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In D&D there is a history of allowing 'light hammers' to be thrown.

However, at the very least the ones I remember would be completely useless if thrown. The center of gravity and balance would probably be way off.

Light hammers as depicted in D&D 3.5e

In fact almost all of the hammers/picks in the picture are implausible as weapons or mislabeled.

If a metal headed hammer weighing roughly 2 lbs was being designed (pre-renaissance) for both melee combat and throwing, what would it most likely have to look like?

I know about Meteor Hammers, and throwing sticks like the Rungu or Iwisa, but I'm not interested in those because they don't really resemble hammers in the sense I'm talking about.


I'm tagging this as as I do not want magical or fantastical answers, and I'd like the reasoning why the answerer's design is plausible scientifically.

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    $\begingroup$ Whilst it ain't quite hard science, you can look at the all but nonexistent history of throwing hammers and conclude that they're a silly idea. Darts, knives and axes are the order of the day. $\endgroup$ Sep 10 '21 at 14:44
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    $\begingroup$ We already know what a hammer optimized for throwing looks like it's an Olympic sport $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Sep 10 '21 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ Axe throwing is a thing and they share similar centers of gravity and balances. There is not much to go from that. But I don't see a place where a Javelin/Spear would be worst than a throwable light hammer. $\endgroup$
    – GFA
    Sep 10 '21 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Pureferret your question sounds "science based". Asking for hard science answers to this sort of question just seems like a way to not get any valid answers, because I doubt there's any research or historical evidence for what you're after. $\endgroup$ Sep 10 '21 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime I've switched tags now $\endgroup$ Sep 10 '21 at 15:47
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Sort of like a Rungu

The closest historical example to this you will probably get are Rungu throwing clubs

Rungu throwing club

... but clubs are not quite hammers. Your idea for a throwing warhammer did not exist historically because it is inherently impractical. This is because any civilization advanced enough to make a throwing war hammer can also make a much more practical throwing axe; so, your setting will need some excuse as to why they need a throwing hammer to begin with. The only historical precedent for such a weapon having a reason to exist anywhere outside of fantasy/mythology/sports is that some historical monastic orders used hammers and clubs because they saw this as an exception to religious oaths that prevented them from spilling blood. So a throwing warhammer could make since for something like a monastic knightly order even if there is no historical evidence of their existence.

An iron age throwing war hammer would look more like a single-ended creasing hammer

singled-ended creasing hammer

Axes and hammers have more or less the same weight distribution and the existence of throwing axes proves that the lack of balance does not stop thrown distal heavy weapons from being viable. In fact, they are more viable than balanced or proximal heavy weapons because they are carried more by the inertia of the weapon's head that follows a larger, and faster moving distal arc than then lighter handle which follows the arc of your hand. Basically they follow the same principle as a sling.

enter image description here

Throwing axes like Francescas and Tomahawks were both very similar weapons despite coming from different cultures. This convergence of properties tells us that there is something about the qualities of a throwing axe that make them more ideal for throwing than their battle-axe counter-parts. In general, throwing axes are similar to 1-handed battle-axes, but they were normally much lighter weighing in at 250-850 grams vs melee battle-axes which averaged closer to 800-1500 grams. Throwing axes also frequently turn the blade down a bit to make sure it strikes in line with the spiral of the throw.

You can also note that nearly all throwing axes are single-bitted with relatively narrow striking surfaces. This is because the axe will never need to strike with the back or distal end the way you do with a melee weapon because there is pretty much just one right way to throw an axe/hammer, this allows you to make a longer head for your weight making hitting on the handle less likely, and the narrow striking surface is important for getting adequate penetration since you can not drive a thrown weapon through with your bodyweight like you can with a melee weapon.

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  • $\begingroup$ The 'long as possible' head of the throwing axe seems counter to the shape of the creasing hammer? $\endgroup$ Sep 10 '21 at 15:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Pureferret I meant as long as possible while remaining light weight. When you look at Francescas and Tomahawks, most of them had similar proportions to creasing hammers. Basically, you don't want a stubby head like you might find on a flattening hammer. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Sep 10 '21 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ I've changed it to read "longer head for your weight" to be more clear $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Sep 10 '21 at 16:03
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The center of gravity and balance would probably be way off

No.

You know axe throwing has been a thing for ages, right?

Two bros throwing axes

As long as the head of the hammer is as heavy and balanced as the head of these axes, you can throw them alright. Having a proper balance depends on the skill of the weaponsmith, so it's doable. A blunt hammer head could work to bend plate armor, much like a mace but at long range.

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  • $\begingroup$ Something tells me that "as heavy and balanced as the head of these axes" won't hold because they aren't axe shaped. It looks like a standard throwing axe is 1.5 lbs, but a normal framing hammer is nearer 2 lbs. It's not going to be anywhere near as aerodynamic, because it won't have the axe shape, and the much smaller head means you have to be even more precise with the spin. $\endgroup$ Sep 10 '21 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Pureferret I don't think any of that matters. Aerodynamics don't matter a whole lot when your projectile is as dense as a hammer. When throwing a hammer or axe, you get a lot more drag from the handle than the head, and the backside of the axe is basically a hammer anyway which is forward facing for half the flight. Also, many hammers are lighter than 1.5lb (like most peen hammers); so, there is nothing stopping you from making a slightly lighter throwing hammer. Hammers also don't care about edge alignment the way that an axe does so in many ways you can be less precise $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Sep 10 '21 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki you've argued the point the answer was trying to make really well, thanks for helping clear that up $\endgroup$ Sep 10 '21 at 22:26
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    $\begingroup$ I made some axe throwing at a center last week, and funnily enough the highlighted weapon on the asker's question looked like the one I thrown : One sharp and one blunt part. Weighed 400g, and yet it still made quite a dent (using the sharp part). There were throwing axes of up to 2kg there, it would definitely add up the kinetic energy to make a strong blunt weapon. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Sep 11 '21 at 5:25
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Thor's hammer

There's one important mythological figure known for throwing a hammer, that is Thor.

When you're asking for a hard science supported medieval shape, check out known Thor's hammer pendant artefacts. Ignore the replicas, as most are fantasy, or too heavily decorated in Merovingian style. The shape of the hammer was transformed into a cross in medieval times, as the Nordic people got influenced by Christianity. The early viking ones are very rare!

https://www.google.com/search?q=thor's+hammer+artifact+bronze+authentic&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X

Example of an undecorated, bronze Thor's hammer pendant shape, that could be Viking

enter image description here

Source: sold item on Catawiki

enter image description here

These pendants are often metal detector finds. Another source of examples shows this one, nearer to the axe,

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Since Thor's hammer is mythological, I don't think this satisfies "I do not want magical or fantastical answers" unless you can show that the Vikings used this design for actual, non-ceremonial weapons. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Sep 10 '21 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ Thor's hammer is called Mjörnir. In the Edda's you'd find this description: Modi and Magni shall have Miollnir and demonstrate battle-strength. You are right, it could be one bridge too far to assume these pendants were accurately modeled after battle hammers, but some sources do describe Mjölnir as such. Also keep in mind this concept of a "battle hammer" in itself is mainly mythology. As indicated elsewhere by comments here, a hammer does not work so well as a weapon. There exist (imho doubtful) reenactment examples, ref medievalcollectibles.com/product/authentics-war-hammer $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Sep 10 '21 at 16:40
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here a gif of throwed hammer

enter image description here

as other has mention its actually plausible (in fact i say all that weapons that you claim is not plausible as weapon are a plausible weapon, just not necessary or practical in certain circumstance, at least for the gnome one....Ouch, the rest is not really that impractical they look just like your typical warhammer and mallet since i assume the example is for one hand, otherwise maul, but i agree that some of them are mislabeled from their real counterpart), and i am not scientist so i cant explain it in scientifically way but they pretty much explain it well.

also double bit axe did exist too as a throwing axe, to give a chance for the edge to land and bite on the target or bounce off if failed to land on the edge part, outside of adding extra weight, especially using spin or rotating technique.

enter image description here

so its not necessary like what nosajimiki mentioned.

now regarding the weapon design, i would suggest to not make the hammer face flat but a bit bumpy or circular or turn it into a pick to give a better puncture or bite.

enter image description here

from:https://www.amazon.com/TEXTURING-HAMMERING-CHECKERED-PATTERNS-NOVELTOOLS/dp/B010OPOAA6

enter image description here from:https://www.todocoleccion.net/antiguedades-tecnicas/martillo-dos-bolas-probablemente-chapista-cabeza-11-5cm-aprox-largo-21cm-aprox~x41397613

(not necessarily to design it like that, just the face part, i hope you get what i mean)

also for the shaft, if you want to add extra punch to it, you can make the shaft a bit bended, think boomerang with one of the end with the hammer head, this can at least ad extra leverage in hooking technique, though i am not suggest it for mallet or maul head, due to their general flat and wide surface dont give a good dig or bite to it even in melee combat for this shaft design.

both can work for one and two hand type.

here an example image base on axe one (dont take that image too literal)

enter image description here

from:http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manufacturing/text/viking_axe.htm

also you can keep the double axe design too, just keep the edge blunt and keep the shaft flat or overall flat to turn it into hammer boomerang if you want, like this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HgYpt-I7-k

and also i wont suggest throwing the hammer against shield user though, especially center grip one, it wont give much impact to them, unless you follow nosajimiki design, but it doesnt guarantee it will bite on their shield and stuck there either (its to make the shield unwieldy due to the weight), which is most of the purpose of throwing weapons for warfare, beside throwing stone is cheaper anyway.

and as far as i know, D&D weapons are generally not for warfare anyway, theres many real bizzare weapon for duel combat or personal combat and most of them not necessarily practical (although it work for their martial arts which also not necessarily practical too).

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  • $\begingroup$ Double-bitted throwing axes are a modern thing as far as I can tell; I was specifically talking historical axes. They are sometimes preferred in sport throwing because the goal is just to stick the target, not about how well you stick it. When the back bit hits, it strikes with significantly less force because it is turning away instead of into the target; so, it is in many ways better from a weapon design perspective IMO to give a throwing weapon a better lethal end, than a slightly better, but still non-lethal back-end. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Sep 12 '21 at 0:50
  • $\begingroup$ On the topic of historical double bit axes: looks like Skallagrim just released an pretty interesting video on them. youtube.com/watch?v=JG0MFuWjQ7w $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Sep 12 '21 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki yes iam not arguing yours btw, i just tell OP its not necessarily to be like yours, it can have another design, nor we are talking about strictly historical weapon here, beside with your design, if the thrower miscalculate or not accurate it can end up bounce off if it hit the wrong end nor give a strong blow to it, and blunt weapon are mean to dent armor or crush their internal organs rather than stick to the shield or armor, thats why i mention extra weight, and if it strike too deep to the body, well you will have hard time to pull it out since OP mention it also use as melee. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Sep 13 '21 at 0:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki and i also like the hammer boomerang that i link there, which clearly require double side to work. since it give better balance or buoyancy (i assume). $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Sep 13 '21 at 0:09
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Actual throwing Hammers:

FRAME CHALLENGE: A thrown two pound hammer (especially with a short haft) like in the picture above is pointless. Throw a brick - and I don't see that as a regular weapon. If you want a hammer thrown to be a weapon, it would need to be heavier. A thrown hammer isn't cutting, or penetrating, but must inflict blunt-force trauma (assumedly through armor). Wielded as a melee weapon, it would be functionally like a kanabo/tetsubo or a godendag (but you want it to be a hammer). This video has a hammer with a similar construction used - 1984 hammer Throw commercial

1984

  • Olympic throwing hammer: This is the gold standard (pardon the pun) for throwing hammers, adopted and modified from the Scottish Highland Games. To throw a hammer held in one hand, it's not that different than throwing anything heavy. But to optimize range (and impact), you need a heavy head at one end and a long shaft, thrown with both hands and plenty of rotation. Ideally, there's a horizontal handle at the far end to allow easy holding while spinning up to build momentum. Modern "hammers" don't even have a solid shaft, but instead will have a rope or chain/cable to allow the hammer to wiggle a bit while spinning. In fact, a hammer with no shaft will also be much easier to carry since a rope folds up. Throwing hammers are around 16 lbs.

While an actual Olympic one might be a bit too heavy for a fight, you would need something with real weight to carry a blow hard enough to seriously hurt someone. At the very high end, a kanabo runs about 15 lbs, which is heavy for a melee weapon - yet they were used to crush armor (and a big hammer would do that). A godendag ran around 5 lbs, and was actually pretty nimble. A hammer like this isn't going to be nimble, but a crude tool to mash people with. If you want something graceful, buy a sword.

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ That doesn't look anything like the kind of hammer I describe in my question, and I don't see how it would be easy to use in melee combat? $\endgroup$ Sep 10 '21 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ Sporting "weapons" are optimized for range/accuracy without regard to combat value. Olympic bows have less than 1/2 the poundage as most historical war bows, Olympic javelins are 1/2 the weight of most war javelins. Fencing foils are much more flexible than actual rapiers. etc... so you have to be carful about assuming that these designs make them optimal weapons just because they exist $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Sep 10 '21 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Pureferret The Scottish version is a glorified club, which could certainly be used to brain someone. The modern version is akin to a flail, minus the hammer. The Olympic version is not unlike some martial arts weapons, particularly the meteor hammer. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_hammer $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Sep 10 '21 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ I'm after hammer shaped weapons, see this part of my question: "I know about Meteor Hammers, and throwing sticks like the Rungu or Iwisa, but I'm not interested in those because they don't really resemble hammers in the sense I'm talking about." $\endgroup$ Sep 10 '21 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki I took the science-based tag to indicate they wanted something capable of melee but optimized to throw. See the Scottish hammer (first picture) or the meteor hammer en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_hammer for close examples that could be useful for melee. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Sep 10 '21 at 16:33

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