Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search


Please help our efforts with a donation. This site requires ongoing funding and your donations are crucial to our future.
Last 10 Donors: Neil Eddiford, Chad Arnow, Jean Thibodeau, Robert Morgan, Adam Rose, Jerry Otahal, Michael P. Smith, Mikko Kuusirati, Eric Bergeron, Daniel Staberg (View All Donors)

Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Effectiveness of chainmaille? Reply to topic
This is a Spotlight Topic Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next 
Author Message
C. Stackhouse




Location: Kitchener, Ontario
Joined: 24 Nov 2005

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 95

PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 11:44 am    Post subject: Effectiveness of chainmaille?         Reply with quote

I know that chainmaille has been around for over 1000 years, and has seen use in almost every major conflict, but how effective was it? It looks to me to be quite flimsy and just an encumberance. (I know im probably wrong) But how well did it protect one on the battlefield, and from what kinds of attacks?
Above all else, be armed

-Niccolo Machiavelli
View user's profile Send private message
Shawn Shaw




Location: Boston, MA USA
Joined: 07 Jan 2006

Posts: 115

PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 12:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I'm not an expert on maille but let me say this.

I make maille and, using 5/8" rings of 14 Ga steel wire, I hung a "sheet" of maille on a block of wood and tested that very question with a large fighting knife (nothing fancy, a homemade job a friend picked up for me one Christmas).

I hammered the maille and after a few good strokes I was able to shear through some of the maille. A couple of thoughts on that, though


1. Wood is a lot more firm than flesh. In other words, a person's body would give more, allowing the links to flex and better absorb the impact. This probably translated into changing wounds that would tear through flesh into merely ugly bruises.

2. I make butted mail, I'm sure that rivted mail would have performed a bit better. I'm sure also that a tighter weave (say, 3/8" for example) would also have performed better-but of course it would also be heavier.

3. Finally, it took several very solid hits in about the same spot to break through. Presumably, a medieval soldier would not be standing perfectly still awaiting the inevitable penetration of a weakened point in his harness.

Just my $0.02.
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
Marcos Cantu





Joined: 28 May 2004
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 116

PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 12:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It should also be worn over layers of clothes or a padded garment to futher spead the force of the impact
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,194

PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 1:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In general, good mail protected its wearer extremely well. Piercing it with a one handed sword would have taken a great deal of luck, skill and strength, though some damage could be to the wearer done via blunt trauma. Mail was quite resistant to arrows and spears, but heavy thrusts and arrows from mighty bows could sometimes penetrate. For example, Sir John Smythe cites a French knight slain by an arrow that pierced the gusset of mail over his armpit. Polearms could probably rip up mail in the right hands, but weak or unskillful blows would be turned.
View user's profile Send private message
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,257

PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 2:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is the first online test that I've seen that actually involves a reasonable facsimile of contemporary mail. It has flaws however. The main one being the low draw weight of the bow but the range was shortened to partially compensate.

http://es.geocities.com/cotasmalla/test2.htm
View user's profile Send private message
Shawn Shaw




Location: Boston, MA USA
Joined: 07 Jan 2006

Posts: 115

PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 2:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Did that link work for anyone else? I tried it and came up with the spanish equivalent of "this site doesn't exist".
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
Sam Barris




Location: San Diego, California
Joined: 29 Apr 2004
Likes: 4 pages

Posts: 622

PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 3:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Shawn Shaw wrote:
I make maille and, using 5/8" rings of 14 Ga steel wire, I hung a "sheet" of maille on a block of wood and tested that very question with a large fighting knife (nothing fancy, a homemade job a friend picked up for me one Christmas).

I hammered the maille and after a few good strokes I was able to shear through some of the maille.


I'd like to say that 5/8" rings are extremely large, even for 14 ga. The wire will bend more easily at that size. My own homemade mail is 14 ga, but I made it with 5/16" rings. The patch I made for destructive testing fared much better, even though it was butted as well. I tried it against arrows, a sword I didn't care about and an axe. Were I to switch to 16 ga. rings, I'd make them in a 1/4" to compensate. Anything weaker than that I reserve for jewelry.

As far as the effectiveness of mail on the battlefield, if it didn't work, they wouldn't have used it for so long. But it is important to understand what threats it was designed to counter and what other items were brought into play to make it more effective. If you took a solid blow from a heavy axe and weren't wearing a lot of padding to absorb the hit, the force of the impact could still shatter your bones. But again, if it didn't work the way they needed it to, they wouldn't have kept using it.

Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
View user's profile Send private message Yahoo Messenger
Hisham Gaballa





Joined: 27 Jan 2005
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 508

PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 4:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Even longer than 1000 years. I believe that fragments of mail have been found that date to 5th century BC. It was used by the Ancient celts and the Romans, who continued to use it even after they invented the "lorica segmentata". In India and Iran mail was used in battle up until the mid-18th century, in fact it was still being worn in the 19th century, but usually only for ceremonial purposes. Mail was still being used in the Caucasus and sub-Saharan Africa in the early 20th century.

With regards to its effectiveness against arrows, read the 4th post here.

Edit:
I've just found this too.
View user's profile Send private message
W. R. Reynolds




Location: Ramona, CA
Joined: 07 Dec 2004

Posts: 123

PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 6:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One of our archers put an arrow with a bodkin point from Historic Enterprises through both sides of a riveted mail shirt from GDFB at Ft. Mac last July on a bet from the owner of the shirt that he couldn't. The distance was at 50 yards and there was no padding behind the mail which was hanging from a cross tree. The bow was a self bow made from yew by the archer and had a draw weight of from 50-60 lbs.
Bill

"No matter who wins the rat race.......they are still a rat."
View user's profile Send private message
Shawn Shaw




Location: Boston, MA USA
Joined: 07 Jan 2006

Posts: 115

PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 6:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ahhh...that link in the other forum worked fine. I'm amazed that a 50lbs bow couldn't penetrate at 5 meters. If you were an archer trying to stop the footman bearing down on you 15 feet away with that arrow....you're going to be pretty sorry in about 3 seconds.


Yeah, I know 5/8" is huge. This was part of the first piece I ever made and I didn't know any better back then. :-) Now that I think on it, it could have even been 3/8" but that's still on the large side.
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,201

PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 6:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, before this turns into the usual argument that " only " period accurate maille using period accurate weapons will give us valid scientific results I am glad that someone comes forward with informal tests that at least gives us an idea what can expect from maille i.e. Minimal expectations.

As long as one takes these for what they are, informal tests, and not generalize or draw cut in stone conclusions from them I think this can at least be entertaining.

As in previous topic threads discussing this subject, the discussion becomes very focussed on why these tests are not scientific or valid ? I just appreciate hearing about " I tried such and such under these conditions and got this result.

The frustrating thing for me is that the other discussions focus so much on how a valid test should done to be valid that NO idea is given of what the minimum or maximum expectations one should have about the effectiveness of maille.

Now, don't get me wrong, I would welcome extensive scientific testing: I just wish that dogmatic opinions should come following the results and not before.

With purely anecdotal evidence / observation we can get results showing just about anything but I still want to hear about them and I can come to my own conclusions.

O.K. we get the opinion that bobkin arrows are ineffective against properly made historical maille and then we get an informal test showing an arrow shot with a much weaker bow than was used historically going through the maille ???

So, predictably we will get the explanation that the test wasn't under scientific conditions and the maille not made of the right historical materials etc ...... Valid objections I'm sure ( No sarcasm intended ), but I still wouldn't have wanted to be wearing that maille shirt. Razz Laughing Out Loud

But the maille may have been below the historical standard of quality!? But the bow was also not that powerful !

The whole point is that while we wait for that valid test lets just enjoy the discussion. ( Not curing cancer here. )

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,194

PostPosted: Sat 07 Jan, 2006 8:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
there was no padding behind the mail which was hanging from a cross tree.


That makes all the difference in the world.

Quote:
I'm amazed that a 50lbs bow couldn't penetrate at 5 meters.


I'm not amazed at all. I'm more surprised at how the arrow penetrated the gambeson. Makes want to see some good quality New World cotton armour tested (Bernal Diaz considered the thickest stuff proof against arrows).

50 lbs is a really light draw weight, though. 60 J at the absolute most. That's assuming an extremely efficient bow and heavy arrows were used (40-50 J is more likely). A 100+ lb longbow could easily do 100 J or more, and a heavy composite bow could surpass 140 J.
View user's profile Send private message
Geoff Wood




Location: UK
Joined: 31 Aug 2003

Posts: 634

PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 1:49 am    Post subject: modern mail         Reply with quote

Just a minor observation, with no wish to annoy anyone. When we use mail at my place of work for protection, it is against cuts, not stabs. It does work against the former, it doesn't against the latter. Modern mail is not, obviously, very similar in materials or construction to that used in battle in former times, intended as it is to protect against accidental self cutting rather than against intentional attack by others, but it does not seem unreasonable to expect series of holes joined and delimited by wire to work better against edges than against points.
View user's profile Send private message
Hisham Gaballa





Joined: 27 Jan 2005
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 508

PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 5:32 am    Post subject: Re: modern mail         Reply with quote

Geoff Wood wrote:
Just a minor observation, with no wish to annoy anyone. When we use mail at my place of work for protection, it is against cuts, not stabs. It does work against the former, it doesn't against the latter. Modern mail is not, obviously, very similar in materials or construction to that used in battle in former times, intended as it is to protect against accidental self cutting rather than against intentional attack by others, but it does not seem unreasonable to expect series of holes joined and delimited by wire to work better against edges than against points.


That was informative. Happy

Allow me to correct my previous post, mail was not only used until the early 20th century, it is still in use today. Big Grin
View user's profile Send private message
Martin Wallgren




Location: Bjästa, Sweden
Joined: 01 Mar 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 620

PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 5:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As mensioned above, one shuld think of the maile as a layer in the armour. The textile parts are just as important as the maile. Most of the piercing damage would be haltered by the padded layers. All of course IMO!

Edit---

Oh I forgot but I learned this week that the romans had sometimes a one fot broad thick waistbelt that could serve as an aditional protection on the abdomen. Just wanted to share;)

Swordsman, Archer and Dad
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,201

PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 8:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin;

Good point that one should look at the whole protection afforded by maille and gambison: A few broken links can be repaired later and if the fabric padding stopped the point of sword or arrow completely or only allowed a very shallow wound the maille gambison combination did it's job well.

I think it's important to not look at this as an all or nothing situation when thinking about armour in general.

Even if maille didn't give you 100% protection against all piercing attacks it would stop a lot of low power thrusts and only a fully committed one " might " break through enough links to get past the maille and then the gambison gives you a reserve of protection.

With no armour even slow and weak attacks can kill you and you are very vulnerable to draw cuts.

With armour all the above attacks won't do a thing to you. Medium power attacks will either not penetrate or not enough to take one out of the fight and the wounds would be generally survivable barring death through infection long after the fight.
Full power blows might well still seriously wound or kill.

The point being that when we say that maille wouldn't have been used if it wasn't effective doesn't mean that it has to makes you 100% invulnerable to be considered effective.

Getting out of the way is always better than taking hits on your armour as one can' t judge which blows are going to be among the 80% you don't have to be worried about and which are going to be the other 20% that will kill you.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Allan Senefelder
Industry Professional



Location: Upstate NY
Joined: 18 Oct 2003

Posts: 1,563

PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 9:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

W.R.Reynolds said "One of our archers put an arrow with a bodkin point from Historic Enterprises through both sides of a riveted mail shirt from GDFB at Ft. Mac last July on a bet from the owner of the shirt that he couldn't. The distance was at 50 yards and there was no padding behind the mail which was hanging from a cross tree. The bow was a self bow made from yew by the archer and had a draw weight of from 50-60 lbs."

W.R. the particular Spanish expedition escapes me at this time but there's a record of the Spaniards on this particular expedition making fun of the obsidion tipped arrows used by thier Inian allies so they hung a maille shirt from a tree and the Indiand shoot these arrows right through it. The effect however would have been quite different if the shirt had been on a body over a quilted coat.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,201

PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 10:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes maybe it's because a maille shirt just hanging causes the weight of the maille to pull on the links maximizing the size of the opening for the point of the bobkin arrow to wedge open / break one link and sail through.

Also the weight pulling the shirt down stretches the whole thing making it possible for the force applied to be efficiently transmitted to the link.

Maille over gambison on the body would just be very loosely under tension and a lot of the force of the arrow dissipated by the soft underpadding: The link under the point and the ones next to it just end up being pushed as a large area into the gambison. The difference between hit by a BB pellet and a tennis ball at the same level of energy.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Julio Junco





Joined: 08 Jan 2006

Posts: 16

PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 10:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi everybody. I made the tests with the mail and the bodkin arrows. Sorry about the hoster but it is a free hoster and fault a lot. In a few days it will be right.
My test perhaps isn´t scientific, but it is real. I don´t know how many J do my bow and my arrows, but ... look the rings. My solid rings are 1 mm thick and very, very hard. I´ll try to attach a photo with the rings before and after the impact.
The bow was "only" 50 pounds but... too only 5-10 metres.
My rings aren´t bad, I made it more or less like the old mailmakers but... It is mild steel, not wrough iron.
The arrows were heavy, like war arrows. Everyone weighs 65 grames and the other 71 . They were made with fire and hammer, and the tips after it was hardened.
Sure the test can be better but tell me like I can make it. I enjoy it and every idea will be apreciate.If I can do it, I will. But never I´ll Know how many J do my bow.
Regards
Julio



 Attachment: 42.29 KB
anillos-baldaos.jpg

View user's profile Send private message
Marcos Cantu





Joined: 28 May 2004
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 116

PostPosted: Sun 08 Jan, 2006 10:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What i find very interesting is that the concepts behind the effectiveness of maille are EXACTLY the same as those used today in modern soft body armor

1. The force of an impact is dissipated through the fibers of the armor (along the links in maille, along the fibers in soft armor)
2. The armors both work best when mounted on something that allows some 'give' when struck. This allows more of the energy of a stike to be dispersed though it while keeping the armor from being penetrated

The effectiveness of maille has nothing to do with if the garment is hanging freely as mentioned in a post above. It has to do with being mounted on a body (which is very elastic) or other proper mounting surface--I think the use of a sandbag was excellent--and having proper padding worn under. IIRC, the Japanese wore layers if silk garments under their armor. Silk fibers are known to be an excellent armor material because the strands are even stonger than Kevlar (pound for pound) and do an excellent job of absorbing the energy of a stike.
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Effectiveness of chainmaille?
Page 1 of 5 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2019 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum