Plate armor: myths, advantages and disadvantages

Gothic armor, Germany, XV century

Armor of Milan, Italy, 16th century

Winged Hussar Armor, Poland, 16th Century

Different types of armor as museum exhibits

Plate - armor made of large metal plates, anatomically repeating the male figure. Compared with other types of armor, the manufacture of such armor was the most difficult and required a considerable amount of steel, and therefore the art of making armor began to develop actively only from the middle of the XIV century.

Because of these difficulties, plate armor, even in the 15th century, was not cheap and was often made to order. Of course, only representatives of the nobility could afford such luxury, therefore armor became a symbol of chivalry and high origin. So how effective is such armor and was it worth the money? Let's understand:

Myth 1: the armor weighed so much that the fallen knight could not rise without assistance

This is not true. The total weight of full combat armor rarely exceeded 30 kg. The figure may seem big to you, but do not forget that the weight is evenly distributed throughout the body, moreover, armor-plating men, as a rule, fought on horses. With this in mind, we get the approximate weight of the modern equipment of the army infantryman. Heavier varieties belonged to tournament armor, purposely sacrificing mobility in favor of increasing the thickness of the armor, which reduced the risk of injury when a spear was hit or dropped from a horse. Modern reenactors have repeatedly argued that in a replica of full armor you can not only run fast, even fencing and climbing stairs.

Myth 2: plate armor could be easily pierced with conventional weapons

And this is a lie. The main distinguishing feature of plate armor is its excellent resistance to all types of damage. Cutting blows do no harm to him, unless the knight at full gallop is substituted by the blow of the berdysh. Stitching punches could penetrate mild, poorly hardened steel, but later armor also held well at the sharp end of the warhammer. In addition, the armor (contrary to the opinion of popular culture, who loves to decorate armor with spikes and ribs) was executed as smooth and streamlined as possible to evenly distribute the energy from the impact and thereby increase the strength of the entire structure. Truly effective anti-Latnik weapons were daggers, which, due to the shortest possible attack distance, are the easiest to get into the armor joints, and two-handed swords, specially created as countermeasures against heavy infantry and cavalry. In contrast, videos are often cited in which the tester punches the plate breastplate with the Morgenstern or Lucerne Hammer. It should be noted that theoretically this is indeed possible, but it is very difficult to deliver a direct strike with a wide scope at an ideally right angle during the battle, otherwise the armor has all chances to completely or partially avoid damage.

Myth 3: it’s enough to just get into a weak spot, and the armor will be defeated

That's a moot point. Yes, in the plate armor there are several weak points (garter belts, cracks in the joints and joints), hit in which, in fact, will cause significant damage to the enemy. But to do this was not easy:

Firstly, under armor, knights wore at least a gambeson, consisting of several layers of dense linen matter. It provided good protection on its own, being surprisingly strong and light, and most knights did not hesitate to pull chain mail over it. Thus, the weapon had to overcome several layers of armor before reaching the body.

Secondly, the gunsmiths, who quickly realized the basic weakness of the armor in a combat clash, tried to protect the knight from the threat as much as possible. All belts and garters were hidden deep inside the armor, special “wings” (a continuation of the cast plate of armor) served as a screen for joints and joints. All parts of the armor were adjacent to each other as tightly as possible, which in the stampede and bustle of large battles significantly increased the chances of survival.

So what was bad about plate armor?

The main disadvantage is the demand for care. Due to the large area of ​​the armor itself, the metal quickly rusted, and it had to be protected from corrosion. Over time, gunsmiths learned to burn armor, which made them darker and gave good protection against oxidation. In marching conditions, the armor was oiled, and in peacetime they were stored in isolated conditions, usually wrapped in several layers of matter. Otherwise, the armor was much more effective than any analogues - frayed straps can be quickly and easily replaced, and straightening a dent on a solid plate is much easier than repairing chain mail or replacing segments in lamellar armor. However, it was sometimes almost impossible to put on plate armor on your own, and getting injured is just as difficult to take off. Many knights had time to bleed from a trifling wound, which incapacitated them for the whole battle.

The end of the golden age of lat came along with the beginning of the era of firearms. When the gunshot appeared in service with the regular armies, the armor gradually began to disappear from use. A lead bullet pierced such armor without any problems, although in the early stages, when the power of firearms was small, it could still serve as a very effective defense.


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