The Impracticality of a Climbing Axe in Combat

Hello! This may seem a bit odd and I’ve searched your page but nothing came up for it, apologies if you have answered this before.

But a character of mine uses an ice pickaxe/ice tool as a weapon, and often for climbing as well. As the hook is at an angle and the handle is curved, I was wondering the pros and cons as well as it would be handled as I’ve never handled one before.

Also, thank you for the content, it’s saved me quite a few times when learning how to make a realistic fight 🙂

We have covered this in the past. Specifically we did a post on the climbing axe a couple years ago.

The short answer is, it’s not a particularly good weapon of choice. It’s a survival tool first, and while you might be able to turn it into an improvised weapon with a well placed strike on a distracted (or unarmed) foe, it’s not designed to be a direct combat weapon, and doesn’t really support being used like one.

The problem with the angled hook is it robs the weapon of reach, meaning you basically need to be in hand to hand range. The curved handle on ice axes is supposed to reduce kinetic feedback into the user, so that’s not really relevant to combat one way or the other.

The basic process of using one would be to haul off and swing, sort of like how it’s used normally. The problem with that is it has a very clearly profiled strike in most cases (remember, the human eye tracks the edges of objects more easily than distinguishing what’s going on inside the profile, and this makes the strikes easier to defend against if the target can see the attacker’s limbs moving outside of their silhouette, which would happen here.) If the target can’t see the attack happening, then it will have some armor penetration (it is designed to punch through hardened surfaces.) However, if the attacker can see the strike, their reflexes would be able to respond faster than against a weapon striking from inside the attacker’s silhouette. Note that if the target is unarmed and unarmored, their only real option would be to get out of the strike’s path, but they’d still have an advantage to do so.

So, not a great weapon. Ice axes and climbing axes are not weapons. As improvised combat tools go, they’re reasonable choices. If your character doesn’t have access to legitimate weapons, these end up at the top of the heap for improvised weapons, along with things like crowbars. But if your character can get a legitimate weapon, the ice axe will be outclassed extremely quickly.


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