Comparing Our Celtic Spear, is it the most versatile?

What makes a weapon versatile?

I had a couple of conversations with customers this last few weeks about our Celtic Spear and thought it would be good to share some of the discussion with everyone. When it comes to choosing a weapon, especially a spear, versatility is a key factor to consider. A versatile weapon is one that can be used in various situations, offering different advantages depending on the circumstances. For a spear not only throwing, but also reach in combat and ease of carry can all be important factors. Our Celtic spear meets lots of these criteria and maybe just the versatile weapon you need in your armoury.

The history of the Celtic spear

The Celtic spear has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. It was a weapon commonly used by Celtic warriors during battles, though this form of spear was used long before and after these times. 0ur example is based on a find in central Europe from around 200 BC. The spear consists of a long ash haft with a sharpened and hardened metal tip, making it ideal for both thrusting and throwing.

Thrusting vs Throw

One of the main reasons why the Celtic spear is so versatile is its ease of going from delivering a powerful thrust to being thrown with great accuracy and distance by a practiced user. The long shaft allows the warrior to deliver powerful and accurate thrusts in close combat situations out reaching most other weapons of that day. The spear's metal tip can easily penetrate the lighter protections worn at the time but also deliver nasty cuts to unprotected flesh.

This makes it a valuable weapon for both short-range and long-range combat and they are light enough a warrior could have carried multiple such weapons. Whether the warrior needs to take down an enemy from a distance or engage in a quick skirmish, the spear can be relied upon to deliver.

Celtic and original
Celtic spear next to a similar original spearpoint from the Oakeshott Institute Collection

Adaptability in different terrains

One of the discussions I had with a customer was about their use of the spear for actual hunting. They have been participating in some reenactments of medieval style hunts and were discussing how this spear was better for the chase in wooded areas or rough ground then longer spears. In the open areas they felt they could get better distance with this weapon than heavier and longer spears as would make sense.

This would probably be the same in battle wether taking place in open fields, dense forests, or hilly landscapes, the spear remains effective.

Celtic Spear Head

Arms & Armor Inc's Celtic Spear

They spent quite a bit of time using the piece for hunting smaller game both in and out of period kit. Their comment was it took a lot of practice but once one had gotten consistent on the range and developed a few techniques for hitting moving targets they were pretty happy feeling they could use the spears as a real source for hunting.(this link contains a blog post we did about actual boar hunting today if images of such would disturb you please skip).

Hardened steel

The second conversation I had was with a customer who was wondering about the heat treatment and hardening of spears specifically but also in the medieval context in general. This is a huge topic and can get side tracked with a lot of modern ideas being imposed on the medieval evidence we have. The type of weapon, the material it's made from, the region in which it was made and the period in which it was made all bear heavily on the answer. There is no one answer to the question how was it done? In the context of our spear the originals would have been both iron and steel. Though the makers in that day would have said hard and soft iron.

Quenching a celtic spear head

The blade is the chief element of heat treat attention. Sockets were probably not the target of such treatment. Many sockets of this period were not closed but had an open seam and were pinned perpendicular to the opening.

In the modern marketplace these types of sockets are not very popular today and most spears sold are done with a welded socket seam. Our customer was thinking about trying to maximize the effectiveness of the weapon they were looking for and this is something we run into a lot in the mindset of customers. It is a kind of modern technology focused view of engineering and production. It is often very different than the mindset of an original maker trying to make the best piece they could. Why? Because their definition of best and ours would be quite different.


So in comparing our Celtic Spear with our Norseman Spear and Javelins we would probably say they are the more versatile of these weapons.They are quick in the hand and can be used in both hand to hand and thrown combat. The Norseman Spear is large enough to limit some of its throwing range and can be a challenge in tight places. The Javelins are great to thrown but may not be as effective in hand to hand against other weapons. The Celtic spear does both relatively well on all of these. If you hand two or three to hand considering it's thrusting power, throwing ability, and adaptability in various terrains, it is safe to say that our Celtic spear is indeed a most versatile weapon. 

Here is a video we shot a while ago where Nathan discusses the hardened celtic spear


divider swords

Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985

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