Complete Guide To The Guisarme Polearm

Key Point: A guisarme is a polearm weapon, 6 to 7 feet long with a curved blade, used for cutting and thrusting in medieval combat.

In this installment of polearms throughout history we will discuss … the guisarme polearm. We will discuss how the guisarme was used. Was it any good? And why it eventually disappeared from the field of battle altogether.

Now, before we carry on, let’s begin at the beginning. What was the guisarme?

The guisarme was a medieval European polearm. It was used in the 14th and 15th centuries. It had a long wooden shaft with a curved blade, similar to a billhook. The curved blade, around 45 to 60 cm long, had a sharpened point at the end. Infantry soldiers used the guisarme for various tasks, including cutting and thrusting. It was effective against both mounted and unmounted opponents.

That was the key takeaway. Now let’s examine the guisarme in a little more detail. As always we will begin with the history portion.

Origin Of The Guisarme

Origins of the guisarme can be traced back to the early 14th-century Europe. There the guisarme was first used as a tool for harvesting crops. It was a variation of the billhook, which was commonly used for pruning and trimming branches. The guisarme featured a long, curved blade on one end and a hook on the other, making it an ideal tool for cutting and removing vegetation.

Guisarme blade

So as the weapon evolved, the guisarme began to be used in combat, particularly by the foot soldiers of the French army. The weapon’s ability to hook and pull an opponent’s armor or shield, as well as its long reach, made it an effective weapon against heavily-armored knights. Given its ease of use, and how fast you can teach a peasant to wield it the guisarme quickly became a popular weapon during the 14th and 15th centuries.

Now, let’s check out one of the battles where the guisarme played a pivotal role.

Battle Where The Guisarme Was Used

One of the most famous battles where the guisarme was used was the Battle of Poitiers in 1356. During this battle, the French army was equipped with a variety of polearms, including the guisarme. The weapon was particularly effective against the English longbowmen when it was in range since they were vulnerable to attacks from melee weapons.

So, how long was the guisarme actually? Let’s see …

Guisarme Dimensions

The shaft of the guisarme was 2 meters long, with a blade that was approximately 2 feet (45cm-60cm) in length. Meaning that the overall length of the weapon ranged from around two to two and a half meters.

And now the materials from which it was made.

Materials Used To Make The Guisarme

The guisarme was made of iron or steel, with a wooden handle. The wooden handle was made of ash or oak, both were strong and durable woods that could withstand the weight and force of the weapon.

In fact, the use of ash or oak was quite popular among polearms of the era. But now, let us proceed to the next stage. How the guisarme was used in battle?

How The Guisarme Was Used?

The guisarme was used as a polearm weapon by infantry soldiers. Its long reach and ability to hook and pull an opponent made guisarme a perfect weapon against heavily-armored knights. Which back then were the medieval equivalent of special forces.

The hook on the guisarme was used to dismount an opponent from his horse, while the blade could be used to strike or cut an opponent. So, whenever possible they pulled the riders from their horses and nearby skirmishers went in to finish the job.

That was one way, the other tactic was to simply use it as a spear. Form a wall of polearms or guisarmes and woe to anyone that tries to get past that wall of guisarmes.

How Does It Compare To Other Polearms

The guisarme while similar to other polearms, such as the halberd and the bill was slightly different. Since … the guisarme featured a curved blade and a hook. This one feature made it a more versatile weapon that could be used for both cutting and hooking. Guisarme was also longer than many other polearms, which gave it a longer reach.

This reach gave a guisarme wielder an added layer of safety since it removed the user from the attacker.

Now, let’s examine the downfall of guisarme.

Why Did The Guisarme Disappear From The Battlefield?

The guisarme gradually fell out of favor as firearms became more prevalent on the battlefield. Firearms allowed soldiers to engage their enemies from a distance, which made every polearm less effective.

The guisarme was also a relatively expensive weapon to produce, which made it less accessible to lower-ranking soldiers.

The downfall of the guisarme mimics the downfall of this polearm.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you learned something new. And I will see you at the next one. I suggest taking a look at my next article in the polearm series, right here. Where I discuss the Septum polearm and its uses.

Take care!


European Weapons and Armour: From the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution” by Ewart Oakeshott