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rlayna
03-30-2013, 07:49 PM
OK, from looking at a few website, it is said that chainmail armor can protect someone against a piercing attack. What I want to know is what happens to the mail and the weapon once a piercing blow is given?

Would the rings split? Would the weapon (a dagger in this case) be stuck momentarily? I imagine there would be a nasty bruise...

mirandashell
03-30-2013, 09:44 PM
Can it? That surprises me, considering from the point of view of an arrow, chainmail is a load of holes.

Shakesbear
03-30-2013, 09:51 PM
Some soldiers could afford a Gambeson or padded jack which would lesson the bruising.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Padded_jack I studied military tailoring and made a Gamebson - it was heavy and cumbersome. But that might just have been the way I constructed it.

From the point of view of an arrow I think it would have to be very slim and aimed perfectly to pierce chain mail. Most arrows, unless they found a weak spot (underarm, neck) would just bounce off. I doubt if a cheap dagger would have any impact.

mirandashell
03-30-2013, 09:53 PM
Hmmm.... interesting. I just assumed that an arrow, or more likely a bolt, would carry enough force to pierce the mail as long as the tip went into a hole. My mistake.

Shakesbear
03-30-2013, 10:06 PM
Ahhh a bolt fired from a crossbow may have more force behind it than an arrow fired from a bow. Possible exception being the English Longbow. It the tip went into one of the holes it would, I would think, get stuck as the arrow head gets wider past the point and mail is very closely linked.

mirandashell
03-30-2013, 10:10 PM
I kind of assumed that once the tip went into the hole it would just keep going and snap the links. Does an arrow from an English longbow carry the same force? I guess it has more as it can travel over a much longer distance.... as you can tell, ballistics is not my strong suit!

King Neptune
03-30-2013, 10:18 PM
How much energy an arrow or bolt has depends more on the archer than the bow. There have beem crossbows that packed as much energy as a rifle, but they needed a lot of cranking.

There are plenty of variables with arrows and chainmail, so mail could protect in some case but not it others. It would depend on archer, bow, arrow, and chainmail.

Shakesbear
03-30-2013, 10:20 PM
Mirandashell I am dredging this up from the memory of research at the Tower of London some decades ago. However, I found this, which gives some good info, imo,:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_longbow#Range_and_penetration it is quite technical, and does not give a definitive opinion. I think it depends on the quality of the mail and the type of arrow head.

Dave Hardy
03-30-2013, 10:32 PM
Depends on the nature of the piercing blow. Let's say the riveted mail turns a thrust of a sharply pointed sword, wielded by a warrior. The target would no doubt feel the blow, but wouldn't be unduly injured (see the comment above about the gambeson, it's an essential part of the gear).

If the piercing attack is an arrow, I doubt it would do any injury if it failed to pierce. A lot depends on the force of the arrow, how powerful is the bow, is it a close range, direct hit, or a long range shot, or a glancing shot, etc. The target might not even notice. I recall a description of Crusader troops at the Battle of Arsuf, harassed by long-range arrow fire from Saladin's troops, some of the mailed sergeants had arrows bristling all over their mail, but were not seriously injured. You got a different result when Turkish mounted archers fired directly into charging Crusaders at close range (eg Hattin).

Now if the attack is a sharp lance, backed by a mounted warrior on a charging war horse, besides being unhorsed, possibly having a broken rib or other injuries, the target is probably thanking his deity he survived.

Mail is pretty much proof against cutting (it's still the most cost effective way to protect meat cutter's hands). It's pretty good against piercing (the rings have to be riveted). But it's no protection at all against crushing blows.

Early Medieval panoplies tended to center on sword/spear combinations. As mail becomes more widespread, you get more interest in crushing/chopping weapons, maces get popular about 1100. As soldiers add layers of plate (say a Visby-style coat of plates or full back & breast up to Gothic armors), the crushing weapons get more... crushing. A flanged mace does some mashing, compare that to a 15th century war hammer. One's for potatoes, the other is for cracking a lobster.

kuwisdelu
03-30-2013, 11:01 PM
I think it depends on the quality of the mail and the type of arrow head.

Aye. From what I remember, penetration depends on the type of arrow head, too. Different kinds of arrows are designed to penetrate different kinds of armor. Unfortunately, I don't remember which are which.

mirandashell
03-30-2013, 11:05 PM
Ah, thank you everyone. Very interesting.

I do remember seeing in a documentary somewhere that the main use for arrows against plate armour was to fill the ground in front of the plated soldiers with sticks pointing out of the ground. It made it difficult for them to walk or run as their field of vision was severely restricted by their helmets.

Dave Hardy
03-31-2013, 02:18 AM
Often English archers in the 100 Years War targeted the French horses. Even with a powerful English longbow, drawn by a stout yeoman, an arrow might not penetrate armor. War horses weren't always barded though (horse armor is an extra cost and reduces mobility). An arrow hit on a horse might not be fatal, but it would still stop the animal (it might bolt, or otherwise become ungovernable). Once dismounted the knights' attack was halted and, though far from being blind and helpless, individual knights were no match for an organized counter-attack.

English knights of the mid-14th century liked to fight on foot. A bascinet helmet might or might not have a face plate, so the knight could still have plenty of vision.

In the early Middle Ages knights were expected to be tactically flexible, able to scout or skirmish as well as make charges on the battlefield. As armor got heavier c1300, you find a lot more attention to light cavalry types, eg hobelars, jinetes, husars. Knights might still be able, with a bit of prodding, to fulfill some of the light cavalry roles. But it made more sense to keep them together for decisive shock action on the battlefield (an event that Medieval warlords seldom achieved). The light cavalry got paid less too (possibly a bigger consideration). In any case, a full suit of Maximilian-style Gothic plate armor is hardly the best get-up for skirmishing in a swamp, or wherever.

There was an article on hobelars I found not too long ago that went into some detail on Medieval light cavalry v knights, but IDR the author or title.

WriteKnight
03-31-2013, 05:33 AM
Much depends on the distance, and type of arrowhead. A 'bodkin' point, was designed specifically to pierce mail and armor. Think 'square' needle head.

For swords - here's a good video demonstrating different weapons against riveted mail. Should answer your questions.

http://youtu.be/kl-ec6Ub7FM

rlayna
03-31-2013, 06:21 AM
Very very informative, thank you all! I look forward to further response, if any.

ULTRAGOTHA
03-31-2013, 06:57 AM
Ah, thank you everyone. Very interesting.

I do remember seeing in a documentary somewhere that the main use for arrows against plate armour was to fill the ground in front of the plated soldiers with sticks pointing out of the ground. It made it difficult for them to walk or run as their field of vision was severely restricted by their helmets.

That sounds like an urban legend to me. Was this documentary on the "History" channel? I haven't seen anything on the History channel in my areas of knowledge that didn't have at least one quite noticable error in it.

Just on the face of it, I'd think it would be easy for a man in plate armor just to walk through spent arrows (the shafts won't hold up to being tread on well, and if they're sticking out of the ground, they'd be likely to be angled back toward the shooter and easier to walk through) and there is an awful lot of work that goes into making an arrow to use so many for such a dubious purpose. I'd really want to see a citation with more data.

I agree that a lot depends on the point, the mail and the force behind the blow. But in general, mail holds up better to cuts than to thrusts.

Dave Hardy
03-31-2013, 07:09 AM
Very very informative, thank you all! I look forward to further response, if any.

I looked at your original question from the point of view of a piercing attack that was turned by mail. It's a different story if the mail fails and the thrust goes home. Basically the rings burst, the main failure point would be the rivets (if the links aren't riveted together, but merely butted then they offer little protection against a thrust). After that there's the gambeson, again not much defense against a powerful thrust, but maybe the mail absorbed enough of the blow that it doesn't penetrate (don't bet the farm on that). Then there's the target himself.

So if the hypothetical lance thrust I mentioned goes home, the mail ruptures, maybe a link is even thrust into the wound, and the victim has a nasty penetration wound. If it was in his chest (the natural aiming point), well good luck and good night. The lancer would want to shake the victim off to keep his weapon free for another attack (look at pig sticking for details on that sort of thing).

For arrows, obviously if the arrow penetrates, it will stick in the wound. Arrows can be highly effective. See Gerald of Wales, Book One, Chapter Four, for descriptions of oak doors penetrated by Welsh arrows, and knights pinned to their horses by arrows that passed through armor, leg, saddle and into the horse.

So mail can turn piercing attacks, but it's not a sure bet.

ECathers
03-31-2013, 04:59 PM
Look up the show Deadliest Warrior. You can get an actual view of what some of the weapons and armors look like, as well as simulations of weapons going through various mails, etc. I think they even did one that was Lionheart vs Saladin.

ULTRAGOTHA
03-31-2013, 06:23 PM
A lot of re-enactor mail is abutted; but I've never seen any extant pieces of historical mail that are abutted. They've all been either riveted or alternately welded and riveted.

The rest of Dave Hardy's post is spot on.

rlayna
03-31-2013, 08:49 PM
I looked at your original question from the point of view of a piercing attack that was turned by mail.

What do you mean by 'turn'? Blocked? Slowed?

Great post! I'll have to look up a few of the places you guys mentioned.

Dave Hardy
03-31-2013, 09:28 PM
What do you mean by 'turn'? Blocked? Slowed?

Great post! I'll have to look up a few of the places you guys mentioned.

Turned in the sense of blocked, a strike that did not penetrate the armor. The video WriteKnight's video showed some pretty interesting details on sword attacks, it was educational for me too.

One detail about the swords you saw in that video, compare those sharply pointed tips with Early Medieval swords, say the pattern-welded types from the Rhineland, the sort the Vikings carried. They are similar to earlier sword shapes from the Iron Age Celts with parallel sides and a relatively short tip. Clearly it's not going to penetrate riveted mail. But relatively few warriors are armored. This weapon is highly effective against un-armored foes. You want to slash at body parts that are exposed, not behind a shield. (shield technique is a topic all in itself). Thrusting is useful if the foe is not armored in a mail hauberk. If he is, whack him with an axe.

Fast forward to the swords these reenactors have, and the tip is long, narrow, and very sharp. The triangular form can sort-of pierce the mail (but what chump is going to let you stand and do that half-sword attack, without walloping you badly?). A swordsman wants precise thrusts at weak points, where the armor doesn't fully cover, say joints or eye-slots.

Remember too that a lot of weapon/armor development is driven by warfare, not duels. Warriors need to win one-on-one fights, but their masters need to win wars. The heroic duel before a general engagement is older than the Iliad, but the warrior's kit must still be effective as part of an overall tactical approach to combat.

You can spend a lot of time poring over this stuff. My bookshelves are bending under the weight of my collection of Osprey Books, so I appreciate a chance to be a blowhard on the topic.

WriteKnight
03-31-2013, 09:38 PM
I've worn mail and plate, on and off horseback. The video I posted is interesting for the physics involved - not particularly for the 'dynamic' of the fight. Obviously, no one is going to stand still and allow you to thrust at them, unanswered. But that kind of physical force is easily delivered in a split second by a man on horseback. So it's relevant.

Here's another interesting link, simply discussing the horrors of actual battle wounds. Not for the faint of heart. It references the other very large battle grave - that at Visby - also worth googling if you have the time.

Enjoy. But not before breakfast.

http://www.economist.com/node/17722650

thothguard51
03-31-2013, 09:41 PM
Aye. From what I remember, penetration depends on the type of arrow head, too. Different kinds of arrows are designed to penetrate different kinds of armor. Unfortunately, I don't remember which are which.

Bodkin arrow heads were made for piercing armour. The English with their long bows and bodkin arrow heads could pierce plate armour so long as it was a direct hit and not at an angle.

The French knights hated the English Longbows. They developed a pot belly armour that helped to deflect the bodkin arrows because of the curvature of the armour. Or so I read...

Chain mail did not always stop arrows, even those that are not bodkin's. Even a slender dirk could pierce chain mail, depending on the type of chain mail and metal made from. And there were several different types of chainmail.

Dave Hardy
03-31-2013, 10:39 PM
I've worn mail and plate, on and off horseback. The video I posted is interesting for the physics involved - not particularly for the 'dynamic' of the fight. Obviously, no one is going to stand still and allow you to thrust at them, unanswered. But that kind of physical force is easily delivered in a split second by a man on horseback. So it's relevant.



I didn't mean to sound dismissive of your expertise. I thought that bringing up the technique bore out the point that piercing mail with a sword is not easy. I actually thought that the sword would have been more effective. Would you say a mounted lance attack is more likely to pierce mail?

What about a opponent in plate? Can a lancer expect to actually puncture a breastplate, or would they have to aim at weak points?

If so, it really shows how mounted lancers dominated battlefields until the rise of pike and longbow tactics.

WriteKnight
03-31-2013, 11:10 PM
Oh, you're dead right on all accounts. It's not that easy to pierce mail, but it can be done. Much will depend on the type of weapon and the blow delivered. And yes, the gambeson underneath is essentially a 'shock absorber' - in that even with a sword, it absorbs a certain amount of the force, allowing the penetrating blow to be dispersed over several links - which in turn makes it more difficult. That's why it's necessary to use a very 'sharp' point on either a sword or arrow or 'raven's beak' - to focus the force into a very small area.

There were different lance points, in different eras ... again, reflecting on the type of of arms and armor used. The 'arms race' - is nothing new in this regard. Lance's could penetrate through a shield, and into an arm holding it - for example. And yes, they could penetrate breastplates and mail and brigandines.

One must not confuse the armor and weaponry used in a tournament, for those used on the battle field. Especially the arms and armor of the latter fifteenth through seventeenth centuries.

The 'lancer' of the Victorian era, was still useful to break squares and in pursuit.

mirandashell
03-31-2013, 11:16 PM
That sounds like an urban legend to me. Was this documentary on the "History" channel? I haven't seen anything on the History channel in my areas of knowledge that didn't have at least one quite noticable error in it.



No, I think it was on a Time Team programme. They do bits on the history of the place they are digging up. And think this one was the site of a battle but I can't remember which one.

I may have misremembered exactly what was said as it was a while ago.

Drachen Jager
03-31-2013, 11:18 PM
Here's another video showing slashing and thrusting attacks with and without armour against a pig carcass.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juIw20z5p0c