View Full Version : Gaps in Ill-Fitting Armor

08-15-2011, 02:55 AM
A character in my story is wearing armor that doesn't fit quite right. I am wondering if the point where the leg meets the groin would be exposed enough for a knife to be thrust through. Thank you!

08-15-2011, 03:13 AM
What type??? And how off is it? Your character might be more worried about being able to move a joint without jamming fleshy or boney bits.

08-15-2011, 04:51 AM
Even armor that fits has gaps at hip and shoulder. We check the armor exhibits at museums and have read of more than own owner who died when a skilled or lucky sword or knife thrust found those gaps. There's a huge artery in the groin, isn't there? I would think that even a nick might prove fatal.

Here's a diagram showing one type which leaves its wearer utterly vulnerable: http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/a/images/arms_diagram.armor.lg.jpg

Maryn, armor fan, even though it's hard to photograph

08-15-2011, 05:22 AM
Except for a very VERY few sets of armor (Henry VIII foot combat armor being one of them) There is always a 'gap' between the top of the cuisse and the groin. The groin was typically protected by a skirt of mail, or in some cases a kind of 'diaper' of mail. Much will depend on the era and type of armor your character is wearing. Can you help us out a bit? You say 'ill fitting' in what sense? Was the armor too long? Too Short? Too wide? Too narrow?


It is very difficult to sit in a saddle when your butt is covered in steel - even mail. That's why the armor in the video is 'foot combat' armor.

08-15-2011, 07:24 AM
A gap in between the legs and the groin is unavoidable (though, like WriteKnight said, they would often have some sort of mail skirt for added protection), but if your knight is mounted, it's unlikely that someone could get at that spot. As for the gaps in the armpits, sometimes knights would use something called a rondel, which is just a round plate of metal, to cover the gap and add a bit of extra protection.

If you're looking for weak points in armor, you might also consider someone getting stabbed through a weak gorget (a metallic collar for protecting the throat). Because gorgets were often lobstered, they were one of the weaker parts of plate armor.

08-15-2011, 09:28 AM
It also depends on what kind of knife. A rondel dagger (basically a big nasty triangular spike) was specifically designed for penetrating the weak points of armour; if the knifer has one of those, then the armour doesn't even have to be ill-fitting - the person with the rondel dagger just has to be good/fast/lucky!

A good place for general information on arms and armour is swordforum (http://swordforum.com/).

Mark G
08-17-2011, 02:54 AM
I second Fenika's question.
Maryn - I think that pic doesn't show the chainmail screen that they wore to cover the groin. (pic with the chainmail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maximilienne-p1000557.jpg))
Writeknight - true about plate mail... but...

Before we all go assuming that the character is wearing "Plate Armor" or "Field Plate" of the 15th / 16th century, I'd like to know specifically what type of armor we're talking about. Is this supposed to be historically accurate armor in a certain time period, or fantasy?

If it's fantasy, then there's no question that you can do whatever you like; unless you're describing fantasy that takes place in a specific period. Otherwise, it might be beneficial to check into what armor was available in the time period of the story.

One of my pet peeves about some stories is the use of plate armor or plate mail because it's cool looking, 500 or 1000 years before the skills & technology existed to create plate armor. The movie "Excalibur" (1981 film) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082348/) is a great example. The story of King Arthur (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur) was supposed to have taken place during the 5th or 6th centuries. During that time, much simpler suits of complete chainmail were the norm (link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mail_(armour))) along with leather armor, studded leather, and maybe a leftover Roman suit of Scale mail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scale_armour). Later periods before full plate appeared brought splint (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splint_armour) or banded (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banded_mail) mail also (though Romans had their Lorica segmentata (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorica_segmentata) long before, things like armor manufacturing were lost for a while after the fall of Rome - like the technology for running water and flushing toilets).

In armor with skirts of chainmail (not great for riding in, by the way), there is no gap between the leg and crotch, unless you manage to strike upwards from ground level, since the skirt can fall to the knees. Chain mail is heavy as hell though (I've worn it, along with plate mail so I can tell you first hand... killer Halloween party... but I digress) and the choice of armor for your characters can greatly affect their mobility and fighting style.

Plate mail usually means your character is on a horse; since walking all day in 50 lbs of metal really sucks. If you have the coin to buy a suit (and they were never cheap), then you probably have the coin for a horse to ride. On the other hand, if you "acquired" the suit from a recently deceased prior owner, then I could see it fitting poorly.

Now imagine walking around for a day in poorly fitting metal clothing that rubs in various spots and weighs a ton. While the sun is shining down on you. And there's no water to drink. And someone comes along with a dagger and wants to put you out of your misery.

You might be tempted to show him the gap in the armor...

08-17-2011, 04:23 AM
Thanks everyone!

The story is a fantasy that occurs on another world, so I guess I can get creative (within reason) with the armor.

08-17-2011, 10:48 PM
One slightly anal-retentive detail: the expression "plate mail" comes from Dungeons and Dragons. It makes people who have studied real armour wince. Plate and mail (or maille, if you want to be fancy) are two different things.

Mark G
08-18-2011, 04:48 AM
One slightly anal-retentive detail: the expression "plate mail" comes from Dungeons and Dragons. It makes people who have studied real armour wince. Plate and mail (or maille, if you want to be fancy) are two different things.

I know, but it was the most convenient term for my quickly typed response while my boss wasn't looking. I played a lot of D&D as a kid, so the terms were on the tip of my tongue. :tongue

In Dungeons & Dragons, I understand the difference to be that "plate mail" is chain mail augmented with breastplate/backplate (cuirass) and arm bits (Spaulders, Couter, Vambrace), but the lower body was covered by a chain skirt, possibly chain leggings, maybe a poleyn or 2. :)

Whereas (also D&D reference) "Plate Armor , a.k.a. 'Field Plate'" was head-to-toe fitted pieces with complete coverage.

For those who have studied real armour, is there a more politically correct way to distinguish the suits that use tassets and cuisses with a gap between them unsecured by a chain skirt, versus a suit that uses just a long chain skirt?

08-18-2011, 05:21 AM
Transitional armor (what I'm wearing in my avatar) is a period between wearing all chain to all plate. The hauberk (Slightly longer than a byrnie) is worn under the jupon, which may or may not also cover a 'coat of plates' (Not a solid breastplate.)

The hauberk comes down past the groin - and covers the top of the cuisse. (The thigh coverings). Sometimes it is referred to as 'partial plate'. Understand that armor was passed on from generation to generation, as well as being salvaged on the battlfield. This made for individual suits that may have 'older' parts and 'newer' parts that an individual might wear.