When swords stop being useful as primary weapon?

Oct 2011
200
Croatia
#1
I know that only a few armies in history used swords as a primary weapon: Romans being most famous of them. For the most part, however, spear, pike, or else a warhammer and other blunt weapons seem to be primary weapons. So in which conditions are swords primary weapons, and when they get relegated to status of a sidearm? E.g. plate armour definitely forces a move towards blunt force weapons such as warhammers, morningstars, etc. Mail armour I think forces thinner swords, but swords are still useful.
 

M9Powell

Ad Honorem
Oct 2014
4,435
appalacian Mtns
#2
The absolute end of the line for swords as a weapon for Calvary was the invention of repeating pistols. I know that's not what you're looking for. The Japanese were still fond of them in WW2. But mostly for use as an execution weapon.
 
Jul 2016
9,323
USA
#3
The Roman heavy infantry of the Republic and Principate didn't really have a primary weapons, they had dual weapons. The pilum was for long range, the gladius was for short range. There were other sword centric cultures of the ancient world, but all also used javelins, throwing spears, and fighting spears as well as swords.

The only time I can think that swords were primary weapons were for officers and certain types of cavalry from the 1600-1800s.
 
Likes: macon

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,933
Dispargum
#4
Cavalry continued to use swords as a primary weapon into WW1. We also have to consider the enemy. There was a British cavalry charge in the Battle of Omdurman in 1898 which was perhaps the last time that an industrial power fought a pre-industrial enemy.

Throughout history, perhaps as early as Roman times, officers used swords more as a badge of rank than as a practical weapon.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
33,712
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#5
The absolute end of the line for swords as a weapon for Calvary was the invention of repeating pistols. I know that's not what you're looking for. The Japanese were still fond of them in WW2. But mostly for use as an execution weapon.
The sword was never a primary weapon of war in Japan. It only acquired its semi-mystical value during the extended peaceful era of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Both samurai and commoners preferred spears.
 
Jul 2016
9,323
USA
#7
Cavalry continued to use swords as a primary weapon into WW1. We also have to consider the enemy. There was a British cavalry charge in the Battle of Omdurman in 1898 which was perhaps the last time that an industrial power fought a pre-industrial enemy.

Throughout history, perhaps as early as Roman times, officers used swords more as a badge of rank than as a practical weapon.
I thought most cavalry by WW1 had gone to lances.
 
Nov 2014
1,594
Birmingham, UK
#10
I know that only a few armies in history used swords as a primary weapon: Romans being most famous of them. For the most part, however, spear, pike, or else a warhammer and other blunt weapons seem to be primary weapons. So in which conditions are swords primary weapons, and when they get relegated to status of a sidearm? E.g. plate armour definitely forces a move towards blunt force weapons such as warhammers, morningstars, etc. Mail armour I think forces thinner swords, but swords are still useful.
I don't think warhammers/maces, blunt implement weapons were ever the primary weapon for a majority of soldiers, AFAIK for a start they were primarily or almost entirely cavalry weapons, and for footsoldiers wanting blunt implement weapons I thought the versatile Poleax with hammer but also spike and axe-blade were preferable, more versatile and more length. Albeit I stand to be corrected here.
 

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