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Armour

Scenario:

A group of friends, stranded in a medieval castle/modern museum, need to go outside to forage for food. They managed to gather complete sets of medieval armour from the museum. Museum is clear of zombies and might be a nice base of operations to protect this group of friends. But there is no food or water.

Questions:

What kind of advantages would armour provide when fighting zombies ? What kind of armour would be most usefull ? What kind of advantages fighting light - without armour - provide ?

Whats best for a modern setting, fight zombies with a full medieval style armour or fighting zombies without armour ?

Assume:

There are circa 10 friends in the museum. There are circa 15 sets of armour that might be used. They are of the full plate type, all body is covered. There are various kinds of swords and other blunt weapons. The zombies are the walking dead type, slow and dumb.

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    $\begingroup$ Downvotes without explanation... nice. $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo May 15 '15 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ Note it's not a requirement to comment your reasons for voting; voting is personal. The downvote is not mine, but I suspect it's because you're asking a lot of questions that all have fairly broad scope in the same post. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode May 15 '15 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ If someone is on a debate site, why downvote and not debate ? "this is not good, i will downvote it." how can i improve something if the downvoter does not explain why he downvotes ? $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo May 15 '15 at 13:33
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    $\begingroup$ Sidenote: unless the characters in question are very small or young, they will probably not fit inside medieval armor, since people were quite a bit smaller back then. And even if they fit, it won't be snug. All of those suits were custom made to fit the wearer. $\endgroup$ – Erik May 15 '15 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ FWIW, @JorgeAldo, this isn't a "debate" site. It's a Q&A site. If a question is one that is well constructed, people with the right expertise might try to answer it. If a question is problematic, voters might choose to downvote it so it disappears from the list of active questions so questions they think are better stay on the list. I don't see a reason to downvote this post, but there's nothing wrong with down voting and not taking the time to leave a comment if you don't think the post deserves a comment. I don't think this is that post, but it's a reasonable position to take. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Lawson May 15 '15 at 22:54

12 Answers 12

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According to this website on medieval armour...

An entire suit of field armor (that is, armor for battle) usually weighs between 45 and 55 lbs. (20 to 25 kg), with the helmet weighing between 4 and 8 lbs. (2 to 4 kg)—less than the full equipment of a fireman with oxygen gear, or what most modern soldiers have carried into battle since the nineteenth century.

That surely isn't light, but the added protection of not getting 'zombonied' is surely worth that extra weight!

I would definitely agree with @DanSmolinske and add that most other types of modern armor would certainly be better than medieval armor. BUT, the OP specifically said that they had access to only medieval armor and, because of that, I would 100% advocate that any armor is better than no armor. Zombies have an unyielding hunger for human flesh. They will scratch, claw, and bite at anything that moves, so a layer of metal between you and them would obviously be beneficial.

For some nuance, here is some further reading on the mobility of people wearing full armor. (note that the article is absolute rubbish)

Alternatives

enter image description here

Let's go with the scenario that they are in a modern museum instead of a castle. There are probably exhibits of many ancient civilizations. It stands to reason that they would have a roman exhibit as well. Roman armor is much more suited for hand to hand combat than medieval armor (which is more for swordplay and armed conflict). You can read about the specs and variations of it here. Bonus points for extra coverage of exposed skin that they can salvage from other exhibits!

The point is: anything between you and the undead is good. It just needs to be (ideally) light, versatile, and quiet. Medieval armor is obviously not the best choice... but in a time of emergency I'd rather have that on than nothing!

Extra reading on what the zombie wiki has to say on the matter.

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    $\begingroup$ Roman armor is better suited to hand-to-hand, but not real good for zombies. The torso is the last place you need to protect. Zombies bite - they don't stab. Those exposed arms, legs, neck and face are areas most vulnerable to bites, since their size is smaller and can fit between human teeth. Roman armor gives all the disadvantages of armor (weight, mostly) with none of the protection actually needed. Nice pic, though. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast May 15 '15 at 20:00
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Armor:

Heavy armor like pictured is a bad idea. As pointed out by others, it's going to weigh you down and make you too slow. You might not be bitten, but you'll be caught, knocked down, and probably smothered.

On the other hand, I don't think sports equipment is a good idea either. The protection paradigm is different - sports are primarily concerned about impacts. For example, football or hockey pads are good for your shoulders, chest, and the outside of your elbows because that's where designers expect you to hit. But they don't do much for say, the inside of your elbow/forearm or your lower stomach, because those are low-risk areas. A zombie will easily be able to find ways around it and get a bite into you.

Instead, I would go with motorcycle gear - Heavy leather boots, pants, jacket, gloves, and a full helmet. Human teeth aren't going to go through leather easily, it's relatively light weight, and you can still use nearly any weapon effectively while wearing it.

If you want total protection you may want to find some kind of Gorget to supplement the above, as I think there would be a gap between the helmet and your jacket. Maybe you could get a fencing gorget to work? Like below:

Fencing Gorget

Although I don't know if it would protect the back of your neck, so you might have at least one vulnerable point left.

Advantages:

Armor lets you survive zombies getting in close, or sneaking up on you. Entering a room blind where you might be ambushed goes from "probably get bit" to "very unlikely to be bit".

You can also use it tactically. Presumably you wouldn't do this all the time, but if you know you can't dodge a zombie, this gives you more options. Allow it to bite your protected arm. While it tries to chew through the leather, shoot it in the head (or bash it in the head, depending on your available options). You might choose a different weapon selection if you expect this to happen fairly often, as some weapons might not work well against an opponent who's actively biting you.

The big advantage, though, is that armor gives you that second chance. Without armor, you screw up once and you're dead. With armor, you can survive a lot more screw ups, and since most humans aren't perfect...

Disadvantages:

Even light armor has weight and will, to some extent, restrict your movements. You won't be able to run quite as fast, or as far. If you're not used to it, it could trip you up. In hot climates, you could suffer from heat stroke - imagine wearing heavy leather in a desert summer (on the other hand, it might be an advantage in a cool/cold climate).

Armor also has to be maintained. A zombie bite (or bashing against a door, or falling down) will cause slight damage, and that damage will add up over time. You need to plan on giving your armor regular maintenance and eventually needing to replace it.

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    $\begingroup$ An added bonus of the motorcycle gear is the protectors for elbows, knees, shoulders etc. You might want to consider some of the high tech fabrics over leather, although you would score less on the coolness scale. ;-) $\endgroup$ – Burki May 15 '15 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ The neck is a body part that we instinctually try to protect because of how vital it is to us. As such, many zombie films and shows will show you zombies tearing hunks of flesh from the neck to make you cringe. However, that isn't very realistic. It is far more likely that you'd use your arms and legs to protect yourself, and that those would get bitten or scratched. So logically you'd want to protect them first and foremost. $\endgroup$ – Neil May 15 '15 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ Are we assuming that motorcycle armor will be available in the museum/castle? That was a significant detail in the question. $\endgroup$ – wposeyjr May 15 '15 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ @wposeyjr: probably not, and that's a good point. Given the choice between plate armor and nothing, I'd probably go with nothing. Or if possible maybe just wear a portion of it, like only protect my arm so I can use it defensively. $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske May 15 '15 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ @DanSmolinske It might help to add an image of motorcycle gear too. At first glance this post looks like it's going to advocate for a gorget around the neck and nothing else. $\endgroup$ – Ixrec May 16 '15 at 20:14
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While modern technology makes building a zombie proof armor relatively easy, shockingly enough nobody seems to be producing armor designed to be efficient during zombie apocalypse. Maybe this is a market opportunity?

Closest thing to having the same requirements seems to be police riot gear. It is designed to be worn for extended periods. Protects full body against thrown bottles or stones so might reasonably help against zombie bites. Protects the head with good visibility. Has carry attachments for weapons and equipment. It is designed to be used in melee, so it should be relatively easy to move in while giving some protection against blunt force from the attacking zombies.

It also has a riot shield, which might be convenient if there are enough of you to form a shield wall. Add a club or mace or a shotgun to hit zombies in front of the shield wall and you are relatively well off.

But the main attraction is that some actually exist and a major police force might have significant amount in storage. Reasonably unless the police collapse immediately, they'd try to get these armor to the streets and keep them in use.

That said, if you want real protection, you should be thinking armored vehicles, not body armor...

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  • $\begingroup$ The Movie 28 Days later came to that conclusion, too $\endgroup$ – sum1stolemyname Aug 26 '15 at 9:41
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Q: What kind of advantages would armour provide when fighting zombies ?
A: It will lower the chances you get hurt, infected.

Q: What kind of armour would be most useful ?
A: As it only needs to protect against zombie bites and scratches, light armour.

Q: What kind of advantages fighting light - without armour - provide ?
A: You can run away faster.

Q: What's best for a modern setting, fight zombies with a full medieval style armour or fighting zombies without armour ?
A: I'd opt for light armour instead; something like football gear will already help. Protect lower arms and neck first!

Please note that heavy armour is HEAVY. It was used mainly to fight from horseback, and they needed to breed special horses to carry the weight. You cannot run. You need to train even to be able to stand up after a fall.

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    $\begingroup$ For all intents and purposes, pillows strapped to your arm with duck tape would provide about the same amount of protection as light armor. Not sure if it would be worth the extra weight. $\endgroup$ – Neil May 15 '15 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ Well-fitted armour will not shift and leave you exposed. Are you sure you want to entrust your life to duct tape? One tends to bite it to tear a piece off... $\endgroup$ – Bookeater May 15 '15 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ Would you trust your life to armor? The answer is no just the same. You'd be stupid to ever let yourself get in close range with a zombie. Just that in one case, you're protected using household materials and in the other, you'd have to stumble across a museum $\endgroup$ – Neil May 15 '15 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ Or seek out the nearest sports retailer. Given the fact that zombies are around, I'd go for protection. I'm afraid sooner or later the zombies will find you. You can hide, but what to do around dinnertime? $\endgroup$ – Bookeater May 15 '15 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ annnd you'll die of having too many skin pores blocked. $\endgroup$ – Spacemonkey May 15 '15 at 19:13
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Between no armor and full armor, no armor would probably be better. BUT! I would say that some armor would be better than none. Armor gives you a buffer that allows you to recover from mistakes. Overextend a little? Armor there to save you. Overextend a lot? Doesn't matter if you have armor.

However, while armor gives you a buffer for mistakes, it does that by reducing your speed/stamina/movement. To balance that out, I would only armor certain places: arms and legs.

Arms are the most important. That's the part that will be closest to the zombies and are your intervention method if the zombies get too close (gotta push them off). Legs are important since zombies could be anywhere and looking down isn't always the first thing you do.

So, given suits of armor, how do we achieve these? Well, gauntlets could be taken from the suits and used. They might be slightly heavy, but not too bad. Fine motor skills with fingers might be off, but overall arm movement should be good. Protection up to the elbow with a vambrace would be nice. Also might make punching zombies easy.

For legs, that's probably harder. Simplest would be to try and get the shin guards. Knees and upper legs could be slightly awkward but could be done. Shoes might be a weak point, but you either have shoes for endurance (running shoes) or tough shoes (work boots).

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Simple chainmail would not only be effective but I think that your characters would have a much easier time slipping some chainmail on then trying to use platemail armor. Chainmail will still be heavy however it is nothing compared to trying to walk around in a set of full plate armor. Complete this with some sturdy boots and leather gloves. Chainmail leggings do exist but I think it would be better to go with greaves as you need your mobility. If you fall down or can't run your essentially dead. As an added bonus you can wear chainmail all day and it may not be the most comfortable thing but you will be ready on the fly if need be.

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    $\begingroup$ Chain mail is actually heavier and more uncomfortable than plate due to poor weight distribution. A set of full plate weighs about 25kg but it's nicely divided over the body; a chainmail shirt alone can weigh 15-20kg and it all hangs from the shoulders. $\endgroup$ – Erik May 15 '15 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ I do not think you understand how hard it is to move in plate armor. $\endgroup$ – user2389345436357 May 15 '15 at 18:59
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    $\begingroup$ I've seen people doing pushups in it. It's not as cumbersome as movies make it out to be. $\endgroup$ – Erik May 15 '15 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ @user2389345436357 it's not that hard to move in plate armor, I have done so. It's tiring to be active in it for hours, but it's no more tiring than marching/running with modern infantry gear/rucksack/gun/etc. Modern infantry carry heavier loads than full plate armor of late middle ages, and pretty much any healthy male recruit can handle that after some physical training. $\endgroup$ – Peteris May 15 '15 at 23:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik > a chainmail shirt alone can weigh 15-20kg and it all hangs from the shoulders No. That's what the belt is used for - all mail below it (and some above) rests on your hips. $\endgroup$ – Daerdemandt Sep 5 '16 at 19:13
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It depends on the number of zombies. If you assume dumb and slow zombies that are infectuous but cannot learn anything, then heavy armor will effectively mean they cannot really hurt you. An unarmed man has no real chance of wounding a person in plate armor.

However, unlike normal people (who would be crazy to engage an armored man in a straight-up brawl) zombies are going to try anyway, and you're going to have to hack them all to bits until none remain because they will never stop attacking you.

Ultimately it's likely a battle of stamina: if you can keep upright and swinging until all the zombies are immobilized, it's awesome and you win. If you grow tired before all the zombies are gone, you will be dogpiled and crushed to death.

And you have to be very careful about being surrounded, because the armor offers no protection against being grabbed and pulled down. It won't kill you and your friends will probably have some time to save your ass, but if they don't show up (because they are in a similar situation) then you can look forward to either starvation or being cooked alive under a mound of the rotting undead.

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  • $\begingroup$ Would be a great way to go, wouldn't it? $\endgroup$ – Neil May 15 '15 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ Depends on your fetishes, I guess :| $\endgroup$ – Erik May 15 '15 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ Would make for a nice drama in Walking Dead. Unfortunately this series does not explore this kind of drama, they prefer to make a soup opera out of a zombie apocalipse instead of an action packed series. $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo May 15 '15 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @JorgeAldo amen to that haha $\endgroup$ – wposeyjr May 15 '15 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ World War Z - Ocean sweep teams. $\endgroup$ – Spacemonkey May 15 '15 at 19:15
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There are very few advantages of armor over zombies. The only advantage is that it reduces the amount of exposed skin to bite, but this advantage is quickly outweighed by the fact that 10 to 20 zombies could quite easily rip it off. To make matters worse anyone wearing your armor would quickly become a walking dinner bell. He/she would be unable to move fastly and would most likely have to be left behind.

I also can't see a bunch of friends getting the armor on in the first place. I know from experience that medieval armor (or at least the replica armor--the real stuff is too hard to get your hands on) is a b**** to put on. I put a full body suit on and not only did I sweat like a dog, I had blisters (probably from doing it incorrectly). As a matter of fact, medieval knights needed an entire squad of pages to help them in and out of their armor. It still took an hour. If a knight fell off his horse, his armor was so heavy he usually couldn't get back up.

In short, I see this getting one (or all) of your characters killed and/or scattered.

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  • $\begingroup$ In your first sentence do you mean there are very few advantages of medieval armor or armor in general? I think lightweight modern armor would be very beneficial (if they could acquire it of course). $\endgroup$ – wposeyjr May 15 '15 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ @wposeyjr I think he's saying "armor protects against bites, but basically that's the only advantage it has over zombies." $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon May 15 '15 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ @wposeyjr I meant medieval armor, but most armor has the same disadvantages ---enough zombies can still rip you apart and (unless it is leather or modern) it is bound to slow you down a lot. $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat May 15 '15 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ Why are people even trying to fight slow and dumb zombies? Just remove the head or destroy the brain. Or walk briskly in the opposite direction. The advantage is that you're making it easier for me to outrun you. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Oct 25 '16 at 6:52
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I think your best bet would be to skip the heavy plate style of European knights and instead hit up the part of your museum that covered leather armor instead. Ever tried to chew through a steak you've cooked too long? Its not a quick process, definitely long enough to jam a stiletto blade through a zombies eye or ear. Leather armor is also much lighter, won't impair your movement as much, and relatively easy to maintain compared to plate. Some sturdy greaves, a bracer (maybe backed with metal strips) to hold them back and eye-stab, and maybe a bevor and spalder and your covered in all the likely spots a zombie might come a munching.

And in terms of weight it'll be three to five kilos depending on whether you want to add metal strips to the leather as further reinforcement. Your main asset in a zombie apocalypse will be speed and maneuverability anyway, why weigh yourself done unnecessarily?

Leather armor can also sport a handy array of pouches, pockets and attaching straps for your supplies and weapons while you run

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Firstly I'd like to point out that plate armor is nowhere near as restrictive as you would imagine it to be if you have never worn it. It was designed for people to fight in and whilst some training/practice would help you are easily able to roll around if knocked over, get up, etc, etc. Now you are going to be slower than you were without it but then you are fighting a shambling mindless zombie not Bruce Lee so I don't see the down side.

However the biggest problem you face is that armor of that quality and expense was restricted to the rich. It was hand made for the wearer and maintained by craftsmen. The chances of you finding a suit that fits you properly are slim to none and that is where a lot of the problems will come from. Badly fitting plate armor will be less effective and cause you movement and agility problems where as a suit made for you would not.

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If you need to move fast you can use Carpet Coats (http://zombie.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Carpet_Coats). They are lighter than the medieval armour but it will not be good against firearm or heavy swords and such. Also I think easy to find / make in the museum.

Still will keep you uninfected even if bitten. Still you can get battered :)

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I don't know if this information will help or not but light armor against zombies my not be effective. If we assume that zombies are moving dead bodies "without limiter" then their bite strength should be more than enough to tear apart lether armor. Chainmail should provide some protection but it wouldn't last against more than one zombie...

If I would be in the mentioned situation I would propably go with arm and leg protectors and some kind of long weapon like spear/halberd/naginata or long staff (eventualy some kind of a club/mace and light shield). Because I'd prefer movement speed and agility over tankines. But that's my opinion.

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