main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
National Weapon
"Did you see those warriors from Hammerfell? They've got curved swords. Curved. Swords."

Just as cultures might have an iconic Battle Cry attached to them, often they will have a weapon that has a similar status. Sometimes it will have a religious or magical significance; it might for instance be a copy of a blade that was Forged by the Gods. Perhaps it typically has a Badass Creed engraved on it. Or maybe it is simply hard to imagine them fighting without it, and even if it becomes obsolete it is impossible to imagine this group parading without it because it has a symbolic status that goes beyond its functionality. As Tropes Are Flexible, this does not have to be a whole culture's weapon; it can be the weapon of any group: say, an order of Warrior Monks, or a Caste or a Secret Circle of Secrets, or a gender. The point is that the weapon is so much connected with a group that it serves as a logo as well as a weapon.

Likely to be wielded by a Proud Warrior Race. If the weapon in question is a physical part of an alien race's anatomy then see Natural Weapon.



  • Based (as always) on Tolkien, the Dwarfs of the Discworld consider their battleaxes cultural artifacts, and will not part with them even when circumstances require them to bequeath all other weapons (at a diplomatic function, for instance). In Thud we are introduced to a more liberal sect of Dwarfs who do not carry these, believing that the axe is "a state of mind". It helps that they've invented kung fu. Trolls also have clubs, to a lesser degree (a ceremonial club was a minor plot point in Thud).
  • In Dune, crysknives (made from the tooth of a Sand Worm) are sacred to Fremen.
  • On Gor a few Fantasy Counterpart Cultures have trademark weapons.
    • The Wagon Peoples of Southern Gor have the quiva, a set of throwing knives. They also use the bola and lance from kaiilaback.
    • Torvaldslanders (Vikings) have the battleaxe
    • Tribes in Darkest Gor use the "stabbing spear."
    • The Alar (kinda-sorta Roma) have the francisca, an ax different than the Torvaldslanders.
    • Tribesmen in the Tahari desert (Arabs) have the scimitar.
    • Red Savages (Native Americans) have the tomahawk, as well as the war lance they use from aiilaback (a different species of kaiila than the Wagon Peoples use).
    • The caste of Peasants, the lowest caste on Gor, have the quarterstaff and longbow, which are looked down upon by the caste of Warriors but can be quite effective.
  • Dwarves use axes in Lord of the Rings.
    • Also based on Tolkien is the association of Elves with bows, which is less supported by the original mythos (Tolkien's Elves are good with bows, but for the most part they prefer swords).
    • Orcs use scimitars.
  • The Aiel in Wheel of Time use knives and bows, but prefer the short-spears, and will not touch a sword under any circumstances. This is revealed as a plot point in the backstory, as there is a specific reason for this reluctance. Also, Two Rivers folk are known for their very effective use of the longbow.

Live-Action TV
  • The Minbari Denn'bok in Babylon 5.
  • Star Trek:
    • The iconic Bat'leth functions as this for the Klingons.
      • The Mek'leth dagger too for Klingons though it is not quite as iconic.
    • Interestingly Vulcans, though no longer a Proud Warrior Race still use Lirpas—short polearms with fan-blades at one end and bludgeons at the other, similar to the Chinese monk's spade—in ceremonies.
  • The High Guard force lance in Andromeda.
  • The Goa'uld have their troops weld force staffs in Stargate. The System Lords themselves use Ribbon Devices that can project force fields and melt people's brains.

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons has several weapons associated with non-human races, such as the orc double-axe and gnome hooked hammer. Characters from those races treat their exotic weapons as martial for weapon proficiencies. Deities grant proficiency with their preferred weapons to their clerics and are the manifestation of their spiritual weapon spell. Clerics without a patron deity manifest a spiritual weapon based on their alignment.
  • Aslan in Traveller actually use claws in duels, both real and sporting. A human who is Going Native with them, or just wants to be polite uses a pair of artificial claws called Ayloi.
    • While not a national weapon as such, the Imperial Marine cutlass is a symbol of the Imperial marines.
  • Warhammer 40,000 Each faction has one.
    • Imperial Guard: Lasguns and Leman Russ tanks.
    • Orks: Choppas and sluggas.
    • Space Marines: Bolters and chainswords.
      • Their Chaos Evil Counterparts instead use chainaxes.
      • The Emperor's Children favor sonic blasters.
      • The Death Guard have plague swords.
    • Eldar: Shuriken catapults.
    • Tau: Pulse rifles.
    • Necrons: Gauss rifles.
  • In BattleTech, all of the main factions have their own "signature" Humongous Mecha, though the Scavenger World nature of the setting means that other factions will use those assets if they manage to steal or salvage one.

Video Games
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, The tribes in the Honest Hearts DLC each have a signature weapon: The Whitelegs use .45 Submachine Guns, the Dead Horses use War Clubs, the Sorrows use Yao Guai Gauntlets, and the New Canaanites use .45 pistols.
    • In the same vein, every legionnaire has a machete and a few throwing spears, every NCR trooper carries his semi-auto rifle, and the NCR veteran rangers all carry their own Ranger Sequoia.
  • In Command and Conquer: Red Alert, there are two each for the Allies and Soviets: Tanya and the Chronosphere for the former, Apocalypse Tanks and the Iron Curtain for the latter.
  • Command & Conquer: GDI and Nod have theirs as well: for GDI, its the Mammoth tank, Orca, and the ion cannon. Nod have their stealth units, cyborgs, and nuclear missile.

  • Boomerangs for Australian Aborigines.
  • Claymores for Bonnie Scotland
  • Katanas for Japan at least for samurai, along with a smaller blade like a wakizashi or tantō. This association is actually Newer Than They Think: traditionally, samurai were associated with bows (either on horseback or from behind a tatenote ) with their swords being more of a a sidearm. The association with swords was played up after firearms made bows obsolete.
  • Kukris for Nepal, famously with the Gurkha soldiers.
  • Longbows were once this for the English and the Welsh (they even continued to use them while other nations adopted early firearms), to the point that the longbow design which all of Europe used is known as the English or Welsh Longbow (despite it not being the native bow of either nation).
  • Bow and arrows for Koreans. Preferring long-distance attacks over hand-to-hand battles, Koreans were famed for their archery from the ancient to modern times (even today, South Korea always excels in Olympic archery). Later, when gunpowder was invented in China, Koreans used it to develop cannons, hwacha, and other firearms. These proved very effective during the Japanese invasion of 1592.
    • Also during that war, common Korean people fought against the invaders using Joseonnat (Korean sickles), very hard sickles that can cut grass and trees machete-style. Oh, and like the kukris, they proved very effective at cutting enemy throats.
  • Composite bows for Mongols.
  • The Pilum and Gladius for Rome.
  • Ancient Dacians used the sica (literally "sickle") which the Romans named falx as their sword of choice. It had been originally an agricultural tool like the Kukri and therefore most adult Dacians were familiar with it and most Dacian household were expected to have at least one on hand. The shape made for swinging also allowed devastating cutting blows on the unarmored limbs of the opponent.
  • The Greek hoplite shield was not primarily offensive, so was possibly "armor" rather then a weapon. However, hoplites regarded their spears as expendable but treasured their shields; in fact, the word "hoplite" comes from the Greek hoplon, which means "shield." Proverbially, a soldier was expected to come back with his shield or else on top of it (i.e. how his comrades would carry his body home). The key point was that, when standing in the battle line, the shield on your left arm protected your comrade, not you personally, so dropping it and running away was directly endangering the lives of your fellow soldiers and citizens.
  • Short spear (Assegai) and leaf-shaped oxhide shield for Zulus.
  • The Sikh Kirpan dagger is one of the best examples of this for it a symbol of Sikhism representing their obligation to defend one another. Also the curious Chakram ring-knives, often worn in their turbans.
  • The Kris of Indonesia and Malaysia.
  • The rapier and left-hand dagger for Spain.
  • The bolo of the Philippines.
  • The Irish shillelagh.
  • The Finns have their puukko knives - quite unremarkable 4- to 6-inch, plain, single-edged, usually wooden-handled utility knives. These knives have over the past 500 years or so proven to be the ultimate appliance for crafting, cooking, eating, all kinds of outdoorsy activities, and shanking irritating neighbors. And running.
    • So much that Russians have a name for that type of knife: Финка (Feenka, meaning Finnish).
  • The tomahawk and the gunstock war club among Native American/First Nations peoples of the Northeast and the Great Plains.
  • The flag of Mozambique sports an AK-47 with bayonet attached.
  • The pike and, to a lesser extent, the halberd for the Swiss.
  • The cannon and the warship (in their various incarnations) can be thought of as the occupational weapons of the Intrepid Merchant. They play up the need for organizational skill and technological mastery, and don't require the training in individual prowess that hand weapons do. A given Intrepid Merchant is likely to learn how to handle a ship in his ordinary occupation; he might even learn to fight by dealing with pirates. If you find a mercantile people with warlike pretensions (as a number had, particularly the English and the Dutch), you will likely find that they had a Badass Navy and/or Badass Artillery.
  • The Franks used the francisca throwing axe at the beginning of each battle, a weapon so ubiquitous to them that there's speculation if the weapon was named after them, or vice versa.
    • Similarly, the Saxons may have been named for their signature weapon, the seax knife or sword. Three of them still appear in the coat of arms of Essex (land of the East Saxons) in England.
  • The United States has a few national weapons, but it's safe to say that the handgun is currently the foremost among them. A lot of this has to do with two things: the first being that the United States is virtually the only country in the world with no specific restrictions on the ownership of handguns and its status as a celebrated icon in American cinema.
    • The Pennsylvania Long Rifle was this for Appalachian frontiersmen and Revolutionary irregulars.
    • The revolver (six-shooters) and/or Winchester rifle for American Cowboys.
    • The distinctive black polymer furniture on the AR family of rifles (M16/M4/AR-15) has labeled the United States "The Black Rifle Nation."
    • The Bowie and Ka-Bar knives.
    • The baseball bat. Then again, the United States is one of the few places where someone might own one just to play baseball.
    • And if you want to go big, there's always Peace Through Superior Firepower.
  • The counterpart to the US Army's signature M16 rifle during the Cold War was the AK family of rifles used by the Eastern Bloc, to the extent that there are still debates over which is the better gun. To sum up, the M16 is more accurate and has a longer range, but the AK is much more durable and reliable, being designed to be simple to produce and to fire under any conditions.
  • The Brown Bess musket and later the Lee-Enfield rifle were once almost as much emblems of the British army as the red coat.
  • The jezail used to be a favorite among Pashtuns. It is an unusually long smoothbore musket once used for sniping. It went out of style when local tribes first took to the Lee-Enfield and later to the AK-47 and modern sniper rifles.
  • More like National Armor than weapon, the unofficial emblem of the Romanian Army since 1938 has been the Dutch Helmet, based on the Dutch M28 and M34 steel helmets. It was adopted back in the late 1930s for some reason, and due to local production and German shipments of captured Dutch equipment during World War II, became ubiquitous enough to remain in production during the Communist years and saw regular use until the mid-1990s.
  • For most Arabs, the curved sword.
  • The Pulaski axe is the subcultural "weapon" of US wildland firefighters.
  • There's a damned good reason that Sicarii means "dagger-men".
  • The ancient Chinese had their own unique weapon, the ge or "dagger-axe", that looks somewhat like a halberd but is quite different in origin.
  • Daneaxe, as you might suspect, have been associated with Danish vikings.

Named WeaponsWeapons and Wielding TropesNatural Weapon

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy