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The two-handed sword, also known as a greatsword or Zweihänder in German, was a formidable medieval weapon that emerged in Europe during the late Middle Ages, primarily during the 14th to 16th centuries. As its name suggests, it was characterized by its large size and distinctive feature of being wielded with two hands on a long grip.
These swords had a straight, double-edged blade measuring around 140 to 180 centimeters (55 to 71 inches) in length, though variations existed. This substantial length provided significant reach and leverage, making the weapon capable of powerful cuts and thrusts. In addition to its imposing blade, they often featured a long grip with a distinctive pommel at the end to counterbalance the blade’s weight. Some variations also included complex handguards for protection. Due to its size and weight, the two-handed sword required considerable strength and skill to wield effectively. It was primarily used by specialized infantry troops, such as mercenaries and professional soldiers, as well as by elite knights and bodyguards.
In combat, the two-handed sword was versatile, capable of delivering devastating blows that could cleave through armor and opponents alike. Its long reach allowed fighters to strike from a distance while maintaining defensive capabilities. While the two-handed sword was highly effective on the battlefield, it gradually fell out of favor with the advent of firearms and changes in military tactics. However, its legacy endured in the form of ceremonial weapons and as symbols of medieval martial prowess.
Today, the two-handed sword is celebrated in historical reenactments, martial arts, and popular culture, serving as a reminder of the martial traditions of the medieval period.