The lance is a pole weapon or spear designed to be used by a mounted warrior or cavalry soldier (lancer). During the periods of classical and medieval warfare, it evolved into being the leading weapon in cavalry charges, and was unsuited for throwing or for repeated thrusting, unlike similar weapons of the spear/javelin/pike family typically used by infantry. Lances were often equipped with a vamplate – a small circular plate to prevent the hand sliding up the shaft upon impact. Though best known as a military and sporting weapon carried by European knights, the use of lances was widespread throughout Asia, the Middle East and North Africa wherever suitable mounts were available. As a secondary weapon, lancers of the medieval period also bore swords, axes or maces for hand-to-hand combat, since the lance was often a one-use-per-engagement weapon; assuming the lance survived the initial impact intact, it was (depending on the lance) usually too long, heavy and slow to be effective against opponents in a melee.