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Writing about a character who used to be a veteran infantryman who was skilled with a two handed spear, both as part of a spear wall and in battlefield combat. Due to the loss of his non dominant arm, he was allowed to transfer to being a guard but is expected to practice regularly and to train recruits.

He had some levels of discomfort using a one handed spear, but still wants to use a relatively long weapon, since he's fairly unskilled in closer range combat. What are some options he could consider? Preferably melee, as reloading would be damnably difficult.

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    $\begingroup$ what is causing discomfort? If he can't handle a short spear, one of the most balanced one handed weapons, chances are he can't wield any weapon. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Mar 12, 2022 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ Instinct, to him, a short spear feels genuinely wrong when not being used with a shield. He can fight with it, but it's both a matter of preference and fighting habits. $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2022 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ Also makes him slightly depressed. $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2022 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ Good thing he's on guard duty! A warrior who can't adapt to or overcome his physical limitations doesn't remain a warrior for long! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 13, 2022 at 6:21

5 Answers 5

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An one-armed soldier is going to have some problems. I doubt that they would be placed in any position that might occasion actual combat. Being a trainer or drill sergeant would be the best that he might hope for. Those who can, do, and those who can't, teach, after all.

That said, the best weapon for a former spearman would be another thrusting weapon. If for some reason he can't use a one-handed spear, then a thrusting sword such as a rapier, an epee or a foil might be the next best thing. He'd be used to thrusting for vital or weak points, after all, and so would have less to unlearn than if he took up a slashing or crushing weapon. His main challenge would be to learn to parry with the weapon, rather than a shield. While early thrusting swords were often used with bucklers, daggers or capes, they came to be used one-handed with the other hand held out of the way, used only to provide a marginally greater impetus to a lunge. Thrusting swords came into use by unarmoured fighters because they were faster than any weapon that needed to be swung, as well as any heavier thrusting weapon such as a spear or zweihander (which were also largely thrusting weapons despite being swords).

Being a guard, armed with his new weapon, would not likely occur until he had a degree of proficiency with it.

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  • $\begingroup$ He has some training with one handed spear and shield but since he can't use a shield anymore, he finds it very difficult to stop himself from falling back into old patterns. The soldier wants to try something new instead of trying to adapt, since he has the choice of relative safety and comfort compared to before. $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2022 at 8:46
  • $\begingroup$ Some sort of thrusting sword would be best, then; sufficiently different yet not too different. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Mar 12, 2022 at 9:08
  • $\begingroup$ @ShrivenMires searching estoc and rapier will give you the two main variations of thrusting swords, edged vs no edge, then you just have to choose how much hand protection you want. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Mar 12, 2022 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ I just had a headache going through the differences between epee, shortsword, foil, rapier, french thrusting calvary swords, and preval blades. rapiers are very thrust oriented swords but still swords, able to cut because it has an edge and some flex. The foil is a practice weapon for the shortsword, and the epee is designed based on first blood duels. Couldn't find much on estocs beside their function as an antiarmor thrusting weapon, and that they were meant for the battlefield, sometimes being used as pseudo lances. The shortsword with triangular blade is a dedicated thrusting weapon. $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2022 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ It might take a while for me to find the blade which seems long enough, is stiff enough, relatively light(such as perval blades, which have the same triangular shape as shortswords but is longer), but won't get stuck like bayonets and or other similar long rigid weapons, lances are all that come into mind at the moment. This might take a while, and I still have to look further into how each weapon differs in use. Wish me luck. $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2022 at 14:09
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I'd suggest a rapier. Followed by sabre or basket-hilted sword.

First lets look at the measurements taken from Wikipedia. An average of course.

  • Mass avg. 1 kg
  • Blade length avg. 104 cm
  • Width avg. 2.5 cm

A rapier is an excellent dueling weapon. It has extensive hand protection. It was usually paired with a dagger or another tool but it's perfectly capable of functioning alone.

It also has reach which is a major point in all dueling. Obviously not as much reach as a spear but it does offer more reach as opposed to an arming sword or a longsword.

War rapiers also existed with thicker blade for better cutting. Rapiers, unless the edges are blunted, can generally cut. And with a more cut oriented design you can even improve the cutting capability of the weapon.

I'd even suggest making a custom "stronger" rapier. That is if your guy is a really motivated fighter and is stronger. You can easily make a bigger heavier blade and have him train and adjust to it. Of course you are not getting cuts that equal axes. But if you just keep making the blade closer and closer to that of an arming sword and stopping right at the perfect balance that fits that person. I'd wager you can get a pretty good weapon that will serve him well in war.

Obviously that denies him a lot of battlefield applications. He is not going against full plated knights. He is also not shooting bows anytime soon. But he is trying to make the best of what he has. And I recon that my idea of a custom made "stronger" rapier can push what he can do.

All I just said are general principles. Meaning that you can make a short cutting blade then add a rapier like hilt. This is a starting point to either adopt a historical weapon or make something custom. I'd say that a person going to a swords maker and commissioning a very specific weapon is very realistic and is even historical.

What made me focus on rapiers is that you requested length. But other swords that followed some of the same ideas existed. Pick the most fitting.

I'd also suggest giving him a position of an officer if that is possible or fitting. For obvious reasons it would be more suited to have a man of experience and bravery still serve but be expected to lead and organize rather than just march and form a shield wall.

What you wrote made me believe that he has one arm. As in not just losing his hand but his whole arm. Because if he still has an arm I'd imagine he can still use a sword and strap a shield to the other one.

Only other thing I can think off is a custom made spear. Lighter materials and a more compact design. A bit short to be used one handed. And a bit of a thinner blade. But honestly without hand protection at all, without a shield, without a dagger, and no ability to use the other hand for anything. I'd 100% be using a rapier or a similar weapon.

Please note that I'm using words like long sword or arming sword...etc just to facilitate the answer. Naming things in history is always complex. But I think most people get the general meaning when we say longsword which is good enough for me.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just one question about rapiers and their availability, how difficult would getting a good rapier, or even a custom made one be in the past when they were more commonly used? One additional problem would be mistaken prestige, as nobility was only allowed to use swords in some time periods. If I may ask, what changed for people to adopt swords as self defense weapons and for dueling? $\endgroup$ Mar 13, 2022 at 3:28
  • $\begingroup$ 1/2 I'm no smith. But I'd imagine that making a rapier is no different from any other sword. There seems to be nothing that special about the weapon. Blade is a bit longer which means it's usually a bit thinner. And the crossguard is merely a big fat one. You can just tell your smith to make a sort of metal cup to protect the hand but do it like ring so it's light. All this is easily understood by any smith. Just need the money. Their adopting had little to do with technology and more to do with the general context of life. Your setting has to have metalworking though. Social aspect is... $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Mar 13, 2022 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ 2/2 subjective and depends on you. Roman empire had no special laws about sword carrying. You were not supposed to carry weapons in the city. Swords offered no special statues. Soldiers even in medieval Europe would use swords. Especially merc and men at arms. So. The social aspect is completely up to you. People did not change. The issue was the cost, rich people had access. Otherwise everyone had a dagger/knife. Also a club is a pretty good tool for self defense. Across Europe you were expected to store your weapons when in a city. Not just your sword and they let you walk with a halberd. $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Mar 13, 2022 at 22:50
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Sling weapons

A sling shot (sling stick in Roman times) may work as a projectile weapon, although it may require some skill to load a sling with a new pebble/stone, for a one-armed person.

Melee combat - Flail

Because your man hasn't got a shield, you need a weapon that makes close approach dangerous. A long sword or axe cannot be moved quick enough. Slinging around something dangerous may work, for close combat in medieval times below sling weapon. There are several types, these are the single handed ones,

enter image description here enter image description here

Netherlands (Friesian, medieval 13th-15th C)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flail_(weapon)

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, but not sure which one is wrong, the image or the name, technically both of them work. but a flail would give extra reach but would have a few problems. I am not sure how you would effectively spar with a practice flail, or use it in a city/town environment. Technically not part of my question, but the nuance underneath. The goedendag is interesting due to it's heft and would definitely be an interesting choice. It would definitely feel different from a normal one handed spear, but it might be just a little too heavy to thrust and recover with one handed. $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2022 at 12:11
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    $\begingroup$ That image is a morningstar flail, which was traditionally used with a shield. A godendag was a two-handed weapon, and for all that a sling was used one-handed, it would be a nuisance to load one-handed. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Mar 12, 2022 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ I'm just thinking about the amount of collateral damage which would come from wielding a flail. A javelin or war dart might be useful as throwing weapon, but not certain it could be used as a main weapon. An atlatl looks pretty difficult to load one handed, but perhaps with a tilted hip quiver, it could be done. $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2022 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild you could be right about the usability of a sling shot, that's why I did not put a picture and a separate section in my answer. About the other one, I'm not really worried about the weight. The Goedendag as used in the Dutch-Spanish war was not a giant weapon. This spiky ball is not as large as a cannon ball. Supposing this one-armed man wants to be a soldier.. he'll have to practice the arm to make it very strong. When you look at modern day people with such physical challenges, they tend to compensate! $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Mar 12, 2022 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ This is a Goedendag, think it's flemish? youtube.com/watch?v=W1bszeudJCE $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2022 at 13:08
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Tonfa spear.

enter image description here

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonfa

Tonfas are fighting sticks with cross handles. A descendant is the T-baton used by some police forces. The cross handle allows a more powerful grip with wrist in line with forearm.

Your character fits out his spear with a cross grip to more effectively use his one hand.

A problem would be that the length of the spear could cause the long side to pivot, which would be opposed only by friction at the grip. You could address this with a forearm brace like a forearm crutch.

forearm crutch

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crutch

The forearm brace keeps the spear in line with the forearm; this and the cross handle keeps the whole thing in contiguity with the distal arm.

This now has similarities to my Forearm Crutch Mace concept for a zombie armageddon fiction; the paraplegic protagonist uses two forearm crutches made out of long-handled sledgehammers. https://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Forearm_20Crutch_20Mace#1279500071

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    $\begingroup$ I don't know how eager I'd be to tie a lever to my forearm if I'm already down to one arm. That elbow is going to have a very bad day. Crutches work because bones are very good in compression. They aren't nearly as good in shear stress. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Mar 12, 2022 at 20:21
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WHIPS

Whips have been used as weapons for millenia.

A bullwhip has a length of up to 6 m. While it is mainly used to create noise, when the tip breaks the sound barrier, it can also be used as a weapon. According to Wikipedia, Simon Tookoome, a Canadian Inuit and expert bullwhip handler, was known to have used one to hunt ptarmigans and caribou, and to kill a wolf. A skilled whip user can use a whip to disarm or ensnare an opponent and could inflict painful, bleeding facial wounds, perhaps even blinding opponents.

The Chinese were known to use whips as martial weapons. The chain whip is made from up to a dozen metal segments whip with a dart or narrow blade at the end. It can be up to a meter and a half long, sometimes more. The bian, or 'hard whip', another Chinese weapon, isn't a whip in the ordinary sense, since it is rigid, but it used to inflict damage with a whipping motion. the Chinese language doesn't dinstinguish between a hard and a soft whip. It weighs 7-8 kg with a length of around 90 cm and is mainly used from horseback in one hand.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think this wins the length contest $\endgroup$
    – Atog
    Mar 14, 2022 at 19:27

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