PHB p. 72 (and others)


When you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with that weapon.

PHB p.147

Thrown. If a weapon has the thrown property, you can throw the weapon to make a ranged attack. If the weapon is a melee weapon ...

So a Handaxe is a simple melee weapon with the thrown property so, as written, it can benefit from Dueling whether used for a melee or ranged attack because it remains a melee weapon irrespective of how it is used.

Conversely, it cannot benefit from the Archery Fighting Style because it is never a ranged weapon even when making a ranged attack.

Where it gets really interesting is in the interaction with Two-Weapon Fighting (p.195)

When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in one hand, you can use a bonus action to attack with a different light melee weapon that you’re holding in the other hand. You don’t add your ability modifier to the damage of the bonus attack, unless that modifier is negative.

If either weapon has the thrown property, you can throw the weapon, instead o f making a melee attack with it.

So, with 2 Handaxes and I throw the first, because it is a light weapon, I can use Two-Weapon Fighting to use the other (either for melee or ranged) and benefit from Dueling because I am now "wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapons."

Am I reading this right?


4 Answers 4


I'll get the simple bit done first - you're right, nothing in the Thrown property turns a melee weapon into a ranged weapon. It's a melee weapon you can use to make ranged attacks, so the Archery Fighting Style, which says that

You gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with ranged weapons.

can never apply to it. It can apply to darts, because they are thrown ranged weapons. This was also confirmed in a recent Sage Advice column:

Does the Archery fighting style work with a melee weapon that you throw? No, the Archery feature benefits ranged weapons. A melee weapon, such as a dagger or handaxe, is still a melee weapon when you make a ranged attack with it.

Now for the Dueling Fighting Style. Here, I have to disagree with you - when you roll damage for a thrown weapon, you aren't wielding that weapon in one hand. You were wielding it, then you threw it, then it hit. If you were still wielding it when it hit the target, it would be a melee attack. (Unless you threw it, then teleported across the battlefield and caught it right when it hit them, which sounds cool, but doesn't seem particularly useful.)

"Wielding" is a fairly nebulous term, so there is room for interpretation here, but personally I'm inclined to think that "wielding [...] in one hand" pretty clearly requires you to be holding something in your hand.

On the other hand, Crawford says that the Dueling Fighting Style does work with thrown melee weapons, and he's the authority on these matters.

  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that it comes down to the definition of "wielding" and I would interpret this as @Miniman does. But in the OP's scenario, I think he could throw the first axe, so that he's no longer wielding that one, and then make a melee attack with the second as a bonus action, and benefit from Dueling in that case. It might be worth adding that? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 4:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 It was added well after the answer was voted on. Making it more than an afterthought is unfair on anyone who voted on the answer without it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 4:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Noctis (FFXV) begs to differ with you about this particular ability being useful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nyoze
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 12:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nyoze I don't mean "it teleports you to where it hits", I mean "you throw it, then use a separate ability to telport to where it hits, catch it, and then attack with it in melee" If you could do that, there'd be no point throwing it in the first place. Just teleport into melee and go for it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 13:03

You "wield" the weapon when you attack or throw with it, not simply when it's in your hand.

It may no longer be in your hand but the attack and damage rolls signify the attempt and everything to do with it, not just physics and angle.

It was with that one hand that you threw it and with that one hand that you made the attack; it did not cease to be a one-handed attack and become an independent act of the axe itself when physics took over.

Moreover, the technique of the throw and the strength and precision behind the throwing arm are contributing factors to the attack's damage, so the dueling style makes sense as a boost.

Remember, stats in RPGs aren't just a measure of power--they're an abstraction of all the factors that go into every event that occurs in combat. Your HP isn't just a measure of how many cuts you can take before you arbitrarily fall over. It's a counterbalance to the threat that attacks you that determines how much relative harm can be inflicted on you buy those thing (an attack that would dismember you at level 1 is too slow or undisciplined to do more than graze you at level 5, for instance).

Same with the Duelist fighting style: it's not an arbitrary point bonus for holding something in one hand, it's an abstraction of the edge that mastery in a specific combat discipline gives you. You're more dedicated to one-on-one melee; attacks become more precise and do a better job of picking out weak spots and vulnerabilities, hence the damage boost.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ While your line of thinking is rational, and I think your line of reasoning hinges on how one interprets wield, do you have any dev rulings to support your line of thinking? (Hint: twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/651498920636321792 ... suggest you edit that into your answer to support your line of argument. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 14:22
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is a really good answer, but I think it would benefit from a clear conclusion (ie. "No, you wouldn't get the Duelist bonus"). \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 15:11

Yes, you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand when you make the attack.

Consider the rules for Making an Attack:

  1. Choose a target. Pick a target within your attack's range: a creature, an object, or a location.

  2. Determine modifiers. The DM determines whether the target has cover and whether you have advantage or disadvantage against the target. In addition, spells, special abilities, and other effects can apply penalties or bonuses to your attack roll.

  3. Resolve the attack. You make the attack roll. On a hit, you roll damage, unless the particular attack has rules that specify otherwise. Some attacks cause special effects in addition to or instead of damage.

Your character only ever starts moving once the attack is resolved. The die have been cast and now the DM describes what happened. Your character throwing the weapon is a consequence of the resolution.

You throw the weapon as a result of the resolution of the attack. The attack has already been made.

From the rules for Ranged Attacks:

When you make a ranged attack, you fire a bow or a crossbow, hurl a handaxe, or otherwise send projectiles to strike a foe at a distance.

And Melee Attack rules:

Used in hand-to-hand combat, a melee attack allows you to attack a foe within your reach.

It is incorrect to say that you throw the weapon, then make the attack. You do not say "I throw my weapon, then when it hits make an attack".

You make an attack, and this allows your character to throw a handaxe, bash someone with a club, fire an arrow, etc.

You do not throw a handaxe, bash someone with a club, fire an arrow, and as a result make an attack.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Good answer! You may also wish to mention that this ruling matches the apparent rules intent, as indicated in this (now unofficial) Crawford tweet from October 2015 - Twitter user: "Does the Dueling Style apply its bonus to a thrown melee weapon?" Crawford: "Yes." \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 8:37
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast I think that RAW is fine without searching for tweets that are unofficial now anyway. You can leave the quote in link in the comment but I don't really like saying "look what Jeremy said on twitter!" as an answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 9:21

Yes, the Dueling fighting style should apply to thrown weapons

Dan Dillon tweeted a question to rules designer Jeremy Crawford in 2015 (before Dillon was hired by WotC himself):

Does the Dueling Style apply its bonus to a thrown melee weapon?

JC answered simply: "Yes."

In 2016, another user asked JC a similar question:

Can the Dueling style bonus damage still works on melee weapons that are thrown?? Let's say a Handaxe for example.

The response from JC was:

The Dueling fighting style works with a thrown melee weapon. The feature doesn't limit itself to melee attacks.

Jeremy Crawford's tweets are no longer official rulings, but they can provide a good source of rules intent.


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