Sword Classification Basics

by Niklas Feurstein
Sword Classification

There are many differences between swords you might not have noticed yet. In the following post, I will give you an overview on the various types of medieval swords.

Distinction by size

The following swords are ordered by their length.

Short Sword

Short Sword

The short sword is a light one-handed sword. These swords are considered easy to wield. Due to the short blade length, the wielder is at a disadvantage when fighting longer swords with more range. The short sword was mainly used as a reserve weapon because it is very light and compact. Over the medieval time, short swords were used less frequently. They still remained an essential piece of equipment for the average citizen.

Arming Sword

Søren Niedziella of Albion-Europe, Denmark [CC BY 2.0]

This is the classic one-handed sword used by knights and was often used in conjunction with a shield. The arming sword was the most used sword type in the medieval period. The blade length is about 70 to 80 cm (28-32 inches).

Bastard Sword

Søren Niedziella from Denmark [CC BY 2.0]

Often also referred to as a hand-and-a-half sword. They are a sub-class of longswords. The difference between a bastard sword and a regular longsword is that the former could be wielded either with one hand or with two. However, the latter was only used with two hands.


Søren Niedziella from Denmark [CC BY 2.0]

The longsword came up in Europe in the late medieval period. The grip of the sword was longer so that two hands could be used. The weapon features a blade length of around 85 to 110 cm (33-43 inches), while the grip measured around 10 to 30 cm (4-12 inches) in length.

Great Sword

Great Sword
Søren Niedziella from Denmark [CC BY 2.0]

Fighting with great swords requires a different fighting style. The overall length is 160 to 180 cm (63-71 inches). Due to their enormous size, the application of normal sword stances is limited. Using a great sword is similar to the usage of polearms. The transition between longsword and greatsword is where it becomes nearly impossible to use it as a regular sword.

Distinction by shape

The Oakeshott typology defines a way of differentiating swords by their physical form. In the following post, I will give you a brief summary of its various sword types.

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