ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Viking Weapons - Sword, Axe, Spear, and Shield, and Bow

Updated on January 14, 2015

Viking Weapons

The Vikings were among the most prolific warriors, traders, sailors, and explorers of the ancient world, and their weaponry while relatively simple was employed with brutal effectiveness. Using specific variations of the most common weapons of the day, the Vikings struck fear into their enemies and gained power and influence almost overnight.

Today, their influence can still be felt throughout the world in popular media, from television to video games. Here, we will take a look at the tools of the trade that made the Vikings one of the most influential forces of the ancient world.

Viking swords displayed at the Bergen Museum
Viking swords displayed at the Bergen Museum | Source

Ulfberht Swords

Exceptionally rare, about 171 Viking swords have been recovered bearing one variant or another of the name ULFBERHT. While most are suspected reproductions, some of these were crafted from what is known as crucible steel, an exceptionally high-quality steel high in carbon and with minimal impurities. Steel of this caliber would not be seen otherwise in Europe until the Industrial Age and made for a weapon vastly superior in performance to typical weapons of the day.

It is speculated that this steel was likely obtained in the Middle East by Viking traders, as nothing of similar composition has been found in Europe during the Viking Age.

Viking Swords

Double-edged and pattern welded with a soft steel core and hardened edges, the Viking Sword was a primary weapon employed not only by the Vikings but many European fighters of the time. With its fullered blade and heavy pommel, it was a well-balanced and relatively light blade capable of both slashing and thrusting actions. In the right hands, it was a weapon to be feared. Early designs had a single wide fuller (trench in the middle of the blade) while some later designs featured several smaller ones. Among Viking weapons, the sword was likely the most valued both as a weapon and a status symbol.

The blades were typically around 2 1/2 feet long and 2 inches wide (on average for both measurements) with a smooth taper at the edge. They were designed for use with one hand, typically in conjunction with a shield.

Viking swords were, according to evidence, rare. Given the difficulty in the crafting of a quality sword, they were expensive commodities that most simply could not afford. Those who did own swords cared for them carefully and passed them down from generation to generation.

Viking Axe Heads
Viking Axe Heads

Viking Axe

All but synonymous with Vikings, the axe was among the most commonly used weapons by the Vikings, largely because they were relatively cheap and quite effective. A variety of shapes and designs exist, both in one- and two-handed varieties. Common to nearly all, however, was a tapered blade with horns at both the top and bottom of the edge.

The cutting surface was typically up to 12 inches, with about a 3 foot haft (handle) for the single-handed variety, and two-handed axes were known to have hafts of up to five and a half feet.

Fairly lightweight and well-balanced, the Viking Axe was not a brutish weapon at all but in fact a quick, capable tool and extremely effective in the right hands. In addition to the obvious offensive use, the top horn on the blade was reportedly used as a thrusting point and the lower horn could be used to hook an opponent's shield or limbs.


Viking Spears

Probably the most widely used weapon in the Viking Age, the spear is also one of the most ancient weapons employed by man. A long, straight shaft with a leaf-shaped socketed head, there is sadly little evidence as to the average length of the Viking spear, and with a huge variance in the length of the heads (anywhere from 8 inches to 2 feet), it is difficult to specular with any accuracy.

Not only a thrown weapon, the spear was also employed in close-combat by many warriors of the era. Evidence suggests that the most common use was, in fact, as a thrusting weapon used to attack opponents at a safe distance

Reproduction Viking Shield
Reproduction Viking Shield | Source

Viking Shields

Viking shields were round, constructed from lighter varieties of wood (such as fir and pine) with a diameter of about three feet, though some artifacts were much smaller. Gripped in the center behind an iron boss, the Viking shield was most likely lined with leather on the edges to prevent splintering and to better secure the planks. Additionally these shields were often painted, occasionally with elaborate decorative designs, though most frequently with one or two colors.

Formation fighting was common with Vikings, frequently in the form of the skjaldborg (shield fort) which is comparable to the Greek Phalanx.

Viking Bow

Constructed of yew, ash, or elm and ranging from 60 to 80 inches in length, the Viking bow was typical of European longbows of the era. Simple and effective in design with a range of roughly 600 feet, these bows were used for both hunting and warfare. Arrows would have most likely been roughly two and a half feet long with a variety of heads for both hunting and warfare.

What would be your weapon of choice?

See results

Note from the author

There were almost certainly many more weapons employed by the Vikings than these few listed here. I've chosen these only because they are the most commonly employed based on historical and literary evidence.

I hope you enjoyed reading, and as always feel free to track me down on Facebook, or visit my home page for more information on ways people kill people.

© 2013 JG11Bravo


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • JG11Bravo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Thank you!

    • Anate profile image

      Joseph Ray 

      5 years ago

      This was awesome hub.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)