Tag Archives: dual wielding

Q&A: Dual Pistols

Hello, I don’t know if you’ve ever answered this question before but what is your opinion on dual wielding hand guns? Do you think its practical and if someone was to do it, what would be the best technique?


We have, it’s not.

The general problem with dual wielding firearms is that you’re trading accuracy and control for an extra weapon. This is not an efficient tradeoff. You don’t even get a higher, sustained, rate of fire, because reloading will be more cumbersome. Unless you’ve got matched weapons, you’ll be running dry at different times, meaning you’ll either only have use of one some of the time, or you’ll have to stop and reload erratically. It’s technically possible to stagger your rate of fire so both would run dry together, but if we’re talking about a firefight, the odds of being able to add this to the list of things you want to manage is pretty slim.

You can’t aim both, so you’re either alternating between them, which doesn’t really help, or spraying and praying. That doesn’t work out well for handguns where the overall capacity is pretty low to begin with.

In modern day, you’re better off carrying a backup, using one, and then switching over when you run out of ammo. And, yes, carrying multiple handguns is absolutely a thing. If one suffers a mechanical failure, or, again, you run out of ammo for it, you still have a functional weapon to use. Pulling your backup and trying to use both at the same time is not a good idea.

Historically, this made a little more sense. When looking at 19th century revolvers, or single shot muzzle loaders, the idea of dual wielding had more appeal. For one thing, they weren’t especially accurate to begin with, and you were effectively doubling your firepower. Technically, this was more of a variant of the backup routine above. Because you’d use one, and then switch to the other. In the case of flint and matchlocks, it wasn’t unheard of for someone to go into combat with more than two, so that they could get off multiple shots at the beginning of combat. Muzzle loaders were not accurate to begin with, so no worries about stabilizing them.

Generally speaking, dual wielding firearms gets used because it looks cool, not because it’s a good idea. It’s really not. In that sense, the best technique is to put second gun away until you need it.


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Q&A: Dual Wielding: Power and Control

is it actually possible to wield dual weapons like swords and axes? I ask because I always thought swords were kind of heavy


Yes, it’s possible. You’re also understandably mistaken.

The weight of a given sword or axe will vary depending on the individual artifact. So, you could reasonably find an absurdly heavy ornamental sword, designed for display, which would be impractical to use because of its weight. These certainly existed, and there are many surviving examples. But a sword intended for combat would be quite light.

In fact, it’s possible, though somewhat more taxing, to wield the “heavy” 2h swords like the Zweihander or Claymore with one hand. The key piece of information is, even the large greatswords rarely exceeded 8lbs (~3.6kg.) Put this in a frame of reference you’re (probably) familiar with: A gallon of milk weighs more than that.

A one-handed European sword would weigh somewhere between 2 to 4lbs (~0.9-1.8kg). Easy enough to lift and operate in a single hand without issues. Early modern light blades, like the rapier, would weigh even less.

Saying they’re too heavy to wield in one hand is, kind of, ridiculous. Now, it is defensible to make this mistake. A lot of RPGs get pretty sloppy with weapon weights. D&D used to err at the upper edge, so if you crack open a 3rd edition book, it’ll give you the upper values I just listed as the default weight. (5th Edition’s corrected this with average weights.) Fire up something like Skyrim, and it will glibly tell you that a Steel Greatsword weighs 17 “units,” whatever the hell those are. Though, you could be forgiven for thinking that Bethesda meant 17lbs.

There’s a similar misconception with armor. The idea that armor is heavy and cumbersome. Sometimes taken to the point that there are people who legitimately believe a knight in full plate who was knocked over couldn’t get back up. Again, as with the display and parade weapons, there is a little truth to this. Particularly with armor designed for tournaments, that really impair the user’s mobility in the game of greater protection. However, any combat equipment that is too cumbersome or heavy to use in a real fight is fundamentally flawed.

Swords and other weapons intended for combat were kept light. Strength is not the issue, endurance is. If you’re going to be fighting all day, a heavier weapon will wear you out faster. While you could lift and swing a 20lb sword around, it would quickly exhaust you. This is fine if you’re working out, trying to build up conditioning, or putting on a performance, but when you’re trying to kill someone, that’s a detriment. If it’s heavier, it’ll be harder to control and more exhausting.

As a result, even the big, “heavy,” swords were kept pretty light. They’re agile, lethal, and require skill to use effectively. When fighting an armored opponent, the goal was (usually) to find gaps in their armor and run it in through there, rather than flailing wildly and hoping the kinetic force got the job done. (Hint: it wouldn’t.)

So, is it possible to dual wield an axe and sword? Well, yes. It is. It also wasn’t done with any frequency. You’re, ironically, better equipped to face off an opponent two handing a single blade or axe, than you are if you try dual wielding. This goes back to what I just said, the heavier the weapon the less control, and more exhausting it is. If you have your offhand free to aid use of the sword, you can use it to help with control and power, making far more dangerous, than an opponent who’s splitting their attention on two offensive weapons.

While I’m not being explicit, most of this also applies to an axe.

There’s one very common form of dual wielding that most people don’t think about: The sword and shield. Yes, this is dual wielding. The shield is a weapon, more defensive, making it less viable for use on its own, but still a weapon. 

So, the short answer is that people did dual wield, just not in the way you’re thinking. Wielding two offensive weapons will, counter-intuitively, put the combatant at a significant disadvantage against an opponent with one weapon.

There’s an argument for a sufficiently skilled combatant dual wielding, or an experienced combatant using an off hand weapon opportunistically. (Such as grabbing a discarded weapon to exploit a moment’s vulnerability.)

The main reason to have a character dual wielding is because it’s visually dynamic. As with many other things, if you’re not working in a visual medium, that effect will be lost, and you’re making more work for yourself without the benefit.


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Q&A: Mismatched Weapons

Hey I’m trying to write a scene where one character is fighting using hook swords while the other is simply using a mace. I want for the fight to end in the mace user winning, however I’m having issues figuring out some weaknesses to using hook swords online and I’d rather have them win the fight in a more creative way than just brute forcing it since even though physically the mace user is stronger, they’re effectively on the same level as far as actual fighting goes. Any suggestions?

You’ve got a serious problem and that problem is mismatched weaponry.

A mace is twenty six inches long.

A hook sword is roughly thirty three and a quarter.

That’s an almost eight inch difference in length, and it’s only the first issue.

The hook swords are faster with a longer reach, lighter, and there’s two of them. The blades on the hilt and the pommel mean they can still be deadly in close range, even potentially switching into a reverse grip.

The second point is these weapons were considered difficult to master, and due to Chinese traditions with martial combat come with the experience of an entire martial art behind them. That’s one of the northern styles like Northern Shaolin. The one aspect to ground yourself with about Asian martial arts tradition is: the more advanced the weapon, the later it’s learned.

For the purposes of these traditions your basic weapons serve similarly to the basic hand to hand techniques learned when we begin training in any style, and these weapons form the foundational understanding of all weapon types. We cannot battle the sword if we do not understand it, we cannot battle the staff if it is unknown. The technique used when wielding a basic staff are the foundation for those utilized with the three-sectional and so on.

European training systems don’t really work this way and were far less formalized, though it’s much more difficult to know what their training looked like. Either way, the mace has a much lower entry level in terms of skill.

Add to that, dual wielding weapons is extremely difficult and the longer the weapon the more difficult it becomes. Your hands and arms need to be able to perform complex techniques simultaneously, together and separately, with a balanced body. Your mind must track both weapons, and utilize both tactically against your opponent or the one you’re not using becomes a liability. A well rounded dual wield system will utilize one weapon (or in this case both) as a means of defense, to block, deflect, or disarm incoming strikes while the other attacks. Or, they attack together. Two weapons can blitzkrieg on a multitude of angles, strike one after the other, left and right, high and low, forcibly keeping their opponent on the defensive.

It is a very aggressive form of combat and difficult to master. When it is, (with workable weaponry designed for dual wielding) you’ve got a very dangerous fighter.

So, we have a the wielder of a complicated, unusual, difficult weapon designed for speedy, unarmored civilian combat and from a system requiring significant time investment against a guy with a mace.

Unless the one with the mace has armor and a shield, the hook swords have the advantage. They are also designed to be used in unarmored combat, and function in that role far better than a mace. The mace is a specific weapon with a very limited battlefield role as it’s meant to use blunt force to crack open tin cans.

There’s the additional point that dual wielding effectively in battle also requires a fairly high level of training, as there’s much higher risk of the blades catching on each other. Also, given one weapon is European (assuming we’re discussing the European variants of the mace) and the other is Chinese (including the information that the hook sword was a fairly rare weapon to see in use) the idea that they’re on the same level so far as training is unlikely.

Two people from two different styles are unlikely to ever be “equally matched” due to stylistic differences and training approaches. This is part of why two different people trained in two different styles are so exciting when they’re fighting because “equally matched” is thrown out the window into the unknown. And anything so far as versus with these two is merely supposition anyway as the two cultures were at very different technological points when they encountered each other.

In fairness, the hook swords would be similarly mismatched against the rapier due to its length and might be cut to pieces about as quickly. What advantages the hook swords have versus, say, a spear, are out against longer bladed weapons.

Chinese weaponry like the hook swords tend to favor circular motion, the whole weapon is bladed, and falls towards cutting as opposed to striking with the tip. The dual hooks allows them to hook weapons for a disarm, or stop them midstrike. It can also hook arms, legs, or around the back of the neck, with blades on the pommel and handguard meant to keep it’s use in range transitions.

The mace is a weapon that also moves in circles because of how it gains force, the problem is it’s slower. The heavier head on the mace is means by which it generates force, creating greater momentum as it swings. It’s not a matter of strength, but physics and not entirely dissimilar in concept to a baseball bat. However, the heavy head means it will be slower compared to a light blade like a rapier or an epee which are closer in type to the jian and also designed around the idea of unarmored combat.

The one with the mace needs a shield. They needs some way to get close enough to their opponent to bring their weapon into play, otherwise they’re just sitting there with their thumb up their ass as they’re being carved to pieces.

The big issue with weapons is if the other guy can hit you before you can hit him then you’re in serious trouble. I’d worry less about brute force. If you want the wielder with the mace to win, they need a way to get close enough to hit before any other consideration comes up. Then there’s the hook swords’ and their ability to create an escrima stick like defense with blades. Blades whose design intent is to be wielded together.

There’s nothing equal about it, the character with the mace is at a serious disadvantage. One which will get him killed in a straight fight.This isn’t the kind of disadvantage which can be brute forced through, your hero is going to need to be clever. That cleverness begins with utilizing his environment in order to limit the hook swords utility and ability to move.

The answer to dealing with the katana in a modern environment is a tight hallway, preferentially with furniture. Best case, they unsheath it and it ends up in a wall. Worst case, they’re stuck with thrusts. The katana doesn’t thrust that well compared to other swords.

Figuring out potential ways to defeat a weapon in combat begins with understanding how the weapon moves and what you plan to bring against it. It’s not statistics. It’s not physical strength. It’s not equal levels of training. Or anything outside what’s happening in the moment. You have the person and you have the weapon, and it starts by figuring out how both work together (and separately).

Any “here are two cultures who never encountered each other, who had better weapons?” question invites fanboy infighting that usually benefits no one. Besides that, while there’s more available information on Eastern martial cultures than there used to be, the Chinese martial traditions are still insular. To really understand the weapon you’d need to have a conversation with those who practice with them, preferable the masters. Cross-referencing history for when the hook swords were in use and what kind of combat they saw would also be helpful. Fortunately, Chinese cinema and Hong Kong action films will provide you with lots of choreography to chew through.

The Chinese did have a mace variant called the
Chuí, which eventually lost it’s head and moved on to beating people with two metal shafts.

I have no idea if any of this helps, but hopefully it gives you some grounding to work from.


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Q&A: Dual Wielding

Is dual wielding (like two swords, a sword and a knife or two knives) an actual effectiv fighting style or just something that looks cool??

With two swords, not really. There’s a few stray examples. It’s not so much ineffective as incredibly difficult. With that in mind, you can absolutely learn how to do this as an exhibition technique. Which, yes, ends up in the range of something that looks cool.

A sword and an off hand dagger has a lot of utility. The off hand dagger actually becomes a defensive tool.This can range from something like a stiletto, used to deflect an incoming strike, or it can include a swordbreaker, which depending on circumstances might simply hold your opponent’s blade in place while you turn them into goulash with your sword.

It’s probably worth remembering that the parrying dagger is more common when dealing with lighter blades, while sword breakers were more common when dealing with heavier, slower, blades.

Dual daggers are a legitimate, hyper-aggressive, knife fighting option. You’re trading any kind of defense for more opportunities to attack. When the user has the element of surprise it can make a bad situation so much worse, but if their foe can respond, it can go wrong for the dual wielder very quickly.

If you’re wondering how a knife can go from being a defensive tool to an offense option, it has to do with the ranges you’re engaging at. Incidentally, a swordsman with an off hand dagger does have the option to attack at extremely close ranges where they can’t attack with their sword.

I know we’ve said this before, but weapons have specific ranges. Get too close, and you can’t use them anymore. A sword works best at a little over arm’s length. For example: A sword won’t do much good

while you’re lying on top of your foe. On the other hand, if you can reach out and touch someone, knives are always good to go. The advantage for a sword is it will add 36-40 inches to your reach.

It’s also worth remembering that a sword with an off-hand pistol was a real option up into the 19th century. You’d open an encounter by putting a bullet in someone, and then use the sword.


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On the concept of dual weapons, if you had two different types such as a sagger and an axe, would you have to have knowledge of how to use both when fighting them?

Yes. Sorry if this seems kind of perfunctory, but if you’re going to use a weapon effectively, you do need to know how.

More than that, when dual wielding, you need to understand how to use the weapons together. Frequently, that means learning how to use your off hand weapon as a parrying tool, though it can also involve learning an entire technique set, as with escrima.

For reference, parrying tools are the off hand weapon taking up a usage similar to a shield. In simple terms, the shield is used to deflect and lock up an opponent’s weapons then create openings in their guard which allow for the fighter to attack with their main weapon. Fencing, for example, had a variety of other additions which served as parrying tools from the parrying dagger to the buckler and even one’s cape. Any off hand weapon, especially mismatched, will serve a similar function.

This is important because using two weapons limits the body’s movement and strike patterns compared to a single weapon, the same is true for weapon + shield. With a weapon in both hands, you only have the single hand with which to create power rather than utilizing the greater rotation achieved by two. In this case, two hands on the same weapon like a longsword or a spear mean more power, move faster, gain more rotation for the blade, and leverage. In some cases like with the spear, this includes greater range of motion and distance. Using a shield is a character sacrificing attack power for defense, the same is going to true with dual wielding weapons. For all that it’s overlooked, sword and board is essentially just a very specific kind of dual wielding.

I know that, compared to how media presents it, this seems backwards. You sacrifice power by using an offhand shield/weapon/other tool primarily for defense. You can attack with a shield, just like you can attack with that offhand weapon, but it’s primary purpose is to create a strong defense.

With mismatched weapons that lack a unified stance, you actually need more familiarity with the weapons, because you’re not going to be giving them the attention you usually would. You need to be able to use them in a more limited way with a more limited strike pattern (aka the parts of the body they can reach) to greater effect without interfering or catching on the other weapon.

The short answer again is yes, you do need a rather intimate knowledge of how to use both. Your character will also need to know how to use them in concert with each other. This is going to be more true for sword and axe than axe and dagger because length, but they do need to know what they’re doing. The same is going to be just as true for a shield, where improperly held means a broken guard or broken arm.

If the question is, “does my character need to know how to x in order to be successful at y” then the answer is probably yes. Remember, combat isn’t about two guys hitting each other until one falls over. Combat is about exploiting weaknesses, physical manipulation, and observation, all in the fastest way possible.

The one who doesn’t know what they’re doing is very easy to spot because every other warrior has not known what they were doing at some point and seen the same in their fellows.


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How effective is dual wielding firearms? Is it actually a good idea or is it just hollywood?

It’s not. It’s a Hollywood thing, because it looks cool. There were reasons for dual wielding firearms historically, but those don’t apply with modern pistols.

With early single shot pistols, rotating through weapons rather than reloading them was a (rarely used) option. This would lead to shooters firing one pistol, putting it away and selecting another, while firing with a pistol in their other hand. The most famous practitioner is probably Blackbeard (Edward Teach), who would go into combat with six pistols on a bandoleer.

With some 19th century revolvers, like the Colt Walker and Colt Single Action Army, the guns are balanced for use in a single hand, to the point that it’s actually uncomfortable to use in a modern stance. With these it is possible to accurately fire with one hand, and then switch to a revolver in the other hand. With practice it may be possible to line up a shot and fire one while recocking the other, but this is more of a trick shooting tactic than something someone would use in combat.

It’s probably also worth pointing out that fanning the hammer is also a trick shooting technique, and not something that you’d use in combat. In general, bullets were too expensive to waste that way.

All of that said, it can be a fun way to vary up your shooting on the range. So you will occasionally see people who practice it. But, it’s not something to take into a real firefight.


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Are there any dual knife styles out there?

Eskrima comes to mind. Normally, we think of it as combat using short sticks, but the original style was designed around using dual blades.

Beyond that, I’m not sure what else to recommend. Neither of us have spent any time studying knife fighting, so we’re not well versed in the formalized knife styles.

Most modern close quarters military training will include some knife forms, but I’m not aware of any that actually employ dual wielding. They may exist, I just don’t know of any.