Why Did Knights Abandon Chain Mail for Plate Armor During the Middle Ages?

The reason Knights abandoned chain mail for plate armor during the Middle Ages was simple.

Have you ever seen what a crossbow can do?

It’s not pretty. It could shoot through the thin metal pieces of chain mail and straight through the leather.

So plate mail was invented to protect against the crossbow, primarily.

But as plate mail became thicker and thicker in order to withstand more and more powerful weapons, it became too bulky to be very effective in actually waging war.

It was like wearing a tank.

Comments

  1. david says

    while your reasons are right you are missing a few

    the longbow was even more problematic then the crossbow do to its greater rate of fire
    and one of the biggest reasons is the signature weapon of the knight, the lance, while it would be stoped by plate, went through even smallest ring riveted chainmail like a hot knife through butter
    platemail takes less work to make compared to chainmail

  2. Marty says

    The English Longbow was not effective against properly Riveted Chain Armor. It couldn’t penetrate tight riveted steel chain mail like it could loose ring or Butted Chain Armor. Peasants and horses died to arrows penetrating their armor, not knights who could afford the best quality armor. However, without the peasants and the horses, the knights couldn’t fight effectively. They were small in number and vulnerable to being mobbed under with bludgeoning weapons like the mace, morning star, and war hammer.

    The crank-drawn arbalest crossbow, on the other hand, could achieve draw strengths of 10-50 times greater than the famed English Longbow. It could kill the most well-armored noble in the blink of an eye due to the superior strength of steel vs. wood. It’s drawback was a lousy rate of fire (topping out at two shots per minute for the highest powered models). Still, you didn’t need an incredibly high rate of fire if you employed such a weapon specifically to threaten the lives of a the relatively small number of armored knights.

    When it got to the point where any group of up-jumped highway-men could butcher you with a single bolt no matter how much armor you wore then mobility became paramount and military equipment started to evolve towards the era of little-to-no armor and quick, light swords.

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