapons is hand-forged by master smiths, using only the highest grade steel, and tempered to a perfection. Blades are forged to a hardness of 55-66 on the Rockwell scale, and are used by martial arts masters in cutting competitions across the world.

BC4Yeah, they’re that strong.

The style of these swords is taken from pre-conquest Filipino swords—the same sort of blades that took down Ferdinand Magellan and his heavily armed and armored soldiers. But the look of these weapons is so different than what we normally see these days. They have a truly fantasy feel to them. In fact, swords of this type are no doubt inspiration for some of the swords seen in many fantasy movies, including the Lord of the Rings.

The craftsmanship doesn’t stop at the swords, though. Each of these beauties comes in a uniquely squared and decorated wooden scabbard. Put together, sword and scabbard are a thing to marvel at.

Have a look at the line. There are graceful sabers, lethal falcatas, awesome kris swords, and even a sword-dagger combo. Each masterfully designed. Each powerfully forged. And each whispering your name. They’d shout it, but I told them not too. New Year’s day, right?

Have a look at the gallery below, then head over to the Esterlina page and buy some before they sell out.

The Anatomy of the Scimitar

AnatomyOfSwordLogoOn our last posting in the Anatomy series, we talked about the Japanese Katana, and the educational benefits of saying the words, ‘differentially tempered.’ Today, we’re going to stay in the East, although slightly more westward. Yes, we’re talking about the Middle East. Considering the current political and social climate of today, I think it rather topical, no?

There is a great deal of strife in Syria at the moment, and an enormous amount of anger toward terrorists who may be hiding there. But that was not always the case. The Middle East, at several points in history, was the center of science and economics. And when it came to swords, very few could match the skill of Syrian blacksmiths. In fact, even today we use the name of Syria’s capital to define a beautifully-tempered blade. Damascus.

As always, I digress. I’m not here to talk about differential tempering or Damascus steel. I’m here to talk about those crazy, curving swords known as scimitars.

Anatomy_SwordFull_ScimitarWhat exactly is a scimitar? I think that’s probably the best place to start. The word scimitar means “crazy curving sword” in some unknown language. Okay, I made that up, but my guess is as good as anyone else’s. The truth is, no one really knows where the term scimitar came from. There are really bad theories about how it might have come from the word Shamshir (which means crazy curving sword in Persian)(scratch that. I was looking at the wrong notes. It means curved claw). But even the people who came up with this theory admit that it’s kind of lame.

The word scimitar, whatever its origin, has come to mean a Middle-eastern sword that is curved and has a single edge. The curve of these swords allowed for fantastic speed when wielded by a master. They were used almost exclusively for slashing, and were especially appreciated by horsemen, who could slash from one side of their horse to the other quickly and without accidentally chopping off bits of their steed’s head.

Many people tend to group all of these swords into one lump, there are probably more variations of these types of swords than there are of their European counterparts. To make things simple, I’m going to talk about the four most common scimitars found throughout history.

THE SHAMSHIR
Slender, steeply curved, graceful and long. Her name was Nicole and I had a raging crush on her since my freshman year. But we’re not here to talk about my romantic failures. We’re here to talk about the Shamshir, which, like Nicole, was slender, steeply curved, graceful and long. The Shamshir was a Persian sword, first used around 1000 A.D. It’s a gently curving blade that was worn sideways on the belt, similar to the way Japanese Katanas were worn.

Anatomy_Scimitars_SilhoTHE KILIJ
If Shamshirs were like swift, elegant dancers, than the Kilij were squat, powerful soldiers. Kilij blades were shorter and thicker than that of the Shamshirs, and they flared at the bottom third of the blade, near the tip. This flare is called the Yalman, which, in Turkish, means ‘ow, that really, really hurt, dude.’ And if it doesn’t mean that, it should. Because the yalman gives the sword extra weight past the center of balance, allowing for crushing blows. The kilij is oddly curved—kind of like it wasn’t meant to be curved but someone stepped on the blade during a fight and it stayed that way. This scimitar was used by many generations of Turks to unleash misery on their enemies (particularly during the Crusades).

THE TALWAR
This sword was the happy middle ground between shamshirs and kilijes (kilijs? Kilijises? Kili? No idea). The blade was thicker than a shamshir, but thinner than a kilij, and the curve was also somewhere between the curve of the other two scimitars. Sometimes the talwar had a flaring tip (yalman), like the kilij, and sometimes it did not. These swords were used mostly around India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. And while most of the other scimitar classes tended to have a bit of variation in thickness, hilts and length, most talwars tended to be fairly similar. The most easily identifiable part of this sword is the hilt, which features a disc-shaped pommel, short guards and, often, a full knucklebow guard.

THE PULWAR
Afghanistan has always marched to its own unique rhythm. The Afghanis were happy with the talwar, but they decided to refine it to suit their tastes. The result of their tinkering was a sword that was similar to the original talwar, but had a thicker blade, a greater curve, and a completely different hilt. The guards on the pulwar face forward, to better trap an opponent’s blade, and the pommel is shaped more like a cup, or one of those fancy dip bowls that your mom used to put out with chips during football games and then she would get upset with you if you let the thing fall on the ground when it was empty and you would tell her that she shouldn’t have brought out a fancy metal bowl for a football game and she would say that you should always put out your best for company and you would say, mom, they’re just my friends and… um…. Yeah. So… a cuplike hilt.

There you have it. A quick, easy guide to appreciating scimitars.

Next time on Anatomy, we’ll head back toward the West for a discussion on perhaps the most misunderstood weapons in history—the polearms.

The Stongblade Sword Design Contest!

SwordContestGreetings, combatants!

Welcome one, welcome all, to the Strongblade arena. Where all swords are created equally. Where every dreamer has the inalienable right to pursue fame, fortune and a $100 Strongblade gift card. Welcome, welcome, to the Strongblade Free-Forge!

What is the Free-Forge? It is two things. First and foremost, it is a chance for you, gentle visitor, to design the sword of your dreams. To put it down on paper or pixel, to show it proudly before the masses, and to compete against other designs for a chance at the title of Strongblade Forgemaster.

Secondly, the Free-Forge is a place to view the masterful creations of our contestants and to vote on the sword design that you like best. So, whether you submit to the contest or not, we encourage you to go to the contest site and vote for your favorite entry!

 

How do I vote?

Simply go to THIS URL, look at the fantastic works of art submitted, and vote on your favorite. *WORD OF WARNING* The site tracks IPs and uses complex technology to find spammers and those who would seek to unfairly and dishonorably sway the voting to their favor. If such a thing happens, either the sword benefiting from the dishonesty will be removed from the contest, or the competition will be deemed a mis-forge, and voting will begin again.

 

How do I submit?

Think you have the mettle to invent steel? Then get moving! Design a sword (preferably one that can be wielded by normal men and women, under the physics of our planet). We don’t care how you do it. Paper and pencil. Photoshop. Old car parts. The bones of your vanquished enemies. (That’s actually a joke. Nothing illegal please). Swords can be from any time-period in history. For a chance to have your sword made, you should make sure it can be made by a normal smith, without too much craziness. Once your design is complete, capture an image of your creation and go to this URL. Submit the image, then sit back and wait for the votes to roll in.

 

What do I win?

If you are pronounced Strongblade Forgemaster, you will win a $100 Strongblade gift card. In addition, Strongblade may decide to produce your weapon, so that others can own the awesomeness that you created. If that is the case (and that’s *if*) Strongblade will enter a separate agreement with you. But that’s not all. If you are granted Strongblade Forgemaster status, you will be interviewed for the Strongblade Edge and gain fame and accolades for your work.

Questions? Post them here in the comments, or on our Facebook page. Or, send them to service@strongblade.com.

Good luck, and may the best sword win!

The Anatomy of the Rapier. And stuff.

AnatomyOfSwordLogolast week, we took our first tentative steps into the guts and bones of swords. Now that we have taken a few steps into the pool, it’s time to dive right into one of the most complex swords in history—the almost-really-badly-named rapier.

Now, when I say rapier, I’m not simply talking about the espada ropera, or the spada de lato, or the small-sword. I’m not just talking about the estoc or the dueling swords or any of the other cut-and-thrust swords out there. I’m talking about all of the mostly-for-jabbing-people swords, and there are lots. This classification of swords is mind-blowingly large, so we must tread carefully here. In this pool. This pool of cold steel. Is the metaphor getting old yet? I will generalize a bit, which is always an invitation for comments like, “Yeah, but what about…” or “Hey, dumb-ass, all generalizations are wrong!”

SweptHiltSo, these are all stabbing-ish swords. But what else do they have in common? Let’s generalize!

  1. Compound hilt. No, ,this doesn’t mean your opponent can come pound you with it. It means that the wielder’s hand is protected by guards that are more complicated than just two quillons. (Quilons being straight metal bars that jut to either side of the grip, as seen on most arming swords). Compound hilts are like fountains of metal that swirl delicately around your hand, bringing you protection, happiness and fortune. And, if an enemy has one, he or she can come pound you with it
  2. Narrow blade. The width of these types of swords is generally about an inch, sometimes a little wider, sometimes a little narrower. (Feel free to insert your own vulgar joke here, you perverts). Side-swords, for example, can be an inch-and-a-half or wider, but usually taper toward the point. Small-swords, by contrast, are rarely wider than an inch, and often narrower.
  3. Under-sharpened edges. Swords in this class often have dull edges (as do I after a few shots of vodka…). If they are sharpened, it is usually only the top third of the blade. Why only sharpen the top third? Because people who owned these swords were typically cheap, and looked for any way they could save money. Wait. No, I’m thinking of my old landlord. Here’s the real reason: Because when you fight with a dull sword, it is easy for an opponent to grab hold of the blade. And the part of the blade they are most likely to grab is the foible, which, as we learned last week (we learned this, right? Right?), is the thinner, more flexible part of a sword blade. Sharpened top edges also allowed for some slashing with these swords, particularly near the tip.
  4. Ricasso: Most swords in this class have a small, unsharpened (and often slightly thicker) section of blade next to the grip. A wielder can put his index finger on this little strip of metal, allowing for better control of the blade, vis-a-vis the whole laws of leverage thing. Is there a Law of Leverage? If not, I claim it. Roberto’s Universal Law of Making Yourself Stronger.

Rapiers and their ilk were typically used for thrusting (read:stabbing). Some, like the obviously named cut-and-thrust sword, could do both. But the brunt of these weapons were created at a time when gunpowder was rendering armor useless. No longer did warriors need heavy-bladed swords that could crush an opponent’s helmet. Or swords that you needed three people to swing properly. Swordplay became a thing of subtlety and grace. The true rapier was the father to swords that allowed double-time fencing. What is double-time fencing? Well, let’s say you usually practice fencing with your girlfriend. But one day you go to another girl’s house and fence with her. That’s double time fencing. Um. I may be mixed up here. No… wait… double-time fencing, also called dui tempo, describes the pace of fast-speed fencing, where parrying and counterattacking can come quickly, one after the other. It’s the sort of fencing that is shown in the Zorro movies, or pretty much anything with Errol Flynn in it.

You got all that? Should we move on? (Hint: it doesn’t matter how you answer the question. I’m moving on). Let’s have a look at the parts of a thrusting sword.

 

Anatomy_RapierFull_Labeled500WDTHThe guards

As I mentioned, discussions of these types of swords requires some generalization and selective exclusion. I will try to cover the guards of the most common of these weapons.

 

Swept Hilt

Among the most glamorized of all swords is the swept-hilt rapier. These are the bling-guards–half sculpture, half armor. Swept hilts varied enormously, but most had a few basic similarities:

  1. Knuckle Guard/Knuckle Bow: The knuckle bow is a curved, slender strip of metal that curls elegantly around the user’s fingers. It got its name from early swordsmen, who tried attaching cords to this curved piece of metal and firing arrows from  it. Unfortunately, the arrows could only be about three inches long and… um… I’m kidding of course. You can’t fire arrows from a knuckle bow. You can only fire knuckles from it.
  2. Quillons: If you’ve been paying attention, you know what these are already. But if you missed it (and didn’t know it before reading this post), quillons are the metal rods that jut out from the top of a sword grip. They’re the doorman to your hand, keeping enemy swords from using your blade as a slip-and-slide straight to your fingers.
  3. Quillon Block: We talked in our last post about chappes, which had absolutely nothing to do with crotchless leather cowboy pants. And here, in rapier-class swords, we find the evolution of chappes. That’s right, as Mew evolves into Mew Too, and Pikachu evolves to Raichu, the chappe evolves into quillon-blocku! That’s right, this is the final form of the small, embarrassingly flimsy flap that dangled down at the junction of blade and hilt on arming swords. The quillon block is steel and serves more of a reinforcing function than any scabbardly duties. The quillon block is also known as the ecusson, which is French for Charizard. Mega ecusson is French for the evolved form of Charizard.
  4. Langets: The langets are a group of women who are very serious about grammar. They derived their name from sword langets, which are loops of metal on either side of a blade’s ricasso. (Hint: I talked about ricasso’s up there a bit —-^). These loops protect your index finger if you are using Roberto’s Universal Law of Making Yourself Stronger. They also grip the throat of the sheath, providing a nice resistance so that you don’t accidentally draw your sword. Like I did. My lawyer proved without doubt that the death of that man was an accident. Because I didn’t have langets. See how useful those things are?
  5. Finger gaurds: Finger guards are the parent name for the curling guards that loop backward, away from the blade, and protect your precious little piggies. Swept hilts often have various styles of finger guards. The knuckle bow is considered a finger guard. So are langets. Pretty much everything that’s not grip can be a finger guard. Except the pommel. And sweat. And shadows on the hilt. Shadows cannot protect fingers.

There are other pats to a swept hilt. Detailed parts. Complicated, French-sounding parts. But this post is already dictionary length, so I will stop at the most common ones and move on to a few different types of guards seen with rapier class swords.

Clamshell-guards: These sorts of guards are often seen on rapier-class swords, and are the guard-of-choice for mermaids the world over. They are also known simply as shell guards. One or two metal disks hangs down from the base of the ricasso, protecting the wielder’s hand. Sometimes these disks are actually carved to look like clamshells. Seriously. Shell guards can sometimes be used in conjunction with looped finger guards—like knuckle bows—and quillons.

Bell Guards: Bell guards, sometimes known as cup guards, are domed pieces of metal that a wielder’s hand fits inside of. The metal cup offers excellent hand protection (and a handy drinking vessel for those fencing-bar-crawls). A good example of cup guards can be seen on modern epees in sport fencing.

And that about covers the rapier/cut-and-thrust class of swords. Keep swimming until next post, when we talk about Settlers of Katanas and other Japanese sword games!

Did I miss something? Do you want to tell me that all generalizations are wrong? Would you like to fawn and tell me how this article completely changed your life and made you prosperous and two inches taller? Comment below! Or on our Facebook page!

 

Nothing Certain but Death and Axes

Axe_KitRae

Why do swords get the glory?

Swords get most of the glamor in the pre-modern world of warfare. They’re flashy, elegant, and loaded with symbolism. When you think of a knight or a soldier of the middle ages, I bet you think of them with a sword. But when it comes to raw, lethal power, there is nothing quite like an axe.

Just to belabor my point on the sword bias in history:

Name three axes in history or fantasy that had names. Go on. I’ll wait quietly.

Not so easy, is it?

Now, name three named swords, in history or fantasy.

Yeah, if you have any historical or fantasy leanings at all, the list should come spilling out. Excalibur (King Arthur), Stormbringer (Elric of Melniboné), Glamdring (Gandalf the Grey/White), Longclaw (John Snow), Andúril (Aragorn), Ice (Ned Stark), Sting (The Police. Also, Bilbo Baggin’s sword). Want more from history? Durendal (Song of Roland), Joyeuse (Charlamagne), Tizona and Colada (El Cid).
I may have gotten carried away there.

Never has metaphor and image come together so disturbingly.

Never has metaphor and image come together so disturbingly.

The point is not that swords are overly glorified (God, but do I love swords), but that axes are underly glorified. They are the NFL offensive linemen of the weapons world. They are the Honda Civics of combat. Not flashy, but brutally efficient and reliable.

Axes may well have been humanity’s first real weapons. Museums in Europe are overflowing with flint axeheads crafted by Neolithic warriors.
The first axes in recorded history (that I am aware of) were labrys. I spent ten minutes looking for labrys in a book on female anatomy before I realized it was an ancient battle axe. And that battle axe was not happy when I asked her to show me her labrys. Wait. I’m drowning in a spiral of innuendo.

Labrys.
Ancient Greece.
Now I remember.

The labrys was the great double-bladed axe of the Minoan civilizations (The Minoans were from Crete and the Aegean Islands, in case that D you got in ninth grade history is coming back to bite you). They had lovely double-bladed axes, mostly for ceremonial purposes. And enjoy that mental-axe-image, because there really were no other double-bladed battle axes in history.

Read that last sentence again.

I know you didn’t read it again, so I’ll write it again.

Awesome, but fantasy.

Awesome, but fantasy.

There really were no other double-bladed battle axes in history.

Despite the prevalence of those types of axes in fantasy entertainment, they were incredibly rare in European history, and not very common outside of Europe, either.

Think about it. You’re a warrior. Running around fighting people. Sometimes running at them. Sometimes running away. But you’re always running. So why would you want to carry a ridiculously heavy piece of steel that had *THE SAME WEAPON ON BOTH SIDES?* It’s not like you’re going to get bored of the side you are hitting with and switch. Why not put a spike on the other side? That way you can punch through armor with one end, and crush mail or sever limbs with the other. And, really, steel was not cheap, so using it to clone your axe blade was not the best use of resources.

Moving on from the Minoans. The Romans used axes, but mostly as tools to cut down trees and such. The next big development for axes in battle really didn’t come until the 6th century or so, when the Merovingians perfected the Franciscan axe. These axes were fairly thin, with a high arch leading to a slightly curved head. Great for your run-of-the-mill dismemberings, but even better when hurled. Ironically, these axes gained fame during Charlamagne’s reign, even though it was his sword (and that of Roland) that survives in our historical knowledge base.

Vikings were all about power. And beards. And beard power.

Vikings were all about power. And beards. And beard power. This is a Viking-Franciscan design.

I don’t suppose it’s possible to write an essay about axes without talking about the Vikings. They had a reputation for axes, and a well-earned one. The Dane axe—most popular in the 10th and 11th centuries—had many variations. The most common version was a light, thin blade with a wicked edge and a forward sweep that allowed for extra killin’ power. These were sometimes mounted on short hafts (perfect for boat raids on unsuspecting monks) or on long poles (perfect for on-foot raids against unsuspecting monks).

The Vikings also perfected the bearded axe—a technique for disguising their axe as a person so that unsuspecting monks wouldn’t know they were being attacked until the last moment.

No. That’s not actually true.

The monks probably never knew they were being attacked because they died instantly.

Axe_BeardedYeah, okay, the disguise thing isn’t true either. A bearded axe is actually an axe blade with a long heel that hangs down. This bit of blade gives the wielder a greater cutting surface, but, more importantly, it provides a great hook. Why would you need a hook? Well, the Vikings (and the Saxons, really) fought in shield walls—long lines of men, shoulder to shoulder, holding shields. Trying to get through a shield wall was ridiculously hard. So, Vikings came up with the bearded axe. You strike with your axe *over* the opponent’s shield. Catch the inside rim of the shield with your axe. Pull hard. Suddenly, the shield dips and you opponent’s surprised face is pounded by your friend’s axe. Tada.

I’m not really going to talk about polearms in this post—that’s a whole nother post in itself. But I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the pollaxe. It’s one of the most lethal battle tools ever created, and it’s possible that it took as many lives as all other axes put together. The pollaxe (or polaxe, or poleaxe, or oh-dear-god-don’t-hit-me-with-that) became popular in the 14th and 15th centuries, during the golden age of plate mail. Armor became so strong during this time that it became really, really difficult to actually kill anyone (well, anyone of importance, right?). And what fun was that? So the polaxe was created. A long shaft, crowned with a steel head (stop it, pervert) that featured an axe-blade on one side and a spike or hammer-head on the other. And usually with another spike at the top, just to make it lethal from any angle.

Axe_Poleaxe

Fierce in battle, the poleaxe was also the peasant answer to a pole tax.

These axes could be swung with enormous power, and regardless of what side you used to strike with, death or grievous injury was usually the result. The spike could punch through armor like a hot knife through something really flimsy like paper or wet drywall or lingerie. The blade could crush armor and cut through the mail, flesh and bone beneath. This was the tool of choice among medieval infantrymen, and it was devastating.

In the high Middle Ages, swords in battle were relatively rare. It was the axe and the bow that typically won the day. And yet the knight with the sword is the most resounding image of that period. That axe lobby needs a better PR firm.

Shields (or, How Not To Get Hit with Something Really Heavy or Sharp)

We all have primal instincts. Hard-wired impulses that are key to our survival. The search for food. The need for shelter. The fear of spiders (okay, that may not be hard-wired in everyone, but it is with me). And, an often overlooked instinct: The overwhelming desire to not get hit with something really heavy or really sharp. Or really heavy and sharp, for that matter.

Humans have used a variety of methods to address this impulse. They have developed leaping skills. Learned to dodge and duck. Mastered the ‘look-out-behind-you’ technique. But perhaps our most successful tool for avoiding death by sharp-and-heavy is the shield.

The Spartans held a pass for three days using hoplons.

The Spartans held a pass for three days using hoplons.

Examples of shields go as far back in history as we have the ability to look. But perhaps the most well-known shield from classical history is the Greek aspis (or hoplon if your lips are feeling frisky).

The aspis was round shield, made of wood and often covered in leather. Sometimes a layer of bronze was added for added nose-breaking strength. This shield was the template for most of the shields in the Greek and Roman empires for centuries. In fact, the round shield is the most common style in all of history. Something about holding a wheel in your hand just feels right, I guess.

The Romans extended the shield, making it oblong for better coverage of the body and to show the Greeks they didn’t need their damn round shields. These shields were called the parma, and tasted great on pizza. After a while, the Romans decided that an oblong was still too similar to the damn Greek shields, so they added corners and made them rectangles.

The scutum is the shield normally associated with the Roman legions, and it was *way* effective. While the Greeks had created the phalanx (a shield wall held in place by ranks of soldiers), the Romans perfected it. The legionnaires were not only good at the phalanx, they came up with trick formations, like the testudo.

Can't hide behind a wall? Bring one with you. The Roman Scutum.

Can’t hide behind a wall? Bring one with you. The Roman Scutum.

What is the testudo? Well, it’s not a battle formation used to guard the male genitals. (Found that out the hard way). It’s box of shields formation. The first rank kneels, setting the bottom edge of the shield on the ground. The second rank stands, holding their shields above the first rank. The third rank holds their shields straight up in the air. And the formation is mirrored behind and to the sides. Opponents see nothing but shields no matter where they look. Take that, Greeks!

And since we’re talking about Greeks, we should probably mention the Persians, who became the arch-enemies of the Greek city-states. Soldiers in the Persian army typically used oblong wicker shields. Wicker shields? Like, wicker? Patio-furniture wicker? Yeah, it may sound kind of useless, but the Persians kicked the crap out of just about everyone (using those wicker shields) and had one of the largest empires in the history of the world, so who’s laughing now? Besides my crazy neighbor in the room next door.

Let’s move up in history to the next big Shield Event: The kite shield, made famous by the Normans. These shields were what armor scholars like to call “roundish” at the top, and tapered to a point at the bottom. They were great for horsemen because they weren’t *round.* And the human body, as we know now, is *not* round either. Except for my high school shop teacher. But I digress. The longer shields covered the torso and legs of a rider. Footmen liked them because they *weren’t round.* And they could protect much of their body in combat. They could also be hung around the neck and worn as a sort of armor wall, leaving their hands free to fight or drink beer or whatever.

Vikings reinvented the art of the shield-wall.

Vikings reinvented the art of the shield-wall.

The Viking shield was popular around this time, too, and a century or so earlier. These shields were round, often with a metal boss at the center and painted in the colors of the user. Vikings brought back the whole phalanx thing with their shield wall. What is a shield wall? Well, imagine a rugby scrum with weapons. Sort of. Vikings would meet their enemies on a field of battle by crashing into them, their shields slamming into their opponent’s shields. The front lines of both armies would shove at each other, while simultaneously jabbing with swords and spears at legs, over the top at heads, and basically through any crack they could find. The description of these shield walls made them sound absolutely hellish. If you were up front, you couldn’t retreat. Think a mosh pit where you’re being shoved toward a blender.

The kite shield and Viking shield eventually gave way to the heater shield, which was especially popular in the winter. Okay, I made that up. Heater shields have nothing to do with heat. Except that fighting in armor makes you really hot. Okay, that has nothing to do with heater shields either. They were named that because they look kind of like the bottom of an iron. Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not in charge of naming stuff, or I would have named it the Gruelthorpe shield. Because it sounds bad-ass. And stuff.

holydefender1_l

Heater Shield. See? Fire. It’s a… it’s called a heater… oh forget it.

Anyway, the heater shield was typically flat on top, and curved to a point at the bottom. It’s the shield most people think of when they imagine a medieval knight. Me, I imagine a person-shaped shield, made of diamonds. Because why shouldn’t your shield be shaped like you? And because diamonds. These shields were popular from the 12th century to about the 14th century. Because in the 14th century, plate armor started getting silly hard to penetrate (which reminds me of a girl I knew in high school…). So, knights ditched shields and started carrying big-assed swords and axes that could be swung with all their might in the hopes of maybe scratching another knight’s breastplate.

Another shield that was popular at this time was the pavise. These were huge shields used by crossbowmen to hide behind while they reloaded, or prayed, or cowered. Pavises had spikes on the bottom edge that could be driven into the earth so they would stand on their own, or they could be held up by assistants.

sbbr-buckler-platted1_l

Buckler. Or, in Texas, belt buckler.

Bucklers started becoming popular around he 15th century. These were small shields (10-18 inches or so in diameter usually) that could be held easily and used to block attacks, and to strike with. Although typically made of metal, buckler shields were light, easy to carry and gave rise to the Frisbee craze of the 60s. Sword-and-buckler combat became wildly popular in the 16th century, and dozens of manuals on fighting techniques were written.

After the 17th century, shield use became less and less popular. There were some shields still in use after that, most notably the Scottish targe—a small round shield used highlander’s against the British. But guns kind of took away our hard-wired impulse to block sharp-and-heavies, and replaced it with the new duck-and-cover impulse.

The Zombie Survival Manual — Part Four

Ranged Devices

 ScourgeCover_New_250I spot another staggering shape moving toward the river. Then another. A horde of them lurch into view. Ten or twenty of them. More than I’ve ever seen. More screams ring out from the “virtuous” people of Meddestane.
“Tristan…” I trail off because Sir Tristan is already spanning his crossbow. He puts the nose of it against the toe of his boot and cranks the windlass that draws the cord back. I unsheathe my sword. The people in the river are slogging toward our bank. They stagger through the water, and I can’t tell the plagued from the healthy. Sir Morgan dismounts.
“Get back on your horse, Morgan.”
The dead feast in the narrow river. They catch the old and weak and kill them under the water. The heads of the dying disappear into the river. Sometimes the victims have an instant to cry out before the Medway swallows them.
Sir Tristan fires the crossbow. I don’t know how he can tell friend from foe. Perhaps he can’t.

– From THE SCOURGE by Roberto Calas

 

DarylDixon

Daryl Dixon. Hero. Crossbowman. (Actor).

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, then you’re probably a fan of the crossbow-wielding Daryl Dixon. He’s one of my favorites, but I’ve often wondered how well a crossbow would really do in a zombie apocalypse.

I spent an unhealthy amount of time doing research and thinking carefully about just such a thing for my historical fantasy trilogy, The Scourge. And today, in this final chapter of our Zombie Survival Manual, I’m going to share with you the results of my unhealthy thoughts:

Killing from a distance in a zombie apocalypse is a …ahem… no brainer. I mean, why wade into the zombie stream when you can sip a beer and put holes into them from a rooftop? Well, for one thing, items that kill from a distance require ammunition (or, in some cases, *are* the ammunition). Also, killing from a distance require perfect aim. A body shot won’t kill a zombie, right? Join me for some fuzzy mathematics!

A head accounts for about 15 percent of the body. So, assuming you hit the zombie every time, you have a 15 percent chance of striking the head. But you won’t hit the zombie every time. This is a horror-movie come to life. You’re going to be panting, possibly sobbing, possibly curled in a fetal position. Even if you’re a stone-cold killer, you’re going to miss sometimes. And if you miss 20 percent of the time, you’re now down to a 10 percent chance to hit the head. And when you think that the brain accounts for less than half of the human head, you are now down to a 5 percent chance (2 percent if the person was a congressman or congresswoman). And really, you need to actually hit the brain stem, right? That’s what controls motor functions. So you’re not down to a 1 percent chance. For every one hundred shots you take from a distance, you will kill one zombie. Is that what you really want? Is it? IS IT?

(Don’t bother trying to correct my math. I’ve been officially declared mathematically disabled. Seriously. So if you try to correct me, I’m going to scream discrimination.).

Okay, so I may not have taken into account all factors (like marksmanship and training). And, yeah, if you hit pretty much any part of a zombie brain you’ll take it down. Even still, using a crossbow or similar ranged device is not as easy as Daryl Dixon makes it look. Below are some of the most popular pre-gunpowder devices you might use in a zombie apocalypse, and how they might fare.

 

sbc-italiancrossbow1_lThe Crossbow:

Advantages: Kill things from far away (duh). Incredible power.

Disadvantages: Extremely slow reloading. Must have ammunition.

Since we started with Daryl Dixon, let’s talk about crossbows. And I’m talking about medieval crossbows, not the rapid-fire modern ones. A medieval crossbow was a thing of incredible power. Crossbows were the original weapons of mass destruction. Anyone could use them. They were lethal. They were extremely portable. And they were relatively easy to make. But crossbows were made to kill humans, not zombies. Hitting the head of a zombie, as I mentioned, is difficult. They walk funny, which causes their heads to sway from side to side. And a medieval crossbow doesn’t have a scope. Another problem? Reloading. There are a half-dozen ways to reload a medieval crossbow, and none of them are good. It can take a full minute to reload, which would be fine if zombies honored the “time-out” rule. But they don’t. And if the hungry dead get too close while you load, your time will be out.

 

English_longbow3The Longbow:

Advantages: Range. Speed. Accuracy.

Disadvantages: Must have ammunition. Years to master.
The medieval longbow was a game-changer. This sort of bow proved to be even deadlier than the crossbow, as proven definitively at the battles of Crecy and Agincourt. A well-trained longbowman could put an arrow through a wedding ring at thirty paces. But you’re not a well-trained longbowman. Very few people are, these days. You see, it took about ten years to learn how to use an English longbow. And you have to start when you’re young, because pulling back the strong of a longbow is monstrously difficult. When bodies of English archers were dug up, most of them had deformities in the bones of their shoulders—deformities that allowed them to perform an act that normal men could not. But even if you find a longbow with a lower pull-weight (one that your feeble little-girl arms might be able to pull), you still have to place the arrow in the head. Which is feasible, but not always manageable. Reloading is far quicker with a longbow. If you train hard, you might be able to get off six or seven well aimed shots in a minute. So that’s a bonus. But if you fight for five minutes, that’s 35 arrows. Are you carrying 35 arrows? And many of the arrows will shatter when they hit –will you be able to replace them? Lots of problems with longbows, but definitely a good tool for back-liners or from the safety of a rooftop.

 

sba-spartanspear1_lThe Spear:

Advantages: Versatility. Powerful at close range.

Disadvantages: Inaccurate. One-shot.
Spears are versatile. They can be used in melee combat, and they can be hurled at opponents. But in a zombie apocalypse, they will never be more than auxiliary defense items. In melee, leverage and physics make it difficult to pierce a zombie skull with a spear. And a thrown spear is not exactly a finesse item. Hitting a head with a spear is like trying to land your pencil in the pencil cup from across the room. And if you do hit the head and kill the zombie, congratulations! You now have nothing to fend off the zombies with! But you can high five your friends as you die.

 

BolasThe Bola:

Advantages: Immobilize enemies. Easy to make.

Disadvantages: One-shot. Need plenty of room to use.
Bolas are not a typical medieval items. But in the interest of silliness, I have decided to include them. No, you can’t really kill a zombie with them. Well, maybe you could, but you can kill zombies with a chair too. And a chair might be slightly more functional. Bolas are tools used by early South- and Central American people to hunt (and are still used in Argentina sometimes). It takes balls to use a bola in a zombie apocalypse. No, seriously. Bolas consist of a series of cords with weighted balls attached to the ends. You swing the balls over your head and hurl the entire contraption at an animal to entangle its legs. Sometimes the bolas were used to take down birds in mid-flight.

Bolas are not very efficient against the hungry dead, but they are an intriguing accessory. Immobilizing a zombie is just as good as killing it. Of course, you’d have to have dozens of bolas to immobilize a herd of zombies. Not very feasible. Thumbs down to bolas. Even if Batman made them cool.

 

sbch-franciscaaxe1_lThrowing Axes:

Advantages: Versatile. Coolness factor.

Disadvantages: Hard to throw properly. One-shot.

Axe. Another versatile tool. You can slash with it. You can throw it. You can wear it as body spray. Strong enough for a man, but made for a human (not a zombie). As mentioned in my previous post, axes are brilliant for the zombie apocalypse, unless you throw them. Because: A. If you’ve ever tried to throw an axe at a renaissance festival, you know how tricky it is send it blade-first into the target (so you’ll probably just end up bruising the zombie’s forehead with the shaft) and B. Even if you do land the blade in the zombie’s brain, now you’re empty-handed. And what happens when you are empty-handed in a zombie apocalypse? Do I even have to axe that?

 

TrebuchetThe Trebuchet:

Advantages: Unmatched killing power. Coolness factor.

Disadvantages: Ridiculously inaccurate against zombies. Reloading time. Ammunition is heavy.


The trebuchet is a big-assed siege device that hurls massive stones hundreds of yards. A lot of fun in a zombie apocalypse, but you can only really use it from behind a wall. Or from far, far away. But I’d really, really like to see one of these used against a zombie horde.

 

I have tallied the strengths and weaknesses of the assorted items and have come up with a scientific(ish) chart rating the various ranged tools that can be used against zombies. Feats your eyes below, where the English longbow seems to have run away with the show. So go. Don’t be slow.

RangedEffectivenessChart

I hope you have enjoyed Strongblade’s Zombie Survival Manual. Read each of the segments carefully. Study them. Feed your brain. Because when the hungry dead rise, you might as well give them a good meal.