Medieval War Hammer Types: A Historic Guide

Medieval War Hammer Types: A Historic Guide

Welcome to our historic guide on the various types of war hammers used during the Middle Ages. Discover the fascinating world of medieval weaponry as we delve into the intricacies of these formidable weapons. Each type had a unique purpose and design, from the footman’s hammer to the bec de corbin. Join us as we explore the evolution of war hammers, their ancient origins, battle techniques, and notable battles where they made their mark. Let’s embark on a journey through time to uncover the enduring legacy of war hammers in shaping warfare during the Middle Ages.

Understanding War Hammer Designs

When delving into the rich history of medieval war hammers, one cannot overlook the intricate and purposeful designs that made these weapons formidable on the battlefield. The effectiveness of a war hammer lay not only in its brute force but also in its careful craftsmanship.

First, let’s examine the shape of the head. Unlike the blunt impact of a mace or the slashing power of a sword, war hammers featured a distinctive head with a flat face and often a curved or pointed back. This design allowed for concentrated force upon impact, making it particularly effective against armored opponents.

The materials used to craft war hammers varied but often included iron, steel, and hardwood combinations. The head was typically constructed from metal, providing the necessary weight for powerful strikes. On the other hand, the handle was commonly made from sturdy hardwood, ensuring durability and allowing for a firm grip during combat.

Additionally, the length of the handle played a crucial role in determining the effectiveness of a war hammer. A longer handle provided greater leverage and reach, allowing warriors to deliver impactful blows while maintaining a safe distance from their adversaries.

Key Features of Medieval War Hammer Designs:

  1. Flat-faced head for concentrated force
  2. Curved or pointed back for versatility
  3. Use of iron, steel, and hardwood materials
  4. Head crafted for weight and power
  5. Handle made from sturdy hardwood for durability and grip
  6. Handle length designed for leverage and reach

The specific design features of a war hammer could vary depending on its purpose and regional influences. For instance, footman’s hammers were designed for close combat, with shorter handles for greater maneuverability, while bec de corbin hammers featured a protruding spike for armor piercing.

Understanding the intricate designs of medieval war hammers offers a glimpse into the strategic craftsmanship that propelled these weapons to the forefront of medieval warfare. The next section will dive deeper into the different types of historical war hammers, shedding light on their unique characteristics and purposes.

Types of Historical War Hammers

When exploring the fascinating world of historical war hammers, it becomes evident that a wide range of variations have been utilized in battles throughout history. These specialized tools of war were designed for specific combat situations and offered unique advantages to those who wielded them.

The Footman’s Hammer

The footman’s hammer, also known as a pole hammer, was a versatile weapon widely used by infantry during the Middle Ages. This type of war hammer featured a long handle, typically measuring around four to five feet, allowing the user to deliver powerful strikes from a safe distance. With its combination of a blunt hammerhead and a piercing spike, the footman’s hammer was an effective choice for both disarming adversaries and inflicting fatal blows on armored opponents.

The Lucerne Hammer

The Lucerne hammer, named after the Swiss city of Lucerne, where it originated, was a highly specialized war hammer favored by knights and cavalrymen. This weapon boasted a distinctive design characterized by a long handle, a hammerhead, and a spike, all complemented by a crescent-shaped blade on one side. The lucerne hammer was primarily used for puncturing heavy armor, as the spike and blade allowed for precise and forceful thrusting attacks to penetrate gaps in an opponent’s defenses.

The Bec de Corbin

The bec de corbin, also known as the crow’s beak, was another unique variation of the war hammer that gained popularity during the Late Middle Ages. Featuring a long handle and a hammerhead adorned with a hooked spike resembling a crow’s beak, this weapon proved effective against heavily armored opponents. The bec de corbin’s hooked spike allowed for efficient grappling, disarming, and tripping techniques, making it a favored choice for foot soldiers engaging in close-quarters combat.

These are just a few examples of the historical war hammers that shaped past battles. Each type was carefully designed and tailored to meet specific combat needs, demonstrating the ingenuity and practicality of medieval weapon craftsmanship.

The Evolution of War Hammers in the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, the development and evolution of war hammers played a crucial role in shaping the weaponry of that era. As battles became more intense and armor improved, warriors needed weapons that could effectively penetrate defenses. This led to advancements in technology and changes in combat tactics.

One of the key factors driving the evolution of war hammers was the need to counter the increasing use of plate armor. Thick and impenetrable plate armor necessitated a weapon that could deliver a powerful blow capable of bypassing its defenses. As a result, war hammers were designed with heavy heads made of hardened steel, often featuring sharp spikes or flanges.

Another significant aspect of the evolution of war hammers was the development of new combat techniques. Knights and foot soldiers alike had to adapt their tactics to effectively utilize these weapons. They learned to target vulnerable areas, such as joints in the armor, where a well-placed strike from a war hammer could incapacitate an opponent.

As warfare continued to evolve, the technology behind war hammers advanced as well. Blacksmiths experimented with different metals and forging techniques to create stronger and more durable weapons. They also refined the shapes and sizes of the hammerheads, optimizing their design for maximum impact.

The evolution of war hammers in the Middle Ages showcased the ingenuity and adaptability of medieval weapons technology. These formidable weapons provided a means to breach enemy defenses and influenced the development of defensive armor in response. The effectiveness of war hammers in combat solidified their place as one of the iconic weapons of the Middle Ages, forever etching their name in history.

Ancient Origins of War Hammers

War hammers have a rich history that traces back to ancient times, well before the Middle Ages. These powerful weapons were employed by various civilizations, showcasing their effectiveness on the battlefield. Let’s delve into the ancient origins of war hammers and explore their significance in the realm of medieval weapons.

Ancient Civilizations and War Hammers

  • Ancient Egyptians used war hammers to symbolize power and authority, displaying intricate designs and craftsmanship.
  • In ancient Greece, war hammers called “sphaia” were used by hoplites, allowing them to strike with force while maintaining defensive formations.
  • The Romans employed the “martiobarbulus,” a unique war hammer with a spike on one end and a hammerhead on the other, providing versatility in both offense and defense.

War Hammers in Pre-Medieval Warfare

The use of war hammers continued in early medieval times, and their effectiveness led to their inclusion in the arsenals of various European civilizations. These weapons were ideal for armored combat, delivering powerful strikes that could penetrate armor or incapacitate adversaries.

Ancient War Hammer Variations

Ancient war hammers exhibited diverse designs, reflecting the ingenuity and resourcefulness of their creators. Some variations include double-headed war hammers, spiked war hammers, and hammer-axe hybrids.

The ancient origins of war hammers laid the foundation for their continued development and use throughout the Middle Ages. In the next section, we will explore the techniques and strategies employed by warriors when wielding these formidable medieval weapons.

Techniques and Strategies for Using a War Hammer

When it comes to wielding a war hammer in battle, medieval warriors employed a variety of techniques and strategies to maximize their effectiveness on the battlefield. These combat strategies were developed to exploit the unique characteristics of war hammers, allowing warriors to overcome armored opponents and deliver devastating blows. Let’s explore some of the key techniques used by medieval fighters:

1. Power Strikes

One of the primary techniques utilized with a war hammer was the power strike. Due to the weight and design of the weapon, warriors would focus on delivering powerful blows, targeting vulnerable points on their opponents’ armor. By concentrating their strength and momentum on these strikes, they could crush helmets, dent plate armor, and incapacitate their foes.

2. Hooking and Disarming

Another effective technique was hooking and disarming. War hammers often featured a beak or hook-like protrusion on the reverse side of the hammerhead. This allowed warriors to hook onto an opponent’s armor or weapon and forcefully disarm them, leaving them vulnerable to further attacks or rendering them ineffective in combat.

3. Puncturing Armor

War hammers with pointed or spiked heads were particularly adept at puncturing armor. Medieval warriors would target weaker points in their opponent’s armor, such as the joints or gaps in plate armor, and drive the spike into these areas with precision. This technique could lead to severe injuries or immobilize an opponent, creating a significant advantage on the battlefield.

4. Defensive Maneuvers

War hammers were not only offensive weapons but also effective defensive tools. Due to their sturdy construction and often longer handles, warriors could use war hammers to parry or block incoming attacks from swords, axes, or other weapons. This defensive maneuver allowed them to swiftly counterattack and maintain the engagement’s control.

5. Two-handed Grips

When using a war hammer, medieval warriors frequently employed a two-handed grip. This grip provided better control and stability, enabling them to deliver powerful strikes with greater accuracy and force. By utilizing both hands, they could generate more momentum and address the weight and balance of the weapon effectively.

Mastering these techniques and strategies was essential for medieval warriors seeking an advantage in combat. Through years of training and experience, they adapted their techniques to counter various opponents and overcome the challenges of medieval warfare.

Famous Battles Involving War Hammers

Throughout history, war hammers have played a crucial role in shaping the outcomes of significant battles. These formidable weapons were favored by warriors for their effectiveness in close combat, delivering devastating blows to armored opponents. Let’s delve into some renowned historical battles where war hammers proved their worth.

The Battle of Agincourt (1415)

One of the most iconic battles of the Hundred Years’ War, the Battle of Agincourt witnessed the decisive victory of the English army led by King Henry V over the French forces. English longbowmen, armed with war hammers as secondary weapons, played a pivotal role in breaking through the French defenses and annihilating the armored nobility.

The Battle of Bosworth Field (1485)

The Battle of Bosworth Field marked the end of the Wars of the Roses and the rise of the Tudor dynasty in England. During this conflict, Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, met his demise at the hands of Henry Tudor. War hammers were wielded by both sides, being effective against plate armor and contributing to the outcome of this historic clash.

The Battle of Mohács (1526)

Regarded as one of the most significant battles in Central European history, the Battle of Mohács witnessed the Ottoman Empire’s victory over the Kingdom of Hungary. Janissaries, elite soldiers of the Ottoman Empire, armed themselves with war hammers to exploit weaknesses in Hungarian armor and achieve a decisive advantage on the battlefield.

The Battle of Waterloo (1815)

Although war hammers had become less prevalent by the 19th century, they continued to play a role in some conflicts. At the Battle of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington’s troops clashed with Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces. Though less common, war hammers were still utilized by individuals to counter cavalry charges and deliver deadly blows in hand-to-hand combat.

These are just a few examples of renowned battles where war hammers left their mark on history. Their effectiveness in penetrating armor and delivering crushing blows ensured their prominence on the battlefield. The legacy of these battles serves as a testament to the significance of war hammers in historical warfare.

Collecting and Preserving Medieval War Hammers

For collectors and historians passionate about medieval weapons, acquiring and preserving authentic war hammers is fascinating. These historical artifacts provide a tangible connection to the past, allowing us to appreciate the craftsmanship and understand these weapons’ role in shaping warfare during the Middle Ages.

Collecting War Hammers:

If you are looking to start your own collection of war hammers, there are several avenues you can explore. Online auction platforms and specialized antique weapon dealers often have a wide selection of medieval war hammers available for purchase. It’s essential to do thorough research and authenticate the item’s provenance before making a purchase.

In addition to online sources, attending weapon shows and visiting reputable antique stores can also be fruitful for finding unique pieces to add to your collection. Many collectors also join historical reenactment groups or societies dedicated to medieval weaponry, where they can exchange knowledge and occasionally acquire war hammers through private sales.

Preserving Medieval Weapons:

Preserving medieval war hammers requires careful attention to prevent deterioration and ensure their longevity. Here are a few tips to keep your collection in optimal condition:

  1. Storage: Keep your war hammers in a controlled environment with stable humidity and temperature levels. Display cases or cabinets with UV-resistant glass can protect them from dust and sunlight.
  2. Handling: When handling war hammers, make sure your hands are clean, dry, and free from oils. Guider gloves can provide additional protection while handling these delicate artifacts.
  3. Conservation: If you notice any signs of corrosion or damage, consult a professional art conservator specializing in preserving antique weapons. They can provide advice on appropriate cleaning methods and restoration if necessary.

By collecting and preserving medieval war hammers, you are actively contributing to the preservation of history and allowing future generations to discover and appreciate these remarkable weapons. Whether you are a passionate collector or a dedicated historian, the value of these artifacts extends far beyond their intrinsic beauty.


In conclusion, the study of medieval war hammer types provides us with a fascinating glimpse into the history of warfare during the Middle Ages. Throughout this article, we have explored the various designs and variations of war hammers, highlighting their importance as formidable weapons on the battlefield.

Each war hammer type was crafted to suit different combat situations and tactics, from the footman’s hammer to the lucerne hammer and the bec de corbin. Their shape, materials, and handle lengths were carefully designed to maximize their efficiency in battle.

As technology and warfare evolved, so did war hammers. They played a crucial role in the Middle Ages, shaping the outcome of many famous battles. Medieval warriors relied on their well-honed techniques and strategic maneuvers to make effective use of these powerful weapons.

Today, we can appreciate the legacy of war hammers through the efforts of collectors and historians who preserve these artifacts. Their study and acquisition ensure that the history and significance of war hammers are not forgotten, allowing future generations to gain insight into the weapons that once shaped the course of history during the Middle Ages.