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Michael Kelly





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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2016 7:11 am    Post subject: Armor Weight???         Reply with quote

So I got into a conversation with someone who claims to hold a Bachelor of History with a focus on the Medieval era as well as being a SCA member (don't know why he threw that qualification in there). He claims that a real suit of armor is heavy and that he knows this because he's worn one. Now everything I've read says that armor was actually fairly light weighing around 35lbs. Am I full of crap?
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2016 8:08 am    Post subject: Re: Armor Weight???         Reply with quote

Michael Kelly wrote:
So I got into a conversation with someone who claims to hold a Bachelor of History with a focus on the Medieval era as well as being a SCA member (don't know why he threw that qualification in there). He claims that a real suit of armor is heavy and that he knows this because he's worn one. Now everything I've read says that armor was actually fairly light weighing around 35lbs. Am I full of crap?


How much armor, in what time period? A 14th century knight in full war harness will likely be over that weight. A 13th c. burgher in a gambeson and kettle hat will likely be under it.

As a further example, Wallace A1, a half-sleeved mail shirt weighs under 10 lbs. (4.48kg), while the half-sleeved Sinigaglia mail shirt in Edinburgh weighs 31 lbs. (14 kg). There are variations in the weights of helmets of the same style, and of almost any other component you wish to examine.

Additionally, there are different specialized armors for war, tournament, and joust, even as early as the 13th century. There is an effect on weight from all of these factors to take into consideration.

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Raman A




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2016 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Heaviness is subjective so there's no way to disprove your friend's claim unless he stated actual numbers. For a scientific look at the weight of historical harnesses I recommend reading Neil Bockus' excellent study on the subject:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/pnleb76ujycyw03/Notes%20on%20armor%20surveyed22a.pdf
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Mart Shearer




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2016 8:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ian LaSpina's series has a good video on the weight of late 14th-early 15th century armor.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7CUfkGLB48

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Neal B




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2016 10:17 am    Post subject: armor weight         Reply with quote

Armor weight runs the gambit. For full plate suits you can find them from as little as 35 lbs for a decorative parade suit (not for fighting) to over 100 lbs for a jousting armor (not for real battle) with combat armors from 1380-1630 ranging between 45 lbs to 80 lbs. 55-60 lbs seems to be most usual.

SCA armor is most related to Tournament Armor and if made of steel is going to be pushing around 80lbs (i have often heard that weight quoted by SCA fighters). SCA armor is thicker than standard late medieval battle armor due to safety and insurance issues, real weight armor is too thin to stand up to the SCA swords used and most people can't afford to constantly get their armor fixed properly and safely.
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Mart Shearer




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2016 10:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The flip side of that is SCA fighters using HDPE or thick leather armor with duct-taped rattan swords for their tournament game, not too unlike the 1278 Tournament at Windsor Park where body armor and helmets were made of leather, and swords of baleen covered in silver gilt parchment.
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Eric S




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2016 12:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Armor Weight???         Reply with quote

Michael Kelly wrote:
So I got into a conversation with someone who claims to hold a Bachelor of History with a focus on the Medieval era as well as being a SCA member (don't know why he threw that qualification in there). He claims that a real suit of armor is heavy and that he knows this because he's worn one. Now everything I've read says that armor was actually fairly light weighing around 35lbs. Am I full of crap?
What does he mean by "heavy"?
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2016 12:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Armor Weight???         Reply with quote

Michael Kelly wrote:
He claims that a real suit of armor is heavy and that he knows this because he's worn one. Now everything I've read says that armor was actually fairly light weighing around 35lbs.


For some people, 35lb is heavy. Pick it up in one hand, and it feels heavy. Heavier than most things a desk-worker will pick up on the job. You wouldn't call a 35lb sword "fairly light".

As already said above, numbers are more useful than "light" and "heavy".

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2016 2:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The front of a breastplate could vary in thickness from 1mm to 9mm depending on the time period and application.
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Gregory J. Liebau




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2016 2:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If we're talking about cap-a-pie harnesses of the late medieval and renaissance periods, the average weight from head to foot was probably hovering in the 45-60 pound range, depending on which style and the shape of the wearer and many other factors. Particular sorts of jousting and cuirassier armour in the 16th/17th century reached weights of up to 80-90 pounds, but this was unusual for the period generally and reflected the increasing use of firearms and jousting as a spectacle rather than competitive art.

Whatever the weight, it was typically well-distributed over the body, and most modern reenactors who regularly wear quality reproductions of medieval harnesses can easily do many forms of exercise and wear their armour comfortably for hours at a time. The weight is not necessarily as crucial a factor in comfort as the quality of fit, articulation and homogeneity of the various components making up a harness.

-Gregory
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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2016 6:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

if one wants to continue using terms like "light" and "heavy", then using a baseline such as the loadout of a modern soldier might be a useful comparison. "Light" then becomes shorthand for "lighter than the loadout of a modern soldier" and "heavy" for "heavier than the loadout for a modern soldier". I don't have those numbers myself, but pretty sure someone hereabouts can quote them pretty easily.
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M. Curk




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jan, 2016 4:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

His impression on weight might also be wrong because (as far as I know) SCA armour mostly isn't suspended in historical way and is therefore more fatiguing to wear. Not to mention it isn't necessarily fit to individual and doesn't support its weight so well.

Cheers!
Miha
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Michael Kelly





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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jan, 2016 4:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nat Lamb wrote:
if one wants to continue using terms like "light" and "heavy", then using a baseline such as the loadout of a modern soldier might be a useful comparison. "Light" then becomes shorthand for "lighter than the loadout of a modern soldier" and "heavy" for "heavier than the loadout for a modern soldier". I don't have those numbers myself, but pretty sure someone hereabouts can quote them pretty easily.


That's essentially what we did... We're both currently deployed.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jan, 2016 7:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Unless things have changed recently, today's soldiers (at least U.S. soldiers) carry serious amounts of gear: 87-127lbs on extended foot patrols, still over 60lbs minus the rucksack. The 50-80lb fighting load probably roughly matches the higher end of ancient/medieval/Renaissance fighting loads, as it includes weapons. For example, the most heavily armored 16th-century infantry might wear 40-50lbs of armor plus an 8lb pike, 3lb sword, etc. A man-at-arms might have 50-70lbs of armor (up to maybe 80-90lbs for the heavier bullet-resistant suits that Francois de la Noue decried) plus a heavy lance (8lbs?), 3.5lb sword, etc. But the man-at-arms notably had a horse under standard circumstances. Most historical infantry had far less than 50-80lbs to bear while fighting. On the whole, I suspect current U.S. soldiers have higher fighting loads and especially marching loads. I don't know of any clear figures for how much historical soldiers marched with. From the 16th-century manuals I've read, it seems like the soldiers of that era, unless well-disciplined, commonly resisted high marching weights and at times discarded armor and other equipment to lighten their burden. Fatigue could be critical for soldiers who engaged in close combat, so marching soldiers to their limit seems like it would have been counterproductive.
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Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
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To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
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Mark Griffin




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jan, 2016 1:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Its nearly the same as asking me if food is tasty. To some, yes. But don't ever offer me egg mayo... you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

If he's saying he's worn a 'suit' of armour (so his Bachelor of history thing does kind of loose a bit of its sheen right there) then he's talking late 14th to mid 17th more or less. That's like asking if a car goes fast. a 1912 de Dion Bouton or a Lambo Hurracan? Both cars and there is only 100 years between them....

Also I'd say that its how the weight is distributed, what its intended for, and who is wearing it. One mans 50lb harness is anothers 100lb. I wear the heaviest stuff going for full contact jousting but get a normal experienced Norman re-enactor to pick up my helm and they freak.

So yes. Its made of metal (mostly) and that weighs. How much depend on how an awful lot of factors so making such a vague generalisation on serves at the very basic of levels. Which i presume he mentioned in his BA.

Currently working on projects ranging from Elizabethan pageants to a WW1 Tank, Victorian fairgrounds 1066 events and more. Oh and we joust loads!.. We run over 250 events for English Heritage each year plus many others for Historic Royal Palaces, Historic Scotland, the National Trust and more. If you live in the UK and are interested in working for us just drop us a line with a cv.


Last edited by Mark Griffin on Fri 08 Jan, 2016 1:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Neil Bockus





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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jan, 2016 5:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

With respect to the OP, I also have a BA in history with a focus on Medieval Europe, and I can tell you that this fact means little when talking about the subject of weapons and armor. None of my professors specialized in this area, and I corrected several of them on these subjects when combat did become a topic of discussion. Focus on Medieval Europe can be in any number of subjects, and it does not make you an expert in Medieval/Renaissance armor or weapons!

I'm glad to see someone getting use of my study! Admittedly, I haven't had as much time as I'd have liked to put into it. Regardless, I've added a few armors and revisions, so this is the latest version:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/9yu3drdr9dmlrca/Notes%20on%20armor%20surveyed%20v25.pdf?dl=0

For the OP, I've been at this on and off for the past four, getting on five years now: a brute-force list of the weights of extant armors as displayed in museums across the globe. This isn't the raw data-sheet, rather the processed information presented on graphs and broken down into weight bands for head-to-toe, three-quarter, half-, jousting/tourney, and parade harnesses. Should give you at least some idea of the weight of armor, based on those that are still in museums. I also have a comparison to a modern combat loadout, based on the 2007 NRAC study on lightening the combat load of modern Marines.

The individual telling you "armor was heavy," as it has already been pointed out, is using words so subjective as to be pointless. What kind of armor? In what configuration? On a horse? On foot? What era? The average of the 150 head-to-toe suits I found was 51 pounds 3.4 ounces, with a typical weight range of 40-60 pounds (73.34% of the sample set). Is that heavy? I have a feeling there are those who would argue yes it is. Others, like some of my Ranger friends, would kill for a combat load of 51 pounds! Verily, this isn't all of the equipment carried by a knight or man-at-arms (you have to consider arming clothing, and as Benjamin points out, weapons as well), and all together, the combat loadout would be closer to ~60-75 pounds total (based on my own findings), but there are a great many variables to consider.

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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jan, 2016 6:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"...with a typical weight range of 40-60 pounds (73.34% of the sample set)..." Well, taking that, and the 80-120lbs loadout of modern soldiers provided by Benjamin, then I think it is reasonable* to say that armour was light. More of it on the limbs, so more draining for long marches, but still lighter than modern combat loadout.

*acknowledging that there are many factors and ambiguities, and that these are best estimates based on current information that could change your mileage my vary etc.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jan, 2016 7:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Neil! Thanks for the link to the latest version of your study. I used your numbers for the earlier post, assuming about 10lbs of arming clothes (including mail gussets and the like).

It's worth emphasizing that people who wore head-to-toe armor typically had horses to ride to the battlefield and also commonly fought mounted (this varied depending on the period and region). In the Hundred Years' War, an iconic conflict of where dismounted men-at-arms fought in large numbers on both sides, one line of strategic thought was that attacking constituted a decided disadvantage because of the disorder and fatigue that went along with advancing heavily armored infantry. That's only one historical period, and of course in other periods you had units that included some considerably armored troops who excelled at attacking (the Swiss, the Landsknechts, etc.). However, on the whole I think we sometimes go too far in downplaying the encumbrance of ancient/medieval/Renaissance armor. Various 15th- and 16th-century sources stress the importance of using heavily armored troops carefully so as not to exhaust them. You have this (in)famous study that found early 15th-century armor quite fatiguing for the four test subjects and notably more fatiguing than a backpack of the same weight because of the burden on the limbs. The test armor may not have been properly fitted and the test subjects may not have been properly trained, but the results still merit consideration and support the 15th-century English approach for forcing the French to attack whenever possible.

So, regardless of the exact weight, based on my reading of 15th/16th-century sources it's fair to say that head-to-toe and three-quarters harness was heavy. That's certainly how lots of period authors described it. Such kit provided considerable advantage (full armor granted nigh invulnerability from non-gunpowder weapons according to Fourquevaux) but likewise imposed limitations (primarily fatigue).

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Fri 08 Jan, 2016 7:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Hi Neil! Thanks for the link to the latest version of your study. I used your numbers for the earlier post, assuming about 10lbs of arming clothes (including mail gussets and the like).

It's worth emphasizing that people who wore head-to-toe armor typically had horses to ride to the battlefield and also commonly fought mounted (this varied depending on the period and region). In the Hundred Years' War, an iconic conflict of where dismounted men-at-arms fought in large numbers on both sides, one line of strategic thought was that attacking constituted a decided disadvantage because of the disorder and fatigue that went along with advancing heavily armored infantry. That's only one historical period, and of course in other periods you had units that included some considerably armored troops who excelled at attacking (the Swiss, the Landsknechts, etc.). However, on the whole I think we sometimes go too far in downplaying the encumbrance of ancient/medieval/Renaissance armor. Various 15th- and 16th-century sources stress the importance of using heavily armored troops carefully so as not to exhaust them. You have this (in)famous study that found early 15th-century armor quite fatiguing for the four test subjects and notably more fatiguing than a backpack of the same weight because of the burden on the limbs. The test armor may not have been properly fitted and the test subjects may not have been properly trained, but the results still merit consideration and support the 15th-century English approach for forcing the French to attack whenever possible.

So, regardless of the exact weight, based on my reading of 15th/16th-century sources it's fair to say that head-to-toe and three-quarters harness was heavy. That's certainly how lots of period authors described it. Such kit provided considerable advantage (full armor granted nigh invulnerability from non-gunpowder weapons according to Fourquevaux) but likewise imposed limitations (primarily fatigue).



Here is some source material from a blog I found earlier. It might be useful


http://willscommonplacebook.blogspot.nl/2012/...n-and.html

http://willscommonplacebook.blogspot.nl/2012/...rinks.html
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Alexander B. Isaac




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PostPosted: Wed 13 Jan, 2016 12:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm afraid I can't contribute much, but I always heard that suits of armor from the Middle Ages, say, 1400s, was around 50 lbs.
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