Reply
Thread Tools Display Modes
#1
Old 01-27-2011, 12:41 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Posts: 3,065
Trident or Pitchfork -- Practical "Medieval-Type" Weapon

How practical would a trident or pitchfork be as a medieval polearm?

I would think that a regular spear would be better than something with multiple points. It seems to me that extra points on a trident/pitchfork would make the thing that much harder to withdraw from a skewered opponent, leaving you vulnerable to his allies. But perhaps I am missing some advantages, such as parrying capabilities.

So, what do you guys think? Any opinions and information would be appreciated, as always!
#2
Old 01-27-2011, 12:51 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Posts: 12,121
There are two kinds of "spears," throwing spears and sticking spears (pikes). Obviously, throwing spears had to be lighter and disposable, so a trident is out.

Next, a pike is used to open the other fellow's guts. This is best done with a piercing wound (slashes are scary but less deadly). For that you need a single pikehead. A trident does not really increase your possibility of a hit, but it does divide your available umph from a single wound to one really nasty one.

So put tridents in the category of cool-looking but not too practical.
#3
Old 01-27-2011, 12:52 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: East TN Mtns USA,NA,Sol3
Posts: 4,101
The Roman gladiator known as a Retiarius used a weighted net and a trident in opposition to a gladius wielding Secutor in gladiatorial competition.
If the trident had its prongs closely spaced, a skilled wielder could use it as a sword-catcher.
But, as you said, withdrawing it after successful deployment could prove to be problematic.
#4
Old 01-27-2011, 12:53 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2000
Posts: 7,788
Not the only factor. Even if it isn't as good as some other weapons, a pitchfork is ostensibly a tool, not a weapon. It works fairly well as a weapon, though, and you may be allowed to have one, although actual weapons are proscribed to you. A peasant with a pitchfork may not be as lethal as a trained soldier with a sword, but could still be dangerous.
#5
Old 01-27-2011, 01:08 PM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 3,940
i think the benefits of 1 spike vs 3 are so marginal, that it's hardly worth considering. it might take you an extra second to pull the pitchfork out but... this is battle - not a carefully choreographed kung fu movie. a medieval lord shouldn't be trying to maximizing every second out of his peasants but rather making sure he's got more peasants than the other guy.
#6
Old 01-27-2011, 01:27 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tel Aviv
Posts: 22,427
Allow me to introduce... the ranseur.
#7
Old 01-27-2011, 01:39 PM
Guest
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 3,736
I'm fairly sure the trident has 3 points because it was designed to catch fish. In that context, 3 points = 3 chances of a hit, quite an improvement when the refractive index of water is messing up your aim.
#8
Old 01-28-2011, 01:59 AM
Guest
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Paris, France
Posts: 16,536
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alessan View Post
Allow me to introduce... the ranseur.
Invader at your door ? Not enough pitchforks for everyone ? Look no further than the scythe for all your improvised gruesome disembowelment purposes.

ETA: peasants in general often stuck a haft on any sharp or hooked piece of metal they could find, too. Butcher cleavers, pruning hooks, plain old hammers... Stick it on a spear shaft, it's a dangerous weapon.

Last edited by Kobal2; 01-28-2011 at 02:01 AM.
#9
Old 01-28-2011, 05:58 AM
Guest
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Europe
Posts: 5,142
When attacking with a sword, a fork can more easily parry the blow by catching the blade between the tines. The fork's handle can then be twisted to wrench the sword from the opponent's grasp, thus disarming him. This can't be done so easily with a spear, as there's no place to rest and lever the sword blade.
#10
Old 01-28-2011, 07:45 AM
Member
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 41,658
Quote:
I'm fairly sure the trident has 3 points because it was designed to catch fish. In that context, 3 points = 3 chances of a hit, quite an improvement when the refractive index of water is messing up your aim.
You're right about the origin (and it's pretty clear that the Retiarius mentioned above was equipped with a net as well because he was sort of a "fisherman" -- kinda like themed wrestlers), but I don't think the three tines of a trident are intended to compensate for refractive index -- they're too close together for that to make a significant difference, and the tridents you buy today in diving shops still have three tiners, and are intended for solely underwater use, where refraction isn't an issue.

In investigating something else, I obtained a modern trident and experimented with it. I'm convinced that the three (barbed) tines are meant to increase the likelihood that anything speared with it will stick in the times, rather than slipping off. This is even more clear in the case of very early fishing spears, which often had two times, splayed outwards. Even in the absence of barbs they would then to splay outwards and hold the fish, once speared. Adding barbs and a central point only helps.


All of this is directly relevant to using the trident as a medieval (or any period) weapon against people -- it's not a good idea to use a weapon in battle whose chief feature is that it sticks in place and is hard to extract. A gladiator in single combat could get away with that, and use it to his advantage -- he's only got one opponent. But if you're facing an army, it's not a good idea to use a weapon that will get stuck and be hard to pull out when a second guy is coming at you with his own spear.
#11
Old 01-28-2011, 12:53 PM
Guest
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 8,867
No polearm or spear is really a very good weapon for 1-1 fighting. Not compared to a sword and shield, anyway. However, polearms were so useful in the medieval periods because of formations. Three or more ranks of solders could all effectively fight at once, and they could prevent an enemy from even getting within striking distance. Pikes became a necessary response to cavalry.

In that context, pitchforks and tridents lack the practical length of a polearm, but they're still longer than a sword and might allow two ranks to fight together. If all you need is enough peasants to keep the cavalry from flanking you, that might be enough - they don't even have to kill anyone if they can hold the line.
#12
Old 01-28-2011, 01:13 PM
Guest
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Northumbria
Posts: 2,644
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
ETA: peasants in general often stuck a haft on any sharp or hooked piece of metal they could find, too. Butcher cleavers, pruning hooks, plain old hammers... Stick it on a spear shaft, it's a dangerous weapon.
Which is probably why English armies for centuries used Bills as polearms. Every farm labourer had a billhook (and anyone with a billhook can use it to make a nice long pole to stick it on). Extra spikes and hooks add functionality, but any village blacksmith could weld those on for you.
#13
Old 01-28-2011, 01:21 PM
The Turtle Moves!
Charter Member
Join Date: May 2003
Location: SoCal
Posts: 48,564
Pitchforks and tridents have one overwhelming advantage - the peasants who make up the majority of your army will own them already, and be very skilled in their use.
#14
Old 01-28-2011, 01:39 PM
Guest
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cape Town, South Africa &
Posts: 21,445
Perhaps a look at actual military forks might help? Apparently most useful for unhorsing knights and in sieges.
#15
Old 01-28-2011, 04:45 PM
Guest
Join Date: May 2003
Location: NJ
Posts: 8,054
Any weapon that gives you the advantage of reach is superior.

Obviously a specialized weapon like a polearm would be preferable when dealing with an opponent than an improvised one like the trident.

The question was: "How efficient a polearm would a trident be". Well, polearms were built for various uses. I can definitely being helpful against calvary, assuming a good length, strong haft. There also better be a large group of you holding them too.

Against armor, which is what the polearm and spear were most effective at countering, I think the three prongs would be a disservice against someone hefting a more specialized weapon.
#16
Old 01-28-2011, 04:49 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tel Aviv
Posts: 22,427
Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoi View Post
No polearm or spear is really a very good weapon for 1-1 fighting. Not compared to a sword and shield, anyway. However, polearms were so useful in the medieval periods because of formations. Three or more ranks of solders could all effectively fight at once, and they could prevent an enemy from even getting within striking distance. Pikes became a necessary response to cavalry.
.
That's not entirely true. Some of the later polearms, like the halberd or the bec de corbin, were quite efficient in 1-on-1 fighting. The latter in particular was essentially a stylized can opener designed to crack open plate armor.
#17
Old 01-28-2011, 05:45 PM
Guest
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: ... hiding in my room ...
Posts: 4,100
Better late than never.

Some personal background, I made my first spear when I was 14 and spent some 10 years making "medieval" weapons sold at SCA events and renfaires. Yeah, yeah, our stuff was combat capable live steel. So I've spent some years "playing" with them and considering the finer points of their construction. Armor presents challenges for both single bladed and multi tined weapons, so I'm going to ignore some of the finer points in wielding weapons in armored combat.

There's no small amount of repurposing farming tools and hunting weapons into weapons of war and visa-versa.
Couple of examples;
This is a boar/bear spear, two "lugs" or "wings" on the socket behind the blade act as a barrier to prevent a boar/bear from working its way up the shaft of the spear to attack the hunter. (IIUC it's a lot more common for the boar to run into the spear than the spear to be run through the boar!)
This is a winged spear, the "wings" can be used to hook shields out of the way, as well as preventing a spear thrust from going too far into a victim (particularly a charging horse), thus making it easier to quickly withdraw and less likely to break or be broken.
Yeah, it's the exact same spear. Those "lugs/wings" evolve into more specialized weapons; forward facing for pushing and weapon trapping like ranseurs, backward facing for pulling like the corseque and dismounting horsemen like the guisarme.

Same with fishing tridents and gigs and military tridents and forks.
(For simplicity sake I'm going to call any heavy, two, three or more tined, long shafted weapons, forks and any light, two, three or more tined, long shafted weapons, gigs. Both gigs and forks can be barbed or unbarbed.)

You can kill someone with a gig, but it's a lousy weapon. In theory, the dimensions of the gig should to be tuned to the size of the prey you're after. Ideally, the tines (preferably barbed) should be no farther apart than the smallest cross section of the prey. That way a bad thrust that catches prey between the tines will still trap it between the barbs. Practically, it should be sized according to the most common sized prey you're after. Bigger ain't gonna catch little critters, smaller at least gives you a chance to land the big ones. Forks benefit from being reasonably larger. In many ways they're spears with an extra "to hit roll". I'm guessing that's why the trident here doesn't have straight outer tines. The curve lets an off hit be redirected deeper into the body increasing lethality.

Spears and forks can be tricky weapons to use. The biggest problem is the target area of choice, the torso. Ideally you want to target the lower abdomen, 'cause there's nothing to stop the thrust. Everywhere else you have to get past the ribs. Hitting one will probably break it but, there's no guaranty the thrust will penetrate any deeper, and every tine increases the chances of "fouling" a rib. Generally you want to align the weapon head so it's parallel to the ribs, this is easy to do with a little wrist action, and hope to hit the intercostal spaces between the ribs. A good thrust, even with the head at a right angle to the ribs, in the intercostal space will spread the ribs. The problem is if you don't break one of the ribs, the ribs will return to their original position potentially trapping your weapon. This problem is amplified by barbs. They're great at pulling out guts in an abdominal thrust, they suck everywhere else.

Polearms are difficult in single combat. If you can maintain your range advantage, your opponent can't do much to you. If they get "inside" your weapon, and you haven't learned how to use the polearm at close quarters, you're dead.
In massed combat forks can get interesting, not as a primary combatant's weapon but "for the assist". There are lots of opportunities to "fork" a foot or leg limiting movement or pinning an arm to the body. Those kinds of strikes take advantage of the fork's multiple tines.

CMC fnord!
#18
Old 01-28-2011, 07:29 PM
Guest
Join Date: May 2003
Location: NJ
Posts: 8,054
Well, why would the polearm user not know how to use the weapon in close quarters? You don't know how to use the weapon, unless you know how to use it in both cases. All fights will move from long to close play as the fight unfolds.

Also, the target of a spear, is any part of your body. The face, specially is a good target as are the areas under your arms, and your legs (depending on armor).
#19
Old 01-28-2011, 11:11 PM
Guest
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: ... hiding in my room ...
Posts: 4,100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kinthalis View Post
Well, why would the polearm user not know how to use the weapon in close quarters? You don't know how to use the weapon, unless you know how to use it in both cases. All fights will move from long to close play as the fight unfolds. ...
I'm thinking about differences in levels of training. The difference between a well schooled soldier and WotNot's farm laborer with a billhook on a pole.
E.G. Everybody knows you hold the dull round of the sword and hit with the long sharp end, not everybody knows about techniques like half-swording and mordstreich!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kinthalis View Post
... Also, the target of a spear, is any part of your body. The face, specially is a good target as are the areas under your arms, and your legs (depending on armor).
As a big fan of the spear I couldn't agree more. My post was far, far from a detailed (or seriously learned ) treatise on the polearm, just some observations from someone who's played with them.

CMC fnord!
#20
Old 01-29-2011, 01:50 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Posts: 3,065
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrDibble View Post
Perhaps a look at actual military forks might help? Apparently most useful for unhorsing knights and in sieges.

The military fork that you referenced was actually what I was thinking about when I stated the thread. I should have specified "military fork", instead of the regular agricultural pitchfork that it evolved from.
#21
Old 01-29-2011, 01:53 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Posts: 3,065
Quote:
Originally Posted by crowmanyclouds View Post
Some personal background, I made my first spear when I was 14 and spent some 10 years making "medieval" weapons sold at SCA events and renfaires. Yeah, yeah, our stuff was combat capable live steel. So I've spent some years "playing" with them and considering the finer points of their construction. Armor presents challenges for both single bladed and multi tined weapons, so I'm going to ignore some of the finer points in wielding weapons in armored combat.

There's no small amount of repurposing farming tools and hunting weapons into weapons of war and visa-versa.
Couple of examples;
This is a boar/bear spear, two "lugs" or "wings" on the socket behind the blade act as a barrier to prevent a boar/bear from working its way up the shaft of the spear to attack the hunter. (IIUC it's a lot more common for the boar to run into the spear than the spear to be run through the boar!)
This is a winged spear, the "wings" can be used to hook shields out of the way, as well as preventing a spear thrust from going too far into a victim (particularly a charging horse), thus making it easier to quickly withdraw and less likely to break or be broken.
Yeah, it's the exact same spear. Those "lugs/wings" evolve into more specialized weapons; forward facing for pushing and weapon trapping like ranseurs, backward facing for pulling like the corseque and dismounting horsemen like the guisarme.

Same with fishing tridents and gigs and military tridents and forks.
(For simplicity sake I'm going to call any heavy, two, three or more tined, long shafted weapons, forks and any light, two, three or more tined, long shafted weapons, gigs. Both gigs and forks can be barbed or unbarbed.)

You can kill someone with a gig, but it's a lousy weapon. In theory, the dimensions of the gig should to be tuned to the size of the prey you're after. Ideally, the tines (preferably barbed) should be no farther apart than the smallest cross section of the prey. That way a bad thrust that catches prey between the tines will still trap it between the barbs. Practically, it should be sized according to the most common sized prey you're after. Bigger ain't gonna catch little critters, smaller at least gives you a chance to land the big ones. Forks benefit from being reasonably larger. In many ways they're spears with an extra "to hit roll". I'm guessing that's why the trident here doesn't have straight outer tines. The curve lets an off hit be redirected deeper into the body increasing lethality.

Spears and forks can be tricky weapons to use. The biggest problem is the target area of choice, the torso. Ideally you want to target the lower abdomen, 'cause there's nothing to stop the thrust. Everywhere else you have to get past the ribs. Hitting one will probably break it but, there's no guaranty the thrust will penetrate any deeper, and every tine increases the chances of "fouling" a rib. Generally you want to align the weapon head so it's parallel to the ribs, this is easy to do with a little wrist action, and hope to hit the intercostal spaces between the ribs. A good thrust, even with the head at a right angle to the ribs, in the intercostal space will spread the ribs. The problem is if you don't break one of the ribs, the ribs will return to their original position potentially trapping your weapon. This problem is amplified by barbs. They're great at pulling out guts in an abdominal thrust, they suck everywhere else.

Polearms are difficult in single combat. If you can maintain your range advantage, your opponent can't do much to you. If they get "inside" your weapon, and you haven't learned how to use the polearm at close quarters, you're dead.
In massed combat forks can get interesting, not as a primary combatant's weapon but "for the assist". There are lots of opportunities to "fork" a foot or leg limiting movement or pinning an arm to the body. Those kinds of strikes take advantage of the fork's multiple tines.

CMC fnord!


Now that is an extremely informative reply. Interesting! Thanks very much.
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:24 AM.

Copyright © 2017
Best Topics: godparents rights fireman trampoline vlookup value error dishwashers hands topless bars houston perspirex walgreens optimum antonym mulders father oil for shredders tinfoil windows 50 16 glasses eating pancreas gimp pulp guitar neck repair zucchini peel letterman jewish uranium wedding band pseudoephedrine buy orin incandenza mutant level butter for burns mash winchester kimchi pots big love nicki define gattaca jfk fdr snot vacuum pre op trannies asian fingers medical abbreviations hx kamel reds cigarettes what continent is hawaii d&d 3.5 tier list how much hummus per person what happened to mercurochrome windex on car windshield small mole removal cost 2 hr parking sign how much free time do you have in the army brother printer is printing blank pages world war 2 minesweepers which engineering major is the easiest cost to replace oil pan gasket tool to cut metal pipe leather jacket alterations cost strong garlic smell in house amazon out of stock items cox gigablast commercial song mosin nagant serial numbers database what soda to mix with crown royal panasonic carbon zinc battery how old to go to stripclub acceptable forms of id to cash a check fastest way to bleed out can you leave a tip on a gift card harbor freight trailer hub assembly when did the british royal family lose power what is rko stand for meaning of the name sherlock adobe flash player password mac return to sender postage due leaving cats for a week second layer of shingles can you get high on sudafed hells angels nomads ca mr first name or last name