Armor Effectiveness

Discussion in 'General Weapons & Armour' started by sinfulwolf, Feb 17, 2009.

  1. sinfulwolf

    sinfulwolf New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2009
    Messages:
    396
    Likes Received:
    14
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Avalor
    Ratings:
    +14 / 0 / -0
    I'm no expert, so I'm asking for help. What are the pros/cons of various armor types? Whats the advantage of leather over mail, plate over scale? If anybody knows could you please let me know?
     
  2. Mububban

    Mububban Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2003
    Messages:
    4,705
    Likes Received:
    144
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    West Australia
    Ratings:
    +186 / 1 / -0
    Armour is always a tradeoff between flexibility, weight and protection. That and of course, who you are fighting, and what weapon/s they are using. Plus other slightly lesser considerations such as heat, visibility and comfort.

    Squishy extreme - cloth padding. Very flexible, light weight and comfortable but on its own, not much protection.

    Middle ground - mail/maille (chain mail is a modern term, not a historical one). Flexible but somewhat heavy, and protects against a slice but not a crushing blow. Plus all those little holes between the rings can be breached by needle bodkin arrows or poinards.

    Stiff extreme - plate armour gives awesome protection, but is heaviest, and some of those big helms have very limited visibility and would be hot as hell. Flexibility is surprisingly good though, I've seen someone in full plate doing cartwheels so it should NOT be uber-inflexible. But seeing as your head/neck movement would be compromised by your visibility, you'd tend to move a bit robotically anyway. Helm style would be a major factor, either slit visored or open faced.

    Combine mail or plate with padding, and you've got greater comfort and impact absorbency for hardly any extra weight. Hotter though. There's always a downside.

    Think of a WW2 tank vs a boxer for another extreme analogy. The tank can take a serious pounding but is slow and heavy, its movements are somewhat limited re terrain, and visibility ain't that great.

    A boxer is light, agile, fast but can't take many blows from a sword :D

    So, pick your compromise and slide those 3 sliding scales of weight, flexibility and protection. Layering different types of armour over different body areas is common to try and achieve a good balance.
     
  3. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    46
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Toronto the Good
    Ratings:
    +58 / 0 / -0
    Armour works in two different ways. Flexible armour, quilting, thick leather, mail, silk, nylon, Kevlar, works by distributing the impact over a wide area, absorbing and catching the blow. Rigid armour, cuir bouilli, plate, the chassis of an M4 Sherman, works by deflecting or blocking the blow. Some armours, scale, and lamellar, have some characteristics of each type.

    As a rule, soft armours give good protection against cuts, but poor protection against thrusts. Hard armours protect against all blows.

    Looking at several types:
    Quilting is cheap and easy to produce, and a warrior will likely wear it under mail anyway, so it's always available. Like a thick coat, it restricts movement a little and keeps you warm in the fall and way too hot in the summer. A garment of it might be called a gambeson or aketon and there are variant spellings as well.

    Soft leather is also cheap and readily available in any pre-industrial society. It's comfortable to wear and may be just right or too hot depending on the weather. It's biggest surprising drawback is that it's noisy: leather creaks. Cowhide is not the best available. Horsehide is stronger, so are buffalo, rhino, elephant. In a fantasy culture anything might be used.

    Mail - remembering that iron is better for mail than steel because iron deforms and therefore absorbs better - is much heavier than the preceding types, but arguably even more flexible. Mail gives virtually 100% protection against edge blows, unless the blow is struck square on against a rigid and unmoving target; then an edge blow will damage soft tissues and break bones through the armour, but in battle most hits would be glancing blows as both opponents try to dodge or deflect incoming strikes and mail is very protective under those circumstances. Mail is also virtually silent, much quieter than leather. There is some debate about the degree of padding needed under mail. Certainly gambesons were sometimes worn underneath, but that might have been rare. A woolen tunic or two may have been more common.

    The problem with these is that they are highly vulnerable to a firm thrust with a weapon with a decent point. At close range, even mail is highly vulnerable to arrow.

    Scale and lamellar work in broadly the same way that mail does, but they are made of plates large enough to improve protection against thrusts. Lamellar in particular is rigid enough to provide much better protection, but is much less flexible. Scale and lamellar may be made of metal, leather or bone.

    Hope this helps. I'm out of time, but should be able to post some more on Friday.
     
  4. Mububban

    Mububban Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2003
    Messages:
    4,705
    Likes Received:
    144
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    West Australia
    Ratings:
    +186 / 1 / -0
    Since when is mail silent? I jingle like father Christmas when I walk in mine :D My rivetted suit is much quieter than my old butted suit though, and I imagine that smaller rings would be much quieter than modern 6-8mm rings. But then the smaller and denser the rings, the heavier and less flexible it is. Always that sliding compromise scale.

    I sized my mail to always go over a gambeson as I'm a skinny bugger, so it helps bulk me out a bit and the padding makes huge improvements in absorbing blows. Also if the rings burst, the padding stops them from punching directly into your skin and flesh.

    Steel lamellar over mail weighs a ton but gives great torso protection. A few of our members have leathe rlamellar and it looks awesome, is great protection, but yep it creaks and squeaks a lot. But I kinda like the sound of creaking leather armour.

    Sinfulwolf, was there a specific reason you were asking or just curious?
     
  5. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    46
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Toronto the Good
    Ratings:
    +58 / 0 / -0
    Well, I did qualify that by saying it's quieter than leather.

    You have more experience with the real article; I've just been doing research for fantasy novels.
     
  6. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    46
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Toronto the Good
    Ratings:
    +58 / 0 / -0
    Rigid armour can be made starched linen, cuir bouilli, bronze, iron, steel, aluminum, or modern synthetic materials. It can be made as a composite of small pieces or a few large pieces. Small pieces may be arranged in several different ways.

    Starched linen was used in Classical Greece, and is light and cheap.

    Cuir bouilli is hardened leather. There is some speculation as to how it was hardened, boiling in water or oil, treatment with hot wax, something else. Whatever may have been used, the result can be molded until it has set and is quite hard afterward. More later.

    Bronze as far as I know was used only for large pieces - helmet, breastplate, greaves - in the Classical and pre-Classical eras. Certainly, it is harder and more protective than any non metal. Unlike iron and steel, bronze is easy to emboss with complex designs. As a result it was often worn by Roman officers, typically with a motif of Romulus and Remus nursing at the wolf. The problem is cost. Bronze is mostly copper, and copper is used for coins because it's rare.

    The typical Roman infantry's lorica segmentata was made of iron bands. Iron is easier to make and work with than steel, but can never be as hard. It is certainly cheaper than either bronze or steel.

    The most advanced armours of the Middle Ages were the steel plate armous of the 1400s, still made but little worn into the Renaissance. Steel provides better protection than any other metal, but Medieval technology produced steel in limited quantities and in small pieces. The key that made the superb suits of the 1400s possible was an improvement in smelting technology that made it possible to produce large pieces of steel.

    Must go. More in a day or two.
     
  7. Mububban

    Mububban Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2003
    Messages:
    4,705
    Likes Received:
    144
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    West Australia
    Ratings:
    +186 / 1 / -0
    A lack of rigidity is not a bad thing, as the armour deorming will absorb a blow like a crumple zone in a car's chassis. Of course if it's too much then your skeleton will end up deforming as well :D

    On the subject of hardened leather, someone in my group asked on our email list last week and two replies were:

     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2009
  8. Mububban

    Mububban Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2003
    Messages:
    4,705
    Likes Received:
    144
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    West Australia
    Ratings:
    +186 / 1 / -0
    For interest, here's my group's site, there are some pics of leather and steel lamellar over maille, some butted, some rivetted. We are a display combat group not a martial arts group so our maille doesn't need to be super-hardcore like a full contact group would require.

    http://greycompany.com.au/gallery/?album=2&gallery=13
     
  9. sinfulwolf

    sinfulwolf New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2009
    Messages:
    396
    Likes Received:
    14
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Avalor
    Ratings:
    +14 / 0 / -0
    Well thank you both for the help. Means a lot.
     
  10. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    46
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Toronto the Good
    Ratings:
    +58 / 0 / -0
    You're welcome.

    Feel free to ask more questions. There's nothing better than a good excuse to talk about a favourite subject.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2009
  11. AmrasTheArcher

    AmrasTheArcher Woodsman and archer

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2009
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1 / 0 / -0
    Okay, couple of things there's a big difference between an arming jack ( the padding you wear under armour) and padded armour. An arming jack is no use as armour whatsoever its not designed with that in mind and is not thick enough in the right places. Secondly padded armour is only comfortable if the climate is cool and the armour is new, its very hot and will pick up parasites really easily. Personally I'd not wear any apart from a helmet as I intend on being a hell of a long way away from anyone with a sword who's not on my side!!
     
  12. AmrasTheArcher

    AmrasTheArcher Woodsman and archer

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2009
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1 / 0 / -0
    Pound for pound Scale mail is probably the most effective armour but is only really found in very specific cultures eg samurai
     
  13. Mububban

    Mububban Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2003
    Messages:
    4,705
    Likes Received:
    144
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    West Australia
    Ratings:
    +186 / 1 / -0
    If I had more money I'd love to make a scale armour set from the tombstone-shaped scales the guy on the right is wearing. Stiffer than mail but more flexible than plate, surprisingly heavy though. The thick 3-4mm butt leather alone makes for a heavy coat, then the scaled added to it.....at a guess I'd say his scale cuirass weighs 8kg/17lb.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. AmrasTheArcher

    AmrasTheArcher Woodsman and archer

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2009
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1 / 0 / -0
    I've heard that brigandine is pretty good but price prohibitive?
     
  15. Mububban

    Mububban Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2003
    Messages:
    4,705
    Likes Received:
    144
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    West Australia
    Ratings:
    +186 / 1 / -0
    Depends on the "fiddly factor", larger plates are easier and cheaper to make, but the version I love is the ~14th century (?) one which has hundreds of smaller steel pieces. Now that would be a labour of love to make.
     
  16. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    46
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Toronto the Good
    Ratings:
    +58 / 0 / -0
    The armour found in the mass graves at Visby (1361) was of the latter type - many small plates - but I understand that was an obsolete style. I'd expect mid-14th century armour to have three plates in front and two in back.
     
  17. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2003
    Messages:
    433
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Western North Carolina
    Ratings:
    +5 / 0 / -0
    I have a buddy in the SCA who just finished some armor like the guy on the left in Mububbhan's picture here. He had the plates blued by an armor for a more authentic look. He attached them to a leather under piece. Very heavy but very flexible.

    Some time back I read an article with pictures that rated the effectiveness of armor against arrows. Padded clothing wasn't very good. Chain mail was even worse. Seems the links open upon impact of the arrow and often get pushed into the wound increasing the possibilities of infection. Plate worked well if later period. Earlier plate was made from metal that was not very hard, i.e. NOT steel, and would be penetrated with a needle bodkin point. Surprisingly the best armor against archers was deer hide over padding. Seems the deer hide doesn't get pierced by the arrowhead but rather grabs onto and wraps around the arrowhead creating a larger mass that has to be pushed through the padding. The recipient of the shot would be very bruised and perhaps suffer a broken rib but the arrow seldom penetrated. This study was well researched and tested and it's results surprised me!

    Armor of any sort is made to defend against specific weapons. At Agincourt and Crecy the archers were known to soften up the mounted French knights with their arrows by shooting their horses who were not so well armored. When the knights fell to the ground from their panicked rearing horses, the archers ran out and began beating the knights with axes and hammers. Beat a can with a mouse inside long enough and the mouse does not survive. Kinda the same principal.

    And Cur Boileu is in fact hardened leather but it does NOT have to be boiled in wax. Myth. Leather undergoes an elastomerization process when raised to a temperature of 120 degrees and held there for 10 minutes. Thus boiling the leather or heating it to that temperature using any technique creates this chemical process. As leather boiled in wax becomes a gooie mess I have made cur boileu by simply saturating the leather with water, forming it then placing it in an oven preheated to 120 degrees but with the heat turned off. After about 10 minutes I test the leather for shape, form, and temperature. If all is good, I take it out of the oven then allow it to cool. The result is hard leather. Now if you take a piece of leather and toss it in boiling water for 10 minutes and allow it to cool it WILL be very hard but it WILL also be very brittle. One whack and it shatters like cheap plastic. Plus if you have taken the effort to do any carving or tooling on the leather it is all gone. Also the leather will shrink about 25% and turn black. Now in period a very common method for hardening leather was to soak it in urine. It works and I should imagine it would also act somewhat as a repellent on the battle field!! Maybe that's where the phrase P... Off came from?

    cog
     
Search tags for this page
effectiveness of leather armor
,

leather armor effectiveness

,

pros and cons of fantasy armors

,
scale armor