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Full disclaimer : I acknowledge full well that in real life hybrid weapons are completely silly and impractical but I'm currently writing a fantastic-ish story where power fantasy is a key element. This hypothetical weapon will be more of a trick / makeshift weapon rather than a replacement o conventional polearm and bows.

Since there is a structural limit to how much weaponry a humanoid can successfully store on one's body without completely removing mobility,agility,speed, nimbleness. How would one design an effective or at the very least a decent polearm-bow hybrid? I was initially planning on having my heavily armed men carry a spear (2 parts, 1 hard-point to attach into a long ranged spear) + bow + quiver & arrows + throwing knives + a backup sword + smoke pellets or canister + boomerang + cable wires + 2 wrist mounted shields... But let's be brutally honest even with rule of cool factored-in that's just downright silly/ ridiculous and comically so. So now I'm trying to make compromises on rule of cool and semi-plausibility, which is why I'm trying to design/find shortcuts to keep my fictional soldiers as mobile/agile as possible without completely disregarding the fantasy element here.

Many thanks!!!

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    $\begingroup$ not really poleaxe and bayonet exist after all it depend on the practicality. so far i can say an unstring english longbow with spear tip can become a spear at least for your polearm bow, al thouth the shaft probably not as rigid or stronger than common spear (its not a negative thing for spear) im not sure myself. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 4 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ well you can keep it string if you want but the bow string probably ruined anyway and although the bend of the shaft is awkward (if you keep it stringed) i think the spear tip can be modified in such an angle so you can pierce straight with it at least. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 4 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ Useful stuff for you here: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/73432/… $\endgroup$ – Willk Aug 4 at 20:08
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    $\begingroup$ You really really don't want a wrist mounted shield.that is putting all the force on the weakest joint in the arm in the worst way possible.the roman would carry a shield with three spears and a sword just fine. the spears attacked to the shield when not in use. carrying a spear and bow is possible in the same fashion, you will have to drop the shield to use the bow however. $\endgroup$ – John Aug 5 at 0:08
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    $\begingroup$ depend on the length roman spears is javelin afterall, but i agree carrying spear and bow is possible, or you can just put the polearm into the wagon if it to long or heavy. also @Anonymousworldbuilding you mean strap shield right? not literally on the wrist but the forearm,or you mean center grip? both have their cons and pro. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 5 at 9:25

10 Answers 10

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You don't. It's not merely impractical, it's straight-up impossible. A bow and a polearm require contradictory properties from their structural materials.

However, you can do something functionally quite similar. If you are not set specifically on having a bow, as opposed to merely some sort of high-power ranged weapon, then you can quite easily combine a polearm and a staff sling--basically, a small, human-powered trebuchet.

All that is required is a slight modification to the head of the polearm to include a sling-release hook at the end. The sling itself is basically just a bit of thin, knotted rope, which can be wrapped around the shaft when not in use, or just stuffed in a pocket--it is neither bulky nor heavy. And you always have the option of using the sling on its own if you like.

Suitable sling bullets are also considerably easier to source than decent arrows, which reduces the armory supplies you have to lug around with you, and eliminates the need to try to retrieve valuable arrows after a battle.

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    $\begingroup$ This or a spear thrower are the answers I was going to give too - although spear throwers have the portability problem. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Aug 4 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Anonymousworldbuilding This answer assumes a Zero Magic approach and is completely correct in terms of purely technological solutions, if you throw a little magic around you could have a very different picture. $\endgroup$ – Ash Aug 4 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Anonymousworldbuilding I'll kick you an answer when I have time, it might have to wait until tomorrow though. $\endgroup$ – Ash Aug 4 at 17:15
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    $\begingroup$ using sling will affect the number of person you can put for your formation and probably space for each person to not hindrance each other bad for melee fighter especially frontliner polearm unit, but as Ash mention at least for me i can think it can be neutralize the cons if they sling a magic stone or whatever magic is with whatever effect you want though like explosion for example. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 4 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Anonymousworldbuilding i mean the number of person you can hit using sling due to the formation make it hard for tightly packed unit and require alot of personal space to swing the sling also with such scattered formation make it easy target for cavalry which ruin the polearm unit purpose to scare away the cavalry charge and prevent melee unit to getting more closer. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 4 at 17:43
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You change the bow to a crossbow.

The bayonet turned a firearm into a useful spear. You could start with a crossbow with a long shaft, like the ones in Central Africa...

enter image description here

... and just add a bayonet to obtain a spear.

Such strange hybrids are common in fantasy (I think D&D had them), but also in reality

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ The problem with such gimmick "weapons" are that these are the playthings of wealthy men, not in any way suitable for actual use. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Aug 5 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ But being "gimmick" weapons makes them match what the questioner was looking for better not worse. They seem keen on something slightly crazy and implausible - but on the "that's awesome, I will suspend disbelief" side of the line not "but that wouldn't even make sense" side of it. $\endgroup$ – Dast Aug 5 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Dast I agree. OP's exact words are "now I'm trying to make compromises on rule of cool and semi-plausibility", so this design works. $\endgroup$ – Carlos Martin Aug 5 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ Gimmick? For 3 centuries up to WWI, the bayonet was considered the primary weapon for infantry attacks, with the gun it was attached to as a secondary weapon. This serves a very similar purpose: crossbow for softening up the lines from a distance, and jabbing edge for up close work. Probably harder to handle and therefore less useful than a bayonet, but possibly some variant could be a sensible tool for well-trained soldiers. $\endgroup$ – Paul Sinclair Aug 5 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ @PaulSinclair The problem is that a rifle could be held largely like a spear, so a bayonet on a rifle could be used like a short, poorly-weighted spear (and the rifle shot could more than make up for the awkwardness of the weighting). But a crossbow has the bow and string in the way. Not really comparable. It’s probably possible but it’s not very effective, which is why rifle bayonets were the primary infantry weapon for centuries while crossbow bayonets were rarely-seen gimmicks. Still a fine answer to this question given its parameters, but your comment is making an invalid comparison. $\endgroup$ – KRyan Aug 6 at 3:29
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Put a metal tip on the bow, to make the bow a light spear.

Thus, if the archers have a make-shift polearm to defend themselves, once they run out of arrows or they are directly attacked.

There were bows found, which had an iron point on one of the ends of the bow. One theory for the metal tip is that the bow would serve as a walking stick, with a reinforced tip, when unstrung.

A paper on a find in Altdorf, Switzerland

The German Wikipedia on the history of the bow, section migration period

This site shows a replica

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  • $\begingroup$ now that image example is what i want to find, thanks for the clarification of the historical existance. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 5 at 17:34
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I usually take "low-fantasy" to mean either No Magic or Very Little Magic, if you're going for a purely No Magic setting then Logan's answer is on the money, a bow and a polearm require the exact opposite qualities in the wood they're made of to function effectively. I your setting allows a little magic you may have a wood that has those diametrically opposed qualities. In this case the wood needs to be springy when pressure is applied across the grain, making a good bow, while remaining rigid when compressed parallel to the grain in a stabbing situation, thus also making a good spear, natural real-world wood doesn't do this but magic wood could. Or the spear could be enchanted to be bow-springy when the bowstring attached to it is pulled while being made of highly rigid wood that normally doesn't flex.

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    $\begingroup$ Anisotropic response to applied forces would not solve the problem. Unless one thrusts perfectly along the shaft AND target offers absolutely no deflection (no blocking, parrying, no shield, no armour) there will be shear components which would cause bending. Your best magic bet is magic bowstring acting as switch for mode of operation. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Aug 5 at 12:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Miech Natural anisotropy wouldn't solve the problem no, but magic is magic. $\endgroup$ – Ash Aug 5 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ I am not sure how useful "your problem could be solved with magic" is as an answer. Any problem can be solved this way. $\endgroup$ – Dast Aug 5 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Dast Neither am I, I'm not the OP, but it is an option that the OP may want to consider given he hasn't said there is no magic whatsoever and he is writing fantasy of a sort. $\endgroup$ – Ash Aug 5 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I agree that magic is certainly an option worth considering depending on what the OP wants. I just question the value of telling someone that they can solve their problem by positing magic $\endgroup$ – Dast Aug 5 at 15:11
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Look closer on peltast greek warrior. They had almost what you want - throwning spear with slung-alike way of throwing. This spear was still good enough as a polearm - peltast could form sort of weak phalang (against other peltasts or barbarians).

Or you may look closely to spear-thrower, wich obviously can be crossed with any polearm of your choise.

Or you can just attach a knife to a japanise non-simmetriacal longbow. It would be a terrible polearm (wich requre a lot of training just not to brake it), but not-so-bad bow.

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    $\begingroup$ ah yeah the japanese one is one i struggle to find the image for (im not even sure is it historically exist or just a myth), my suggestion of english longbow with bayonet like spear tip (since the shaft is more stiffer than japan bow), although i want to recomment him for slashing naginata or axe dagger tip atleast rather than just stabbing. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 5 at 9:32
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    $\begingroup$ It is realy existed and is called "daikyū". You may google it. $\endgroup$ – ksbes Aug 5 at 9:39
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    $\begingroup$ yeah i know but the image dont have the dagger or spear tip with it, thats the thing im not sure is it historically exist or just a myth ( i mean the dagger bayonet not the bow or yumi itself), never seeing credible source of it either, hence im kinda hesitance to answer that. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 5 at 9:43
  • $\begingroup$ Another good historical example! $\endgroup$ – liljoshu Aug 6 at 17:15
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polearm + throwing projectiles :

Your polearm is hollow, making it a blow gun. you can now throw darts in seconds after beig engaged and then fight with it. On the bad side, you will need to tend your weapon after a fight, or it won't stay accurate, because hitting blowguns perpendicularly will alter them. It also won't be that effective against armor.

polearm + sending arrows :

Your polearm is hollow and contain a big knot at at least one end of it, with a spinned rope. the torsion is the elasticity source you are searching for. instead of bending the bow, you just have a rubberish rope. If you want it to be accurate (not this much, but accurate enough to it a cow at 5 meters) you will need to have the 2 ends with the same elasticity.So not good for long distance shots, but it will have some punch to it, if you have enough force to place a specially designed rope hooked to both knots.

Conclusion

So if you are facing light armored enemies, the blowgun will help engaging from afar, especially if you allow poison or explosive darts in your universe, but if you want to pierce an armor, you will need to resort on a makeshift elastic, which will loose strength with time, will suffer from humidity, etc... But is the best way to get a polearm to act as a bow without destroying its polearm capacities.

So not that good anyway, but hey, that's what was asked.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the help ! Your answer is very much appreciated ! $\endgroup$ – Anonymousworldbuilding Aug 5 at 15:18
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The item which you seek is called a Ballista.

It is a large bow on wheels that fires varied projectiles, including spears, which are a polearm. You fire the ballista like a bow at range, and if they get close, you grab one of the projectiles and you have your shortspear for close range.

Polearm-bow hybrid historically achieved.

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Without magic or Tony Stark metalsmiths, it is hard to imagine a combo-spear-bow.

But, what about a collapsible/multi-part bow that doubles as a backpack frame for all their gear.

The arms of the bow are the long stiffeners of the frame. And the center part of the bow is the narrow part of the frame. The bow is 3 pieces -- the two bendy arms and the center rigid and inflexible grip. The bendy arms lock into the center part and the bow is ready for use.

It lacks any cool factor but might keep the weight down

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  • $\begingroup$ This is another great idea, just need a little creativity to come up with a visually appealing design. Thanks for the help ! $\endgroup$ – Anonymousworldbuilding Aug 6 at 8:05
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A literal hybrid might do the trick... a thinnish polearm bound top, bottom, and center to a simple longbow.

Bound together longways, the two staves effectively form a single stick... possibly a little weak or bendy if hit just wrong, might need to be thicker to compensate, but it should work as the handle of a polearm.

To use as a bow, you’d need to loose the ties at the top and bottom of the staff, and bend the bow away from the polearm shaft. I recall reading bows (some bows?) would be made so they’d curl forward when strung (curled opposite the string when at rest), a very minor opposite curve would hold the two pieces of wood together more easily and have less tension on the ties. The middle can remain bound, it’s just a grip... the polearm will be held upright parallel to and in front of the bow, so aiming will be trickier but one could also use the pole-staff as a rest to steady or figure bow height. The end ties need to be both reliable and quick to loose, might take a bit of figuring, but I think it can be done.

I planned the bow around a staff, since it was simpler to imagine... attaching anything would be tricky and leave the wood weak right at the attachment point if not carefully crafted, but a spear point etc should be doable if the wood is fit together well at that point.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the help you make some good points ! This is actually much closer to what I had in mind which is great ! I came up with similar problems since I initially envisionned The bow being directly embedded, attached, molded into the polearm at the middle so that you could shoot arrows but still poke incoming ennemies with the bladed tip. However it would break too easily and The bow itself wouldn't be able to deliver as much punch/force/elasticity due to being embedded into the hard polearm. $\endgroup$ – Anonymousworldbuilding Aug 6 at 7:56
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Yes, it can be done, but the level of craftsmanship required will make it impractical for mass production. It will have to be a specialists weapon, with the majority of each squad having conventional pole arms while one marksman carries this hybrid.

Also, it will be closer to the function of a crossbow rather than a conventional bow. Tactically, that means that from a distance the marksman can fire and then reload quickly for another shot, but once close combat is engaged, there will be no opportunities for reloading. In face-to-face melee, you will only get one shot.

The design of the bow portion of the weapon involves hollowing one end of the pole and turning it into a tube to hold the arrow. The bow's wings will project out perpendicularly from the tube, but will be mounted backwards such that they fold forward (towards the tip of the tube-enshrouded arrow) when the bow string is drawn. The bowstring itself will be drawn down into the tube down past the arrow's feathers and held by a hook which can be sprung crossbow style, by pulling a trigger mounted near the middle of the pole's length.

The arrows will be slightly different than conventional design, having feathers running all the way up to the tip. These feathers serve the additional function of holding the arrow centered within the tube which greatly increases the weapon's accuracy when fired.

When cocked and loaded, the bow wings of the pole arm bend down to meet the arrowhead. When in this position, the outer facing edge of these wings are sharpened such that the wings and arrowhead join together to form an over-sized spear point. Stabbing someone with this giant spear and then pulling the trigger would cause a sure-kill wound as the sharpened blade wings swung out in opposite directions, cutting through flesh with brutal force.

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    $\begingroup$ Negative votes without comments is just rude. I don't mind when people dock me for deficient, inappropriate or incorrect answers but they should at least explain what I did wrong. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Aug 5 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry I didn't take thetime to reply earlier but don't know where the downvotes came from myself because I actually liked and upvoted. I really like your idea and will be using it as an ace-weapon in my story. Also deliberately left it out of my main post because I feared my question would be closed(& downvoted to HELL) but the reason for my question is that I needed a weapon (other than a gun) with long range that could be both used for poking but also shooting since my world is actually high fantasy and not low like indicated ;). Thanks a lot for the help !!! $\endgroup$ – Anonymousworldbuilding Aug 5 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ Glad I was able to help. Good luck with the story. Writing is hard work but finishing something you are proud of makes it worth the effort. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Aug 5 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks ! Greatly appreciated :) $\endgroup$ – Anonymousworldbuilding Aug 5 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ Your first line is meaningless, you're talking about a society before mass production. Everything is craftsman made, down every individual nail. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Aug 6 at 9:43

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