Viking Hardware

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We figured with the start of the new season of Vikings upon us it was time for a Viking themed post. Some vikings use a breiðöx, others a suppressed SCAR heavy or M320 (though neither of the latter are terribly much use in the skjaldborg). Let’s talk a little about the old school pipe-hitters today. Let’s talk about viking hardware. Mad Duo

Firelance Media-BBC-Viking-4
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A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine

Apocalypse Josh

Raiding season is fast approaching. Many of you yearn for adventure, the feel of salt-spray on your faces, and the chance to prove your honor and win such glory that your forefathers will sing your name and your children will ask to hear the stories again over the long next winter.

But where you might find yourself loading up with kevlar and lead-spitting black rifles, hopping into a HUMVEE or MRAP or crossing seas aboard a C-130 or C-5, I thought I might cast your minds back 1000 years to another group of hard-handed and steely-eyed warriors plying their trade by blood, fire and steel: the Vikings. I wanted to tell you a little about their wargear, and why it worked so well.

Viking Hardware

These Scandinavian warrior-traders would raid the coastal towns of the North Sea and Atlantic for booty, conquest, glory (and also just for the thrill of exploration). They reached as far as the Baltic sea and Mediterranean by littoral water and riverine routes, and there is archaeological evidence they went as far as Baghdad, not to mention colonizing Greenland, Iceland and almost certainly making it to North America.

How did they do it, what did they use?

Instead of Cordura, nylon, ceramic plates and kevlar, the Vikings typically wore quilted woolen or linen clothes with leather belts and metal broaches. Their armor consisted of helmets, shields and heavy leather tunics, or chain mail if you were rich enough. Rich or professional warriors might have had a metal helmet, but leather and wood would probably have been the basis for the average foot-slogger.

Crows stirring

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They fought mostly on foot and used their ships mainly as a transport to the scene of battle, so heavy armour was not part of the regimen since full plate armour isn’t something you’d wear to go over the side of a long boat. Chain mail is a real pain to make, not only in drawing out all the wire, curling it and cutting it into uniform lengths. But to make it effective, it needs to be welded or riveted together. It’s expensive and heavy, and only good for stabbing and slashing attacks even when over layers of padding. “Better to be fast and deadly” was the Viking way.”

swiped from Wikepaedia
swiped from Wikepaedia

That said, almost all Vikings would have borne their shield. Viking shields were usually round and made of spruce, fir, or pine in a single plank layer (although sometimes double layered), butted together and featuring a domed metal boss. Sometimes they were covered in hide with the rim strengthened by an iron band. They were typically about 1 meter in diameter, and protected the body from shoulder to thigh. Often the shields were brightly painted. Interlocked with the man (or woman) on either side, they could form a very effective shield wall, and their tactics excelled at using them to devastating effect.

swiped from http://www.edinburghspotlight.com

Wealthy Vikings wore strong iron helmets, although few examples remain. Most depicted in art of the time were simple cup shapes, with a strip of metal to protect the nose. Others were more complex and had a goggle-shaped mask that protected the eyes and nose, and flaps to protect the neck.

No, there were no horns on Viking helmets. Horns aren’t high-speed or low-drag.

As far as weapons go, the Vikings had some cutting-edge gear which, coupled with their warrior ethos, put them at the head of pretty much everyone’s “run-when-you-see-them” list.

Swiped from https://www.flickr.com/photos/arnybo/

The Viking spear was probably their most popular weapon; not as expensive or as difficult to make as a sword, but still very deadly. They had a slender, tapering blade up to 50 centimeters long attached to a wooden shaft by a socket. They were very dangerous thrusting weapons, and they could also be thrown, depending on the size and design. The Viking spear was typically long enough that the owner could reach up and touch the pin holding the head to the haft. This style of spear was good for thrusting, and even slashing, given the long broad head.

Swiped from wikepedia.com

The Viking battle axe was also a very deadly weapon. It could easily cleave through armor and still leave a mortal wound. They were made by welding a sharp cutting edge onto a shaped block of iron. The butt end was then slotted over a wooden handle and wedged tight. It served multiple purposes as it was also their working axe. This made it a very affordable weapon that any able-bodied person in Viking culture could be expected to wield effectively. The forward sweeping front “horn” enables the Viking axe to be used as a stabbing weapon, and the broad hook of the bottom hone allowed it to grab, sweep, hook and otherwise entangle an opponents weapons or defense.  It could also be used for climbing over balustrades.

Viking_swords

But the greatest of a Viking’s weapons was his sword. It was highly prized for its fighting strength and was a status symbol; the higher the rank of the warrior, the greater the sword. These swords usually had a wide, double-edged blade, were between 70 and 80 centimeters long, rarely had a sharp point (being slashing weapons), and often had a richly decorated hilt. The blades were pattern welded, and had a fuller ground out the length of the blade. The fuller lightened the blade without reducing its strength while increasing its flexibility. Swords were thought so highly of that many Vikings named them. These were some very significant pieces of war-gear.

400px-British_Museum_Sittingbourne_Seax

As well as swords, axes and spears they also utilized long and short bows, plus knives, including the iconic seax broken back daggers.  The Viking warrior was geared up and loaded up for battle. They were so successful that even now, 1000 years later, warriors emulate them.

Live hard, train hard, fight hard and do so with honour. perhaps in another thousand years, the same will be thought of you.

A man should not step one foot

forth in the field without weapons.

One cannot know, when on the road,

when he will need his spear.

The Hávamál- Stanza 38

 

 

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Apocalypse Josh 1 Breach Bang ClearAbout the Author: Josh Orth is a second generation expat currently dwelling in the arguably civilized outskirts of Melbourne, Australia. He’s lived in deserts, jungles and urban sprawls around the world and traveled/adventured into assorted inhospitable places around the world and has a keen sense of the speed with which the trappings of ‘civilized Western life’ can disappear. This has led him to begin writing about his interests and observations when it comes to the gear, skills and other necessities of self reliance of being equipped for whatever a capricious, occasionally indurate life might throw at him. This isn’t by any means to say our eccentric friend truly experiences genuine vorfreude about dystopian life, but if he had to he might not complain. Read more by Josh at Apocalypse Equipped.

Grunts: vorfreude.

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We’re not saying Josh flies a PL-12 Airtruk. We’re just saying this guy and Josh have never been seen in the same room together at the same time.

Apocalypse Josh

Josh Orth is a second generation expat currently dwelling in the arguably civilized outskirts of Melbourne, Australia. He's lived in deserts, jungles and urban sprawls around the world and traveled/adventured into assorted inhospitable places around the world and has a keen sense of the speed with which the trappings of 'civilized Western life' can disappear. This has led him to begin writing about his interests and observations when it comes to the gear, skills and other necessities of self reliance of being equipped for whatever a capricious, occasionally indurate life might throw at him. This isn't by any means to say our eccentric friend actually longs for life in dystopia, but if he had to he might not complain. Read more by Josh at Apocalypse Equipped.


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6 thoughts on “Viking Hardware

  • April 14, 2016 at 1:14 pm
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    Great article! I’ve always loved Viking crap since I was a boy. Your spot on about the the sword being the prized weapon and a status symbol but it was not really their “greatest weapon”. The spear and shield definitely was the work horse backed up by an axe or sword when things got close. I tend to think of all the traditional military officers who wore pistols as a comparison – they wore them as a pure status symbol, not necessarily because they are the best weapon.

    You could probably do a second article on berserkers and compare them to trips hoped up on rip-its haha

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  • March 6, 2016 at 9:29 pm
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    And who makes that axe in the picture?

    Reply
  • February 26, 2016 at 10:12 am
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    Who makes that viking sword in the first picture…?

    Reply
    • March 6, 2016 at 10:09 pm
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      I picked it up in Tasmania from a swordsmith there, if I recall … not mass produced, i’m afraid.

      Reply

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