Viking Battle Axes

Viking battle scene with axes
Vikings fighting with battle axes

Viking Battle Axes Introduction

The Viking axe (sometimes spelled ax) was one of the most common weapons used by the ancient medieval Norse warriors. The Middle Age Norsemen used two basic types of axes as weapons, the hand axe and the long axe.

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When going off to war most Vikings of the early Middle Ages could not afford a weapon made specifically for battle, like a sword. They would often grab the same axe they used for woodcutting to serve as their weapon. This is especially true in the early Viking age. The hand axe was certainly not a very glamorous weapon. It was however, a very effective and deadly weapon. Skilled warriors could turn an opponents shield into splinters with their hand axe and easily kill them in close combat. Although effective the every day hand axe was not an ideal weapon. It was built for cutting logs and trees and therefore had to be heavy. A much lighter weapon could be used for hacking opponents. Lighter weapons were easier to maneuver with in battle and repeated swings would not tire the warrior as quickly.

As the Viking Age progressed and the Norse warriors became more successful, and therefore wealthier, they built battle axes which were specifically made for war.

Viking Battle Axes

As mentioned earlier there were two basic types of axes used by the medieval Scandinavian warriors, the hand axe and the long axe. However, within these two types there were many variations some of which are listed below. It should be noted that no where in our list of battle axe types and features will you find the famed Viking double axe mentioned. Many popular images of Vikings show them storming villages in horned helmets and holding double bladed axes. These images are not historically correct. There is no archaeological evidence or historic documentation that the Norse warriors ever wore horned helmets or used double bladed axes.

Viking Battle Axe Main Types

Hand Axe (Hand Ax)

Most Viking axes that have been unearthed have a single blade and look like wood cutting axes. However the Vikings, over time, did improve the hand axe for fighting. They made lighter weapons with bigger wider blades. They added a hook to the lower end of the blade which could be used to hook the enemies shield. The hand axe had some advantages over long axes; they could be wielded with one hand allowing for the use of another weapon or for use of a shield for protection. A hand axe could be hidden behind a shield and then used to surprise an enemy thinking he is fighting an unarmed opponent.

Long Axe

Long axe (long ax) were always made specifically for battle. They were usually three to five feet long (.9 meters to 1.5 meters). These weapons could be used to hack an opponent from a safer distance than the hand axe. They were light and maneuverable with big wide blades. One disadvantage of the long axe as opposed to the hand axe was that two hands were required to swing it. This meant that the Viking warrior would not be able to hold a shield at the same time, leaving him vulnerable.