Armour: chain/mail vs scale vs lamellar vs plate

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
Yes, mixed defenses were perfectly common in some times and places. Though the limb plates you show above are "jack chains" or "splints", inexpensive pieces of munition armor that could be readily purchased.

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Jun 2019
Southeast Asia
Armor type alone did not determine how it would perform in battle. There are too much variation on each construction that would change how each fare with the other. The way the suit is constructed determine how they are worn and how it would perform in battle.

For example mail in Europe are constructed like a shirt, while in Asia there are mail constructed like a coat fastened on the front. The second type meant that the mail will hug the body tighter than the first, so the property of mail having bad weight distribution is lightened. Even better, there are mail suits in Asia which are pretty much jumpsuits which make do with dead weight like mail skirts of a mail tunic.

Likewise with lamellar or scale with mail, there are lamellar and scale construction that have sleeves and cover the armpit just as well as mail did, so mail is not special in its ability to cover the gaps of human body, it is just easier to do and more streamlined. For example wearing lamellar or scale glove for butcher would be awkward and unsanitary, mail swimming suit just hug the body better and more streamlined as well as not having matter that absorb water.

Mail bad against thrust? just create the mail with washer rings like in Russian Baidana, now the holes is far smaller.

Scale bad against upward thrust, just reverse the scale direction upward or fasten the bottom part, so it will not be pushed by thrusts.

What make European plate armor better than most other armor is not because it had sliding rivets, joint armor and other things, it is because of the deflective cuirass and the helmet design with integrated neck articulation. Those two components are simply never originally made by other culture, while plate or plate substitute for any other parts of the body had been made earlier than European plate armor in various other cultures in Europe or Asia. The closest thing to a European style helmet is the Japanese Kabuto, Menpo and Yodare-Kake. The only solid iron cuirass found that predate European cuirass would be the Prodromi cuirass and the Philip 2 cuirass, both of which have less deflective design than Medieval cuirass.

The Medieval and Renaissance helmet is uniquely deflective and fit the shape of the neck and head , better than any other helmet in history, however helmets like that could be made by cultures that don't use plate armor as it was made of small metal pieces that is within ability for many cultures to create.

The European cuirass is pretty much an armor that simply cannot be replicated in its effect with flexible armor or flat plate cuirass like a Char-aina. It is also the most important piece that mark European plate armor superiority as it protect the torso, the second most important part of the body.

However metal quality are also important, for example the French Gendarmes suffer heavy casualties against arquebuses or mounted pistolier, even though they wear plate armor, on the other side of the world, we have Ming Dynasty armor resisting bullets from Japanese arquebus and Dutch musket, even though it is lamellar, scale or brigandine. My opinion is that in these kind of fight against firearm, chest armor is the only relevant part to be thickened, maybe the Chinese thicken that part more than the French, while leaving the rest far thinner just enough to protect against cut and thrust from melee weapons. These pretty much mean that even the European style cuirass may not be better protection than lamellar, brigandine or scale. Mail is certainly out of the question, as we have no source of it protecting against bullets.

European helmets is still unrivaled in its balance of sophistication and protectiveness of the head though.

So what kind of weapon used also determine which armor you would wear.