This would be for a medieval/steampunk type tech level.

I have a set of soldiers in my book that I want to have wearing mirrored armor and I'm curious if that is at all explainable with real world application? Would it be possible to create armor with a mirror like substance? Or would it need to be simply steel or another metal just polished to the brights shine anyone has ever seen? Also, is it possible to have a mirrored surface like that that is strong and durable? i.e. won't shatter like a real mirror would when you hit it.

I want their armor to look like pretty traditional armor, but I will give them some interesting helmets and I want the surface to be like a literal mirror. I realize this might cause a problem for themselves as well so I've considered dressing them with some sort of fur draped over their shoulders to block any rays of light that might distract them.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Are you talking about real life mirror armor? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_armour ? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Feb 6 '17 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ What sort of technology level are we talking about? Are we including magic in the production of the armour? Also is the mirror a side effect or intended? $\endgroup$ – Lio Elbammalf Feb 6 '17 at 22:51
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Is there a particular purpose that the mirroring is trying to provide? $\endgroup$ – Anketam Feb 7 '17 at 0:40
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ What makes you think a mirror polished metal is not a mirror? glass mirrors just use glass to create a microscopically smooth layer of metal deposited on one side. $\endgroup$ – John Feb 7 '17 at 3:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ how mirrors are made, youtube.com/watch?v=u03S1Nmslw4 $\endgroup$ – John Feb 7 '17 at 14:54

To me this is an easy yes, for several reasons.

First, when you polish metal, you take away things called stress risers. This overall makes the metal stronger because it is less likely to crack, chip, or break under stress.

Second, it could easily be explained within your world (just like you are saying). The military unit which your armor is used in could easily require their members to clean and shine the armor to a bright sheen. You could easily accomplish this using steel wool and some Brasso like substance. Requiring the "troops" to keep their armor in tip-top shape is part of esprit de corps, which is a means by which to keep the troops motivated.

Third, as part of the world, it could be known these specific "knights" (or whatever you are calling them) have this certain armor. This armor signifies great things, yada, yada, yada. You get the picture.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Excellent points and your comment about the soldiers keeping the shine on it fits with this type of people very well thank you! Plus, now I have some things to Google and look up more Detail on how to explain how it works if doing so flows into the story. Thank you for your info $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Feb 6 '17 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ I appreciate getting to learn about stress risers. $\endgroup$ – Willk Feb 7 '17 at 0:05

It is certainly possible to polish steel to a bright mirror finish. This is quite labour intensive and bare steel oxidises fairly quickly so it would take a lot of looking after but can be done. Buffing with a hard wax helps preserve teh surface a bit longer.

This would be pretty difficult to maintain on a long campaign in the field but for troops based at a garrison it might well be possible.

Even some modern military units use polished steel armour as part of their ceremonial uniforms, for example the Household Cavalry.

Gold or silver plating would help both of these are simple enough processes to be reasonably plausible with medieval technology and there are plenty of examples of silver and guided armour. Gold especially is very corrosion resistant but relatively soft so more prone to scuffs and scratches.

In terms of practicality stainless steel or chrome plating would be the most durable but these really require quite sophisticated industrial processes which are modern rather than medieval.

Historically it is not uncommon to see evidence of very ornate ceremonial armour with guiding, bluing and engraving etc and more utilitarian sets used for actual campaigning, often black. Conversely there h ave been periods where black armour has been fashionable because it was associated with the professional mercenary companies which had a formidable reputation in europe.


Why not?

Imagine regular armor wrapped with aluminum foil (or for that matter, silver foil) that is held taut?

It could be ablative with damages layers torn off between battles like a snake's skin.

It wouldn't add much protection from anything except light (and perhaps lasers), of the appropriate waive lengths, and it would be shitty for stealth, but I don't see why it isn't feasible.

  • $\begingroup$ Right, I'm not necessary looking to add it for more protection, more of a statement/identification of an honor guard type company of troops. I just wasn't sure if making it mirrored would make it very weak or was pure fantasy/video game type thing that had no way of explanation in the real world. Thanks, info is very helpful!! $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Feb 6 '17 at 23:30

If you want them to have armor that is highly polished and highly reflective then a simply covering over the regular armor would seem more practical.

After all, while you want them to look nice, it's also important that for those hopefully rare occasions when they venture forth to hit people that they have real armor that stops such trivia as bullets, shrapnel and (my personal favorite) your basic club-with-a-nail-in-it.

So you would give them an inner layer that takes the hits and some very expendable easy replaced spiffy mirror finish material as an overall-style uniform.

If you're mainly interested in mirrored head gear then you can actually use a normal mirror technique if you can get some very tough transparent plastic (transparent aluminum anyone ? :-) ). In a normal mirror you just spray the mirror finish onto glass.

I suppose a full body armor suit of the same type is equally possible.

  • $\begingroup$ This would be for a medival/steampunk type tech level but you make a good point. I would want it to be "real" armor but having a cover of some sort that can be replaced is a great idea. It's for troops that guard a gate then go out and meet anyone approaching. $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Feb 6 '17 at 23:35
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The tactical genius of this armour is that nobody wants to incur seven years bad luck by breaking a mirror so they are going to be cautious of fighting your reflective knights. $\endgroup$ – glenatron Feb 7 '17 at 11:41
  • $\begingroup$ The tactical problem is that they're going to stick out like a sore thumb and, as a result, attract the aim of every single enemy on the battlefield. Especially anyone who has to wear a dirty uniform for a week ! And the helmets would become prized trophies, so incapacitated knights on the battlefield are dead for sure. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Feb 7 '17 at 12:00

Metallic film cover that is already mentioned is one option. Another option is metallic plating, like chrome plating.

Durability: low for foil, medium for plating. Both inferior to solid steel (even chromium is harder than steel, scratched chrome finish would look much uglier than scratched steel).

Usability: both foil and plating should be made at some kind of factory/workshop. Soldiers can apply the foil themselves.

Look: Ok for the foil, potentially great for plating. When foil is affixed manually, it will shine, but can't really look like a mirror.

Just polished steel will also shine, not as bright as foil, and it will also never look like a mirror.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.