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This may sound a bit odd to compare both since they are different types of weapons. Sort of like what is the better tool today, a hammer or screwdriver? But each weapon found their way onto the battlefield throughout history together. Why? And which would you take?
The sword is no doubt the more romantic of the two with the likes of Excalibur leading the way in myth and Viking swords like Ulfberth talked about to this day due to its fearsome reputation for extraordinary toughness. After all, what do we associate heroes with? Musketeers, William Wallace, Zorro, King Arthur...the sword. You name it, the sword rules supreme in this regard. It can cut, chop and slice and even thrust when using the right shaped blade. But is it best in battle?
We don't think so. In our experience the spear or a long-shafted weapon wielded, even by a novice, can inflict damage at range taking out a swordsman before they can even swing their weapon. No wonder it was a favorite for thousands of years, from the common soldier to royal guards. It can sneak around shields and makes it easy to hit the head, torso or lower leg with equal ease, again at range. A spear can cut, slice, and thrust with extreme effectiveness. It can be used to beat swords and soldiers to the ground. It can even be thrown with deadly efficiency when balanced in the right hands. Seriously, try that with a sword. Actually don't, we're sticklers for safety.
A weapon causes most of its damage from the end where inertia builds and momentum is at its peak. This means the end or tip of whatever is being swung around. The longer the weapon, the wider the swing, the more power you can generate. A normal hit from a sword can feel like a bolt of lightning coming from a spear. The multiple hand holds on a spear meant it could be used in many different ways and the power of a full body thrust put into one had a massive damaging effect through armor, mail, padding and bone.
Swords had their place as a personal status symbol and were certainly effective as battlefields clogged with soldiers. It was a weapon better suited for close quarters combat or civilian duelling. But given the wide open spaces many battles were fought in and its proven effectiveness over thousands of years, we're edging toward the spear (nice pun right?).
Our conclusion? We rank the spear ahead of the sword in open combat, but we're smart warriors too. We'll keep a short sword by our side, you know, just in case.