What Is The Spontoon Polearm?

Key Point: A spontoon was a type of polearm 6 feet long, with a thin blade, often used by infantry officers for both combat and as a symbol of authority.

In this article, we will be covering the spontoon. What kind of weapon was the spontoon, where it originated from, and how was it used in battle? All these questions and more will be answered in this article. So, before we continue, let’s first establish what a spontoon is.

So, what was the spontoon?

Spontoon was a type of polearm that was used during the 17th and 18th centuries. Spontoons were usually around six feet long, with a long spear-like blade at the top and a shorter blade near the base. They were used in battle for thrusting and piercing and were also useful for striking and slashing. Primarily they were used by infantrymen as a weapon to fend off cavalry charges.

That was the short introduction to the topic. Now, let’s explore this polearm in a little more detail. Starting with its origin.

Origin Of Spontoon

Spontoons were originally developed in the 17th century as a shorter alternative to the pike.

A pike was a popular weapon for infantry during the period. And spontoons were essentially shorter versions of pikes.

The name “spontoon” is believed to have originated from the French word “esponton,” which means “pike.” While their exact origin is shrouded in mystery, spontoons were widely used by European armies during the 18th century.

Now, for a battle where pontoons played a part.

Battle Where It Was Used

Spontoons were used in numerous battles during the 18th century, including the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745. In response to the British formation, the French and Irish troops advanced with pontoons. This allowed them to strike at the British from a greater distance than the British could with their bayonet.

The French and Irish were ultimately victorious at Fontenoy, in part due to their effective use of pontoons.

Now, let’s move on to their dimensions for a second.

Dimension Of Spontoons

Spontoons had a wooden shaft measuring around 5-6 feet in length, with a metal spearhead at the end. The shaft was usually around 1-1.5 inches in diameter and could be fitted with a variety of spearheads, including a small axe blade or hook. All in all the total length of a spontoon with the blade was 6 to 8 feet.

And the weight?

It weighed 2 to 4 pounds. Which was in line with other polearms of the era.

Now, for the materials that enabled the polearm to be so light.

Materials Used

Spontoons were typically made from wood and iron. The shaft of the weapon was made from sturdy hardwood, such as ash or oak. While the spearhead was made from iron or steel. The spearhead was often fitted with a socket that allowed it to be securely attached to the shaft.

And now for the fun stuff … how a spontoon was used in battle.

How Spontoons Were Used In Battle?

Spontoons were primarily used by infantry soldiers in battle. Their length made them ideal for attacking from a distance, and they were often used to thrust at an opponent’s vulnerable areas, such as the face or neck. Spontoons could also be used to strike at an opponent, either by using the spearhead or the axe blade/hook on the side.

Formations They Used

Soldiers who used spontoons often fought in a formation known as a “spontoon hedge.” This formation consisted of a group of soldiers holding their spontoons close together and angled upwards to form a hedge-like barrier. The soldiers would stand behind the hedge and thrust their spontoons outwards toward the enemy, creating a defensive barrier that was difficult for enemy soldiers to penetrate.

Also …

In addition to the spontoon hedge, soldiers using spontoons would also sometimes fight in conjunction with other polearm units. Namely pikes or halberds. In these cases, the spontoon users would typically be positioned closer to the front lines, while the pikes and halberds would form a second line of defense behind them.

This allowed the spontoon users to engage the enemy at a closer range while still being protected by the longer weapons of the second line.

Given that we mentioned a few other polearms, I guess it’s time we see how pontoons compare to let’s say the halberd.

Spontoons Vs Halberd – Which Is Better?

One of the main differences between spontoons and halberds was their design. A halberd had a longer shaft than a spontoon, measuring around 6 to 8 feet in length. The blade of a halberd was also often more complex in design, with a hook-shaped protrusion at the back of the blade that could be used to pull an opponent off balance. In contrast, the blade of a spontoon was usually simpler in design, with a straight or slightly curved shape and a sharp point.

Another key difference between the two weapons was their intended use. While both were primarily designed for thrusting attacks, halberds were also designed to be effective at slashing attacks. This was due to the design of the blade, which had a longer cutting edge than a spontoon. In contrast, the blade of a spontoon was primarily designed for thrusting attacks.

Soldiers using halberds were often deployed in larger formations known as pike and shot formations. These formations were designed to provide a defensive barrier against enemy cavalry charges, with the halberdiers standing behind the pikes and firing muskets at the enemy. Spontoons were often used in smaller formations and relied more on mobility and quick strikes to engage the enemy.

Why The Spontoon Disappeared?

The reason why spontoon disappeared is the same reason why this polearm disappeared from battle. More effective firearms meant you could hit an opponent from further away, eliminating the need for many polearms.

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 the bardiche polearm right here.

Take care!


“The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms & Weapons” by Leonid Tarassuk and Claude Blair