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Old November 28th, 2012, 07:09 AM   #1

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The utility of heavy armour


All these X vs Y threads got me thinking about the value of heavy armour.

Our stereotypical image of a knight is possibly the Romantic ideal of a man clad in full sheets of metal, virtually impervious to swords and spears, lumbering around the battlefield with limited vision. A samurai was more nimble, but with inferior protection. His armour was lacquered with some plates sewn on for protection.

But these stereotypes aren't true. I've worn replica plate armour. Its total weight is comparable to, if not lighter than to a modern soldier's pack, and because the weight is well distributed, is nowhere near as difficult to move around with compared to if you were just carrying around an equivalent weight. And although I haven't worn late 16th century samurai armour, its protection often consisted of solid metal plates (in the nanban style yoroi), reinforced by Japanese chain mail.

Clearly, a knight's armour did not render him invulnerable, otherwise no knight would ever have been killed on the battlefield, and they'd have been stood there trying to beat each other into submission without success until one of them got bored and went home. And the samurai must have been able to protect against heavy weapons - and firearms - after meeting the heavy odachi/nodachi weapons on the battlefield.

To the untrained eye, it looks as if the armour users should have been relatively invulnerable to most weapons they encountered, but this clearly can't have been the case.

So what were the strategies used to penetrate these types of heavy armour, along with other comparable armour?
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Old November 28th, 2012, 07:28 AM   #2
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No amount of armour will protect you from blunt trauma .
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Old November 28th, 2012, 07:35 AM   #3

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What Lazyman said, and you had certain areas of your body that were not protected at all times. Area around your neck, armpits, behind knees etc
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Old November 28th, 2012, 07:35 AM   #4

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Despite providing good protection or armour either in quality or coverage is perfect. Joints of limbs are often a convenient target since armour there will by the sheer need for mobility and movements be weaker. Weapons and techniques designed to help target and neutralise these areas by overcoming what armour there was there, would be the obvious choice.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 07:43 AM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Naomasa298 View Post
Clearly, a knight's armour did not render him invulnerable, otherwise no knight would ever have been killed on the battlefield, and they'd have been stood there trying to beat each other into submission without success until one of them got bored and went home.
Actually the knight in his full plate armour of late medieval period was to wide extent invulnerable. I remember reading a story about the knight who was dragged down from the horse by group of peasants who were not able to kill him even when he was on the lying on the ground.

But there were some weapons that were designed to kill armoured knights, to pierce trough their armour or to crush however it wasnt easy at all. An armoured knight could have jump into center of group of less armoured enemy infantry with his big sword and to wave it around without taking care for his own protection as he could have trust his armour.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 07:47 AM   #6
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I think that the main development was the type of weapon used. Once plate armour became more prevalent, weapons such as the pole axe and warhammer became much more common.

Not only were they designed to puncture plate armour, they were designed to cause injuries even when they had failed to penetrate it, through blunt force trauma.


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Old November 28th, 2012, 08:21 AM   #7

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Well one popular way was to just hit the guy as hard as you could so that he would die from the blunt.

It's a bit like the difference of trying to stop a car by shooting at the driver or throw a great rock in the way of the car.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 09:31 AM   #8

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One of the best tactics against heavily-armored foes, without directly using weapons, was to let the enemies fall from exhaustion and fatigue(with your head fully inside an helmet your breathability rapidly decreases; the sun was another adversary for the full-armored knights) then simply kill or capture them...Of course in order to perform this, you had to resist the impetus of killing cans coming at you.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 09:39 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Naomasa298 View Post
All these X vs Y threads got me thinking about the value of heavy armour.

Our stereotypical image of a knight is possibly the Romantic ideal of a man clad in full sheets of metal, virtually impervious to swords and spears, lumbering around the battlefield with limited vision. A samurai was more nimble, but with inferior protection. His armour was lacquered with some plates sewn on for protection.

But these stereotypes aren't true. I've worn replica plate armour. Its total weight is comparable to, if not lighter than to a modern soldier's pack, and because the weight is well distributed, is nowhere near as difficult to move around with compared to if you were just carrying around an equivalent weight. And although I haven't worn late 16th century samurai armour, its protection often consisted of solid metal plates (in the nanban style yoroi), reinforced by Japanese chain mail.

Clearly, a knight's armour did not render him invulnerable, otherwise no knight would ever have been killed on the battlefield, and they'd have been stood there trying to beat each other into submission without success until one of them got bored and went home. And the samurai must have been able to protect against heavy weapons - and firearms - after meeting the heavy odachi/nodachi weapons on the battlefield.

To the untrained eye, it looks as if the armour users should have been relatively invulnerable to most weapons they encountered, but this clearly can't have been the case.

So what were the strategies used to penetrate these types of heavy armour, along with other comparable armour?
The longbow. We know full well what kind of devastation this weapon against the great and glorious Knights. Best of all, the cost of training and equipping peasants with Longbows was ridiculously cheap compared to raising, training, equipping and maintaining knights.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 10:11 AM   #10

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To avoid listing dozens of various weapons, two different styles were used.

A) Blunt force to transfer energy through the armor
B) Hardened iron/steel focused into a point to minimize the area of contact while maximizing the force applied onto that one point.

Both can be effective. The former you would see with maces, mauls and hammers, but blunt force trauma can also be introduced by just about any weapon if it hit with enough force - a strong sword blow, a direct blow with a lance that didn't penetrate, etc. The latter you find on picks, the points on poleaxes and halberds, awlpikes, some spears, and lances. Good plate armor can withstand a lot of force, but by minimizing the area of contact you can reduce the amount of force required to penetrate such armor (though it remains difficult if you don't get the right angle or blow).
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