Spike TV's "Deadliest Warrior" took a look at warriors and primitive weapons of past centuries in an attempt to determine which weapons and which warriors were the most effective in battle.
Opinions are mixed on just how well this television show actually depicted true weapon and warrior effectiveness in battle. Let's face it: We can't know how a ninja and a Spartan are really going to do in battle against one another unless we're there to see an actual trained ninja (who excels among ninjas) and actual trained Spartan (who excels among Spartans) square off.
Technically both are experts at combat -- having trained for many years; the Spartan since childhood, as history records; you can guess that the ninja's training began early on in life also.
These men have the ability to pick up just about anything and use it as a weapon in combat.
Teaching about primitive weapons and which is the most effective in combat doesn't do us any good unless we first learn the basics of combat -- commonly referred to as "close quarters combat".
Your primitive weapon (whether it's a club, a knife, a dagger, a sword, machete, spear -- or even an axe, a weapon carried by Vikings) can be made 100 times more effective by your ability to move on your feet; in boxing and martial arts this is called footwork.
Your footwork will enhance your weapon's reach as well as your ability to avoid being struck by an opponent.
Sparring will teach you how to read an opponent, as well as condition you to move or deflect your opponent's strikes. Sparring will also increase your eye-hand coordination -- the more you train and spar and keep your eye on fast movements the slower your opponent's moves will seem to you in actual combat.
Each of the following weapons from this Top 15 list can be used against both dangerous wildlife and dangerous people. Sometimes you'll need more than one person alongside.
Let the Games Begin: The Top 15 Primitive Weapons
Before We Go Any Further
Disclaimer: You're on a Christian website and in no way do I advocate using a weapon for anything other than self-defense and for aiding other people who are helpless and / or need help to defend themselves. In other words, when you or your friends, family, or even strangers are being threatened with violence, and "turning the other cheek" simply isn't an option, that's the only time to consider using a weapon (or just your hands) to hurt someone else. It should be a last resort. Christ teaches, "blessed are the peacemakers". So when peace isn't an option, and escape isn't an option, you may have to fight.
Also ... As a Christian I hold onto the the promised return of Christ, believing as the Apostle Paul did 2,000 years ago that we are in the last days. Today that means we are in the "last days of the last days". Read more: Are We In the Last Days?.
Need a weapon to keep bandits at bay? A large stack of rocks and a place to throw from can be an effective deterrent when you and your group are threatend with danger. A good sized rock thrown at high velocity can even kill a person, if they take a direct hit to the skull; most of the time if you can land a direct hit you'll simply knock a person down, bleeding and dazed.
The danger of bringing rocks to a fight is that you can also give your opponent the idea to use rocks -- if your opponent surrounds your base camp and attacks from the darkness, you can become sitting ducks -- unable to see them (due to the darkness) but they're able to see you (due to any lights, torches, or lanterns blazing around camp). They can then rain down rocks on your camp, taking out several people.
You can build a wall around the perimeter of your camp with wall-tops that slant inward (providing cover) so that your defenders can duck down behind the wall at the threat of rocks or other projectiles -- like arrows.
One effective tactic used by armies like the Mongols in earlier history were to first shoot a massive volley of arrows into the air that would then come down on the enemy's infantry; this volley would continue until a number of infantry had been taken out -- then their main ground force would move forward and attack. Often times the odds tipped in their favor.
If you hole up in a fort (a camp with walls) or simply face off in the streets with an armed gang, watch out for projectiles like rocks and arrows and even bottles.
A great way to hunt small animals like rabbits and possums is also another way to help keep dangerous wildlife and people at bay. Like rocks though you have to have a large supply at hand because once you throw a stick, you're out of sticks. But a large supply of sticks on hand that are just the right size and weight to inflict pain or wound an opponent can be effective tools. One caution though -- throwing sticks at a grizzly or lion (African lion or tiger, for example) might just anger it and trigger an attack. Sticks and rocks can be effective at chasing off mountain lions (cougars), which are a different breed of cat; outside of zoos and private collections these are typically the kind of large cat you'll find in the wilderness of North America.
A club can be effective against a dangerous dog as well as a dangerous person; it can also be effective against a wolf but if you're faced off against several wolves now you have a problem. You're going to need several people armed with clubs and of course the courage and strength (and eye-hand coordination) to fight. Today, baseball bats make great clubs -- both metal bats and wooden bats. Wooden bats can be modified to have spikes -- simply drive long, thin nails through the end of the bat. This bat will now maim any cougar, dangerous dog, or wolf -- as well any bad guys that make an attempt on your life.
Native Americans are known for clubs also, many with different names and styles. For a few ideas on design refer to books on Native American weapon making. The right size stick, right size rock, and leather ties are enough to create a dangerous war club.
Spear have been used throughout history to defend man in both battle and also from wildlife. The Spartans used spears in battle and the Maasai use (and still use) spears to hunt African lions in the wilds of Kenya.
Spears have also been used to hunt large game, dangerous predators like African lions and Asian tigers, and even elephants. These are extreme situations though -- these are situations that reveal a need for multiple people armed with spears. In other words one person with a spear trying to take down an elephant could be a quick way to get killed. But ten men with ten spears working together could take that elephant down without injury to life or limb. That is going to call for courage and strength though and people who are quick on their feet. Once you strike a dangerous animal you have to be able to quickly move out of the way if it lunges for you, even though it's been wounded.
If you're hunting smaller game like boar and wild pigs in the tropics, just one spear should do the trick. A spear for boar or wild pigs doesn't have to be as big a spear as you'd use on a lion, grizzly bear, elephant, or moose. Not unless you're boar hunting in a region known for giant hogs -- and there are a few regions in the world. At 600 pounds, these things can kill. Going after a hog this size with just spears may call for several people working as a team.
There are different options for spears. Some spears can be outfitted with sharp rocks and even spear heads made from steel. When neither sharp rocks or steel spear heads are on hand simply sharpening the wooden tip of a spear base and then fire-hardening it can be enough to turn a harmless piece of wood into a dangerous weapon.
Tip: Your tool shed may have rakes and shovels (old ones) that you can break the metal parts off and simply use the handles as spears, if you ever needed a spear in a time of collapse.
The atlatl is a revolutionary invention from early history -- it's commonly called a "spear thrower". It's a stick or board with a hooked end that works like a rock in a sling -- instead of throwing a rock though, an atlatl throws a small spear (which is actually more like a long arrow). The spears for an atlatl or made from a wood that has a wobble to it, creating a spring effect in the air that aids to the spear's velocity once it's been thrown. Clumsy to use at first it's a highly effective weapon once a person has used it enough times. The atlatl adds speed and distance to the flight of a thrown spear. Today there are atlatl clubs and organizations and even states (like Montana) that allow atlatls to be used to hunt game like deer.
Slings have been used for hunting small game as well as in combat. The most famous combat depiction of a sling's potential for taking life is the Bible's story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17:32-50); David, the shepherd, rises to the challenge of the Philistine's prized warrior, Goliath, tallest and biggest man on the battlefield. David arms his sling with a rock, whirls it overhead, and let's the rock fly -- it hits dead on target, colliding with Goliath's skull, and he falls to the ground dead.
Let's consider that David was a shepherd for a moment. Many shepherds throughout history were trained to use a sling to help protect livestock, namely sheep -- they were protecting from predators such as wolves and lions. If all shepherds had was a sling that seems to say that hurling a few well aimed rocks at a lion or lions could send the entire pack running. As a weapon of battle, the sling is given high marks -- it's a devastating weapon in the hands of someone skilled with a sling. See: The Sling in Medieval Europe
A bola is thrown by hand, like a sling, but instead of a rock being the projectile, the entire bola becomes the projectile. And rather than the target being a person's or animal's head, with a bola the legs are the target. The bola's primary purpose is to entangle itself around legs so a person or animal trips and falls over. Many bolas have three weights tied to three separate ends of rope, each of the ropes connected to one another at a middle joint. One weight is grabbed and held on to while the other two are whirled over head and then the entire bola is let go -- streaking over the landscape -- either hitting or missing the target -- either wrapping around the legs or failing to wrap around the legs. Like a sling, a bola is going to call for many years of training to become proficient at its use.
A large knife used solely for self-defense and fighting, for stabbing and thrusting motions. This is a weapon for up close and very dangerous and bloody fighting. It's also a weapon of last resort when attacked by a large dangerous animal -- if you're a bold fighter you can stab a dagger into the side of an animal that has you pinned; numerous fast vicious stabs may be enough to make it run or even kill it. As you're being attacked keep stabbing -- don't go into shock. Fight until the animal let's up and backs off.
There's a reason that just about every army in ancient history had soldiers that carried swords -- it's length, weight, and sharpened edges can be deadly in close quarters combat. Modern day experts say that true swordsmanship doesn't look anything like what TV and movies often depict sword fights. In Hollywood sword fights are often depicted with fluid and coordinated moves typically seen in Asian martial arts -- a little bit "showy"; in real life however experts say a sword fight between two warriors who have been trained to fight with swords is going to look more like close quarters combat; the fight won't look like a show. It will look like a fight. See: Sword Fighting: Not What You Think It Is
A blowgun is a small (sometimes larger) tube made from bamboo or -- in the modern age -- a hollow pen or small PVC pipe or even a thick straw. It's loaded with a dart and then the tube blown into with a quick puff of air -- the dart is shot from the tube, striking the target.
Reports on blowguns reveal that strong respiratory muscles result in a stronger puff of air, which means greater speed and distance, and ultimately accuracy. How do you build up respiratory strength? Days and weeks of regular practiced blowgun use.
Like any primitive weapon (or modern day weapon), regular training and practice can help build a person's skill, strength, and eye-hand coordination -- all work together to maximize a primitive weapon's effectiveness in combat. But when it comes to blowgun use, after all the research is in the blowgun doesn't appear to be an effective weapon in combat -- but it can be effective for hunting.
Blowguns have been used to hunt small game (Cherokee Indians in North America used river cane to hunt rabbits and other small animals); they can also be used with tranquilizer darts to capture wildlife or stun caged dangerous animals for short periods of time.
Blowgun darts are small, light weight arrows with a feathered end (fletch), which aids in the dart staying on course once shot.
Bow and Arrow
Proven an effective weapon for both hunting and combat, the bow and arrow have been used by hunters and soldiers alike to cause the death or serious injury of countless people and animals across history. Bows have been built by natural materials by indigenous tribes throughout the world; today many bows (compound bows) are manufactured, using pulley strength and thin cable to create a weapon that is powerful, strong, and accurate. It must be used properly though -- the act of "dry firing" a compound bow just once can break mechanical parts, requiring immediate repair. It can take many months of practice to acquire good aim with a bow and arrow. A crossbow on the other hand can be learned in just days. While a person can quickly become a good shot with a crossbow, a regular bow can be re-loaded and shot faster -- making the bow a better choice for combat. In hunting however, a person with limited experience can take down large game with a crossbow. Hunting doesn't call for a quick re-load time -- it calls for one shot, on target.
Resembling a modern day hatchet, a tomahawk (short throwing axe) was a weapon made famous by Native American tribes that has even been used by select Special Forces soldiers as a secondary weapon in conflicts like the Vietnam War, as reported by authors on the subject.
Tomahawks once were simply a club with a sharp rock or antler as the "axe" end, but after colonialists were rooted in America and trading with Native Americans tomahawks then took on iron edges, creating weapons that look a lot like hatchets. Tomahawks are typically lighter than a wood-cutting hatchet and make a very dangerous weapon, especially when thrown. As a secondary weapon it can be the first weapon brought into battle and before your adversary closes the distance (between you and him) the tomahawk can be thrown -- it if hits the head, torso, or even just a limb this fight can be over before it's even started. Keep in mind -- it takes a lot of skill to throw a tomahawk -- which calls for a lot of practice. Don't count on a tomahawk saving you in a life or death fight unless you've got throwing strength, aim and timing down.
Fighting with an axe is going to call for serious dexterity and strength. This comes from training to use an axe in battle. A number of Vikings were able to use an axe (think battle axe) to injure and maim their enemies, inflicting terror on opposing forces with their sheer brutality. If you get your hands on an axe designed for battle (nowadays that means purchasing from a specialized weapons dealer) and hope to count on this weapon for self defense, it's going to call for lots of practice, lots of sparring, and plenty of specialized strength training (weight lifting with fast movements that target specific muscle groups -- as seen in the NFL and mixed martial arts training, for example) -- because for an axe to be a useful weapon you're going to have to be strong and fast while also quick on your feet and able to defend an attacking enemy. Otherwise an axe is likely to be too heavy, too cumbersome, and ultimately ineffective as a real weapon.
If you're going to use an axe consider one with a spike at the top, similar to a bayonet's use on a World War I soldier's rifle. This way your axe can also be used for thrusting (stabbing motion) like a spear and not just slashing (like a sword), which leaves you momentarily wide open for a counter strike, should you miss.
Not many people know what a caltrop is. See various photos here. Please take special note of this weapon -- it's a four pointed spike that is left on the ground typically to injure animals such as war horses, camels, and even elephants (used by an opposing army) when they step on any one of these spikes. This weapon may have extraordinary use in the days of nationwide collapse -- or, better said, the days of the Great Tribulation as the Bible calls the last days of earth -- which we may possibly see soon. Caltrops are likely to be most useful when dangerous wildlife is in the land.
Think of it like a police spike strip for popping the tires of a vehicle that is trying to out run them. In this case though you're using spikes to disable and injure dangerous wildlife or even calvary (troops on horses).
If your camp is able to build a remote fort somewhere, a large number of caltrops should be considered as a weapon of self-defense to help protect your fort from predators that are hunting humans. In a time of collapse I would suggest making hundreds of these, if the resources are available, and then surrounding your fort for several yards in all directions in the same way a prison would surround one of it's walls with several long loops of razor wire, such as between an inner and outer fence. Wolves will end up pierced -- grizzlies and lions will end up with pierced feet and possibly bellies -- depends on how long you're able to make those spikes. Other predators may find the area of spikes impassable as well.
Or you might choose to house your camp high in the trees, placing spikes on the forest floor down below.
Farm Tools Combined with Martial Arts (when no swords or weapons are available)
I have to say ... award for most creative primitive weapons goes to the Filipinos. The Philippines have been colonized by more powerful nations with more advanced weapons a number of times in recent history and yet a number of Filipinos fought back with about as primitive a weapon as they come -- using farm tools when they didn't have weapons.
A few centuries in earlier history the Philippines were colonized by the Spaniards who immediately banned any Filipinos from possessing weapons. The Spaniards believed this would be the only way to keep them in line. So what did the Filipinos do? They turned to farm tools -- tools used for a variety of tasks became weapons; they began to train with these weapons, relying on the martial art known as "Eskrima" to be their method of fighting. This art includes using tools for both self defense and to attack. Ordinary farm tools became dangerous weapons -- dangerous when combined with hand to hand fighting techniques and techniques for disarming an opponent, as taught in Eskrima. What's notable about Eskrima is that it calls for two weapons, one in each hand; one weapon for self-defense and the other for offensive attacks. Three weapons were born from Filipino tools that became popular around the world: the bolo, the balisword, and buntot pagi.
Article Continues in Part 2: Using a Primitive Weapon in Combat - What's it take to actually use a primitive weapon in combat? There's a science to fighting, called close quarters combat. Most fights with a primitive weapon should be over within just seconds. Here's a few tips to coming out alive and unscathed.