Did medieval guards wear heavy armor for long periods of time?

Did medieval guards wear heavy armor for long periods of time?

We've all seen guards in movies walking around with full plate mail, clunking with each step.

Now, I know that plate mail was much more mobile, and much less heavy, than movies and literature imply. But what about the fatigue of wearing that armor for long lengths of time?

How long did guards wear their armor, and how much did they wear? (especially compared to troops and other people of the era).

It might help to contrast between:

  • Standing guards

  • Patrolling guards

If there is such an applicable distinction.

Were there different "levels" of guards? Such as light patrolling guards, but a few heavier guards in reserve?

And how much armor did they wear on a typical day? Did they up-armor during special events? Did they up-armor during a call-to-action / emergency, or just run out there in whatever they had?

As for the specific era: I'm looking for general information, so anything with swords, shields, and armor is acceptable. You'll know the appropriate bounds on timeline better than I.

Thank you for your time.


Normally I would flag a question like this as too broad since it does not define a time period or place.

Nevertheless, here I think we can answer the question by dispelling the misapprehensions you seem to have:

(1) Full plate armor was used between 1350-1600.

(2) It was very expensive and used only by the elite (knights and above).

(3) No "guards" wore plate armor unless someone was so important as to be guarded by knights, which might be, say, a king

(4) Even if a knight were to guard a king, it would be unlikely he would do so wearing plate armor


I think it worth noting that the armor suit below was made for King Henry VIII around 1544, when he was old, overweight, and crippled by gout and his jousting injury. For a fit 20 or 30 something soldier to wear such a suit for several hours would have been hot and sweaty, but quite bearable except in the hot summer sun or the cold of winter.

Even for 5'11"" (1.8m) Henry at over 300 lbs (135kg) and enhanced with gold, this suit of armour commissioned for Henry weighs only 50 lbs - roughly half the weight of a modern USMC march pack. Soldiers were more than capable of fighting, running, and even jumping while wearing it. If a guard was of a financial position to afford full plate armour it would most certainly have been worn on duty.

Note however that wearing a jousting helm when not jousting would be unlikely. For general use a helm with more visibility would be in order, as a more suitable trade-off. Even in combat a helm with greater visibility would be preferred.

Note that the Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa) marched across much of, if not all, the Anatolian Plateau in full armour - as evidenced by his drowning in hip-deep water after being thrown from his horse, weighed down by said armour.


I don't have the quotations. But I think I remember that Emperor Maximilian I (died 1519) had a child sized suit of armor made for his grandson the future Emperor Charles V (1500-1558) even though Charles could only use it for a few years.

I think I also read something about ceremonial suits of armor being made for the pages of a 17th century Emperor, probably boys not yet of full stature.

Russian Tsar Peter II (1715-1730) is sometimes depicted in armor, despite dying at the age of 14. Of course he might have been painted in imaginary armor.

http://forum.alexanderpalace.org/index.php?topic=7934.msg539916[1]

This Roman boy in partial armor is possibly Imperator Caesar Marcus Ophelius Diadumenianus Antoninus Augustus (209-218) https://www.google.com/search?q=emperor+diadumen&biw=1280&bih=885&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjwnN3rxtjLAhVFqB4KHVqpAfgQ_AUIBigB#imgrc=5UTiC55CwFtYVM%3A[2]

In short, there is evidence that boys sometimes wore more or less complete armor. So bigger and stronger bodyguards could also do so.

But the medieval guards of an Emperor, king, or noble usually just used normal dress. Often they might be dressed in the ruler's livery colors or have his badge on their clothing or have uniforms in the late medieval period. Body guards might use armor in battle or in fancy ceremonies, but probably not for everyday use.


Did medieval guards wear heavy armor for long periods of time? - History

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Late Medieval Plate Armor

I think it is rather fascinating the development of late medieval/early modern European armor as it became impressively sophisticated by the late 14th and 15th centuries.

What's fascinating is that no other civilization developed armor to the same degree nor the west, earlier or later, developed armor as sophisticated as the armor used in the 14th to the early 16th centuries. The only civilization that developed plate armor before the late medieval west, to my knowledge, was classical Greece, but here the development of plate armor was much less sophisticated. (see: AHCL/ANTH 2200Y: Study Guide - Friday, November, 6, 2009)

It is said that the costs of knight's armor were very high, well over one hundred thousand dollars in today's money.

The question is Why Late Medieval Europe developed such highly sophisticated and costly armor? Why other civilizations did not?

I don't think that the basic technology involved is highly advanced: it is just a set metal plates. A mechanical clock is a much more sophisticated piece of technology. Other cultures could have developed plate armor.

I think that late medieval armor was the product of several different factors working together:

1 - A feudal society with a warrior elite where a few knights could mobilize vast resources to equip themselves.

2 - A certain degree of development of steel working technology.

3 - Lack of development of gunpowder based weapons to negate the advantages of a thin armor covering the whole body.

Only in late medieval Europe these conditions operated together to create these highly sophisticated pieces of defensive equipment.

the reason [as you already mentioned] for such a technology for use in selected individuals with a huge economic cost, has to do with the regular war but is directly related with the structure of Western feudal society.

But already before the 14th century, in some of the 12 th century frescoes the Roman/byzantine era of Komnenoi seem to be use a solid metal chest but which rarely occurs.

Also, as I have already mentioned in other thread, the Romans defenders of Constantinople in 1453 had latest top technology armor, probably imported from Italy, giving less flexibility but more protection, however their cost given by the Imperial and MAINLY fund the Catholic Church. Romans soldiers themselves (except some rich people) or the imperial fund alone is not enough to address the market of that equipment with such expensive armor for the 5000 Roman defenders of Constantinople.

So the question regarding the use of specific equipment for the Roman Empire of the late 14 th and the middle of the 15th century was the cost, combat tactics, defense to use these uniforms help, to use aggressive force against lighter equipped soldiers and cavalry uniforms are SUCH a drawback, apart from support and if had only if also lightweight parts of army / cavalry excisted.

generally in aggressive use, flexibility outweigh the heavy impact.

(but later the further development of gunpowder based weapons reduce the value of the knight's armor , as a light-armed with a gun will neutralize the heavie armor cost equipment.)

conclusion , for the period, the answer is (as you already mention) : effectiveness in personal body protection, in relation with military tactical and social reasons, better scientific processing of metal and specific economic conditions where enable this.

M.E.T.H.O.D.

I think that late medieval armor was the product of several different factors working together:

1 - A feudal society with a warrior elite where a few knights could mobilize vast resources to equip themselves.

2 - A certain degree of development of steel working technology.

3 - Lack of development of gunpowder based weapons to negate the advantages of a thin armor covering the whole body.

Late Medieval plate armors are indeed fascinating.

I think that the armor reached its zenith thanks to the development of lethal ranged weapons(first crossbows, then handguns) that created an "arms race" between armorers and ranged-weapons makers: forcing the latter to conceive armors able to withstand attacks but without slowing down its wearer, on the contrary even improve the ergonomics,if possible.
In this point lies the "sophistication" of Late Medieval armors.

We must also remember that armors fullfilled another less dangerous role: denote the status of the wearer(status symbol)


About point n.2
That is certainly true especially for the armor "industry" in Lombary: Milanese armors exported their pieces throughout Europe and were also able to supply the Duchy during the endless wars of the XV century: the Duke Filippo Maria Visconti was able to re-equip an army of eight thosand troops(mostly mounted soldiers) less than a week after the Milanese defeat at Maclodio(1427).

Clement

Also, the development of European warfare partly reflects the political situation of Europe, which has been governed by organized and well-established polities for a while, and was for most of its history (starting in the middle ages) a narrow continent with a great majority of its population engaged in agriculture.

This is why they developed first heavy armors, and then gunpowder, and why Europe has relied so much on infantry (even during the middle ages, they were not the spearhead of European armies, but were still a majority of the soldiers) : European warfare mainly involved slow movements of troops, long sieges or more rarely decision in an open field battle. In contrast to Asia, for example, in which nomadic tribes and their peculiar form of warfare (which stresses mobility, uses heavily the bows and light cavalry etc.), European armies were usually quite slow and very heavy.

It would make sense : if you are the leader of a polity with a well defined territory, what you'll want to do is to defend it with a network of fortifications and a solid, heavy if not very mobile army, able to stand its ground. Hence the development of very strong plate armors in the late middle ages, and then the extensive use of gunpowder, much more than in most Asian empire (the ottomans being an exception, at least for a while). If you lead a nomadic tribe, what you want to do is to possess a very mobile army able to win the strategic decision in the very large plains of Asia.

Eroica

Also, the development of European warfare partly reflects the political situation of Europe, which has been governed by organized and well-established polities for a while, and was for most of its history (starting in the middle ages) a narrow continent with a great majority of its population engaged in agriculture.

This is why they developed first heavy armors, and then gunpowder, and why Europe has relied so much on infantry (even during the middle ages, they were not the spearhead of European armies, but were still a majority of the soldiers) : European warfare mainly involved slow movements of troops, long sieges or more rarely decision in an open field battle. In contrast to Asia, for example, in which nomadic tribes and their peculiar form of warfare (which stresses mobility, uses heavily the bows and light cavalry etc.), European armies were usually quite slow and very heavy.

It would make sense : if you are the leader of a polity with a well defined territory, what you'll want to do is to defend it with a network of fortifications and a solid, heavy if not very mobile army, able to stand its ground. Hence the development of very strong plate armors in the late middle ages, and then the extensive use of gunpowder, much more than in most Asian empire (the ottomans being an exception, at least for a while). If you lead a nomadic tribe, what you want to do is to possess a very mobile army able to win the strategic decision in the very large plains of Asia.

Good points. I think Europe's relative isolation from steppe nomads was the leading cause. armies which had to deal with steppe nomads on a regular basis prized mobility above all else, and furthermore lacked the stimulus for developing heavy armor as lamellar and mail provided adequate support againt the light weapons of nomadic pastoralists.

We see a tendency towards convergent evolution in other regions which experienced similar isolation and conditions to Europe. Japan is a good example.

Guaporense

Japan never developed plate armor. Though they had a similar system where massive resources were spend on the armor of a few warriors from the elite caste. Japanese armor was similar to the European plate armor of the late middle ages in it's complexity and covering:

They didn't develop plate armor probably due to lack of development of metallurgy to a comparable extent to Europe.

Armies in the Middle East, China and India were also heavily based on infantry and in antiquity, Greek and Roman armies also were heavily based on infantry. So say that steppe nomads prevented the development of the plate armor if fallacious as much of non-European warfare involved wars of agricultural states versus agricultural states. And China had weapons capable of penetrating lamelar/scale armor such as crossbows since the warring states period.

Guaporense

The majority of Asia did not consist of steppe nomads. The civilized parts of Asia were similar to Europe in that their armies consistent of infantry. Though their social organization was different.

Parthia had a feudal style of social organization and developed heavy armored cavalry like the Europeans. Though their armor was less sophisticated, probably due to lack of more sophisticated metallurgy in antiquity if compared to the 15th century.

The closest to late medieval european plate armor that I found was archaic hoplite armor though the Greeks apparently didn't develop armored joints by the archaic period and later very heavy armor fell out of use:

I think that this almost full body armor fell out of use because of the spread of democracy and the mobilization of larger armies: so that a few nobles couldn't spend large resources making foot armor (http://www.trentu.ca/faculty/rfitzsimons/AHCL2200Y/08-02/(04) Footguard (01).jpg).

This is an example of 15th century leg armor joint, I cannot recall anything as sophisticated in any previous type of armor:

Well, for nomadic tribes the simple lack of specialized blacksmiths required for the job as result of being a nomadic tribe already explains it.

In India the wet climate also prevented the development of heavy metal armors in general as they would rust very easily. In China the fact that they were never feudal explains it: they had large armies and used less expensive armor.

The Roman Empire developed the lorica segmentata I think as a mid point between light armor and full plate. They had to provide it for hundreds of thousands of soldiers, so it couldn't be full plate as this type of armor requires personalized design while the Roman army was based on heavy infantry and good armor was important. So they developed this laminar plate, which was easier to manufacture in mass and better than mail/scale.

Clement

This is only one part of the story. The Asian empires were often created by dynasties of nomadic origins who did keep much of their former ways. More importantly, the very presence of nomadic tribes had an impact on these empires : it mean that they had to face them, while the Europeans generally did not have to. It seems that the Russians did not develop such plate armors for example. In any case, the European environnement was very different from Asia :

- Europe is a narrow continent with mountains, hills, forests, especially in the west. Asia has higher mountains but it also has a lot more large plains. And Asia is much bigger. As you said, it took much more men to defend China than Switzerland, making it difficult to produce heavy armors.

- Europe was a land very densely populated, composed of a very dense network of cities, fortresses etc. The East (not the far east -though it is also true of most of China as the population was heavily concentrated in the east) but at least central Asia and the middle east) had larger cities but in far fewer numbers. In this situation, you want to use bold maneuvers in the open field to defeat the enemies there and isolate these large cities, and you don't have to besiege a huge number of small forts etc.

RollingWave

I think it is rather fascinating the development of late medieval/early modern European armor as it became impressively sophisticated by the late 14th and 15th centuries.

What's fascinating is that no other civilization developed armor to the same degree nor the west, earlier or later, developed armor as sophisticated as the armor used in the 14th to the early 16th centuries. The only civilization that developed plate armor before the late medieval west, to my knowledge, was classical Greece, but here the development of plate armor was much less sophisticated. (see: AHCL/ANTH 2200Y: Study Guide - Friday, November, 6, 2009)

It is said that the costs of knight's armor were very high, well over one hundred thousand dollars in today's money.

The question is Why Late Medieval Europe developed such highly sophisticated and costly armor? Why other civilizations did not?

I don't think that the basic technology involved is highly advanced: it is just a set metal plates. A mechanical clock is a much more sophisticated piece of technology. Other cultures could have developed plate armor.

I think that late medieval armor was the product of several different factors working together:

1 - A feudal society with a warrior elite where a few knights could mobilize vast resources to equip themselves.

2 - A certain degree of development of steel working technology.

3 - Lack of development of gunpowder based weapons to negate the advantages of a thin armor covering the whole body.

Only in late medieval Europe these conditions operated together to create these highly sophisticated pieces of defensive equipment.

The Chinese did develop partial breast plates to some extend during the Tang dynasty, but it never got too far past that.

Though yes a feudal society had much to do with the development, as in the case of China, where the armies were usually big and commanders rarely were on the heat of things by design (didn't make sense when your commanding a large army , since having your general in combat pretty much means your chain of command will be toast) . armour became focused on practicality on an economic of scale issue. i.e the focus was effective armour for most of the army and not the best armour for a specific few.

In Europe of course, where in medieval times even kings were very often right in the thick of things, obviously the focus on having the best money could buy became higher.

Also, another factor was the black death, with the very sudden loss of manpower (but not the distengertion of th entire society.. like say the Mongol invasion of the mid east) during the later 14th C, the economy of armour began to change, plate armour actually becme CHEAPER than maile because the former required more capital investment but less labor, while in the later's case the technology is simple but required a lot more labor. before the early 15th C while plate armour exist it was usually rare and only the very highest noble might have some pieces, but by the mid to late 15th C onward even full plate was not too uncommon.

The Greek plate armour, while similar in concept, had the very large fundemental difference in that it was. bronze, bronze is immeniently eaiser to work in terms of shaping than iron, which was why this version of armour did not carry on later. because once armour shifted to iron.


The nomadic factor did have a role too, since most major dynasty's main problem was facing them, which mean that mobility / organization / wide sperad deployment was the major focus while armour was a considerable side issue, since the Nomads are never gonna try and hand to hand with you by design anyway (unless they already massively overwhelmed you). this was a good reason why lamellar armour remained extremely popular throughout the zones that are in contact with nomadic armies, as lamellar offered greater direct protetion from arrow, while it's genearal weakness. aka usually having exposed gaps around the joints. was usually not a huge problem if dealing only against arrows.

Again using China as a reference, development of chinese armor tend to make considerable greater strides when China was in a state of civil war, thus you see the Warring States period, the Age of Fragmentation, the Song-Jin era, as being the major development period of armours. (and weapons) where as more united dynasties see much less developement as the focus shifts.

Also, one could point out that full cataphract style lamellar's protection level was not truely superceded by Plate armour until full plate became significantly developed. so in some sense the non-western's armour development path was sort of like an evolution branch that was very successful for a long time but for also the same reason that it was succesful it could not be pushed further. one could point out that until the 14th C or so there's no real reason to think that western knights were really heavier than the true heavy cavalries of their eastern counterparts in terms of armour. as horse barding was virtually non-existent in western Europe until the late 12th C at the earliest and even after that most of it was heavy cloths, where as heavy full metal horse armor remained in use in the east throughout. though obviously the portion was a signfiicant issue.

Also, the technology of full plate is both simple and difficult depending on the mass and thickness you want, for example even the nomadic Cumans were well known to have used single pieces of metal war masks. though we need someone more expert in metallury to truely explain this part well

HaNsWiDjAjA

The Chinese did develop partial breast plates to some extend during the Tang dynasty, but it never got too far past that.

Though yes a feudal society had much to do with the development, as in the case of China, where the armies were usually big and commanders rarely were on the heat of things by design (didn't make sense when your commanding a large army , since having your general in combat pretty much means your chain of command will be toast) . armour became focused on practicality on an economic of scale issue. i.e the focus was effective armour for most of the army and not the best armour for a specific few.

In Europe of course, where in medieval times even kings were very often right in the thick of things, obviously the focus on having the best money could buy became higher.

Also, another factor was the black death, with the very sudden loss of manpower (but not the distengertion of th entire society.. like say the Mongol invasion of the mid east) during the later 14th C, the economy of armour began to change, plate armour actually becme CHEAPER than maile because the former required more capital investment but less labor, while in the later's case the technology is simple but required a lot more labor. before the early 15th C while plate armour exist it was usually rare and only the very highest noble might have some pieces, but by the mid to late 15th C onward even full plate was not too uncommon.

The Greek plate armour, while similar in concept, had the very large fundemental difference in that it was. bronze, bronze is immeniently eaiser to work in terms of shaping than iron, which was why this version of armour did not carry on later. because once armour shifted to iron.


The nomadic factor did have a role too, since most major dynasty's main problem was facing them, which mean that mobility / organization / wide sperad deployment was the major focus while armour was a considerable side issue, since the Nomads are never gonna try and hand to hand with you by design anyway (unless they already massively overwhelmed you). this was a good reason why lamellar armour remained extremely popular throughout the zones that are in contact with nomadic armies, as lamellar offered greater direct protetion from arrow, while it's genearal weakness. aka usually having exposed gaps around the joints. was usually not a huge problem if dealing only against arrows.

Again using China as a reference, development of chinese armor tend to make considerable greater strides when China was in a state of civil war, thus you see the Warring States period, the Age of Fragmentation, the Song-Jin era, as being the major development period of armours. (and weapons) where as more united dynasties see much less developement as the focus shifts.

Also, one could point out that full cataphract style lamellar's protection level was not truely superceded by Plate armour until full plate became significantly developed. so in some sense the non-western's armour development path was sort of like an evolution branch that was very successful for a long time but for also the same reason that it was succesful it could not be pushed further. one could point out that until the 14th C or so there's no real reason to think that western knights were really heavier than the true heavy cavalries of their eastern counterparts in terms of armour. as horse barding was virtually non-existent in western Europe until the late 12th C at the earliest and even after that most of it was heavy cloths, where as heavy full metal horse armor remained in use in the east throughout. though obviously the portion was a signfiicant issue.

Also, the technology of full plate is both simple and difficult depending on the mass and thickness you want, for example even the nomadic Cumans were well known to have used single pieces of metal war masks. though we need someone more expert in metallury to truely explain this part well

I like the protection vs arrow theory. Warfare in Asia was much more projectile and cavalry based, given the dominance of mounted archers against just about any other form of soldiery. On the other hand European knights were required to be accomplished fighters on foot as well as horseback during the high middle ages a knight was just as likely to fight on foot as he was to do so mounted, even in land battles, and certainly in the cases of sieges or naval warfare. And contrary to popular opinion, plate armour, while heavy, was actually much more comfortable to wear for long periods of time compared to mail or lamellar due to the better weight distribution, while undoubtedly providing better protection. The arms-race theory is also valid here European warfare employed a far higher number of powerful crossbows, due to the prevalence of armour among its professional fighting man, which was the result of the prevalence of melee combat in contrast to the use light missile weapon (the composite bow in Asia) among them. For a man at arms fighting on foot, being able to move with great flexibility while remaining completely protected against just about any threat will certainly justify the expense and complexity of the full plate, with its numerous rivets, sliding joints and leather straps, and the fact that full plate is a chore to put on, and impossible to don without a squire's assistance! For a mounted archer who expected to do just about all of his fighting on horseback, a mail haubek or a lamellar jawshan would serve just as well, since he wouldn't be concerned as much about exhaustion (being constantly mounted) or having an opponent deftly thrusting and cutting into the joints in his armour (mounted swordmanship being less precise and relying more on the horse's momentum) or having a heavy lance burstthrough the links of his mail (since nobody used heavy couched lance anyway, a lancer's horse being more likely to be pinchusioned with arrows from his opponent's bows before he could get close enough).

That said, plate armour did actually come into use in Asia as well as Europe. Just look for pictures of elite Ottoman, Persian or Indian elite cavalrymen (sipahis, jagirs, etc) from the 15th century onward, they all wore suits of armour with a lot of small solid plates linked with patches of mail, not unlike the Roman lorica segmentata. So I would say that technology was definitely the linchpin that determined whether or not a civilization will have plate armour for its warrior elite or not China never did develop such a suit of armour, perhaps because their steel working technology was less advanced, they clung to lamellar and brigandine to the end. Or perhaps because the warrior elite was less developed in China compared to the rest of Eurasia, by the 15th century the Confucian bias against martial habits were firmly entrenched amongst the Chinese upper class, and hence their nobility never demanded the same level of armour sophistication, which was as much for showmanship as it was for practical purposes.


Contents

Spears Edit

The primary weapon that was used by Greek troops was a two-to-three meter spear with a leaf-shaped blade at one end and a short spike at the other known as the doru. The spear head was usually made of bronze or iron but which one was more prominently used is still an open question. The doru was used one-handed (the other hand supporting the soldier's shield). [5] Mounted cavalry were known to have used a thinner spear or very long lance (xyston) which provided a range advantage over shorter infantry spears. [6]

Under Philip II of Macedon, hoplites were equipped with extremely long spears (up to 21 feet) called sarrisae. Used in conjunction with the phalanx formation, this made an impregnable wall of spears in front of the infantry the enemy's shorter weaponry could not reach the phalanx because of the sarissae . [7]

Sword Edit

As a secondary weapon, hoplites are known to have carried a short sword known as the xiphos which was made from iron or bronze depending on the era. This was used in the event of a broken spear, or if close melee combat was necessary. [8] Hoplites mounted on horseback likely used a heavier, curved sword known as the kopis, meaning "chopper" in the Greek language. [2] [9] Light infantry known as peltasts would carry a number of javelins used to pepper enemy formations, avoiding close combat whenever possible. The job of the peltast was not to engage in formation combat, therefore, many carried nothing more than javelins.

Ranged weapons Edit

Hand-to-hand, light support troops such as the psiloi were often armed with ranged weapons. Popular ranged weapons were the bow (toxa), javelin (akontia) and sling (sfendonai). While the bow was a relatively uncommon weapon (the wooden stave bow used had a limited range), some troops treated their arrows by thrusting them into rotting corpses, thus creating a crude form of biological weapon. [10] Peltast troops commonly used javelins, and hoplites and cavalry troops were also often equipped with javelins for throwing. The javelins used were light spears around 1.5 meters in length, with a bronze head to facilitate recovery of the weapon they were usually thrown with the aid of an amentum. [ citation needed ] Slings used both lead pellets and stones stones were also commonly thrown by hand. [11]

Linothorax armor made out of linen fabric was the most common form of infantry torso armor, being cheap and relatively light. Bronze breastplate armor was also used, in forms such as a bell cuirass. Little other armor was worn, and fatal blows to unprotected areas (such as the bladder or neck) are recorded in ancient art and poetry. [12] Cavalry armor was designed to be lightweight over a sleeveless tunic called a chitoniskos the cavalry soldier would wear a muscle cuirass designed to leave the arms as free as possible. [9] Hoplites wore greaves to protect the lower leg, as did cavalry, but otherwise the torso and head were the only body parts protected by armor.

The most vital part of the panoply was the Aspis, a large, round shield commonly made from a layer of bronze, wood, and leather. The hoplon was around a meter in diameter, and weighed around 7.3 kg (16 lbs), making it uncomfortable to hold for long periods. [12] Peltasts were armed with wicker shields called pelte, which were much lighter, allowing for greater movement on the battlefield. These were designed to defend against in-coming javelins from opposing peltasts, not necessarily to fend off the thrust of a spear or sword. [13]

Helmets for the infantry came in various types. The earliest standard hoplite helmet was the Corinthian helmet, developed around 600BC. [12] Later, this was replaced by the Phrygian helmet and Chalcidian helmet, which were lighter and did not impair the wearer's vision or hearing so severely. Helmets often had a horsehair crest, for decorative purposes and as an additional level of protection. The Boeotian helmet was commonly used by cavalry troops due to their need for unimpeded vision and hearing. Helmets were mainly used for protecting the head but leaving the eyes, mouth and nose unprotected. [14]

Chariots Edit

The chariot, though ineffective for warfare in the hilly terrain of the Greek mainland, was used by the Myceneans in some circumstances. The vehicle used was generally a single-axled chariot, drawn by two horses and carrying two passengers (a driver and a spearman or archer) the construction was generally bronze-plated wood. [15]

Catapults Edit

The Ancient Greeks used two principal types of heavy catapults as siege engines. The ethytonos was a type of stationary bow, mounted on a tripod and similar in design to a ballista. [16] A larger version, the palintonos, fired stone projectiles. [17]


The Stand of Shackles

/>The Shackle, also called iron bracelets, on chains that fetter the movement of criminals. They are used for the purpose of imprisoning and immobilizing criminals for long periods of time, as well as transporting said subjects.

The first shackles most likely appeared during the Bronze Age, the beginning of a more of less mass metalworking Renaissance. For example, the British museum kept Assyrian bronze shackles, found at Nineveh, and dating back to the X century BC. Initially, shackles were fastened with rivets and could be removed only with a chisel. Then, the clamps were enclosed with locks. The designs have be thought out carefully, and bracelets with a wide enough width can avoiding crippling the hands. Also, depending upon the application, the chain length would be determined considering these conditions. If movement was allowed, the distance reached would be 15-25 centimeters between manual bracers and 35-45 cm between the legs.

There was a special prison with a particularly strict regime, in which prisoners were forced to walk a third of their sentence in such shackles. Most times, it lasted more than 5 years, and became a serious test of physical and emotional endurance. The length of stay in chains contributed to the development of osteoporosis, bone tissue problems at the site of contact between skin and fetters, and also led to a decrease in muscle mass.

An interesting fact: Prisoners in chain for long periods of time formed a specific style of walking. The underarms were easily recognizable in a crowd of ex-convicts on the walk, if they committed a crime and tried to escape.

You might be surprised, but the shackles were invented long before metal coins and toothpaste. This may very well mean that in ancient times penal institutions were of the highest priority when compared with their economic and healthcare-related counterparts. Allow me to invite you on a short journey through time.

That there is a Greek galley cutting in and out of stormy waters. Rowers are seated along both sides. All of them are slaves or criminals. Healthy, muscular men, forced into tough, monotonous work. For many hours on end, the rowers gleefully push the heavy wooden paddles under the guards’ command. Across their faces and arms one can see pulsating veins, their teeth clenched from reaching their strength’s limit as well as violent anger. They would be able to throw their overseers overboard in mere instant were they not fastened down to their benches with heavy shackles.

And this is a famous Australian quarry. Hungry, exhausted slaves beating sledgehammers day and night atop huge boulders, in hopes that amongst the speckled stones a grain of gold can be found. After such an event, the nobleman slaveowner takes a rusty key from a bunch and tosses it at the feet of the lucky man. Blistered hands with disheveled nails manage to undo the binds on their third attempt, and he throws the despised clamps away.

Here is a prisoner’s camp within the headquarters of the Napoleonic army. In the deep depths of an actual dug-out earthen chamber sit enemy officers awaiting their fate. Pale, emaciated faces look up the starry sky in prayer and despair. In the morning they will meet an execution by firing squad. Many would rather take a chance and be shot whilst trying to escape. But this chance is taken away from thеse condemned spectors by the ringing of the chains attached to their arms and legs.

Jail dungeons, slave mines, prisoner camps, and even the halls of courtrooms — all of these places could not be made possible without the presence of chinking, shackling chains.


Contents

The word comes from Latin torquis (or torques), from torqueo, "to twist", because of the twisted shape many of the rings have. Typically, neck-rings that open at the front when worn are called "torcs" and those that open at the back "collars". Smaller bracelets and armlets worn around the wrist or on the upper arm sometimes share very similar forms. Torcs were made from single or multiple intertwined metal rods, or "ropes" of twisted wire. Most of those that have been found are made from gold or bronze, less often silver, iron or other metals (gold, bronze and silver survive better than other metals when buried for long periods). Elaborate examples, sometimes hollow, used a variety of techniques but complex decoration was usually begun by casting and then worked by further techniques. The Ipswich Hoard includes unfinished torcs that give clear evidence of the stages of work. [3] Flat-ended terminals are called "buffers", and in types like the "fused-buffer" shape, where what resemble two terminals are actually a single piece, the element is called a "muff". [4]

There are several types of rigid gold and sometimes bronze necklaces and collars of the later European Bronze Age, from around 1200 BC, many of which are classed as "torcs". They are mostly twisted in various conformations, including the "twisted ribbon" type, where a thin strip of gold is twisted into a spiral. Other examples twist a bar with a square or X section, or just use round wire, with both types in the three 12th– or 11th-century BC specimens found at Tiers Cross, Pembrokeshire, Wales. [5] The Milton Keynes Hoard contained two large examples of thicker rounded forms, as also used for bracelets. [6]

The terminals are not emphasized as in typical Iron Age torcs, though many can be closed by hooking the simple terminals together. Many of these "torcs" are too small to be worn round the neck of an adult, and were either worn as bracelets or armlets, or by children or statues. Archaeologists find dating many torcs difficult, with some believing torcs were retained for periods of centuries as heirlooms, and others believing there were two periods of production. Differing ratios of silver in the gold of other objects—typically up to 15% in the Bronze Age but up to 20% in the Iron Age—can help decide the question. [7] There are several flared gold torcs with a C-shaped section in the huge Mooghaun North Hoard of Late Bronze Age gold from 800 to 700 BC found in County Clare in Ireland. [8]

To the East, torcs appear in Scythian art from the Early Iron Age, and include "classicizing" decoration drawing on styles from the east. Torcs are also found in Thraco-Cimmerian art. Torcs are found in the Tolstaya burial and the Karagodeuashk kurgan (Kuban area), both dating to the 4th century BC. A torc is part of the Pereshchepina hoard dating to the 7th century AD. Thin torcs, often with animal head terminals, are found in the art of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, with some other elements derived from Scythian art.

Depictions of the gods and goddesses of Celtic mythology sometimes show them wearing or carrying torcs, as in images of the god Cernunnos wearing one torc around his neck, with torcs hanging from his antlers or held in his hand, as on the Gundestrup cauldron. This may represent the deity as the source of power and riches, as the torc was a sign of nobility and high social status. [9] The famous Roman copy of the original Greek sculpture The Dying Gaul depicts a wounded Gaulish warrior naked except for a torc, which is how Polybius described the gaesatae, Celtic warriors from modern northern Italy or the Alps, fighting at the Battle of Telamon in 225 BC, although other Celts there were clothed. [10] One of the earliest known depictions of a torc can be found on the Warrior of Hirschlanden (6th century BC), and a high proportion of the few Celtic statues of human figures, mostly male, show them wearing torcs.

Other possible functions that have been proposed for torcs include use as rattles in rituals or otherwise, as some have stones or metal pieces inside them, and representations of figures thought to be deities carrying torcs in their hand may depict this. Some are too heavy to wear for long, and may have been made to place on cult statues. Very few of these remain but they may well have been in wood and not survived. Torcs were clearly valuable, and often found broken in pieces, so being a store of value may have been an important part of their use. It has been noted that the Iberian gold examples seem to be made at fixed weights that are multiples of the Phoenician shekel. [11]

With bracelets, torcs are "the most important category of Celtic gold", though armlets and anklets were also worn in contrast finger-rings were less common among the early Celts. [12] The earliest Celtic torcs are mostly found buried with women, for example, the gold torc from the La Tène period chariot burial of a princess, found in the Waldalgesheim chariot burial in Germany, and others found in female graves at Vix in France (illustrated) and Reinheim. Another La Tène example was found as part of a hoard or ritual deposit buried near Erstfeld in Switzerland. [13] It is thought by some authors that the torc was mostly an ornament for women until the late 3rd century BC, when it became an attribute of warriors. [14] However, there is evidence for male wear in the early period in a rich double burial of the Hallstatt period at Hochmichele, the man wears an iron torc and the female a necklace with beads. [15] A heavy torc in silver over an iron core with bull's head terminals, weighing over 6 kilos, from Trichtingen, Germany, probably dates to the 2nd century BC (illustrated). [16]

Many finds of torcs, especially in groups and in association with other valuables but not associated with a burial, are clearly deliberate deposits whose function is unclear. They may have been ritual deposits or hidden for safekeeping in times of warfare. Some may represent the work-in-progress of a workshop. [17] After the early period, torcs are especially prominent in the Celtic cultures reaching to a coast of the Atlantic, from modern Spain to Ireland, and on both sides of the English Channel.

Some very elaborately worked torcs with relief decoration in a late form of La Tène style have been found in Britain and Ireland, dating from roughly the 3rd to 1st centuries BC. There may be a connection with an older tradition in the British Isles of elaborate gold neckwear in the form of gold lunulas, which seem centred on Ireland in the Bronze Age, and later flat or curved wide collars gold twisted ribbon torcs are found from both periods, but also imported styles such as the fused-buffer. [18] The most elaborate late Insular torcs are thick and often hollow, some with terminals forming a ring or loop. The most famous English example is the 1st-century BC multi-stranded electrum Snettisham Torc found in northwestern Norfolk in England (illustrated), [19] while the single hollow torc in the Broighter Gold hoard, with relief decoration all round the hoop, is the finest example of this type from Ireland, also 1st century BC. [20] The Stirling Hoard, a rare find in Scotland of four gold torcs, two of them twisted ribbons, dating from the 3rd to 1st century BC, was discovered in September 2009. [21]

The Roman Titus Manlius in 361 BC challenged a Gaul to single combat, killed him, and then took his torc. Because he always wore it, he received the nickname Torquatus (the one who wears a torc), [23] and it was adopted by his family. After this, Romans adopted the torc as a decoration for distinguished soldiers and elite units during Republican times. A few Roman torcs have been discovered. [24] Pliny the Elder records that after a battle in 386 BC (long before his lifetime) the Romans recovered 183 torcs from the Celtic dead, and similar booty is mentioned by other authors. [10]

It is not clear whether the Gallo-Roman "Warrior of Vacheres", a sculpture of a soldier in Roman military dress, wears a torc as part of his Roman uniform or as a reflection of his Celtic background. Quintilian says that the Emperor Augustus was presented by Gauls with a gold torc weighing 100 Roman pounds (nearly 33 kilograms or 73 pounds), [10] far too heavy to wear. A torc from the 1st century BC Winchester Hoard, is broadly in Celtic style but uses the Roman technique of laced gold wire, suggesting it may have been a "diplomatic gift" from a Roman to a British tribal king. [25] [26]

A very late example of a torc used as ceremonial item in early Medieval Wales can be found in the writings of Gerald of Wales. The author wrote that there still existed a certain royal torc that had once been worn by Prince Cynog ap Brychan of Brycheiniog (fl. 492 AD) and was known as Saint Kynauc's Collar. Gerald encountered and described this relic first-hand while travelling through Wales in 1188. Of it he says, "it is most like to gold in weight, nature, and colour it is in four pieces wrought round, joined together artificially, and clefted as it were in the middle, with a dog's head, the teeth standing outward it is esteemed by the inhabitants so powerful a relic, that no man dares swear falsely when it is laid before him." [27] It is of course possible that this torc long pre-dated the reign of Prince Cynog and was a much earlier relic that had been recycled during the British Dark Ages to be used as a symbol of royal authority. It is now lost.

There are mentions in medieval compilations of Irish mythology for example in the Lebor Gabála Érenn (11th century) Elatha wore 5 golden torcs when meeting Eriu. [28] [29]

Most Achaemenid torcs are thin single round bars with matching animal heads as the terminals, facing each other at the front. Some Early Celtic forms break from the normal style of torc by lacking a break at the throat, and instead are heavily decorated at the continuous front, with animal elements and short rows of "balusters", rounded projections coming to a blunt point these are seen both on the sculpted torc worn by the stone "Glauberg Warrior" and a gold torc (illustrated) found in the same oppidum. Later Celtic torcs nearly all return to having a break at the throat and strong emphasis on the two terminals. The Vix torc has two very finely made winged horses standing on fancy platforms projecting sideways just before the terminals, which are flattened balls under lions' feet. Like other elite Celtic pieces in the "orientalizing" style, the decoration shows Greek influence but not a classical style, and the piece may have been made by Greeks in the Celtic taste, or a "Graeco-Etruscan workshop", or by Celts with foreign training. [30]

Spiral ribbon torcs, usually with minimal terminals, continue a Bronze Age type and are found in the Stirling Hoard from Scotland, and elsewhere: [31] "Although over 110 identifiable British [includes Ireland] ribbon torcs are known, the dating of these simple, flexible ornaments is elusive", perhaps indicating "a long-lived preference for ribbon torcs, which continued for over 1,000 years". [32] The terminals were often slightly flared plain round cylinders which were folded back to hook round each other to fasten the torc at the throat. Other Celtic torcs may use various ways of forming the hoop: plain or patterned round bars, two or more bars twisted together, thin round rods (or thick wire) wound round a core, or woven gold wire. A rarer type twists a single bar with an X profile.

Except in British looped terminals, the terminals of Iron Age torcs are usually formed separately. The "buffer" form of terminal was the most popular in finds from modern France and Germany, with some "fused buffer" types opening at the rear or sides. In both buffer types and those with projecting fringes of ornament, decoration in low relief often continues back round the hoop as far as the midpoint of the side view. In Iberian torcs thin gold bars are often wound round a core of base metal, with the rear section a single round section with a decorated surface.

The c. 150 torcs found in the lands of the Iberian Celts of Galicia favoured terminals ending in balls coming to a point or small buffer ("pears"), or a shape with a double moulding called scotiae. [33] The pointed ball is also found in northern Italy, where the hoops often end by being turned back upon themselves so that the terminals face out to the sides, perhaps enabling closure by hooking round. Both of these mostly used plain round bars or thin rods wound round a core. In the terminals of British torcs loops or rings are common, and the main hoop may be two or more round bars twisted together, or several strands each made up of twisted wire. Decoration of the terminals in the finest examples is complex but all abstract. In these two types the hoop itself normally has no extra decoration, though the large torc in the Irish Broighter Gold hoard is decorated all round the hoop, the only Irish example decorated in this way.


Violence and the Medieval Church

Even the church accepted violence as a fact of life, as the following story illustrates. A French knight prayed at a local monastery that God would allow him to avenge his brother's murder by capturing the murderer. Later, the knight and his companions ambushed the victim, mutilated his face, cut off his hands and feet, and castrated him. The knight believed that he had been successful because of divine help, so in gratitude he donated the victim's bloodstained armor and weapons to the monastery where he had prayed. It would seem incredible today, but the monks gratefully accepted them.

Training for knighthood began at an early age. Boys as young as seven were sent to serve as pages, or personal attendants, for a wealthy relative or lord. There they would be trained in using weapons and handling a horse. Part of the training might include a period of apprenticeship. As an apprentice, the young knight served as a squire (assistant) for an older knight, helping him with his horse or in putting on his armor.

Once the young man's training was finished, usually between the ages of sixteen and twenty, he would be ceremonially knighted and swear an oath of fealty, or loyalty, to his lord. He also committed himself to a host of rituals and vows that made knighthood a kind of fraternity, or a brotherly group. The knight was now bound to his lord and had to serve for a fixed period of time, typically four years. During peacetime, he was expected to practice his skills as a knight. He did this with other knights through competitive tournaments, but these tournaments frequently turned into disorderly brawls that resulted in senseless injury and death. Later, kings and the church developed more orderly jousting tournaments, with individual events, to minimize this bloodshed. These jousting tournaments, in which a knight would compete against another knight for the honor of his lady love, became a common feature of life late in the medieval period.


Medieval Period

Blacksmiths were central to medieval times, often setting up shop in a place of importance in the center of the village. They would make not just weapons but nails, furniture, locks, horseshoes, and armor. The blacksmith became essential to any town, and their techniques improved accordingly. However, the techniques became so advanced and arcane to outsiders that they were also sometimes seen as witches using forbidden magic to make strong weapons. Some blacksmiths were even burned at the stake.

    Read about the importance of a blacksmith to society during this era. : Blacksmiths didn’t spend all of their time making swords. : Learn the process through which a medieval blacksmith might make one of the most common products.

It is also important to mount the breastplate in a manner that is a facsimile to the human body and the armour system of the time. The breast plate is mounted onto a wheeled stand that is free to move and has some sway to represent that of the body. On to this is mounted a ballistic gel torso fronted in a 5 layer arming doublet and a layer of riveted maille.

The first round of tests is to establish what the maximum power of the English Longbow actually is and how this reduces over distance shot. This is not strictly required for our test as we are going to shoot at 25m, but it helps us understand the spread of impact energies.

Joe shot the bow through a chronograph at 10, 25 and 50m and we got successful readings for 10 and 25m but even though Joe was able to shoot through the chronograph at 50m, for some reason it failed to register and we had to move on to the next filming sequence. We will revisit this in a later film.

With an 80g arrow this gave 123J at 10m and 109J at 25m. At 50m the arrows were still punching through the straw target and the 18mm strand board behind and the difference between 25m and 50 was not visible, so the energy will drop from 109J, but I suspect not that much and we will return to this aspect of the test in the future.

As a point of general interest, these numbers have a bearing on our day of testing. We know by interpreting the accounts from the day of the battle that the shooting was done ‘flat’, i.e. at a close range, but we don’t know how close, so a spread of data points would be useful to help with discussions, if not conclusions.

The next round was to mount the breastplate and secondary protection on to the mobile carriage and shoot it at 25m using a wrought iron arrow head. The first shot just skimmed under the breastplate and straight through the maille, arming doublet and gel clearly showing the danger of getting shot in a vulnerable area.

Subsequent shots all shattered to various extents on the breastplate, marking and denting it in places, but there was clearly no chance they were going to pierce at all, and very definitely not enough to pass through and into a torso behind. It was clear though that debris was often driven upwards toward the neck.

A second round of shooting was undertaken using lightly case hardened heads. Case hardening in this context is an interesting issue and requires more research and practical application. Wrought iron is reasonably ductile and can be rendered much harder by introducing carbon to create a steel. This may have been done, but then analysing the existing heads would reveal they were made of steel and this has not been shown with bodkin “plate cutter” heads. Case hardening is when a thin jacket of very hard steel is created by soaking the wrought heads in a high carbon atmosphere at high temperatures for long periods. For example, if you mix organic materials like horn dust and charcoal, and fill a clay container with the mixture and some arrow heads, then seal the top and bake it at 800C for a few hours, a significant and very hard skin will be formed on the iron.

This is contentious because it was cheap and they did it for other objects, but the high carbon steel skin is very thin and would (inevitably?) rust away in a battlefield context, leaving no trace it was ever done. One of the very few clues we have is that under a list compiled in Mildenhall’s second account, for 1351–3, “649 sheaves of arrows with steeled heads (cum capitibus asteratis),“
These arrows are specifically described as steeled. Quite what this means is unclear, but I suspect it means they were hardened or possibly made completely from steel.

A second round of testing was then conducted using hardened heads and to all intents the effect was the same that the arrows completely shattered, marked the plate or dented it, but did not come close to passing through, though again send debris upward.

These tests were limited in that only 3 arrows of each type were shot and so in a ‘scientific’ sense the sample size is too small to draw absolute conclusions and that is a fair critique, but from observing what we could I feel it is fair to say “an arrow of true weight and construction, shot from a traditional bow of a powerful weight will not pass through a correctly fashioned breast plate of moderate quality”.

Being familiar with engineering, armour, projectiles and longbows, I cannot say this was a surprise, however the amount and direction of debris was very interesting as well as the shot into the ‘belly’ and leads to the conclusion that strikes through the breastplate would not be dangerous to the wearer, but the ‘lucky shots’ and the debris could well be. The role of the ‘stop bar’ was quite clear at this point.

A few aspects are striking about this. Firstly, it would not be sensible for a shooter to shoot at hard targets when soft are available and Joe clearly shows you can shoot these bows with accuracy. Secondly Paul Dolnsteins’ drawing of Swedish peasants shooting at a German army in 1501 shows every individual who is shot, shot in the arm, leg or face.

The last, is that the accounts from the French knights who were at Agincourt said “they were feared for the sights and the breathes of their helms’. No mention of anything else and we can conclude that if they were scared of these areas of their armour they were either vulnerable or perceived to be so.

This will require at least two more visits to this area ‘lucky shots’ and helmets.

The final round of authentic testing was looking at the role of the Jupon. These were heavily padded fabric armour worn over the plate and in addition to the arming doublet and the maille. They were worn by some English knights, but were far more common amongst the French fashion or function?

A section of fabric jupon was fitted over the plate and shot again with three arrows at 25m. Where previously 5 arrows of the six shattered massively, all three into the jupon broke at the head and the shaft was left intact. This had the singular effect of reducing flying debris to nothing.

The final test was conducted as a comparison using a modern heavy arrow of a similar weight, but using an all steel medium carbon head at around 52-54 Rockwell, shot by the same bow at 10m to give it every chance of penetrating. It marked the plate more heavily than the wrought heads of either type, but again failed to puncture at all.

Many thanks must go out to all those who gave up their time and considerable effort for this project and who were willing to be involved in what proved to be a very interesting day, and I suspect the first of a few similar ones.

Thanks to experts and participants

  • Kevin Legg for the breastplate
  • Will Sherman for the arrows
  • Joe Gibbs for the bow and the shooting
  • Chrissi Carnie for the Jupon
  • Mike Chernett for directing, camera work and editing
  • Dr Toby Capwell for knowledge and insights
  • Piers Leigh for camera work
  • Rob Bennett for camera work
  • Lou, Lisa and Greg for running and catering

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Body Armor and Protective Clothing

Body armor is an item or piece of clothing that is designed to protect the wearer against a variety of attacks. They can be made to stop different types of threats, such as bullets, knives and needles, or a combination of different attacks.

There are two types of body armor – soft body armor, which is used in regular bullet and stab proof vests, and hard armor, which is rigid, reinforced body armor, and is used in high risk situations by police tactical units and combat soldiers.

A piece of body armor will traditionally be made up of two sections – the outer carrier, and the soft armor inner protective panels. It is important to remember that a carrier without any type of protective panels contained within it will not provide any protection against ballistic, stab or spike attacks.

The outer carrier can be made from a range of materials, and can be available in a range of colors, depending on the users requirements. The soft armor protective panels that are placed within the carrier will provide the protection offered by the body armor, and are normally light weight and flexible. These protective panels are available in a range of levels, and can be designed to defeat a variety of threats.

When a higher level of protection is required then hard armor can also be used in addition to the normal soft armor panels. Hard armor is available in a range of sizes, and can be worn in front of soft armor in specially made pockets on the outer carrier, or in separate hard armor carriers.

A Brief History Of Body Armor

There have been many different forms of body armor in use throughout history. The ancient Greeks used body armor to protect their soldiers, as did the Roman Legions, with examples of their body armor being found that date back to as early as 1400 BC. Around the year 500 BC chain-mail body armor was invented, which provided the wearer with a higher level of protection against attack than previous types of body armor. Made from thousands of iron rings that were linked together, it created a flexible, mesh like barrier that provided a high level of protection against weapons such as spears and swords. It was highly effective against the weapons of the era, but over time chain-mail was improved by adding metal armor plates to provide a higher level of protection for vulnerable parts of the body. Gradually these pieces of plate armor became bigger and more effective, and eventually replaced chain-mail as the main type of body armor that was used by armies around the world.

The introduction of firearms led to developments in the production of body armor, as plate armor was ineffective against high velocity projectiles. This led to the development of heavy duty types of plate armor, which provided a higher level of protection for the wearer, but was also heavier and more restrictive than earlier types of body armor The use of plate armor declined during the 18 th century, as the development in firearms again meant that only the most expensive and heavy types of body armor could provide reliable protection against them. However during the early 20 th century some types of plate armor became popular again with many countries, especially as it proved effective at stopping pieces of shrapnel that often proved deadly on the battlefield. Several countries used different forms of plate armor in both World War I and II, and traditional types of plate armor were worn by U.S. Foot soldiers as late as the Korean and Vietnamese wars.

The biggest development for body armor was in the late 1960’s, when DuPont™ began development of their para-aramid fiber Kevlar®. Lightweight and incredibly strong, Kevlar® allowed manufacturers to develop personal types of body armor that could be worn comfortably for long periods of time, and that also provided protection that could not be matched by any previous forms of body armor Over time other companies also developed their own types of body armor using a variety of revolutionary materials, meaning that body armor become both widely available and also affordable for the first time in history.

Body armor was traditionally used to protect soldiers and military personnel, however the last 25 years has seen an increase in the use of body armor to provide protection for police officers, security guards, door supervisors, ship crew and many others. The increase in gun and knife crime around the world means the use of body armor is now essential in many industries, and rapid developments in body armor means it can now provide a high level of protection against a broad range of day to day threats.

The introduction of lightweight personal body armor means that it’s now commonplace in many industries that previously would not have used body armor For example the increase in sea piracy has led to many shipping companies purchasing pieces of body armor for their crew members, in an effort to provide them with protection against the increased threats that they now face.

Body Armor Designs

Bullet and stab proof vests are generally made to be either covert or overt. A covert bullet proof vest is designed to be worn under clothes, and will often come in light colors They are normally thinner than overt types of bullet proof vests, as they are designed to be invisible when worn under clothes. Overt designs of bullet proof vests are made to be worn over clothes, and are normally produced in dark colors Generally they are made from rugged, hard wearing materials, and will often feature pockets and straps that can be used by the wearer.

It should also be noted that some bullet proof vests can be worn under or over clothes, these are known as covert / overt vests.

The vest carriers of bullet proof vests are designed in a wide range of styles, and are often customized for different uses. For example ambulance staff will have body armor in high visibility covers, and military personnel will have additional neck, groin and arm protection attached to their bullet proof vests. The broad range of covers and accessories available means bullet proof vests can be designed to almost any specification required.

Protection Levels

The protection standards used for body armor will vary from country to country, with many having their own specific tests and standards. However the tests performed by the American NIJ (National Institute of Justice) and the UK HOSDB (Home Office Scientific Development Branch) are considered to be the model standards for body armor around the world, and most countries will recognize the protection levels offered by a piece of body armor that is certified by either of these agencies.

The NIJ are considered to be the industry leaders in ballistic testing methods for body armor, and the HOSDB’s stab and spike tests are thought to be the worlds best. The NIJ and the HOSDB work in conjunction with each other on their testing methods, and a piece of body armor that passes NIJ standards will also pass the equivalent HOSDB standard.

Body armor is designed to protect against 3 broad types of threats – bullet, stab and spike. The protection offered by a piece of body armor will depend on how it is designed. For example some pieces of body armor will provide protection from just ballistic threats, while others will provide protection against bullet and stab attacks, or even bullet, stab and spike based threats.

Each piece of body armor will be clearly labeled with the protection that it provides. The higher the number on the protection, the higher the level of protection it will offer. For example a bullet proof vest that has NIJ Level IIIa protection will provide a higher level of protection than a bullet proof vest with NIJ Level II protection . Please see our protection levels section for more details.

Body Armor Sizing

Body armor comes in a full range of sizes, from small to 5XL. The larger the size, the wider the protective panels of the bullet proof vest will be. Body armor is also designed in different lengths – short, regular and long. A normal piece of body armor is designed to protect only the wearers vital organs, and should reach to the navel area. We recommend that anyone under 5𔃿 orders a short vest, between 5𔄀 and 5󈧏 a regular length vest, and over 6′ a long vest.

Body armor is made in the same way as normal clothing when it comes to sizing. For example a 5󈧎 man with a 38-40 inch chest and 32-34 inch waist will wear a medium t-shirt, and also a medium, regular length bullet proof vest.

How Does Body Armor Work?

Bullet proof vests

Bullet proof vests are designed to stop a bullet from penetrating them and causing harm to the wearer. They are made up a many layers of incredibly strong fibers, which when hit act as a net that essentially catches the bullet, and prevents it from traveling any further. Each layer twists as the bullet passes through, creating a stronger barrier and slowing the bullet until it comes to a complete stop. This process deforms the bullet, flattening it into a dish shape, and the force of the impact is spread over a large portion of the bullet proof vest.

Obviously the impact of a bullet is massive, and while the bullet proof vest will stop the penetration of the bullet, both the bullet proof vest and the wearer will still absorb the bullets energy. The impact of the bullet may be enough to cause what is known as “blunt force trauma” to the wearer at the impact point. As a bullet proof vest is not solid the bullet will not instantly be stopped by it, it will travel through the vest but not actually penetrate it completely. This means the wearer will still feel the impact of the bullet on their body, and while the blunt force trauma of the bullet will undoubtedly be painful, it should also not be life threatening

Bullet proof vests come in several levels of protection, and are designed to resist most common law and medium energy handgun rounds. If the wearer requires protection against rifle rounds then rigid, hard armor can also be used in conjunction with their bullet proof vest. Hard armor is generally made from ceramics, metal or a combination of both, and are worn in front of the panels on the bullet proof vest. However these plates tend to be heavy and bulky, and so they are generally used only when required in high risk situations.

It is very important to remember that a bullet proof vest is only bullet proof when it contains ballistic panels. A bullet proof vest without ballistic panels is simply a vest, the outer vest cover does not provide any ballistic protection on its own.

The ballistic panels themselves are made in different ways, depending on the individual manufacturer. Some may use a single type of material such as DuPont™ Kevlar®, whilst others may use multiple materials in their construction. The more protection a bullet proof vest offers, the more it will weigh. This is because it will contain more layers of protective material, and some manufacturers will add layers of non-ballistic materials in order to provide additional blunt trauma protection. Because of the different methods of construction used by different manufacturers it is impossible to compare individual ballistic plates, however it is important to note that whilst they may be constructed differently, they all need to pass the same safety checks before they can be sold.

Stab and spike proof vests

A traditional bullet proof vest will provide little to no resistance to an attack from a knife or stabbing instrument, as the fibers that are designed to “catch” the bullet can not disperse the energy of a concentrated stab or spike attack.

Stab and spike proof vests are constructed differently to bullet proof vests, in order to offer resistance to these types of attack. A knife tip will penetrate fabric, which then allows the rest of the cutting surface to rip through the material. A pointed weapon, such as a needle or syringe, will not actually damage the material, rather the point will push through the weave of the fabric and allow the rest of it to follow.

Stab and spike proof vests are made up of materials with a very tight laminated weave, as this prevents threats from piercing the fabric and causing damage. Stab and spike proof vests can be made from tightly woven, heavy duty nylon, however recent trends have led to an increase in multi-threat Kevlar® vests, which offer protection from bullet and stab threats, whilst others offer bullet, stab and spike protection.

It is important to note that not every stab resistant vest will also offer spike protection. If you are going to face spike based threats please ensure you select a vest with additional spike protection.

Body Armor User Guide

What your body armor is NOT

Please be aware that body armor is NOT designed to provide 100% protection against every conceivable threat. Your body armor will provide protection up to its stated levels, so always ensure that you have the correct level of protection for the threats you could face.

Body Armor Maintenance

Body armor should be cleaned straight after wearing using a weak liquid detergent and warm water. Sponge the vest cover, do not immerse the vest in water as this could damage the panels. Do not dry in direct sunlight.

Body armor should be stored flat when not in use . This will stop creases and wrinkles forming in the ballistic materials.

Do not wash the Kevlar® inserts, as this could cause damage to the ballistic fibers If required they can be lightly sponged with warm, soapy water. The covers are made from various materials and the washing instructions should be followed.

Body armor should be visually inspected for damage or excessive wear every time it is worn. Never wear body armor that is damaged in anyway.

Inserting Protective Panels

Bullet, stab and spike proof vests are designed to be worn in a specific direction. It is important that you ensure the ballistic panels within your vest carrier are facing the correct direction at all times. When a bullet strikes a bullet proof vest its impact is absorbed by the many layers of fabric within 3 nanoseconds, caught, and prevented from passing through the vest itself. However this method of stopping a bullet is directional, which means that it works only when the panels are facing in the correct direction. If the panel is facing the wrong way then the web of fibers becomes practically useless, and leaves the wearer open to serious threat.

The same applies to stab and spike proof vests. If the protective panel is facing the wrong way it becomes easier for pointed objects to pass through, as they are not designed to protect against threats from that direction.

All protective panels are clearly marked with the direction they are intended to be worn, and it is important that the wearer ensures they are aware of this at all times. If you remove your vests panels in order to wash the outer carrier then always pay attention when putting the vest back together, and ensure that when the panels are reinserted they are facing the correct direction.

Most bullet proof vests are adjustable at the waist in order to provide the wearer with a well fitted, comfortable vest. Armour should not be worn too tightly as this may increase body heat and restrict movement.

Effects of water and sweat on body armor

The armor we sell is made from aramid fibers and these will lose some of their protective properties if they are totally immersed in water for a long period of time, however this will only be temporary until the armor has dried out. Our body armor will not be affected by rain or sweat.


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