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I'm making a fantasy weapon, a spear with a thick, heavy tip.

I know that for a mace or sword that you slam down on your enemy, the weapon being heavier will give you more force, which is good for fighting armored opponents.

For a weapon that you thrust with, like a spear, does this extra heaviness on the tip help? What kind of battle is it best for, and what kind of user is most helped by it?

Furthermore, is there any historical version of this kind of weapon I could look at?

Edit: I imagined this weapon to be used to break infantry lines with shields, like a handheld battering ram perhaps, although I'm open to having it cut as well. The line-breaker aspect is my main focus though.

Edit: After having looked over all the answers I've decided to look over an alternate design with more versatility, and try to work the heavy aspect into it so it's more useful.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hello, and welcome to the site. Could you try formatting your post a little better? Paragraps are always a welcomed touch, but consider using lists as well. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jul 16 '16 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ Does it have to be just a thrusting weapon? Something like a pick or a halberd might make more sense if you want a heavy polearm. $\endgroup$ – ckersch Jul 16 '16 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure actually, I wanted to work from this old design of mine, which depicts a wide cone of sorts as the tip, it's possible that the edge could be used for slamming down with I suppose. $\endgroup$ – ArborianSerpent Jul 16 '16 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ Note that the trouble with using a spear as a battering ram is that it's difficult to make something stiff enough and strong enough for that purpose, and also light enough to use as a weapon otherwise. The tip has nothing to do with it if the shaft is already too heavy. Observe that the one- or two-person battering rams used by police to break down doors, they stand right up to the door and swing it close to their body. You can't hold that thing out in front of you. A cavalry lance is built at the limit of what you can manoeuvre, and that's while mounted. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Jul 17 '16 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ Oh yeah, and also if they've got spears too and you're charging them, then their spears can be braced better than yours. So that's not terribly much fun for you, especially if your spears also need to be shorter in order to give you the leverage you need to manoeuvre their heavy tip. I'm not saying you can't charge, just that you can't expect just to shove everything in front of you out of the way. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Jul 17 '16 at 13:23
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A heavy pole-arm used by infantry would be a sarissa.

It was an incredible 5 meters long and weighted about 6 kg. It had a sharp iron head shaped like a leaf and a balancing bronze butt-spike that would allow it to be anchored to the ground to stop charges by enemy soldiers.

It was an effective weapon, Alexander the Great conquered the known world with his Macedonian phalanxes using the sarissa.

Strong point was that all of the first three rows in the phalanx had the reach to engage the enemy. enter image description here

Weak points were the sarissa's tactical unwieldiness and the enormous amount of training required for it to become effective in battle. Lack of supporting units to protect from flank attacks and lack of training limited the use and in the end smaller weapons like the Roman pilum (javelin) and gladius (sword) replaced it.

Reference:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarissa

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think it'll need quite that reach, however it's helpful to know that you can in fact wield a massive weapon like that. $\endgroup$ – ArborianSerpent Jul 16 '16 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ Actually for versatility in the long and heavy category I think you'll want the halberd. The Swiss formed the earliest democracy with it because, on foot, on hilly ground you could thrash a knight in full armour with it. Both thrust and whack. $\endgroup$ – Bookeater Jul 16 '16 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ A cavalry variant was the Kontos (lit. barge pole), a very long spear used by Cataphracts and one that evolved from the Xyston used by Alexander's Hetairoi. The cataphract's lance was so effective that it could impale two Roman legionnaires with one charge. $\endgroup$ – Kys Jul 18 '16 at 17:36
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I'm coming from a Historic European Martial Arts (HEMA) perspective, with a dash of physics, and therefore consider myself only a minor authority in this topic.

Why Heavy Weapons?

Heavy weapons actually don't help you that much; as a person, you're going to put about the same energy into something no matter what. (This is just because your muscles can only give out so much power, and over the course of the swing you only have so much energy you can impart to your weapon.) Heaviness also helps prevent weapons from being deflected, which is a common occurrence. (This is where video-games get it wrong; your main defense with a weapon is the weapon itself!)

What does alter the use of a weapon has is it's weighting; swords which have their center of balance far from the hilt tend to be specialized in cutting, whereas those with the balance closer to the hilt tend to be for thrusting. This applies to most weapon in general; maces and axes are great for swinging around, not so much for thrusting. (You can still thrust with them, though, but with less efficacy.)

Your Weapon

Your weapon, however, is a spear-like polearm (or staff weapon). This means you have some advantages:

  • Staff weapons (or pole-arms) are great because you keep your opponent further away from you
  • The heavy head may let you cut better. Mr. Matt Easton, a HEMA authority, even talks about this. There is also the problem of exposing yourself when cutting, which Mr. Easton addresses.
  • A heavy head also does two things by virtue of it's increased inertia; it is harder to get the head moving (takes more effort to make it thrust) and it also makes it harder to deflect (which can be handy in a thrust).
  • The extra weight could help with busting through armor or shields without harming the weapon.
  • If you design the tip right, it can get lodged into shields! A shield with a heavy spear sticking out of it is a worthless one.

Who Can Benefit?

Well, a really strong person may as well try to use this on foot. Goliath and Ajax were both described as using very heavy spears, which made them more intimidating. Mounted individuals, who use the horse to accelerate their weapon, would really enjoy this, but then it's just a lance. Throwing this would be very hard, as it's much heavier, and you wouldn't get the distance you would otherwise enjoy from a thrown weapon.

Some Examples

  • Glaives; they are pole-arms which cut.
  • Boar Spears; they are a bit heavier to deal with the stress of hunting.

Consider Context

Since this is a fantasy weapon, you may want to consider what problem you are trying to solve with this. What is the weapon for? Why is this a better weapons than others? Is there an easier solution?

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  • $\begingroup$ I've edited my main post with the purpose I'd like for it. I also figured you'd need to be rather strong to use this weapon, though not so much horsemen, but it's still a WIP so maybe. Would it be a good weapon given the purpose I added in the main post? $\endgroup$ – ArborianSerpent Jul 16 '16 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ @ArborianSerpent Yes. I've added a point, but to notify you: sticking a heavy thing into a shield generally makes the shield useless. $\endgroup$ – PipperChip Jul 16 '16 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ Good, that's the point. Would it be better for the weapon to just make a large hole in the shield, or to lodge into it? $\endgroup$ – ArborianSerpent Jul 16 '16 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ "A shield with a heavy spear sticking out of it is a worthless one." - but so is the spear $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Jul 16 '16 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ Very loosely, the reason strong people can benefit from heavier weapons is that while "your muscles can only give out so much power" is true, they can also only move so fast. If the weapon is so light that you reach max speed too early, then you can't give it as much energy as you could a heavier weapon. That, and you're playing a game with momentum as well as energy. Small weapons might try to make up for this by being sharp enough to injure without much kinetic energy or momentum. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Jul 17 '16 at 12:58
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You're talking about a lance.

lance

Traditionally speaking, they were used from horseback and were too heavy to use on foot.

However, if you're designing a spear for footmen, a heavier tip would still be fine. People don't ONLY thrust with spears - they whack things with them too. So why wouldn't having a heavier tip help with that regard? Sure, the balance would be thrown off a bit but I don't see why you can't use it with proper training.

In your case, the extra weight on the tip would help if you're trying to hit someone over the head with the blade, but if you're thrusting with your arms it would just tire you out more. Instead, you could adopt the lance approach and sit on a horse. Since force is mass * acceleration, having the heavier tipped spear on a horse would help you to do more damage as a thrusting weapon, but then you have to ask yourself - why not just use a lance?

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  • $\begingroup$ I imagined the weapon as a line breaker used by a footsoldier, like a handheld battering ram perhaps, though it seems that this would be too heavy to use effectively, or is it? $\endgroup$ – ArborianSerpent Jul 16 '16 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ @ArborianSerpent Rams aren't pointed like a spear, usually, since rams are meant to break/push through and spears to pierce through. It would still be fine used by foot soldiers. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jul 16 '16 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ Well I figured it'd be some kind of hybrid between the too, if there's any extra efficiency to it. $\endgroup$ – ArborianSerpent Jul 16 '16 at 23:55
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A heavy thrusting weapon by itself really does not provide the ability to punch through shield walls as you seem to imply, and is quite limited otherwise.

The key issue is that foot soldiers have very limited strength, and will tire quickly in physical combat. The amount of mass that a soldier can carry and manipulate is (generally) limited to @1/3 of a soldier's body weight. The other issue is the amount of space needed to wield the weapon. If you are going to try and knock over an enemy soldier, you either need a "swing" to generate some momentum (in your case, only a straight "fore and aft" motion), or the ability to charge to impart your own momentum to the weapon. Even if your army is built like NFL running backs, you will discover it is rather difficult to bring down a man who is resisting you (especially with a straight push), and of course enemy tactics will adapt to negate your pushing attack.

enter image description here

Real life pole arms were designed to give the soldier several different options (the pike may be an exception, but pike squares were never left on their own, operating with other troops). A European halberd comes with a hook to drag a knight from his horse, a spear point to thrust (or use as a pike to repel a cavalry charge) and an axe head to smash through armour. The long reach and leverage permitted you to deal with enemy cavalry, as well as shield walls and armoured enemy soldiers on foot.

enter image description here

A glaive uses the leverage of the long handle to provide a much greater amount of power to a slashing attack, but since the blade is similar to a Katana, there is still the opportunity to thrust with it as well:

enter image description here

A Naginata is a more extreme version, being much lighter and faster than the Glaive, so the power of the attack is due to the energy of the swing, not the mass of the weapon. This also allows for faster thrusting and parrying as well.

enter image description here

So while your weapon may be somewhat useful, a weapon designed with a multitude of attack and defense modes will give the soldier greater flexibility and allow them to deal with a multitude of enemy attacks and defences.

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  • $\begingroup$ Suppose I design the weapon so that it can be used in slashing/smashing attacks, depending on if I make it blade- or mace-like, is there any reason to use it as a thrusting weapon as opposed to using a regular spear? $\endgroup$ – ArborianSerpent Jul 16 '16 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ The examples I provided all can be used as thrusting weapons if required, indeed almost every historic polearm could be used this way if the soldier desired and saw an opening which could not be addressed in any other way. Planting halberds with their butt ends on the ground and the spikes presented made an improvised "pike wall" to deter cavalry and infantry charges, for example, and stabbing the spike through gaps in the armour was a useful means of dispatching enemy knights and men at arms. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jul 17 '16 at 0:34
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A heavy tip does actually help with penetration vs a moving opponent.

If you hit someone with a spear, it doesn't automatically go right through them. You have to push it through with some force or momentum. It also rarely hits perfectly square. If you hit perfectly square, it matters little if the tip is heavy or not, you can just commit to the attack, and drive the attack home yourself.

We fight in a non-perfect world. No opponent stands there and gets hit square in the chest. They're dodging and weaving. Some of this dodging can be done while they are touching the spear. It may happen when the speartip strikes them, or it may be that they reached out to deflect the spear.

When they seek to deflect your spear, they have a simple goal. They need to change the line of motion of the spear such that it no longer goes through their body before the spear finishes its job. This can be done by moving the spear or by moving their body. Generally speaking, the spear is lighter weight, so it is typical to want to deflect the spear.

When they are deflecting the spear, you really can't do anything about it. You are too far away, with a long stick giving you horrible mechanical advantage. A skilled individual may be able to do clever tricks to overcome this, but for most people, the deflection of the spear is a 1 person game between the defender and the spear.

If the speartip is light weight, it takes little force to move it. If the speartip is heavy, it takes much more force to move it to a different line. This can be the difference between a hit and a miss.

At a more advanced level, a heavy speartip offers some interesting gambits. Because the spear will keep moving on its own after you stop pushing it (from its inertia), one may be able to stop pushing the strike a little sooner, and start claiming control of the stick earlier while the momentum of the spear continues to move it forward. However, this creates situations where the spear can overextend you, so those are more difficult to explore.

When exploring such advanced weapons, the momentum games are typically not analyzed to find the ideal balance. Instead, the weapons are used and fine tuned through experimentation and warfare. Whatever balance suits the combat style best is the one that is used.

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