I would like some fighter to use chains as weapons, I already have the evident pro and con of the weapon set out, but I need help to see if that weapon would be useful or quickly abandoned, even when only against infantry.

What would be top notch for me is a chain ~1m to ~1.5m long, with a weight put at the end (think a long poi) and dual wielded.


  • Cheap
  • Can pass through some parade/shield and strike (depending on the length of the chains)
  • If short enough, is equivalent to a flail.
  • By putting the weight on fire, it can have a psychological impact


  • Defence is almost non existent.
  • You can't fight easily more than a single opponent at a time.
  • You need time to "restart" the weapon after almost each strike.

What modification can be made to the unit carrying that weapon / to the weapon itself to make it useful?

Additional info:

The setting is medieval fantastic, basic firearms (black powder handgun/musquet) are available, but too expensive to see in extensive use.

Magic exists, and can be used to handwave some modification/element, but I'd like to keep it for specialized units.

The users are mercenaries, usually fighting against other mercenaries, sometimes against small detachment of professional army/wildlife.

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    $\begingroup$ What sort of conditions are you talking about? Fighting in close formation, or one-on-one? In large open areas or in city alleys? Against knights or peasants? If you want this weapon to excel in any arena, you're probably going to need a lot of different subtypes, and that would make your question much too broad to be sufficiently answerable. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ I would say they wouldn't be very effective against metal armour... Also, cheap? Really? I would have thought banging together and sharpening a metal stick would be a lot cheaper than having to create all those links and join them together $\endgroup$
    – komodosp
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ Look up "rope dart" in Wikipedia. This will lead to linked pages on a range of flexible weapons in traditional Chinese wushu styles. Some of the articles discuss technique, which should help you to work out what you want to do in your world. $\endgroup$
    – CAgrippa
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ Chains and belts are also in use as modern melee weapons by bikers, for example, although they are generally used like whips and without the style or fines of ancient Japanese and oriental schools. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ @DrakaSAN If your setting is medieval, there is no industrial production of chains. Which means each chain link of every chain in your world is hand crafted by a black-smith. Which means chains are pretty expensive and wouldn't be lying around in huge number to just "pick up" $\endgroup$
    – Falco
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 12:24

5 Answers 5


Chain weapons were popular in feudal Japan, including the manrikigusari and Kusari-fundo.

There are several schools of fighting based on the use of these weapons, which include blocking weapons and unarmed attacks, tripping opponents and even breaking opponents weapons by wrapping the chain around the blade or haft.

Additionally these weapons are actually very good at fighting multiple opponents (at least with training) as the wielder can spin the chain around them to create a hazardous zone into which opponents are unable to step without being struck.

As the original question is about fighting in formation the above 'circle of death' fighting style wouldn't really work. As far as I am aware, there are no historical fighting styles involving formation fighting with chains but a double-ranked formation could work, with each rank striking with their chain, falling back and the next rank striking while the first recoiled their weapons. In a way they could work like a spear formation, but with much more flexible spears.

Another formation would involve a front rank of shields forming a wall, with the chain users in the rank behind striking over and around the shieldwall.

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    $\begingroup$ was just writing this up. also take a look at the kusarigama, where one end is a sickle to fight with once the enemy is entangled $\endgroup$
    – Kys
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Kys Yup, see my link to Kusarigamajutsu $\endgroup$
    – evilscary
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ What I had in mind was more closer to the Meteor Hammer, but that style of fighting will be of huge use for what I need. $\endgroup$
    – DrakaSAN
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ @evilscary: the OP was talking about tight formations; are there combat styles that could accommodate those? I cannot think of a fighting style involving chains that would be practical in tight formations. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 8:14
  • $\begingroup$ @MatthieuM. edited my answer to include formation fighting $\endgroup$
    – evilscary
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 9:09

What you are describing is basically a chained mace.

And yes they were reasonably effective. Especially against armor. In many ways they would be used like a waraxe, in that you have a heavy head the is frightening to be in front of but can give time to get behind because of the weight and momentum in the head.

Likely it would take a bit of training to use it well in army combat, and not threaten or hurt your own troops.

Chained Mace

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    $\begingroup$ Better known as a flail $\endgroup$
    – evilscary
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ @evilscary the name "flail" is ambiguous, as there are several common variations, and many people associate it most with a weapon consisting of two sticks with a short length of chain, one of which may or may not have spikes. Also, a flail usually has a longer handle than the one pictured. "Mace-and-chain" is I think the best term to describe the weapon shown. $\endgroup$
    – Jules
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ Example of the types I describe: wulflund.com/weapons/axes-poleweapons/… or wulflund.com/weapons/axes-poleweapons/… - note that the handle in either case is much longer than the part that isn't held, which makes a critical difference in how you would use it... $\endgroup$
    – Jules
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ Also known as a morningstar $\endgroup$
    – Benubird
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ Chains are terrible weapons, just llke that flail was. Find an account of someone using this spiked ball thing. You can't, because they didn't. How is it better than a mace? It's not. Take the ball of and just use the chain? Against a man in armor? Hell no, They used flails, did the levies, on each other since they were wearing padded shirts. Also, a chain means you can't close ranks, why not use a sling? At least that way the guy you hit won't gut you in rage... $\endgroup$
    – chiggsy
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 20:58

Depending on the fighting style of your fighters, The Japanese and Chinese used chain weapons, Kusari Gama

Chain Whip

Chinese Meteor Hammer

These could be used in a similar fashion, but as westerner/medieval fighters, particularly barbarians, tend to be larger and more muscle bound than traditional japanese warriors, you could enlarge the chains, add very heavy weights on the end. The Meteor hammer in particular would be good for use in breaking shields, provided the weight was large enough/gentleman throwing it was strong enough.


War elephants John M. Kistler, page 216, says:`

In a 1659 battle, Mughal ruler Aurangzeb was confronted with three elephants, "each of them dashing about with his trunk a chain of two or three men's weight. https://books.google.com/books?id=Y0sqI1fxfnMC&pg=PA216&lpg=PA216&dq=elephants+using+chains+in+battle&source=bl&ots=zy9xJTLir1&sig=5IfD-dLNKoII0tpy7ZVz0MoP1vo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjSn--dqtrLAhVM2R4KHbybAAcQ6AEIMjAG#v=onepage&q=elephants%20using%20chains%20in%20battle&f=false[1]

Clearly chains can be very devastating if used with superhuman force. If your characters are of merely human strength you need to adapt chain weapons used by humans in historic times as mentioned by other answers.


They would be useless except against unarmed rabble and probably not even then, a club would be better.

Dual wielding poi's is ridiculous in a fight. Your moves are repetitive, constrained & predictable. Even a single would be better than dual wielding. At least then you can chop and change and use your free hand to shorten, lengthen or redirect. Dual wielding you cannot without tying your arms in knots.

Poi's were never supposed to be weapons or even based on weapons. They were for training wrist strength, flexibility, speed and coordination for club type weapons. Setting them on fire doesn't make a difference.


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