Monday, November 5, 2007

The Death of Armor

OK. Time to kill a commonly held misconception. Guns were not the primary cause for the phasing out of the use of armor. I don't care what anyone says about how a bullet could pierce traditional medieval suits. That's not the reason. Guns, or more accurately, "hand-held" gunpowder weaponry, were in use prior to the 15th century. Armor, of the medieval vein, lasted all the way to the 18th century, and some will argue to the 20th century.

Economics killed armour. Not guns, economics. A full suit of armor cost a lot of money. That's why nobles were knights, they were the ones who could afford the armor. You could buy a fully equipped farm for the same cost as a decorative suit of armor. Not that there wasn't "bargain basement" armor available on the market. But even then you're talking a few key pieces of armor and not a full suit. And we're talking about stuff that could shatter on you when hit. Modern armorers can't even keep crystalization of metal out of their products with all our modern technology, you can bet in medieval times it was a much more rampant concern.

When you think about it, what is armor. Armor is sheets of metal formed to cover different parts of the body amounting to approx. 60 lbs of metal. No piece is ever really duplicated except in mirror and then you have to strap almost every piece so it will stay on the customer. Unless you're going bargain basement, you need most every piece custom fitted to the customer. This means not only the basework but meetings for fittings. This means time beyond basic forming to fine tune. You need to field a large army? They better have their own armor because you can't afford to equip them and you don't have time.

If you do want to still argue the guns killed armor point, then yes in some way, because guns were and are cheaper to make. Even today a full suit of medieval armor will start at about $1000 for a basic suit with a few standardized pieces and go up from there. Helms alone can run $300-$1200. A fully functional rifle starts at $70.

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