Revealing The Power Of The Partisan Polearm

Key Point: A partisan weapon was a type of polearm featuring a spearhead with lateral blades or wings, used for thrusting and cutting in combat.

In this installment of polearms from history, we will be discussing the partisan. We will go into detail on its history, its dimensions, and how it was used in battle. So, before we begin, let’s establish a few things first.

What is the partisan?

The partisan is a type of polearm that was commonly used in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. It has a long wooden shaft, a spearhead on the end, and a pair of curved blades extending from the sides of the spearhead. The blades were designed to catch and trap an opponent’s weapon, allowing the wielder to disarm or incapacitate them.

Its name “partisan” comes from the Italian word “partigiana,” which means “partisan” or “guerrilla fighter.”

That was the short introduction. Now, let’s go a little into its history.

The Origin Of The Partisan Polearm

The partisan is a type of polearm that has its roots in Italy during the Renaissance. It was developed as a specialized weapon for the condottieri. Or mercenary soldiers, who fought in the Italian Wars of the 16th century. The weapon was designed to be used by infantry soldiers, particularly those who were part of a pike formation.

Its name “partisan” comes from the Italian word “partigiana,” which means “guerrilla fighter.” It is believed that the weapon was named after the partisan fighters who used hit-and-run tactics to disrupt enemy supply lines and communications during the Italian Wars.

So as the Italian Wars came to an end, the use of the partisan spread to other parts of Europe, particularly Spain, and France. By the 17th century, the partisan had become a common weapon among infantry soldiers in many European armies.

In essence, the partisan was an improvement on the spear. You will see why when we come to the part about how it was used. But, let’s take a look at the dimensions of a partisan first.

Its Dimensions

The partisan had a wooden shaft that was 1.5 to 1.8 meters (5 to 6 feet) in length, with the spearhead at the end of the shaft being between 30 and 60 centimeters (12 to 24 inches). The two curved blades on either side of the spearhead were typically around 6 inches in length, and the width of the spearhead itself was typically around 2 to 3 inches. The overall length of the partisan, including the spearhead and the blades, could be up to 7 feet.


But … it’s also important to note that the dimensions of the partisan could vary depending on the specific design and the region in which it was used. Some partisans had longer shafts, while others had shorter spearheads or blades. The weight of the weapon could also vary depending on the materials used in its construction.

Now, for the fun stuff! Let’s see how it was used in battle.

How The Partisan Was Used

In battle, the partisan was primarily a thrusting weapon. But its design allowed for a variety of techniques to be used in close combat. The spearhead at the end of the shaft was used to thrust at opponents, while the curved blades on the sides of the spearhead could be used to hook an enemy’s weapon or armor. This allowed the wielder to either disarm their opponent or incapacitate them.

In formation fighting, the partisan was typically used by soldiers who stood behind the first line of pikes. The longer shaft of the partisan allowed these soldiers to reach over the heads of the pike-wielding soldiers and thrust at opponents. The curved blades on the spearhead could be used to pull down an enemy’s shield or armor, making them vulnerable to attacks from other soldiers in the formation.

In one-on-one combat, the partisan could be used to great effect by a skilled fighter. The spearhead was used to keep an opponent at bay, while the curved blades on the sides of the spearhead could be used to hook an enemy’s weapon or armor, making it easier to disarm them.

But even with all its effectiveness, it did have some drawbacks.

The Drawback Of The Partisan And Its Eventuall Downfall

The partisan was not without its drawbacks. Its long shaft made it difficult to maneuver in tight spaces, and the curved blades on the sides of the spearhead could get caught on an opponent’s weapon or armor. And, the partisan was a relatively heavy weapon, which could tire out a soldier if used for extended periods of time.

But given its effectiveness, why did it fall from use? The answer is rather simple.

As gunpowder weapons became better and better, ranged attacks replaced close-quarters fighting. And when soldiers fought each other hand to hand, they usually relied on swords or bayonets.

So, because ranged weapons enabled soldiers to attack the enemy from a distance greater than that of the partisan, gunpowder weapons won out. You can take out a soldier attacking with a partisan before he even got to you.

Same reason why this polearm, disappeared from the battlefield as well.


In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you learned a thing or two. And if you wish to continue learning I suggest taking a look at my article on the lance and how it was used, right here.

Take care!

Source: The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons” by Leonid Tarassuk and Claude Blair