Viking Age Arms and Armor

Comparatively little is known about Viking age weapons, and even less is known about how the weapons were used. This limited knowledge is due to the limited sources we have available for the study of Viking age weapons and their use. This series of interlinked articles summarizes what is known about the weapons and speculates about how the weapons might have been used.

  Introduction to Viking Age Arms and Armor


Virtually every free man owned and carried a weapon and was familiar with its use.

Available Sources of Information

There are four main sources of information on Viking age weapons and techniques...

The Shape of Viking Combat

The shape of combat describes the nature of the fight...



Defensive Armor

Viking Shields

The shield is the primary defensive weapon...

Viking Helmets

Viking age helmets were simple: a bowl, a prominent nose guard, and no horns...

Viking Mail

Mail was highly desirable, but it must have been exceedingly rare in the Viking age...

Other Viking Defensive Armor

Some unexpected items were pressed into service for defense...



Offensive Arms

Viking Swords

The sword was the most desirable weapon in the Viking age...

Viking Saxes

The sax is a short, single-edged sword, used primarily in the early part of the Viking age...

Viking Spears

The spear was probably the most common Viking age weapon...

Viking Axe

Rather than being crude and slow, Viking age axes were light, fast, well-balanced, and capable of many nasty tricks...

Viking Bow and Arrow

The bow and arrow were used for hunting, but not normally for fighting...

Other Viking Offensive Arms

A variety of other weapons are mentioned in the stories, but we don't know what they were...

The effects of these weapons on flesh and bone have been documented in a Hurstwic Viking Weapon Test Cuts video on YouTube.

These articles on Viking weapons have been updated and greatly expanded into a book, Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques published by Westholme Publishing. The book is now out-of-print but may be available from your favorite bookseller.

Our Viking combat training approach is taught in a series of training DVDs, Hurstwic® Viking Combat Training Volume 1: Fundamentals of Viking Training, Hurstwic® Viking Combat Training Volume 2: Advanced Viking Training, and Hurstwic® Viking Combat Training: Fighting Moves from the Sagas. The DVDs are now available from Hurstwic, LLC and other merchants.

Our research and practice of the fighting moves of the Viking-age warrior continues at Hurstwic's dedicated training facility. Please join us in our training!

A complete list of references to arms, armor, and combat in the Icelandic sagas is available for downloading from the Hurstwic library.

Hurstwic Viking combat training DVDs


1999-2014 William R. Short
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