So, a group of people have just been transported back to early 14th century England, and have angered a band of noble knights. Their armor looks like this.

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One of my characters, Tim, received a hand grenade (which he was told was holy) and instead of using it against a certain rabbit, he plans on using it against the knight. Would the knight's armor protect him from the grenade enough that he would survive, or would he get killed?

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    $\begingroup$ Knights don't wear all that armor every waking hour. Only in battle or when jousting. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Nov 4 '18 at 2:18
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn: Yeah, he’s about to battle my MCs $\endgroup$ – DT Cooper Nov 4 '18 at 2:20
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    $\begingroup$ If the grenade goes off right next to him, a knight does not stand a chance. I doubt mail armor can stop shrapnel; more likely, mail armor will turn into shrapnel itself. A few meters will leave him likley wounded. More than that is really about chance of getting hit with a piece of shrapnel. fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/m67.htm $\endgroup$ – Bald Bear Nov 4 '18 at 2:58
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    $\begingroup$ "what kind of battle"... :) $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Nov 4 '18 at 4:17
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    $\begingroup$ Just to clarify: are we facing one knight or a band of knights? if the former, keep the grenade for another day and ambush him where the horse can't go. If the latter, remember to count to three $\endgroup$ – nzaman Nov 4 '18 at 11:53

Mail (that coat of metal rings he is wearing) is great at protecting its wearer from blunt trauma, such as that caused by swords, maces, and flails. It was relatively poor at protecting its wearer from the puncture wounds of high-velocity projectiles; this is why the British longbow was such a deadly knight-killer, and why the spread of firearms caused iron armor to fall out of use.

So, while your mail-clad knight would be better off than a man wearing a shirt and trousers, one would still expect him to take fatal wounds from grenade shrapnel.

Plate armor would be more effective at protecting him from the grenade, but is unlikely to be sufficiently effective.

  • $\begingroup$ The picture quite clearly shows the knight wearing plate mail greaves, and -- of course -- carrying a large shield. If he sees the bomb being thrown, he'll definitely survive. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Nov 4 '18 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn And why would he understand the threat of the grenade? He will see it coming towards him and see it will miss--and thus ignore it. And whatever he does his horse won't make it. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Nov 4 '18 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel why? Because OP explicitly stated that hand grenades are known back then. "Tim, received a hand grenade (which he was told was holy)". $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Nov 4 '18 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ Ron: the greaves protect only his shins, and the shield is too small to protect his whole body, even if he crouches. And that's assuming that none of the grenade shrapnel would blow through his wooden sheild (sheilds were traditionally made from plywood). He might survive if he assumes a defensive position, but I certainly wouldn't bet my life on it. $\endgroup$ – FuzzyChef Nov 4 '18 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ Additionally, plate armor designe to protect against projectiles is specifically made to be angled and deflect them; that's the reason for the strange shape of Spanish conquistador breastplates and helmets. This knight's armor is designed to take the impact straight on, and shrapnel from a grenade can punch right through. $\endgroup$ – FuzzyChef Nov 4 '18 at 18:41

As someone who has taken a piece of grenade shrapnel to the neck. Frag Grenade shrapnel looks like tiny egg cartons but metal. If it went off right next to them it would most likely take a few out. Only due to the actual explosion and being so close to the shrapnel going thru the armor it could. Which at that range would be most of it. at a distance of 15 feet it would stun probably make them fall but the shrapnel would not penetrate thicker metal. They are supposed to have casualty range of 15 meters. Kill at about 5. it would however go through fabric BUT i doubt it would penetrate a thick leather at more than 20 to 30 feet. Now this is only for a regular us army m67 frag grenade. The one that got me was about 75 meters and went into my unprotected neck about a 1/4 in. There are more effective grenades out there. Hope this helps.

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    $\begingroup$ It would also be effective in that it would terrify the horses if not injure them. Still OP's best bet is not to check, throw the grenade and run, then just keep running. $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Nov 5 '18 at 6:54
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    $\begingroup$ Just make sure you count to three before running... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Nov 5 '18 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ An amazing answer, thanks! $\endgroup$ – Fattie Feb 16 '20 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ bountyized this great answer! $\endgroup$ – Fattie Feb 20 '20 at 10:32

An offensive hand grenade produces mostly blast, a defensive grenade produces blast and fragments. Defensive grenades may have a greater danger radius than they can be thrown, so they are best used from trenches. Offensive grenades can be used by troops in the open, as long as they have strong arms.

  • Modern defensive grenades are designed to produce many small, equal-sized fragments with good coverage and not too much range. Some are packed with small balls. Older defensive grenades might have uneven fragmentation with a few larger ones.
    Such an older grenade might have a big fragment that punches through the helmet or the chainmail. Small pellets from a modern grenade could slip through the weave of chainmail.
  • Depending on the proximity, the blast might have lethal effects as well.

You mentioned a character. Is he in a pen-and-paper roleplaying game? If so, take a look at "generic" games like D20 or GURPS and their rules. Even if you are using a different game, you can play through that one scenario, looking at best-case and worst-case die rolls.

  • $\begingroup$ Books have characters too. I nothing in this question that implies that this is part of an RPG. $\endgroup$ – Arcanist Lupus Nov 4 '18 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ @ArcanistLupus, how about the fact that a character does something which seems to have surprised the OP? Sounds like players to me, not characters in a book. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Nov 4 '18 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't read that as surprise - rather it was a humorous acknowledgement that there is only one use for a holy hand grenade in popular culture, and this isn't it. Besides, in the comments the OP mentioned his "MCs", whereas if this was an RPG they would be talking about "PCs" $\endgroup$ – Arcanist Lupus Nov 4 '18 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ @ArcanistLupus, that's a point. He could still use game mechanics from a good universal RPG. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Nov 4 '18 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe, but the physical interactions between specific weapons and specific defenses tend to be abstracted away in most RPGs, and it's those details that the OP wants to know about. $\endgroup$ – Arcanist Lupus Nov 4 '18 at 19:21

While shrapnel can be deadly, the most damage from a grenade comes from the pressure wave of the explosion. Depending on the type of grenade, the pressure wave will destroy anyone's lungs within a few dozen feet. Eardrums would burst, as well as soft tissue damage.

  • $\begingroup$ both gruesome and knowlegeable! $\endgroup$ – Fattie Feb 16 '20 at 13:59

It is conceivable that he could survive. He will be injured almost certainly no matter what. Other answers are correct that mail is not that good at dealing with piercing weapons. But it's not guaranteed to fail; it is possible for him to get lucky and have much of the shrapnel stopped by his mail. Especially if he isn't right next to the grenade when it goes off.

Further, any shrapnel that gets through the mail then also has to get through very thick padding. Nobody wore mail over bare skin, or even just light clothes. Whatever gets through both the mail and the padding then also must penetrate his flesh deep enough to cause a dangerous injury. Surface cuts and punctures will draw blood, but they won't take him out of the fight.

It's also conceivable that he could die. Shrapnel could go between the rings in his mail and puncture an organ. Or it could go in a gap somewhere, like the eye-slit of his helm. Or if he's very close to it he may suffer pulmonary edema from the pressure wave like Keltari said.

I think either outcome is believable, and you should decide which to go with based on what would be best for your plot.


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