How Well Does Medieval Armor Actually Stand Up to Medieval Arrows?: A Historical Re-Creation Lets You See

The pop­u­lar image of the medieval suit of armor looks for­mi­da­ble enough that any of us could be for­giv­en for assum­ing that, with its steel-plat­ed pro­tec­tion, we’d emerge from even the most har­row­ing bat­tle with­out a scratch. Yet if we real­ly found our­selves trans­port­ed to, say, the French side in the Bat­tle of Agin­court, we’d prob­a­bly feel a keen sense of just where those Eng­lish arrows could nev­er­the­less land a fatal hit. This is the mat­ter inves­ti­gat­ed in detail in the video above, a pro­duc­tion of Tod’s Work­shop, a British mak­er of “accu­rate and detailed his­tor­i­cal repro­duc­tion cross­bows, sword scab­bards, swords, dag­gers and oth­er medieval weapons, and arti­facts.”

This isn’t some back­yard tar­get-prac­tice ses­sion for Medieval Times habitués, but a gath­er­ing of experts in a vari­ety of rel­e­vant fields. Tod’s Work­shop pro­pri­etor Tod Tode­s­chi­ni brings on both the com­pa­ny’s armor­er and fletch­er (that is, mak­er of arrows), as well as arms-and-armor his­to­ri­an Toby Cap­well and a high­ly skilled archer named Joe.

It is Joe’s task to shoot a great many of the work­shop’s faith­ful­ly craft­ed ear­ly-fif­teenth-cen­tu­ry arrows at its faith­ful­ly craft­ed ear­ly-fif­teenth-cen­tu­ry suit of armor in order to pro­vide a visu­al — and, in slow motion, vis­cer­al — demon­stra­tion of just how well it could real­ly hold up against the mighty Eng­lish long­bow.

In some respects, the suit acquits itself nice­ly: many of Joe’s arrows sim­ply bounce off plate armor, some­times snap­ping in the process. But when­ev­er a shot hits some­thing oth­er than a plate, things get con­sid­er­ably dici­er. The lay­ers of chain­mail in the gaps between hel­met and breast­plate or breast­plate and paul­dron (which cov­ers the shoul­der) turn out to be more vul­ner­a­ble than they look, and as for the whol­ly un-plat­ed groin area, the less said the bet­ter. The year 1415, the hosts explain, was before the devel­op­ment of the head-to-toe suit of armor that comes to mind today when we think of medieval knights — a devel­op­ment no doubt inspired in part by the fate of the numer­ous but hope­less­ly out­gunned French army at Agin­court.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Ancient Greek Armor Gets Test­ed in an 11-Hour Bat­tle Sim­u­la­tion Inspired by the Ili­ad

What It’s Like to Actu­al­ly Fight in Medieval Armor

How to Get Dressed & Fight in 14th Cen­tu­ry Armor: A Reen­act­ment

How to Make and Wear Medieval Armor: An In-Depth Primer

What’s It Like to Fight in 15th Cen­tu­ry Armor?: A Sur­pris­ing Demon­stra­tion

How Well Can You Move in Medieval Armor?: Medieval­ist Daniel Jaquet Gives It a Try in Real Life

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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