Friday, April 12, 2019

10 Little-Known Weapons to Use in Your Speculative Fiction Stories

I'm not even going to bother writing an introduction for this post. Read the title and you'll know what it's about. I don't want to waste time on the intro because I had a ton of fun researching this topic and just want to jump right in. Get ready to have your mind blown:

10 Little-Known Weapons to Use in Your Speculative Fiction Stories

1. Hellburners

A badass name for an insane weapon. Hellburners were implemented in the Siege of Antwerp and were basically ships that were turned into floating bombs.

Image of an exploding ship catching other ships on fire.
Image source: Wikipedia
Here's how it works: the ship would be loaded with gunpowder, sharp instruments, rocks, and pretty much any item that can inflict damage. A fuse made of a clockwork flintlock device was used to ignite the gunpowder on a timer. This ship would then be launched towards enemy ships, assisted by the ebbing and flowing of the tide. Clearly, a lot of things had to line up for a hellburner to reach its target and explode on time. However, apparently if the inventor of the Hellburner, an Italian man by the name of Federigo Giambelli, was quite clever. Of the two Hellburners that were launched, one of them ended did up killing about 800 men (the other sailed off course and did little damage).

Yup. If you happen to write flintlock fantasy (or any kind of cool pirate novel), remember to keep this in your back pocket. 

2. Nest of Bees

While we are on the topic of gunpowder and horrifying weapons of mass murder, let's talk about the Chinese Nest of Bees. I struggle to even describe what this weapon is, so here is a picture:

Image of a strange looking hexagonal quiver. A lot of arrows are crammed inside with what look like fuses attached to one end.
Image source: Reddit
This weapon consists of a hexagonal encasing with 32 arrows inside (not sure why it needs to be 32 arrows exactly, but that the number my research kept coming up with). The hexagonal tube widens near the mouth to allow the arrows to easily escape. Powered by black powder, the nest of bees allowed a single man to shoot up to 32 arrows at one time. Picture a small, hand-held canon that shoots arrows instead of cannon balls and you'll get the picture. While not particularly useful for one-on-one combat, this is an interesting piece of weaponry used during large battles. 

I don't know about you, but I would 100% run at the mention of any weapon named after a bee hive. 

3. Katar

This looks like brass knuckles with a blade attached to one end. The blade scissors out from one blade into three.
Image source: Pinterest

Simply put, these are Wolverine claws. Except they are made out of iron instead of adamantiam, and they originated in India rather than Canada. I am very disappointed that this is not used more speculative fiction novels. I mean, look at them. Are they not the perfect weapon for a badass assassin character? Or a rogue sci-fi character?

4. Macuahuitl

Guys. Let me talk to you about the genius of Mesoamericans. They invented a weapon made of wood and obsidian stone that is not only nearly unbreakable, but is also capable of beheading a horse. 

A long wooden club with sharp, obsidian stones lining the edges. It looks very heavy.
Image source: ati

This may look like a club, it it operates more as a sword. The wood is embedded with sharp obsidian stones that are sharper and more effective than an actual steel blade. These weapons were documented by Spanish conquistador's as incredibly fearsome, and was one of the many advantages the Mesoamericans had when fighting Spain. Did you know that the conquistadors probably would have been driven out if the Spaniards hadn't accidentally brought over diseases that severely weakened the indigenous people? Yep. Those cultures were incredibly advanced.

I ran across the Macuahuitl during research for Vengeance Hunter. Though I chose not to use this weapon because it didn't fit the vibe of my story, but I am 100% using it in the future. It's perfect for Mesoamerican-inspired stories or stories where steel is non-existant or in low supply. 

5. Urumi

AKA: The weapon that I would end up accidentally killing myself with if I ever tried to use it. The Urumi is a sword with a flexible blade akin to a whip. Wielding it requires skill with both a sword and a whip, as this weapons is pretty much a horrifying combination of the two: 
A sword hilt with sharp, steel whips attached to the end. These whips coil up neatly into a circle.
Image source: Ancient Origins

It's useful when fighting multiple opponents, and when it's not being used it can be neatly coiled and hooked onto a belt. I envision this being used by a wise warrior on the run. However, I would love to read a story about a brash, arrogant young character who is determined to use an urumi because they think it makes them look cool. The catch? They tend to injure themselves more than their enemies. 

6. Zhua


This Chinese weapon's name translates to "claw," which is very fitting considering it is literally a giant claw attached to the end of a pole. 
A long pole with an animal-like claw on the end. It looks sharp.
Image source: Deadliest Warrior Wiki

What exactly would you use this weapons for? So many things. The zhua was used to rip shields from soldier's hands during an attack, or to grab them from the back of their horses (usually severely injuring or killing them in the process). After you've de-shielded or de-mounted your opponent, this weapon can be used to tear them to shreds. Yup. For such a bizarre looking weapon, it packs quite the punch. 

7. Rungu

This ranged weapon can be used for both hunting and fighting. Originating in Africa, it's a one to two foot-long stick with a heavy knob at the end. You fling it at your intended target and knock them senseless. When thrown correctly, it is capable of fracturing a human skull (yikes). In East African tribal cultures, the rungu also has ceremonial value.

A wooden stick with a heavy, curved knob on one end.
Image source: Black Malaika

This one is particularly cool for adventure fantasy because it so easily doubles as a hunting tool and a fighting tool (plus, it's not a common weapons so your character would probably have the advantage of surprise). 

8. Italian boarding sword 

Those of you writing nautical stories, take note. This sword was used during naval warfare. It's saw-toothed blade can cut through rope, thus making it very useful in escaping boarding maneuvers. The tip of the blade is pointed, so when this sword isn't cutting through ropes it can be used to jab and thrust at approaching enemies. In addition, it can be used to hack down doors or spar using traditional fencing methods. 
A sword one serrated side. The tip is very pointed and the serrated side is very exaggerated; the serration almost look like shark teeth.
Image source: Pinterest

Basically, this is the Swiss Army Knife of nautical weapons. I don't know about you, but I'm thinking this is perfect for a pirate crew. 

9. Glaive

Okay, so this one is slightly more well-known, but it's used by one of my favorite characters so I have to mention it. A single-edged blade on the end of a long pole, the glaive is a perfect mix of staff and sword: 
A series of long, thick spear heads. One side of the blade is sharp, the other side is either smooth or has hooks,
Image source: Wikipedia

Sometimes glaive blades have hooks on their non-edged side, thus allowing the glaive to be used to knock riders from their horses. 

A glaive is used by Balsa, a character from a favorite anime of mine (Moribito). However, it's worth noting that the Japanese form of this weapon is called a naginata (betcha' never heard of that one). Go watch Moribito and you'll see just how badass this weapon is.

10. Caltrops

Yeah, I know, I know. This one isn't super rare (especially if you've ever played Dungeons and Dragons). I mention them because they're very versatile, yet never seem to make it into fantasy novels. Why?? Just look at them:

Two sharp needle-like pieces of steel are welded together. It is designed so that at least one spike is sticking upwards at all times.
Image source: Ninjawiki

As one of the members from my DnD group said: They're basically a really horrific version of a lego. You do NOT want to step on one of these bad boys. They can be used to stop chariots, horses, or even wheeled vehicles with inflated tires. And they don't just hurt transportation devices, either. They can be used to slow the movement of troops, stop a burglar, or keep unfriendly neighbors off of property. The possibilities are endless. 

Did I miss any of your favorite, little-known weapons? Tell me about them in the comments section!

Related article:
12 Unusual, Frightening Mythical Monsters to Use in Your Fantasy Novel
9 Epic, Underused Mythical Animals for Your Fantasy Novel

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  1. My villain in my WIP uses katars! Very fun weapon to work with.

  2. This is enormously satisfying to the stabby-stabby demon I always have to keep in check within my psyche. Also, now my heroes need cooler weapons...

  3. Really cool! Also, you should check out the tv show Forged in Fire. It's a knife making contest, and the top two contestants have to make some sort of cool (often not very common) weapon to determine the winner. There's also some history about the weapon.

  4. A review of ancient and historical weapons is quite unusual for you. just place the order at
    It is necessary to embed similar elements in your stories.


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