# How feasible would this weapon design be in the medieval era?

I want some of my elite troops to wield a special weapon. This essentially consists of a dagger-length blade attached to a steel cable/chain around four feet long. These weapons are used as both long range (swing it around until it gets some speed, than release it in an upward arc. Not great accuracy, but fairly good rate of fire and no need to carry a heavy bow around) and short range (longer reach than a sword, small slashing attacks to keep the enemy back and retain the momentum of the weapon).

How feasible would this be? If the weapon isn't feasible, how could it be changed to make it feasible (but still retain main characteristics). Also, what would the range be on the weapon when thrown?

I have decided to call the weapon a wireblade.

• Please comment on why you downvote. If you don't like something about my question, tell me, don't just downvote the question. That way I can actually fix it. Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 18:59

## 5 Answers

You are essentially talking about the Shoge, which was a dagger-like weapon on a rope.

Note that throwing knives are very difficult to master at various ranges, and using a swinging motion would be extremely difficult to master, and dangerous in a melee. This weapon could be feasible however in "ninja" type situations, where a few elite soldiers fight outside of any tightly packed fray.

A chain is not realistic as it would be too heavy, so change that up with thin rope.

More typically, flail like weapons used chains not for reach, but for force of impact.

Supposing a chain made out of mail-sized rings (0.01m with 0.0015m wire) would require $\frac{1}{0.007}\approx143$ rings per meter, which works out to about 0.05kg per meter. You could connect four chains together to prevent the links from being torn apart, for 0.2kg per meter. Not an insignificant weight, but might be doable. Such a chain wouldn't be extremely durable though.

• Thanks for the name of the weapon. I mostly wanted the chain for non-cuttableness, as it would enable the user to "tie up" opponent's weapon and use other Shoge to deliver kill strike. Maybe I could use a thin steel cable? I still think reach would be important, and I meant for these to be used by a small hit and run team, vastly outnumbered. The long range would mostly be used for attacks at large enemy marching lines. I have personal experience with a ball on rope concept flying fair distances. You would have little accuracy, but would just hit some random guy in the enemy army. Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 18:04
• @Gryphon Check my edit. Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 18:32
• Thanks for the edit. That is like maybe half a pound for the chain for each weapon, so I think the weight is definitely doable for transport purposes. I don't know about combat, but it should be easy to carry 5-6 of these weapons, as they would only weigh around 2 pounds at the most. Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 19:01

I don't see it as having an advantage over a spear. Launched, the weight of the chain wouldn't help the edge penetrate. Used as a reach weapon I don't think you could recover fast enough. The chain would be easy to tangle around the shaft of blade of any conventional weapon. At 4 feet it would be far harder to control than a morning star.

What would your wielder's respons be:

• To a man with a common 6' quarterstaff. You start spinning up, and he swings his staff at the chain.

• To a man with a javelin sized spear? His point is at your chest before you can reach his hands.

• To a man with a sword who knocks the first attempt out of the way, and takes out your liver while you are trying again.

• to a man even in boiled leather armour with short sword and shield.

Like nunchucks, this is a great weapon for the other guy to have.

As an exercise, make up a version using parachute cord and a chunk of dowel, and try using it. I suggest eye protection. For version 2, get lightweight chain and a kitchen knife with taped edges. I don't think this has the balance to hit point first. Two much is going to depend on the position and movement of the chain at the instant of release. I don't think it has the momentum to go up against even light armour.

Remember that even a thrown knife is hard to master, and I suspect rarely fatal. I think that going into battle with a dozen knives would be a better bet. (The precision demonstrations are with a fixed distance, and still target.)

• How about two, one for each hand. These guys are elites, so 2-3 years for them to train wouldn't be a total problem. This would help with the response time, as you could alternate strikes. Troops would be selected for dexterity and probably a certain level of ambitiousness would be required. Physical strength would not be a huge requirement. The big advantage these have compared to spears is weight. With a thin chain, you can easily carry 5-6, so multiple shots at range (to wound/delay?) and then close combat. You can't do that with a spear, it's to heavy to carry a lot of. Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 17:58
• Speers aren't that heavy for a trained soldier. It's a wooden shaft afterall. Moreover dual wielding isn't practical. We humans can only attack with one hand. Our brains can't attack with both while still remaining focussed. THe only practical use of dual wielding is one offensive and one defensive weapon. Sword, axe or spear and then paired with either a shield, parrying dagger or a buckler. You'd alternate between them depending if you're attaacking or blocking. Dual wielding them would not imporve their effectiveness. Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 0:14
• Yeah, one spear isn't that heavy, but 10-12 spears are. If you're going to throw your weapon, it needs to be light enough that you can easily carry replacements. Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 17:53
• Roman legionaires routinely carried 3 into battle. The spears had tips that were flattened very thin. They would stick into a shield, then bend so the length of the spear would flop about and get in the way. They were hard to extract. Spears generally were not a main combat weapon. They were used as preliminary weapons. Up close the gladius (short sword) and sheild were the primary weapons. Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 14:13
• @Mormacil I think your 'only attack with one hand' isn't quite right. I think you are correct that we can't attack effectively with two independent weapons. But two handed weapons were common: Bow, broadsword, quarterstaff, halberd, pike, Even so, it may be a matter of training. Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 14:17

These weapons exist but are not released totally, releasing a weapon means if you miss, the enemy has another weapon.

In practice they are not primary battle weapons, they are for specialised use or secondary weapons, much like a punch dagger is useless as a primary weapon, but has advantages in some situations. Unsuitable for elite troops because they don't have the intimidation factor of a large cut-you-in-half weapon or the versatility of conventional weapons to counter and block as well as attack. Their main advantage is being unusual and surprise in single combat situations.

To make it a more useful weapon you need the chain to release the blade and preferably have multiple blades or even a spiked ball. You would make it a brute force missile much like an Olympic hammer thrower and have big heavy men wielding it. Blocking one of those front on with a shield might result in a broken arm, without a shield you're toast, and having spikes it would sit on the battle field poking peoples feet. Even then it's not better than a javelin.

Realistically I think many weapons would be better than these however much training you had. A simple sling would be faster, more accurate, have more range and be more effective. One of the hardest bits of using knives such as throwing knives is you need to hit with the point on a certain angle for it to have any sort of penetration power. Hitting with any other part of the knife or the wrong angle and you wasted your shot.

I don't think it would work really well. I'm still going for the ten foot chain flails that are attached to the wrist but could be held farther down, to shorten the chain, make the flail heads have a hook, to use the weapon as a short grappling?

I like this concept for an extremely large elite troop member. The whole thing would be so heavy that when he got it up to speed the kinetic energy would be such that anything non fixed in the way would be unlikely to stop the motion of the chain and weighted blade.

Your dude would move like this guy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnHUAc20WEU except instead of that little hammer his apparatus would weigh about 200 lbs. The blade piece would be good because by cutting through as opposed to blunt force impact the kinetic energy would be maintained for the next time around.

The guy wielding this might get dizzy. Probably it would help to have a guy along with who could spot for him and yell directions. This guy would have to be short enough that the spinning device would go over him. One of those double amputees who move on a wheeled cart might serve. Or a little kid. Or just some guy who crawled really fast.

• Thanks for the idea. Maybe a heavier version for long range throwing? If the chain was long enough and spiked one of these could take down a lot of enemies at range. Close ranged would use a lighter, more mobile version in each hand with small darting strike forces. Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 23:22
• You could double up the chain and use it as a sling. Then you would not need to lose the whole weapon. Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 19:09
• Not a very effective sling, but maybe a plot point as an inventive character does so with his/her last weapon. Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 19:34