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Well, it depends on the type.

You see, there are a dozen different "weaves" that can be used in the making of chainmail. Each weave has its own strengths and weaknesses.

However, one thing most chainmail armors have in common is that they're primarily for stopping blades. Most swords will have difficulty hacking through a piece of chainmail armor; but the chainmail itself doesn't stop the blunt damage caused by the blow. If someone whacks you with a blade directed at your chest; the sword may not cut you, but it might still break some ribs. This is why people wore leather-backed chainmail, or wore padded gambisons under the armor. The chainmail stopped the blade; and the leather or padding dispersed the force behind the blow.

Another thing most chain armors have in common is that they can usually be penetrated by piercing weapons; such as a spear, or arrow. These weapons were able to push the links in the armor aside, and reach the flesh. One method used in the finest chainmail to prevent this was alternatively riveting, and welding the metal links.

The most common weave you'll see in medieval European chainmail is known as "European 1 through 4". A variant of this is referred to as "King's maille", which is the same weave - but twice as thick; and as a result, twice as heavy. Another variant is the "European 1 through 8" which is very defensive, and harder for piercing weapons to penetrate; but is also, extremely inflexible.

All of the weaves listed above are considered to be heavier chain armors; and in Europe, where heavy weapons - such as the war hammer, flamberge, claymore, zweihander, flail and mace were all too common; heavier armors were naturally the best way to stay alive.

If you want more defense, and can sacrifice speed; European styled maille is for you.

Another popular weave is the "Japanese 1 through 4". This is a relatively light chain armor, as Japanese fighting styles tended to require quicker movement than European. Japan's weapons tended to be lighter than Europe's. Such weapons included the katana, tanto, nunchaku, yari, sai and naginata; to name a few. This particular weave is also far more flexible than the European styles, as the weave is more open; but it's even more vulnerable to piercing weapons.

If you prefer speed and flexibility over defense; Japanese styled maille is for you.

A third commonly seen weave is the "Oriental 1 through 6". This weave is similar to the Japanese 1 through 4, but uses small links to fill in the gaps found in the Japanese style; and is thus, slightly heavier; but more defensive. This armor is still exceptionally flexible.

If the Japanese styled weaves have too little defense for you, but you still need more flexibility than the European styles; Oriental styled maille is for you.

And one more well known weave is "Scale mail". Scale mail doesn't always count as a chainmail; (As it can be made from metal plates or pieces of hard leather, linked via leather or cloth; such as a lamellar), but as it was usually made using scales attached together via the European 1 through 4 weave, throughout medieval Europe; in this instance, it does count under the chainmail category.

Scale mail, like many other European armors; was a heavy armor. The metal scales gave the armor even more immunity to blades, as well as improved immunity against piercing weapons. However, the scales also made the armor heavier, and less flexible than almost every other chain armor; but still more flexible than plate armor.

If you need heavy armor, but don't want to entirely sacrifice flexibility; European scale mail is for you.

These are just a few weaves. There are hundreds more; and each had a unique purpose. Some were used for armor, others for jewelery; some skilled mailers have even made sculptures, tapestries and many other items, using chainmail.

Chainmail still has uses in the modern world; in the forms of jewelery, shark mail; and scientists are even researching methods to make bullet proof armor out of extremely small chain links.

It's also very important that you know how to properly take care of your chainmail. Namely, cleaning it, to prevent rust. How to do this may vary, based on the materials the chainmail was made from; but not by much.

For most of the more common metals, such as steel or iron; the historical method of cleaning it was to place it within a barrel of sand, and roll said barrel until the armor was determined to be clean. This step was primarily to remove any rust. Upon completing the rust removal, or if no rust was present in the first place; they would wrap the armor within oil-soaked pieces of cloth. The oil prevents the metal's surface from being directly exposed to the open air, and better prevents it from rusting.

For this reason, it may be preferable to have one's armor made from certain modern metals that are more rust resistant, and require less maintenance. Some examples of such are aluminum, galvanized steel, stainless steel and titanium.

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Q: What are the strengths and weaknesses of chain mail?
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