Chain Mail Cutters

by John Harris
(Roswell, Ga, USA)

QUESTION: First off, I love your site. You give a lot of background info on a ton of swords I've pondered over at one time or another, and have really helped me come to some conclusions about which I'd like to buy.

I guess my question is have you had any experience with swords cutting through chain mail? On your medieval sword page I noticed the article by Hank Reinhardt expressing his opinions about Gen2, and how effective their swords are. I also made a note of how he tested a sword or two of theirs on chain mail covered meat and was surprised to find that it actually cut straight through.

I'm not the biggest medieval sword fan, and was wondering if you could recommend any other swords that could have the potential to cleave chain mail? I would assume that the Tenchi would easily cut through a mere chain mail shirt if it could plant itself so deep into a hardened woodblock, but seeing as your the one who handled it, I'm interested in what you think about the sword's capabilities.

ANSWER:Actually, a lot of swords can cut chain mail on a good hit. Chain mail would have stopped the limb from being severed outright, and would have worked perfectly on a glancing blow (that would otherwise have you bleeding all over the place) - but it was hardly impenetrable.

The problem with Katana and chainmail is - historically they never encountered it (a Katana was designed to be used on an unarmored opponent) and were a specialized weapon designed for maximum cutting ability on human flesh and bone. As such, due to their blade profile, chainmail wreaks havok on a Katana. Even the mighty 9260 blades are damaged as you can see in Martin 'Oz" Austwicks Test to Destruction of a Cheness Shura.

So while it buries itself deeply into a woodblock, and would easily cut off an arm or leg, chainmail will cause a Katana some problems...

Hope this helps and puts things in perspective.


- Paul

Comments for Chain Mail Cutters

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Thanks alot.
by: John Harris

I've looked at how much damage was caused by the chain mail, and while you said it wreaked havok on the blade, I don't believe the damage is so sever that it couldn't be repaired. I'll probably get one of the Cheness katanas in the near future, and while I can't guarantee I won't try the chain mail test, I'll be sure to consider other alternatives to it. Thanks a bunch.

by: Anonymous

ive taken my katana and taken it against chainmail i had gotten a few years back to test the thing i saw on a stupid show. my katana had no damage and it pierced easily. cutting was harder but i did get through some of the chain. if it would have been someones arm i do believe they would have a problem using it. it also depends on the chainmail. ive used this katana against a 50 gallon metal drum aswell and no damage. ive put it against a few other swords made to be replicas from Europe and my katana took bites into the edge. i just though it was interesting. i studied sword making in japan for 11 years. its probably one of the best things i have done with my life. and the katana was made not just for unarmed opponents. samurai came from a world of violence that has been in japan longer than you could imagine. their sword the katana was made to fight other samurai and even the chinese. that is why the tip of the sword can pierce so easily.

by: Anonymous

sorry too but your history is completely wrong though true most of what we see in movies and history is un-armored opponents they did encounter it in times of war. This was the main weapon of the land so even in war where there was armor it was still lived up to its purpose. plus to you are biased in view since you clearly state the two never met you have answers from simple tests, the blade itself is amazing in its technology but the user behind hit can multiply the capability much more.

Chain Mail Cutters
by: Adam Pendragon

Again, I agree with Paul on this.

However, there are two very important things wich must be considered here: MODERN steel and MODERN mail (and it's just mail, not chain or chain mail. Any real historian knows this).

What Reinhardt and many others forget is that neither the swords nor the mail they're using in these tests are actual medieval swords or mail. In most ways (but certainly not in all ways) sword steel today is much stronger and able withstand far greater impacts (do in part to lack of impurities and modern heat-treating)than in the past. Also, many sword blades today are especially made to be used on a plethora of things (2-by-4s,car tyres,oil drums,etc.)that swords in the past were NEVER intended to be used on, because this is what modern enthusiasts demand.
On the other hand, most modern mail is NOT as strong as it used to be. Most mail today is made of mild, round, butted steel (or other) wire. Mail in the past was usually double mail made of flattened rings and always riveted together. The best mail consisted of alterating rows of riveted and solid rings. Even using modern steel I really doubt a modern sword could chop through actual medieval mail so easily--although, evidentally, it did happen. Incidentally, a heavily padden garment was almost always worn under mail, and would absorb the vast majority of the impact.

So when you really think about it, using superior steel against inferior mail is really nothing to brag about. Sure, a medieval cannon ball would usually just bounce-off a castle wall, but what about a modern round fired from a tank?

When people like Reinhardt show you how great their swords are by cutting through mail, they're not conducting scientifically sound tests; rather, they're performing acts of illusions in hopes of awing us into buying their prodects.

but don't take my word for it--look it up!

Katana through mail? NOPE!
by: Anonymous

Katanas were designed to cut through bone flesh and organic based armours, as japanese smiths only had mediocre iron deposits, mostly iron sand, so the smithing technique they used to make blades was a necessity, as iron sand has a low purity level.
European swords had a higher weight as to cut through/burst the mail or if not penetrating, just to break bones.
So European swords and Japanese Katanas are not comparable as they served different purposes.
Btw.: European Swords were able to cut through flesh and bone too ;)and Katanas were more likely to break than breaking a mail by a stab.
What i wonder about is if katanas would have cut through the (iron reinforced) rim of a legionary shield?

Katanas and mail
by: Aaron

Katanas did encounter chainmail as chainmail was used in Japan since around 1350. Keep in mind there are usually different types of swords. Mail was used (throughout Europe, Asia and Middle East) because it was effective against most cutting weapons. Also please note there are different kinds of katanas forged for different reasons from battle to ceremony. In the hands of a battle veteran a battle katana could do some damage.

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