We can honestly say that the sword is the most famous type of weapon when we are talking about hand to hand combat. Even tough the swords have some competition they still stand as the most effective weapons for killing your opponent. Swords were used in the ancient period as well as in the modern era by almost everyone, but how can we measure their effectiveness in battle?
The Ulfbehrt swords of the early Medieval period are commendable, nicely summing up what is known about these remarkable weapons. What were the Ulfberht swords? These are the most basic and simple swords that people used in the dark ages until warfare changed a little bit.
These swords are very simple. They have a double sharp edge for slashing against their low armored opponent, inside they have a fuller which makes the sword better for slashing and it makes it weight less. While the tip wasn’t sharp so this sword wasn’t used for piercing. As for the guard it’s really small, and the tang is short as well making this sword easy to be use in one hand with a combination of a shield in the other one.
It can be said that these swords were used until the 10th – 11th century until warfare and technology changed and developed into something else. It’s interesting to say that these kinds of swords weren’t used for mounted soldiers, only foot soldiers, and as mounted soldiers were becoming the number one unit in the upcoming ages the sword changed as well.
Because of their use in the early period the armor wasn’t so much worn and this is the reason for their effectiveness. Chainmail was for the upper class units while the basic people only had a wooden shield for defense. Also swords were light in that period and weren’t that long in length, they were under a meter.
With the development of plated armor and other defensive techniques these swords became useless. This was in the middle to late medieval period and people had to adapt to a new style of warfare. At this period the number one unit were the knights and their equipment was doing a very good job at defending attacks. With the knight came the horse and at this period the swords must be made slightly longer in length so it could have reach when riding a horse. This type would go on until for the next 200 – 300 years until the sword loses it’s effect.
Here came the crusade period where the knights were tanks. The armor was developed so good that a shield was of no use anymore. Because a shield wasn’t needed people had a free hand and swords were being made for a two hand use. This was very effective because it made the swords more serious, with the weight and a good reach they can cause serious damage. Also they could be swung from a horse. Here came the famous bastard sword, long sword etc.
Where the Sword Fell
Because the plated armor was pretty hard a sword couldn’t do much damage, it could cause some punctuation but overall nothing serious. Around the XV century, the sword wasn’t much of use. In this period melee weapons were used for making a shock. In order to create a shock to your opponent, you must use something heavy.
In this period the maces were shining, they were heavy and most of them spiked. They could easily be swung and hit their slow plated opponent, they might not kill him but one hit could break his bones or collapse his lung. He could be easily thrown out of the battle. Maces were well developed because of their success on the battlefield and various maces were invented.
Here is an image displaying the different types of maces:
Getting hit from one of these was a serious threat to you on the battlefield, they were heavy and this is what gave them the effect. The pike as always was here as the most simple yet most effective weapon out there.
Swords were lost for a time being but when armor was removed because guns were discovered the swords came back in action. This time swords were used for another purpose which was the piercing part. They were made to pierce and didn’t depend much on the cutting part this time. The famous Rapier was invented and it was put to good use. Sword appeared again and it became the most useful weapon after the gun. The sword was used until WWI and sometimes in rare cases afterwards.
The sword could easily be said as the best melee weapon out there and it’s power couldn’t be measured.