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Weapons are used to kill mobs faster, and may be created via crafting. When you left-click a mob no more than 3 blocks away, you deal damage according to what you are holding. There are currently only two items in Minecraft which are considered as proper weapons: Swords and Bows. Axes can also be wielded as weapons (as can some other tools), but they are considered tools, and therefore have detrimental side-effects when used as weapons.
Weapon materials and efficiency
Swords can be crafted of five different materials. The sword materials, from highest to lowest attack strength/durability, are as follows:
Each material has a limited number of uses (referred to as the weapon's level of Durability) and a specific number of hearts damage (attack power). Better materials mean both more damage and higher durability, with the exception of gold.
Mobs' health is measured in "hearts", just like the player's. Chickens have 2 hearts; sheep and silverfishes have 4; cows, squids and pigs have 5; spiders have 8; skeletons, creepers, blazes, tamed wolves and zombie pigmen have 10; zombies have 10, (zombies also have armor points that can protect them); endermen have 20. Ghasts have only 5 hearts. Wild wolves have 4 hearts. Slimes and magma cubes react differently to damage. Their health depends on their size.
This is a chart cross-referencing weapons with materials to find the amount of damage dealt; notice the pattern.
As fists and arrows do not have a "material", their damage is constant. Although Hoes are tools, they are not counted as weapons and have the same effect as fists (no durability loss and same damage)
Before Beta 1.5, fist and non-tool attacks did damage. This was increased in Beta 1.5 to damage, but was then reverted in 1.8 The Bountiful Update. However, this was balanced somewhat with the addition of critical hits.
- Main article: Bow
Arrows provide ammunition for a bow, and can either be crafted or found as a common drop from Skeletons. When fired, they will fly in a ballistic trajectory affected by Gravity and drag in air or Water travelling approximately 3 blocks when fired parallel to a flat plane with no charge, 15 blocks average with medium charge, and 24 blocks average with maximum charge.
Tools as weapons
Axes, Pickaxes and Shovels can be used as weapons. If the player is holding anything besides these three or a sword, a normal attack will deal 'fist' damage. However, the Durability of a tool will wear down at twice the rate if it is used as a weapon, with the rationale that it is not being used for its intended purpose.
Weapons as Tools
Swords will break many blocks faster than punching them by hand, but each broken block wears down the durability of the sword at twice the rate, similar to when tools are used as weapons, as it is not being used for its intended purpose.