Swedish halberds from 16th century

A halberd is a pole weapon that came to prominent use during the 14th and 15th centuries. It consists of an axe head topped with a spike mounted on a long shaft. The back of the axe head was often fitted with a hook for grappling mounted combatants.

The halberd is still the ceremonial weapon of the Swiss Guard in the Vatican.

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Halberds were two-handed axe-like weapons consisting of four parts:

  • a handle roughly 7 or 8 foot (1 m 70)long
  • an axe blade
  • a point
  • often a hook or thorn on the back side of the axe blade

This made the halberd cheap to produce and very versatile in battle. Its length allowed to deflect spears and pikes, its point allowed to keep sword-wielding opponents at distance, and the hook would be used to draw armored opponents to the ground. The axe blade was for cutting into unarmed opponents and horses.

Halberds were the primary weapons of the early Swiss armies in the 14th century. Later on, the Swiss added pikes to better repel knight attacks, with halberds used for medium distances and short swords ("Katzbalgers") for close up.