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Mail armor vs. what weapons - effective and ineffective

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by leadcounsel, Jan 18, 2012.

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  1. leadcounsel

    leadcounsel member

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    So, what common ancient weapons would a chainmail armored warrior encounter that would defeat or not defeat his armor...?

    Thinking the crossbow or the longbow would defeat mail.

    Hard hitting weapons, like the club, warhammer or mace would probably defeat the chainmail armor.

    How about swords and knives?
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2012
  2. TurtlePhish

    TurtlePhish Member

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    Chainmail? Best against anything slashing. So yeah, swords and knives. Unless you stab.
     
  3. DCoke

    DCoke Member

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    Like TurtlePhish said...slashing weapons...mail protects you from axes by preventing you from being cut, but the blow would still knock you back or break some bones...you'd feel it....broadhead arrows won't penetrate, but their were specially designed arrowheads for penetrating mail....basically armor piercing wedges.
     
  4. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Thrusting daggers.
    Pick like war hammers.
    Halberds.
    Lances, pikes, and spears.
    Arrows & bolts.
    Catapult stones.

    Chain maille was effective against slicing & dicing.
    Not so much against anything sharp & pointy that could wedge the rings open.
    Or hit hard enough to break bones under it & the padding.

    rc
     
  5. Unistat

    Unistat Member

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    They were called Bodkin arrows, IIRC.
     
  6. Owen Sparks

    Owen Sparks member

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    Excelent protection from edged weapons. Usless against blunt force trauma such as a blow from a heavy club or hammer.
     
  7. DCoke

    DCoke Member

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    Not many people know what Bodkin arrows are....and google and wikipedia are mostly down today...but it clears things up for him.
     
  8. The Highlander

    The Highlander Member

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    It depends on what was worn with the chain mail. If you're talking some light padding/clothes, then it will only stop blades and most broad head arrows. As said before bodkin arrows were effective against chain mail. They look like stretched out square pyramids and are usually only slightly wider than the shaft itself, if at all.

    Chain mail becomes much more effective if worn with a gambeson or heavy doublet. Some gambesons were padded and made of leather, which when combined with chain mail, makes for a decent set of armor. From what I've heard, this combination can stop most arrows, including the bodkin.

    I wouldn't want to be hit with a blunt weapon, but with a gambeson you'd also fair much better against clubs and stuff. A morning star or war hammer would still be devastating, but even later armors had trouble dealing with such weapons.
     
  9. leadcounsel

    leadcounsel member

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    Yes, chainmail.
     
  10. lemaymiami

    lemaymiami Member

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    One of the problems with armor then and now (and you can bet that there are more than a few drawbacks to any kind of armor....) is that it simply doesn't protect all of your soft spots. Back when armor (chain mail or heavier plate) was common on the battlefield there was a whole series of techniques for dealing with it. One of the ways to deal with an armored individual was to take him down (or knock him down) then simply use the right tool to finish the job (a thrust with a narrow bladed knife under the armored area, a thrust into the armpit or through the eye - lots of ways to finish off the armored guy. Yes, it kept them in the fight and made them harder to kill - but it also made you slower, less maneuverable, and made it all too easy to tire you out in combat with an un-armored but much quicker adversary...

    Some of the things I've said also apply to modern armor (the bullet resistant vest - that's how the makers refer to them). I knew a fine officer who was killed while wearing a vest. The POS that killed him used a little hideout gun and shot him in the armpit during a hand to hand struggle. That little bullet went right through his cardiac area - the vest was never a factor at all.... There's a small park named after him in North Miami today - not that it helps his family all those years later.
     
  11. Owen Sparks

    Owen Sparks member

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    Even a knight in a steel helmet was not immune to all weapons. A solid blow with a heavy club can still cause a closed head injury resulting in a knockout or even death.
     
  12. Unistat

    Unistat Member

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    Yeah, it's just a reflex from having a history degree and working in a museum for many years. Besides, he can look it up tomorrow. :p
     
  13. wheelgunslinger

    wheelgunslinger Member

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    Longbow with broadheads can penetrate chainmail, provided the head is sharp and there's enough momentum.
    Nose around on the web and you can find a fairly recent test with penetration data.

    *edit*
    Here you go: http://www.currentmiddleages.org/artsci/docs/Champ_Bane_Archery-Testing.pdf
    Had it left in my browser history after writing a physics paper asking if an archer could kill Smaug with a longbow. Pretty good research in this, but a little rough around the edges. Pics speak for themselves though.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2012
  14. mole

    mole Member

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    There are reports from the Spanish that the reed and bamboo arrows without tips could penetrate mail. The arrow shaft material would splinter and just go around the links. Probably not enough to kill you, but enough of them sure would wear you down.

    mole
     
  15. lemaymiami

    lemaymiami Member

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    One additional item to remember when talking about the weapons of the middle ages and history up to the time of Columbus. As a kid I think I got dragged through half the museums in Europe (my brother and I were Army brats). Of course the only things that really caught our eyes were the armor and weapons exhibits. The one impression that still stays with me fifty years later is how small those guys were. I'm not sure how they were able to use the weapons exhibited when a really big man back then might have been only 5'6" or so.... and their life expectancy was very, very short as well.
     
  16. Owen Sparks

    Owen Sparks member

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    Back in the days before antibiotics and tetnus shots ANY deep puncture wound no matter how small had a real chance of becoming infected and causing a slow agonizing death. Getting wounded in the dark ages was deadly serious.
     
  17. NoirFan

    NoirFan Member

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    I agree, if properly constructed riveted-ring mail is worn with some kind of padded protection, the wearer becomes highly resistant to most pre-gunpowder weapons. The gambeson is a formidable piece of armor all by itself and is stiff enough to stand up under its own weight. The only melee weapons which could reliably pierce this combination were the cavalry lance and the spiked war hammers of the later Middle Ages. The thin-bladed rondel dagger also could do it, but only against a downed and unresisting opponent.

    I think that the power of medieval archery is considerably exaggerated in modern depictions. The mail/padding combo could resist all but the strongest arrows. Muslim archers shooting powerful recurve bows gave accounts of mail-armored crusaders "quilled like hedgehogs" but fighting on unaffected. The heavy crossbow on the other hand could shoot through mail like tissue paper. We know this because a Medieval pope issued an edict condemning its use against fellow Christians; he didn't want crossbow-armed rabble shooting down armored knights and upsetting the social order. Using it on Muslims and heretics was A-OK though.
     
  18. wheelgunslinger

    wheelgunslinger Member

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    Yeah, but the question is:
    Sure, there was an evolution of armor that responded to the threat of the longbow's superior momentum:draw weight ratio. But, if chain mail is the question, longbow is an answer.
    Getting into a Yosemite Sam vs Bugs Bunny arms race over the question is kind of silly.
    Of course there were better combinations.
     
  19. mole

    mole Member

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    The Muslim arrows were generally lighter in weight and construction than the English counterpart. They could fly farther, but lacked the impact.
     
  20. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    I wonder if anyone has tested true English long bows against vintage chain. As I understand it the original English bows were of extraordinary power, with considerably more draw weight than most modern recreations.
     
  21. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

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    Over a decade ago The History Channel had a series on Medieval Militaria. They built a full size Trebuchet, for example.

    An archer named Simon Stanley, IIRC, shot a 150 lb draw warbow using bodkin arrows at a dummy wearing chain mail with an under garment of boiled leather, a common combination at the time.Penetration was complete. Distance was about 50 yards.

    Geoffrey Cambrieanus wrote of a knight who was shot through the thigh and pinned to his horse. He also mentioned a pair of arrows that penetrated a castle door that was made of seasoned oak 4" thick.
     
  22. CWL

    CWL Member

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    There is a difference between chainmail and ringmail. I think you mean chainmail since ringmail was just rings of metal sewn onto a heavy leather or fabric coat. Definitely lower-end armor.

    Picking nits here, but the quality of chainmail differed greatly by thickness of links, size of gaps between links, and quality of the iron/steel used. There were also different patterns of mail used (more than just 5 connected links). Some Medieval foot-slogger's rusty chainmail wasn't going to be the same as that worn by a Hospitaler Knight Brother.
     
  23. iLikeOldgunsIlikeNewGuns

    iLikeOldgunsIlikeNewGuns Member

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    "Locked and Loaded" with R.Lee Emery, is an awesome show for several reasons. i am a high-speed-footage junky :)
    On the show, they did various tests on chain-mail in at least one or two episodes, the blade episode definitely, and whichever episode had archery in it, possibly others.

    I highly recommend watching it if ya can't tell :D
     
  24. InkEd

    InkEd Member

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    Since we are discussing ancient armor, I was wondering what you guys feel was the "overall best" general purpose lightweight ancient armor design?

    Personally, I think the design (and forgive me because I forget who used it) with small metal plates sewn inside leather and then arranged in an overlapping fish scale design would have been pretty good. What do you guys think?
     
  25. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Best for what purpose? It was a long-running arms race where each new defensive measure gave rise to a new offensive measure and so on. Mail is trumped by better arrows, plate is trumped by maces and warhammers, etc. And all of this is happening in the broader context of ever-shifting battlefield strategies. Nothing was static. So you really need to know what you're going up against. One period might primarily involve the use of siege warfare and powerful bombards. Another might focus on heavy cav. Another might see the rise of pikemen in close formation. Show up with the wrong armor for the offense you were facing and it wouldn't matter how good it is. Show up without a horse in the wrong period and you're lance fodder. Show up with a horse in the wrong period and you're showered with lead shot and skewered on a pike formation.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2012
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