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    The best armour

    Who on general had the best armour in time? (Excluding tanks and stuff)

    Was there ever armour that could withstand bullets or crossbow bolts?

    Thanks!
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    All armor was manufactured to withstand a point-blank pistol shot. Generally speaking the best armors were available in the early XVIth century but since they weren't useful anymore they were replaced by much more flexible "brigandine" armors, the last full plate armors degenerated to tournaments armors, totally rigid and only covering parts of the body relevant in a tournament, which lasted until the abolition of tournaments in the 3rd quarter of the XVIth century.

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    Body armor, like any instrument of war, is designed for specific purposes, with specific tools and materials in mind.

    Sword fighting pretty much reached its peak, technologically speaking, in the XVIth century, so you could assume that they also built the best body armour in that time. But actually they also had pistol and musket shot in mind when they did their designs, which is why they used solid plate across most of the body. They could indeed defeat the pistols and crossbows of their time. There's a story from the English Civil War, about the guys who fought in the last really "knightly" cavalry unit - they rode into battle with really heavy body armor, which had fallen out of use at that time.
    This kind, more or less:

    They didn't make that much of an impact on the battlefield, but people did write that their armour was freakishly effective at keeping them safe. The regiment's leader survived a whole barrage of musket fire directed at him, IIRC they had to drag him down and stab him through the visor to actually kill him. In that sense, the body armour was STILL great at keeping you safe, but it was too expensive to be useful as a widely adoptable tool. Also, battles were to a large extent won by infantry, where body armor of that sort was too much of a hindrance.

    However, on a a pre-gunpowder battlefield XVIth century body armor would likely be a bit on the heavy side. You could probably fight a XIIth century battle using XVI century body armor, but against the likely threats from lances, pikes and swords you'd be over-protected.

    The Japanese made some excellent light armor, i.e. their famous Samurai body armor, and that was with mostly agility in mind, while protection from gunshot was not considered at all.

    Body armor used in the middle east was generally lighter than what was used in northwestern Europe. Was it worse? Depends on where you fight. The crusaders lost the war, in the end.
    Last edited by Leviathan07; 17-04-2012 at 18:45.

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    I would like to see a source for armor stopping reliably bullets from XVIth century firearm at effective range. Even metal-tipped traits shot from arbalest should pierce a XVIth armor at close range, provided it arrives at 90°.

    That they help deflect some bullets and stop arrows is very probable, that they protect you from the lucky shoot made from much more than the effective range, I don't doubt it ; but that they stop a whole volley of arquebuses at effective range, I don't believe so. As for stopping a point-pistol shoot, "citation needed", I don't see how it is possible against an iron bullet. I remember of seeing a XVIth century cuirass (or maybe XVth ?) in a military museum, of obviously good quality, that had a bullet hole on the front, and a much larger on the other side.

    Due to the scarcity of metal, metal armors in Japan were actually much lighter (just like japanese swords were of good quality because metal was rare enough you paid attention to the quality of whatever you make of it), with few "full-metal plate" armors. At best, they were a combination of metal and leather.

    As for the Middle East, the climate meant it was a bad idea to be too armored.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Narwhal View Post
    I would like to see a source for armor stopping reliably bullets from XVIth century firearm at effective range. Even metal-tipped traits shot from arbalest should pierce a XVIth armor at close range, provided it arrives at 90°.

    That they help deflect some bullets and stop arrows is very probable, that they protect you from the lucky shoot made from much more than the effective range, I don't doubt it ; but that they stop a whole volley of arquebuses at effective range, I don't believe so. As for stopping a point-pistol shoot, "citation needed", I don't see how it is possible against an iron bullet. I remember of seeing a XVIth century cuirass (or maybe XVth ?) in a military museum, of obviously good quality, that had a bullet hole on the front, and a much larger on the other side.

    Due to the scarcity of metal, metal armors in Japan were actually much lighter (just like japanese swords were of good quality because metal was rare enough you paid attention to the quality of whatever you make of it), with few "full-metal plate" armors. At best, they were a combination of metal and leather.

    As for the Middle East, the climate meant it was a bad idea to be too armored.
    Pistols of the XVI century were as likely to explode in your hand, as they were to fire a bullet in the general direction of the enemy. Well, almost.

    What I meant was what you also said, they didn't protect you from shots made at close range (effective range means close range) and 90° impact angle, but the vast majority of bullets flying your way on a XVI century battlefield would not be like that and plate armour was pretty good at deflecting those.
    Last edited by Leviathan07; 18-04-2012 at 11:59.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leviathan07 View Post
    The Japanese made some excellent light armor, i.e. their famous Samurai body armor, and that was with mostly agility in mind, while protection from gunshot was not considered at all.
    During the latter half of the 16th century bullet resistant armour was actually made in Japan, following the introduction of more effective firearms by the Portuguese. AFAIK, it was more similar to European plate armour than to the lamellar armour that Samurai had traditionally worn. Of course, during the Tokugawa Shogunate guns became a non-issue since only the Shogun's forces were allowed to have them.
    Last edited by Registered; 19-04-2012 at 16:50.
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  7. #7
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    by effective at stopping bullets do you guys mean penetration of the body, or actually stopping the bullet doing fatal damage.

    i seem to remember reading years back that the armor could "stop" the bullet, but the man inside got shaken to death by the impact, if i remember right this was because the steel of the armor was really bad at absorbing and distributing huge forces before transferring them to the wearer it to the wearer
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    Quote Originally Posted by nimrod123 View Post
    by effective at stopping bullets do you guys mean penetration of the body, or actually stopping the bullet doing fatal damage.

    i seem to remember reading years back that the armor could "stop" the bullet, but the man inside got shaken to death by the impact, if i remember right this was because the steel of the armor was really bad at absorbing and distributing huge forces before transferring them to the wearer it to the wearer
    The armor wasn't done with modern physics in mind, so I doubt they thought about "stopping" vs "absorbing". Plate armor wasn't that thick and the bullets not very heavy or fast, so I think you would not actually feel a heavy blow, if your survived. If the bullet was not deflected it would punch a big dent into the armor, but that would not give you much of a wound since you'd wear padding under the plate. However if the bullet punched all the way through, the padding wouldn't help you much, the bullet would go right into your body. Either way I do not see how you would feel much of a blow.

    The stopping power of plate armor, if hit at 90°, is much much less than that of a modern vest. Bullet hits on modern vests give you blunt trauma because the vest is so damn good at stopping the bullet, it takes all that kinetic energy from the bullet, and transfers it to your body in a "harmless" (=less lethal) way. Imagine someone takes a swing at you with a 3 pound pickaxe, but the vest turns that into a blow from a 3 pound rubber hammer. The bullet is the tip of the pickaxe, and while the vest cannot make the kinetic energy go away, but it can spread it out. It's still a 3 pound weapon but it does not penetrate the way a 3 pound pickaxe would punch right into your heart. A plate armor is not so good at that. It does not take so much energy to penetrate a steel plate at 90° angle.

  9. #9
    OT iconoclast StephenT's Avatar
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    Skip to 4.22 for the demonstration:




    As for the 16th century; yes, armour certainly was made to be bulletproof. It would be tested empirically, by firing a pistol or musket at the armour and seeing if it penetrated: the dent made by the bullet (the 'proof mark') was then shown to the purchaser to demonstrate the quality of the armour.

    If you want a citation: Louis de Gaya, Traité des Armes published in Paris in 1678 says that the casque (helmet) and the front of the cuirass should be musket-proof, but the back of the cuirass and the limb armour need only be pistol-proof. His contemporary Charles II of England, however, passed a law saying that soldiers of the English militia only needed breastplates and helmet that were pistol-proof, not musket-proof. Cost was clearly a factor there.



    There's physical evidence too: this is the armour of the Duc de Guise from c. 1550, which has three bullet marks in the chest plate. None of them has penetrated through the armour. It's not known if they're from actual battle, or from the armourer testing the armour first.

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    The CEO of that company sure looked like he was in pain at the end of the video.

    I doubt a guy with a XVI cuirass would be bruised as badly as he was. If the bullet was stopped by the cuirass, the padding underneath would absorb the shock. The CEO wore his vest directly over his body with just a T-Shirt, whereas as a XVI century man at arms you'd wear padded clothing akin to a doublet and possibly a chain mail underneath the cuirass. Nothing that helps to stop a bullet, but it would help reduce the bruising.

    After all if you are fighting a XVI meelee the last thing you want is to have a bullet his make you roll over in pain. There would be lots of people running around with sharp things in their hands, doing their best to stab you to death, if the fall from the horse did not kill you first

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    OT iconoclast StephenT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leviathan07 View Post
    I doubt a guy with a XVI cuirass would be bruised as badly as he was. If the bullet was stopped by the cuirass, the padding underneath would absorb the shock.
    That may well be true.

    On the other hand, if you have to run around and fight under the hot sun for five hours, I'd much rather be in a modern kevlar vest than 25 kilos of solid metal. Knights dying of heat exhaustion in battle was a real thing back then...

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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenT View Post
    That may well be true.

    On the other hand, if you have to run around and fight under the hot sun for five hours, I'd much rather be in a modern kevlar vest than 25 kilos of solid metal. Knights dying of heat exhaustion in battle was a real thing back then...
    They might also have taken off some of the padding? But then each sword blow would hurt like hell. I would probably leave the padding on even if it's terribly hot. And try to stay atop my horse, while the footmen do the fighting

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    First, you cover yourself in a heavy padded gambeson, like a quilted shipping blanket. Then you enclose yourself in a metal clamshell with only a few restricted openings at the neck, arms, and waist. Next, you throw a cloth tabard over the top. Finally, you exert yourself for a prolonged period of time until body heat builds up. You're effectively insulated by the padded gambeson, and what little heat does work its way through the padding is trapped in the stagnant air between it and the metal cuirass, which in turn gets less than normal heat exchange with the surrounding air because of the covering tabard...until you pass out. Duh?

    Compare that to a Roman banded cuirass, or "lorica segmentata", with a simple cloth garment beneath it for minimal padding, and some air exchange between the overlapping metal lames. Each lame transfers part of the energy of an impact to the lame beneath it, resulting in a diffusing of the energy over a large area, while retaining a high degree of vertical and some rotational flexibility, along with acceptable ventilation. Nice.

    Chain mail was the alternative for most of the Roman and following period, up until the availability of steel and firearms totally changed the nature of warfare. Again, it transmitted most of the energy from the impacted link to each of the 4 surrounding links, which in turn transferred part of that further outward, while allowing extreme vertical and moderate lateral flexibility, as well as some diagonal movement. Its open nature allowed a huge amount of air and heat exchange, which was in effect solely limited by the padded gambeson beneath, and/or tabard over the top. Very good, but hugely labor intensive.

    Later "curassier" cavalry wore heavy iron breastplates for protection against gunshots, as well as helmets, but were otherwise unarmored. Some WWI German assault infantry units also utilized heavy breastplates which could easily deflect a bullet that hit obliquely. Until the development of kevlar and other flexible forms of synthetic armors offered lightweight protection against blunt-tipped pistol rounds, that's about the end of the line beyond which improved guns made body armor irrelevant.

  14. #14
    Isnt the real question: Supposed, armor and bullets had not evolved from the 16th century on - would we now have any issues cooling our PCs? ´The water-cooled knight sits majestically (and most comfortable) on his horse-o-fans.´ (picture-subtext from alternate 17th century military catalogue)

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Kovax View Post
    [...]
    Later "curassier" cavalry wore heavy iron breastplates for protection against gunshots, as well as helmets [...]
    Reads funny.

    ´Shall we attack them with our helmets, Sire?´
    ´Pointless - they are wearing heavy iron breastplates...´

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazumir View Post
    Reads funny.

    ´Shall we attack them with our helmets, Sire?´
    ´Pointless - they are wearing heavy iron breastplates...´
    Funny is a good thing. Not always intentional, but still good. Besides, I knew exactly what I meant.

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  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by el_zilcho321 View Post
    Who on general had the best armour in time? (Excluding tanks and stuff)

    Was there ever armour that could withstand bullets or crossbow bolts?

    Thanks!
    The term bulletproof comes from bulletproofing which was firing a pistol at point blank range at the armour. All the fluting made it a slight bit difficult to get a dead on shot and firearms were rather "primitive" at that time.

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    Actually, the "dent" in the armor, caused by discharging a pistol at it from point-blank range, was called a "proof mark", which "proved" that the armor was able to withstand a gunshot: Proof of bullet resisitance = "bullet proof".

    Fluting was a way of strengthening the armor by adding a series of curves and ridges, which allowed the maker to reduce the total amount of metal used, yet provide the same or better protection. For instance, a sheet of paper laid across the gap between two drinking glasses won't support a lot of weight, but fan-fold it and it becomes fairly strong. The creases in the armor gave it a lot of rigidity, but made it a lot harder to repair if necessary. For the wealthy, it made sense; for the common soldier, it wasn't economically practical.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Kovax View Post
    Actually, the "dent" in the armor, caused by discharging a pistol at it from point-blank range, was called a "proof mark", which "proved" that the armor was able to withstand a gunshot: Proof of bullet resisitance = "bullet proof".

    Fluting was a way of strengthening the armor by adding a series of curves and ridges, which allowed the maker to reduce the total amount of metal used, yet provide the same or better protection. For instance, a sheet of paper laid across the gap between two drinking glasses won't support a lot of weight, but fan-fold it and it becomes fairly strong. The creases in the armor gave it a lot of rigidity, but made it a lot harder to repair if necessary. For the wealthy, it made sense; for the common soldier, it wasn't economically practical.
    I know, I was simplifying for the masses.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amallric View Post
    All armor was manufactured to withstand a point-blank pistol shot. Generally speaking the best armors were available in the early XVIth century but since they weren't useful anymore they were replaced by much more flexible "brigandine" armors, the last full plate armors degenerated to tournaments armors, totally rigid and only covering parts of the body relevant in a tournament, which lasted until the abolition of tournaments in the 3rd quarter of the XVIth century.
    I thought that the papal ban on crossbows was a direct consequence of it being able to penetrate any body armour, robbing the nobles of their major advantage in battle (i.e. only the nobles could afford armour and were hence "invulnerable" - and of course they carried more political weight with the pope than some farmhand).
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