We have a warrior. He owns and wears a gambeson, a mail hauberk, an open steel helmet, all necessary clothing and a good pair of boots. He is looking to reinforce his armour with a few select parts of steel plate, but doesn't want to wear anything too massive like a full cuirass (he tried and doesn't like how it feels). He doesn't like brigandine either.

His weapon of choice is a polearm probably best described as a partizan. He uses a longsword for backup and obviously carries a dagger as well. He can't use shields because of an injury to his left arm. He also mostly fights in smaller skirmishes rather than large field battles, for which he would be willing to equip heavier armour but doesn't plan to buy this at the moment.

The technology level is fictional late medieval. Full plate exists, firearms do not, magic is not part of this equation and the necessary budget is available unless seomething is extravagantly expensive.

Currently our shopper is eyeing gauntlets, greaves, possibly spaulders and a gorget. But what do the experts recommend?

  • $\begingroup$ It depends on what you are defending against. Empirical testing of reproduction medieval plate and chain (both using modern materials) versus quarrels from 70 lb crossbow established unequivocally the superiority of chain against projectiles. The quarrel penetrated the front and back of the plate and the hay bale behind it. In contrast, the chain mail stopped the arrow, although it would have left a nasty bruise and possibly broken bones. $\endgroup$
    – pojo-guy
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 1:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Dr. Bret Devereaux has a nice blog post regarding this very question : acoup.blog/2019/05/03/collections-armor-in-order-part-i $\endgroup$
    – breversa
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 14:39

3 Answers 3


Hands will be high on list, they are the places most often struck and pretty high on the target list to boot.

When you say "open" helmet does it at least have a nose guard, if not consider adding them and possibly cheek guards, this may come even before covering the hands.

Adding shin/foot protection would likely be next.Basically the priority is to get some armor on unprotected areas.

You can look at the progression of armor in history (bottom to top) to see what people prioritized, basically in your scenario are going from the norman style to full chainmail (the new armor doesn't have to be chainmail but the principle is the same, cover unprotected areas.)

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The designers of modern body armor have concerns that largely overlap with those of your medieval warrior. Moderns worry about ballistics because that is really the only kind of injury modern warriors suffer with any frequency but these concerns apply equally well to penetrating wounds (i.e. spear, arrow).

Flex point coverage in armor is less robust as it must allow flexion of limbs and head. Additionally, flex points contain large vessels. Wounds to these high flow vessels in the neck and groin are often rapidly fatal; it is difficult to compress them because of their depth and the adjacent joint structures.

Here are the points of concern from a modern developer of body armor. This was taken from a design challenge on Innocentive.com USSOCOM Challenge: Novel Ballistic Coverage

Current body armor technology only provides coverage and protection to approximately 19% of the vital areas due to the weight and mobility degradation caused by modern ballistic materials. A high percentage of battlefield fatalities have been caused by wounds in the head, neck, and groin; areas that are not normally covered by body armor. The weight, thickness, and stiffness of current ballistic materials make it difficult to provide ballistic protection to these areas without impeding the mobility of the wearer. The Seeker desires a new approach for providing maximum ballistic coverage while maintaining user mobility and flexibility.

As with these moderns, the points of concern for your medieval are head, neck and groin. His helmet should do for head, which leaves neck and groin. I think axilla too though that was not specified in the linked Challenge.

I am sad to say that despite my sweet pteruges body armor scheme I did not win this innocentive challenge. But the pteruges might be a cheap, effective and fashionable alternative for this medieval soldier?

  • $\begingroup$ Expect that rigid protection of the shoulders will help a lot with polearm v polearm fights, whilst in theory the weapon is a piercing instrument, in reality the greatest force can always be applied as downward momentum and a shoulder wound essentially puts you out of contention for winning a fight with a weapon requiring two hands to wield effectively.(and in any kind of close formation the cleanest angles to generate momentum for strikes are all vertically oriented also) $\endgroup$
    – Giu Piete
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 0:30

Gorget first; the throat is the most fatally vulnerable part of the human body. Even the heart has the rib cage and sternum to protect it; and normal armor covers the major limb and torso arteries.

The point would be to protect the eyes and kill points. Gauntlets next to protect the wrist, probably greaves third and then spaulders. If you want your character to get inventive, I've always thought strips of outer chain mail should be attached to bridge the gaps between plates that are frequent attack points.


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