What Were the Weapons of the Apache Tribe?

by Clayton Browne

The Apache were a Native American Indian culture living in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma around 1700 when they started to have sustained contact with Europeans. The Apache were divided into six sub-tribes: the Mescalero, Jicarilla, Western Apache, Chiricahua, Kiowa and Lipan. Most historians estimate that the Apache tribes together numbered between 5,000 and 6,000 people at that time. The Apache were famous for their horseback riding skills and their fierce, war-like culture.

Lances

Some of the Apache tribes used 8- to 9-foot long lances for close-range fighting on horseback. The shafts of the lances often were made from sapling trees and usually had a 2- to 3-foot long blade -- frequently the blade of a captured Spanish saber -- attached to the shaft with sinew. The Apache decorated their lances with eagle and hawk feathers and other ornaments.

Bow and Arrow

The bow and arrow was the primary weapon of all of the Apache tribes. They developed the construction and use of the weapon to the highest level with the materials available to them. The bows usually were made from flexible cedar or mulberry wood and the arrows were made of cimarron or another hardwood. The bowstring typically was made from cow sinew. The arrows were fletched with buzzard and turkey feathers, and by the early 1700s almost all Apache arrowheads were reshaped scrap metal instead of flint.

Clubs

Different Apache tribes also used war clubs, both for hunting and fighting. The largest clubs were made from large branches with stones attached, but some Apache tribes also used clubs of solid hardwood and clubs fashioned from the jawbone of a horse or buffalo.

Rifles

Rifles started to make their way to the Apache tribes by 1750, mainly from French traders based in present day Louisiana and Texas. By 1790, rifles among the Apache were common. The Apache became famous for both their amazing accuracy with rifles and their unique horseback rifle mount, enabling them to shoot while riding.

About the Author

Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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