Is chainmail bulletproof?

Or, to be more exact, how much protection would a fellow in full Arthurian armor have vs. firearms?

Considering that even full plate wasn’t long bow (or crossbow)-proof (the development of the long bow and crossbow were the main reasons the age of knights-in-armor as heavy shock troops ended), they’d probably not do a whole lot against firearms.

Probably not much. Wasn’t one of the reasons early firearms became widespread on the battlefield despite all of their drawbacks was that any infantry peasant given one could take down a fully-armored knight?

From here:

Not at all.

Plate (suit of armor) armor might protect against very small calibers, such as a .22LR, fired from a long range, but no more than that.

Hmmmmm. We should send this in to Myth Busters.
Not really a myth, but that experiment would be very cool.

I make chain mail; usually silver but sometimes other materials. Keep in mind that chainmail is nothing but a bunch of little metal rings. Unless the metal that makes up those rings is bullet proof–and therefore probably pretty dang difficult to make little rings out of–then the mail isn’t gonna be either.

would you be willing to provide me with some samples of mail to shoot at? I can settle this once and for all.

Is it butted mail or riveted? I’ve made the butted variety, a whack with a stick would send links flying. Butted links are fine if the armor is just for looks but riveted mail would be more representative of what was used for armor and far, far stronger. I believe there are a few SCA participants on the boards, I’m sure one of them will be around before long.

High quality steel wire was not available in the days of yeomen/yore so armorers had to settle for iron. You can still buy ‘binding’ wire that can be made into chain mail.

BTW there is no such thing as “chainmail.” :rolleyes:

mail Pronunciation Key (ml) n.

  1. Flexible armor composed of small overlapping metal rings, loops of chain, or scales.
  2. The protective covering of certain animals, as the shell of a turtle.

Really? That’s odd; I could’ve sworn there was. My mistake.

Actually armour continued to evolve partly to counter improved missle weapons. Full plate reached its technical peak around the 16th century, well after the English longbow ( for example ) had passed its period of dominance. Early firearms in particular had lowish muzzle velocities and good quality plate could apparently often stop the shot. Armour lost the arms race in the long run, but it took awhile.

The argument over terminology is a think the result of ‘chain mail’ not being a contemporary historical descriptor. The term came into use late, well after such armour was no longer common.

  • Tamerlane

I did realize this; while I’m not trying to create a prescriptivism debate, the term exists and everyone involved is well aware of what is meant by its use. I despise faux-intellectual oneupmanship, especially when its basis is something completely irrelevant to the point being discussed, and while I let it slide for those who correct spelling/grammatical errors lest I spend all my time making posts such as this, in this particular case the snide correction is simply wrong. There is such a thing as “chainmail”, regardless of when the term came into existence. That, coupled with my ever-burning hatred for the :rolleyes: smiley, is what led me to post what I did.

Nevertheless, thanks for the clarification.

SCA guy here.
I know at least half a dozen knitters, only one ever claimed to have done the test. He was using Whiting & Davis #5 (.021” stainless steel wire, welded ring) sheet stock instead of doing it from scratch.
He claimed to have fired a .38 at said mail, I did not witness the test.
The mail had a dent approximately the size I would have expected.

A hanging sheet of mail is not going to react the same way a worn mail shirt would. It can move and deform, in doing so it will absorb energy that would otherwise be available to damage the links.
To do the test properly I’d want a full shirt of mail, and a full sized backing of ballistic gelatin or clay.

IMHO, Is chainmail bulletproof?
Small caliber/low velocity, maybe.
Anything else, have a look at this The Box O’ Truth #16 - Level IIIA Armor.


A documentary on TV here in the UK showed that at the Battle of Agincourt at least, English longbows might not have been able to penetrate the armour of the French knights. What stopped them IIRC was muddy ground and the inability of horse skin to withstand arrows.

During the Napoleonic Wars there was still armored cavalry, generally a breast and back plate that covered the torso and an iron helmet of some sort with a fancy crest. . It is the same sort of armor that is still worn by the ceremonial units of the British Horse Guards. It was effective in protecting a soldier against edged weapons and musket fire at some range. It did not do much good against close range musketry or artillery fire at any range.

At the Museum of the French Army in Paris there is a breast plate worn by a named soldier who was killed at the Battle of Waterloo. There is a raged hole punched through it just about dead center. The hole is about the same diameter as a beer can – surely caused by a six or nine pound cannon ball.

Darnit, I was going to come in here and talk about the Napoleonic Wars too…suffice it to say that they were the last major conflict in which classically-armored units could turn the tide of battle. The last nail in their coffin was the rifle, which had the speed and the range to defeat any armored close combat unit.

IIRC, though, the French did have chain epaulettes for some standard bearers, but those were to protect it in the close combat that inevitably surrounded a standard, rather than from bullets.

Hijack: Is a kevlar vest arrowproof?

No cite handy, but I have heard several times that it is not. Apparently the point of an arrow is sharp enough and hard enough that most Kevlar body armor will not stop it sufficiently. Bullets are softer and tend to spread out, dissapating their energy over a greater distance. Think of an arrowhead as an armor piercing round with signifigantly less energy, but still hard enough to penetrate.

Heh, I was going to hijack into that sort of area myself.

My question was going to be: what sort of anti-close combat and anti-bullet protection would a plate or chain armor over Kevlar or similar armor provide? Would the Kevlar act as additional padding against slow weapons? Would the armor provide more anti-bullet protection (for instance, by deflecting the bullet’s angle?)