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How did people carry weapons back in the day?

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by Skribs, Mar 29, 2014.

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  1. Skribs

    Skribs Member

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    I play a lot of fantasy games, and in them your weapons tend to either be glued to your back or hip when you're running around. I understand that swords had sheaths and quivers usually had a strap, but how did people carry their other weapons to combat? Both the travel there, and then simply holding them without killing everyone when they turned around.

    I'm talking about everything from bows and crossbows to staves, axes, spears, and giant clubs. This also applies to hunters who carried a bow around, or really anyone who would carry a staff.
     
  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Probably the same way modern army's carry rifles when marching in close order drill.

    Pointed up, or down, or over their shoulder all in the same direction.

    rc
     
  3. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

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    We talkin' the portage of personal weaponry here?

    I think it is a pretty safe to assume that any item that needed to be handy was either stuffed into a sash/belt or hung from a ring, with or without the use of a sheath if applicable, so long as it was small enough to not be cumbersome. Everything else would have to be hand carried.

    Polearms would have to be carried tip up or stowed on a wagon or else the marching formation would be huge.
     
  4. glistam

    glistam Member

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    I'm something of a fan of historical weaponry and military vs civilian culture. It's really a fascinating area of history, and modern stuff gets so much wrong!

    One of the more interesting things I've found in my studies is swords were rarely carried on one's back, unless they were very short. The human arm can only reach only so high to fully extract it from the scabbard. Very long swords like Zweihander or Nodachi are often shown in historical texts as carried in the hands, held upright by the grip and with the sheathed blade often leaned against the shoulder. Such were considered military weapons and were not often seen in civilian settings. Soldiers armed with them sometimes kept them on a supply wagon and they were passed out when they were nearing an area of engagement. Swords carried on the hip were common but only for the knightly and noble classes (this includes samurai in old Japan). Having worked as a reenactor, I can tell you walking, turning and sitting with a sword is something of a skill all its own. It takes practice, guidance, and some trial and error to do right without breaking something or getting entangled, but it can be done and someone doing it as part of daily life would be very good at it. Of course any sword is always carried with a sheath. I am bewildered by modern video games which show characters with a holstered bare blade. Peasants usually just had a knife/dagger hung from the belt, under the armpit (Scottish carried this way before later changing to the stocking), or hidden some other way. Spears, staves and any other sticks 3 ft or more were just carried in the hands, often used as a walking stick.

    My research on bows pointed out that carrying a bow varied by culture. In Medieval England the longbow was often about 6 feet long. The bow was not strung unless battle was expected soon, when stalking prey, or when standing guard. A strung bow was held in the hand, ready to shoot. When unstrung, the longbow was usually put in a long cloth sock and simply packed on the wagon or carried leaning over the shoulder when walking. On horseback this sock could be tied to ones back, but the English didn't really do mounted archery due to the bow's size and the strength needed to pull war bows required a proper stance; they would dismount before battle and string their bows. Crossbowmen simply carried their weapon similar to how a modern soldier would carry a rifle without a sling. Archers in the Middle East, Mongolia and China had shorter, reflexed bows better for use on horseback, and had a special holster they carried on their hip or saddle that held the bow while it was strung, though it was still unstrung when not expecting use. It's worth noting that nobody in the old days carried arrows on their back like in fantasy works; this is a modern invention. Most quivers were carried on the hip. Sometimes they didn't use quivers at all, but simply tucked arrows into their belts or tied them together with rope.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2014
  5. Skribs

    Skribs Member

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    Very interesting write-up, glistam. Thanks!
     
  6. blindhari

    blindhari Member

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    google the word "baldric" and then hit images

    blindhari
     
  7. Tejicano Loco

    Tejicano Loco Member

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    I was once asked by a former teacher to give a presentation about Japan which included me in Kimono with swords as worn by a Samurai. It was very enlightening to walk to and from the classroom with a pair of swords in what is essentially a tight sash at the hips. Walking, turning, climbing stairs - it really takes a good deal of practice to do these things without having the blades waving all over and quickly getting out of control.
     
  8. stressed

    stressed Member

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    blinhari,

    Is this why european WWII armies, like the Germany army had various soldiers and officers with the leather sash/strap going across their shoulder from the oppiside of their belts, as an ode to european military knighthood of former, or to actually help hold up the larger pistol holsters like the Luger P08's?
     
  9. Shanghai McCoy

    Shanghai McCoy Member

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    I hunt with 62"-66" longbows and carrying one while strung through brush can be a challenge at times. The grass and twigs like to grab the bow where the string loops at the nock. :(
    A Plains Indian style quiver loops over the shoulder and I like that style better than a back quiver. I do know some folks who like back quivers though so it comes down to individual preferance...
     
  10. Mike Kerr

    Mike Kerr Member

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    Glistam,

    Interesting reply. Thanks.

    :):)
     
  11. Mike Kerr

    Mike Kerr Member

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    Blindhari,

    That is a cool link. Thanks

    :):)
     
  12. Deltaboy1984

    Deltaboy1984 Member

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    Sash or belt.
     
  13. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

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  14. Nom de Forum

    Nom de Forum Member

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    One thing to consider with users of the long bow as the need to keep the bow and bow string dry. Failure to do so could be disastrous. As we all know, Britain and France are famous for their sunny and dry climate.;)
     
  15. aarondhgraham

    aarondhgraham Member

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    Hello Stressed and glistam,,,

    Stressed, are you referring to a Sam Brown belt?

    Click here please.

    Yep,,,
    I did that medieval re-enactment thing for several years,,, :eek:
    Wearing a broadsword on your hip without killing yourself is a learned skill.

    Also, try to run (even a slow trot) with a back quiver,,,
    Arrows go everywhere in a hurry.

    Aarond

    .
     
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