Axes and Arrows: The Key Weapons of Viking Warriors

Axes and Arrows: The Key Weapons of Viking Warriors

When you think of Viking warriors, the image of fierce, axe-wielding men might come to mind. And while the reality of Viking warfare was more complex than that, there’s no denying that Viking weapons played a crucial role in their military tactics. From the mighty axe to the nimble arrow, Viking warriors utilized a variety of weapons to conquer their foes on land and sea.

In this article, we will explore the primary weapons used by Viking warriors and delve into their significance in Viking warfare. Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious about what weapons Vikings used, this article will provide an in-depth look at the tools of Viking warfare.

Key Takeaways:

  • Viking warriors utilized a variety of weapons in their military tactics, including axes, arrows, spears, swords, shields, maces, war hammers, slings, throwing axes, helmets, armor, and naval weapons.
  • Axes were a symbol of Viking power, with different types of Viking battle axes designed for specific purposes.
  • Archery was significant in Viking warfare and used for both offense and defense.
  • Swords were the weapon of choice for elite Viking warriors in close combat.
  • The Viking shield played a crucial role as both a defensive and offensive tool in battle.

Viking Axes: A Symbol of Power and Precision

When we think of Viking weapons, the image of a battle axe is often the first that comes to mind. From the seax, a single-handed axe used for both everyday tasks and combat, to the mighty Dane axe, a two-handed weapon measuring up to 6 feet long, Viking axes were crucial to the success of Viking warriors in battle. These axes varied in design, with some having slender blades for precision, while others had wider blades for greater impact. But regardless of their style, all Viking axes were renowned for their deadly efficiency.

The Viking battle axe was not just a tool of war, but also a symbol of power and status. Some axes were decorated with intricate designs, symbolizing the wealth and prestige of their owner. Others had religious symbols carved into them, representing the Viking belief in the power of their gods in battle. Overall, Viking axes were a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of Viking weapon designers and blacksmiths.

In battle, Viking warriors would often wield their axes with one hand, while carrying a shield in the other. This allowed them to quickly switch between offense and defense, using the axe for powerful strikes and the shield for protection. Alternatively, some warriors would wield a Dane axe with both hands, using its weight and reach to target multiple opponents at once.

Overall, the Viking battle axe was a weapon of precision and power, designed for maximum impact on the battlefield. From the intricately designed seax to the mighty Dane axe, Viking axes were a testament to the importance of weaponry in Viking culture.

From Bow to Arrow: Viking Archery Techniques

Although Vikings were known for their fierce close combat, they were also skilled archers. Viking bows, particularly longbows, were made from materials such as yew and had a range of up to 250 meters. Archers were often positioned behind shield walls, unleashing a hail of arrows on their enemies.

The use of bows in Viking warfare was not just for long-range attacks. Archers were also adept at firing arrows at a steep angle, allowing them to hit targets behind enemy defenses. This was a particularly effective tactic during sieges, where enemies would be protected behind walls or barricades.

Viking archers were trained to shoot their arrows quickly and accurately, enabling them to fire multiple arrows in rapid succession. They were also skilled at firing arrows on the move, making them a formidable force on the battlefield. Viking archers often carried a quiver of arrows on their back, allowing them to replenish their supply as needed.

Longbows were the most common type of bow used by Vikings, but they also used smaller bows for hunting and skirmishes. These smaller bows were less powerful but more maneuverable, allowing archers to fire more quickly and accurately in close combat.

Overall, archery played a significant role in Viking warfare and was an integral part of their military strategy. Their proficiency with the bow allowed them to dominate their enemies from a distance, complementing their deadly skills in close combat.

Viking Longbows

Viking longbows were a crucial component of Viking archery. They were typically made from a single piece of yew, which was prized for its strength and flexibility. The bowstring was made from animal gut, usually from a deer or cow.

Viking longbows could take years to make, as the wood needed to be aged and seasoned before it could be carved into shape. The finished bow could be up to six feet long, enabling archers to fire arrows over long distances.

Longbow archers were often positioned behind shield walls, allowing them to rain arrows down on their enemies while remaining protected. The longbow’s ability to shoot arrows at a steep angle was also valuable during sieges, where archers could fire arrows over walls and other defenses.

Due to their length, longbows required a significant amount of strength to wield. Viking archers were trained from a young age to develop the strength and dexterity needed to use a longbow effectively.

Viking longbows were a vital weapon in Viking warfare, allowing archers to strike their enemies from a distance and disrupt their defenses.

The Spear: Versatile Weapon of the Viking Warriors

As a Viking warrior, you would be intimately familiar with the spear. It was a weapon that was versatile, functional, and deadly in the hands of a skilled fighter. In fact, the spear was so important to Viking warfare that it was a common weapon used by infantry soldiers both on land and at sea.

Viking spears were usually made from ash wood, a material that provided both strength and flexibility. The spearheads were made from iron and could be designed for a variety of purposes. Some Viking spears had narrow points designed for thrusting and penetration, while others had broader, bladed tips that were used for cutting and slashing.

One of the most significant advantages of the Viking spear was its length. It was typically around six to seven feet long, providing the warrior with a long reach that could keep enemies at bay while still allowing for precision strikes. This was particularly useful in large-scale battles, where the ability to keep a safe distance from the enemy was crucial.

The Different Types of Spearheads

Viking spearheads came in a variety of designs, each with its own specific purpose. Some of the most common types of spearheads included:

Type of Spearhead Purpose
Gae Bolga Ancient Irish spearhead design used for piercing and creating wide wounds
Boar Spear Used for hunting larger animals and as an anti-cavalry weapon
Leaf Blade Spear Designed for thrusting and slashing
Bardiche Spear A longer spear used by infantry soldiers against mounted enemies.

The different types of spearheads allowed Viking warriors to customize their weapons for the specific battle situation, giving them an edge in combat.

The Significance of the Spear in Viking Warfare

Viking spears were so significant in Viking warfare that they were often used in combination with other weapons. For instance, a Viking warrior might use a shield to protect themselves while thrusting with their spear, or they might wield an axe in their other hand to deliver a finishing blow after weakening the enemy with the spear.

The versatility of the spear made it a weapon that could be used by warriors of all levels of skill and experience. Even less experienced warriors could be trained to use a spear effectively, making it a weapon that was accessible to the entire Viking army.

Overall, the spear was a weapon that was critical to Viking success on the battlefield. Its versatility, length, and ease of use made it a weapon that could be used in a variety of situations, making it one of the most important weapons in Viking warfare.

Swords: The Weapon of Elite Viking Warriors

When it comes to Viking weapons, swords are arguably the most iconic and well-known. These weapons were reserved for the elite of Viking society, such as high-ranking warriors and chieftains. The craftsmanship of a Viking sword was a thing of beauty, with intricate designs etched into the blade.

Viking sword fighting techniques were honed by the elite warriors who wielded them. The sword was used for close combat, with the warrior using slashing and thrusting motions to inflict damage on their opponent.

The design of the Viking sword made it a deadly weapon. The double-edged blade allowed for versatility in combat, while the hilt had a cross-guard to protect the hands of the wielder. The pommel at the end of the hilt could also be used as a blunt force weapon if the need arose.

While swords were highly valued among Viking warriors, they were not as commonly used as other weapons like axes and spears. However, the sight of a Viking warrior brandishing a sword was enough to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.

The Shield: Defense and Offense in Viking Warfare

One of the most crucial weapons in a Viking warrior’s arsenal was their shield. Viking shields were made from wood, often reinforced with iron or leather. Measuring up to three feet in diameter, they were designed to provide protection in close combat while also being used for offensive purposes.

Viking warriors would often form a shield wall, a tight formation of overlapping shields that made it nearly impenetrable. The shield wall was an effective defensive strategy that allowed the Vikings to advance on their enemies, using their shields as cover while attacking with their weapons.

Viking Shield Formations

The Viking shield wall was a well-organized formation that required discipline and coordination among the warriors. The first row of warriors would hold their shields straight ahead, while the second and third rows would angle their shields to provide additional protection against incoming attacks from above and the sides.

If a shield wall were to be breached, the warriors in the second and third rows would move forward, closing the gap and strengthening the defense. In open-field battles, the Vikings would use their mobility to outflank their enemies, attacking them from the sides or rear.

Overall, the Viking shield was a versatile weapon that played a significant role in Viking warfare. Not only did it provide defense and offense, but it was also a symbol of a Viking warrior’s strength and courage on the battlefield.

Blunt Force: Viking Maces and War Hammers

When it came to dealing devastating blows on the battlefield, the Vikings had a range of blunt force weapons at their disposal. These included maces and war hammers, which were designed to deliver sheer impact to their targets.

Viking maces were constructed with heavy iron heads, often adorned with intricate and ornate designs. These weapons were particularly effective against armored opponents, as the heavy iron heads could easily crush through even the strongest of defenses. Viking war hammers, on the other hand, had a slightly different design. The hammerhead had a beak-like spike for piercing armor, while the blunt side delivered a crushing blow.

In battle, Viking warriors would wield these weapons with both hands, swinging them with great force to deliver maximum impact. The effectiveness of maces and hammers was enhanced when used against opponents in formation, as the Vikings could focus their attacks on a single point, dealing significant damage to enemy ranks.

While not as well-known as other Viking weapons, maces and war hammers played a crucial role in Viking warfare. Their brutal efficiency made them a preferred choice for Viking warriors in close combat.

Ranged Weapons: Viking Slings and Throwing Axes

Did you know that the Vikings were not only skilled in close combat but were also proficient in using ranged weapons? Among the weapons they used were slings and throwing axes, which were primarily used for long-range attacks.

Viking Slings: The Viking sling is a simple yet deadly weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior. Made from leather strips or braided wool, it was a flexible weapon that was easy to carry. The Viking sling could be used to hurl a variety of projectiles, including stones and lead bullets, with impressive accuracy and force. Vikings were known to use slings as ranged weapons during raids and battles, making them a deadly addition to their arsenal.

Viking Throwing Axes: The Viking throwing axe is another ranged weapon that the Vikings used to great effect. These axes were generally lighter and smaller than their battle counterparts, making them easier to throw over greater distances. The Viking throwing axe was deployed in battle as a preemptive strike, targeting enemies before they could get too close. This weapon was often used in combination with the battle axe, with Vikings switching between the two depending on the situation.

Overall, Viking ranged weapons like slings and throwing axes were fierce weapons that allowed the Vikings to attack their enemies from a distance. While these weapons were not their primary means of attack, they were still a valuable addition to their arsenal and helped to make the Vikings a formidable force on the battlefield.

Defensive Gear: Viking Helmets and Armor

As a Viking warrior, you understand the importance of protective gear in battle. Helmets and armor serve as your first line of defense, shielding you from enemy attacks and increasing your chances of survival. Let’s take a closer look at the defensive gear used by Viking warriors: helmets, armor, and other battle gear.

Viking Helmets

The iconic Viking helmet, complete with horns or wings, has become a symbol of Viking culture. However, historical evidence suggests that these helmets were not commonly worn in battle. Instead, Viking warriors primarily wore simple helmets made of iron or leather, designed for practicality rather than decoration. Some helmets even had face masks for added protection.

Despite their simplicity, Viking helmets were effective in combat, capable of deflecting blows from axes and swords. Additionally, their design allowed for unhindered vision, hearing, and breathing, crucial factors in battle.

Viking Armor and Battle Gear

Viking armor consisted of chainmail or leather, constructed in a way that allowed for flexibility and ease of movement. Some warriors also wore padded garments beneath their armor for added comfort and protection. In addition to helmets and armor, Viking warriors carried a variety of battle gear, including shields, swords, spears, and axes.

Shields, often made of wood or leather, were an essential defensive tool for Viking warriors. When used in formation, shields could create an impenetrable barrier, known as the shield wall, effectively protecting the entire Viking army from enemy attacks.

Viking swords, made of durable and sharp iron, were the weapons of choice for elite Viking warriors. These swords were designed for close combat, allowing for swift and deadly strikes. Viking spears, on the other hand, were versatile weapons, used by both infantry and cavalry. Viking spears typically had a narrow, pointed head, making them useful for both thrusting and throwing.

Other Viking battle gear included maces and war hammers, which were designed for blunt force rather than sharpness. Viking archers also played a crucial role in battle, using longbows and arrows to strike their enemies from a distance.

Overall, Viking defensive gear and battle gear allowed for a well-equipped and formidable army, capable of withstanding and delivering devastating attacks on the battlefield.

Naval Warfare: Viking Longships and Naval Weapons

When it comes to Viking warfare, the image of a longship charging across the waves towards a coastal village is one of the most iconic. The Viking longship was a vital piece of equipment for any would-be raider. With its sleek design and shallow draft, the longship was able to navigate even the narrowest of rivers and reach deep inland. But what weapons and tactics did the Vikings employ when it came to naval combat?

The answer lies in the Viking naval weapons. These were designed to be used both in close combat and at range, ensuring that the Vikings had all bases covered. At short range, Viking sailors would wield weapons such as spears, swords, and axes, just as they would on land. But in addition to this, the Vikings also developed a range of ranged weapons specifically designed for naval warfare.

One such weapon was the shortbow, which allowed for more accurate and deadly missile attacks at range. Viking longships also carried a range of throwing weapons, including throwing axes and javelins. These could be launched at enemy ships from a distance, causing damage to both crew and vessel.

But the most important weapon on any Viking longship was its crew. The Vikings were skilled sailors, able to navigate treacherous waters with ease. They also developed a range of tactics that allowed them to outmaneuver and outwit their enemies, using their speed and agility to their advantage.

One such tactic was the use of the “boarding plank.” This involved quickly pulling up alongside an enemy vessel, throwing a plank across, and using it to board the enemy ship. Once on board, Viking warriors would engage in close combat, using their weapons and shields to overpower the enemy crew.

Overall, the combination of the Viking longship and the weapons and tactics employed by Viking sailors made them a formidable force on the high seas. Their ability to strike with speed and precision ensured that they remained a feared and respected power throughout Europe for centuries.


Throughout this article, you have delved into the world of Viking weapons and learned about the different types of arms used by Viking warriors in combat. From the iconic Viking battle axes and deadly swords to the versatile spears and blunt force weapons, Viking warriors had an impressive arsenal at their disposal.

Archery also played a crucial role in Viking warfare, with skilled archers using longbows and arrows to provide ranged support on the battlefield. Shields and defensive gear, such as helmets and armor, were also essential for protecting Viking warriors in battle.

Naval warfare was another significant aspect of Viking culture, with the impressive longships and naval weapons showcasing the tactical skills of Viking raiders at sea.

In conclusion, Viking weapons were a symbol of power and skill, and their impact is still felt today in popular culture. The use of these weapons in warfare has left an enduring legacy, and the impressive craftsmanship and deadly elegance of these weapons continue to fascinate and captivate people to this day.


What were the primary weapons used by Viking warriors?

Viking warriors primarily used axes, swords, spears, and shields in battle.

What is the significance of Viking battle axes?

Viking battle axes were a symbol of Viking power and played a vital role in combat, enabling warriors to deliver devastating blows to their enemies.

How did Viking archers utilize bows and arrows in warfare?

Viking archers employed longbows and arrows, using their skill and precision to strike at their adversaries from a distance.

What made Viking spears a versatile weapon for Viking warriors?

Viking spears were versatile weapons that could be used by both infantry and sailors, providing warriors with reach and the ability to deliver lethal thrusts.

Why were Viking swords considered the weapon of elite warriors?

Viking swords were highly prized weapons among elite Viking warriors, representing their status and prowess in close combat.

How did Viking shields function in Viking warfare?

Viking shields served as both defensive and offensive tools, providing protection for warriors and enabling them to push back enemies in shield wall formations.

What were the characteristics of Viking maces and war hammers?

Viking maces and war hammers were designed for maximum impact, delivering devastating blows to opponents with their blunt force.

How did Viking warriors use slings and throwing axes as ranged weapons?

Viking warriors displayed proficiency in using slings and throwing axes for ranged attacks, showcasing their accuracy and tactical abilities.

What kind of protective gear did Viking warriors wear?

Viking warriors wore helmets and armor as defensive gear, providing them with protection in battle.

How were Viking longships used in naval warfare?

Viking longships were instrumental in Viking naval warfare, allowing raiders to travel swiftly and launch attacks on coastal settlements.

What are the key takeaways from this article about Viking weaponry?

Viking weaponry played a crucial role in Viking warfare, with axes, swords, spears, shields, and other weapons defining the strength and tactics of Viking warriors.