| How to Construct a Projectile Combat Helm
By Stephen Francis Wyley
Figure 1. Projectile Combat Helms.
(a). A Pot helm based on figure 2a with perforated plate in the eye slits and worn with a padded arming cap and separate mail coif.
(b). A converted Tommy hat (similar to a kettle hat) with attached leather aventail with a sorbathane lining.
I strongly suggest that a purpose built Projectile Combat helm be constructed rather than making a helm with a detachable visor because of the inconvenience of taking the visor on off which can be very time consuming and unsightly when attached.
Basically, a Projectile Combat helm is any historically accurate helm modified to protect the wearer from any missile. There should be no gaps between the helm and the shoulders, so an aventail (mail, scale, lamellar of leather) must be attached to the helm to stop an entry of missiles. A number of options are available;
1. just add a woven mesh visor to a helm of choice (see
2. choose a helm with a plate visor and cover any of the apertures greater than 3.5mm in size with mesh (see figure 2.), or
3. choose a pot or great helm and again cover any of the apertures greater than 3.5mm in size with mesh (see figure 2.).
I must again stress the importance that in all these cases mentioned above that there must not be any gaps in the armour through which a missile may travel.
Figure 2. A Pot helm and a Great helm.
(a). A early German great helm from a carved tympanum c.1220.
(b). A knight receives his sword from a king in a miniature from a late 14th century manuscript.
Other variation of Projectile Combat helms have used Eastern designs (eg. Kipchaqs) which incorporated a hinged face visor with actual facial features, including moustaches and earings. Another variation is the Viking Spectacle helm.
The design should be based on what you are trying to portray, so never
mix and match.
Mesh, 25cm * 25cm. (16 or 18 gauge woven steel mesh, 6 0r 8 meshes per inch).
Steel strip 20 mm * 3mm, 48 cm long.
Steel strip 20mm * 3mm, 25 cm long.
Leather 25 mm * 2 or 3mm, 50 cm long.
2.8 mm clouts or rivets.
Hammer on edge of the longer steel strip over the middle half (12 cm either side of the centre). This will result in a more or less flat curve in the strip if done evenly. Keep doing it until each end deviates 5 cm for
a line projected as a tangent to the centre. Now bend the strip into a "U" shape, with the entire bend occurring in the hammered portion. The curve results in the tops being diagonal to the main axis. See figure 3.
Bend the mesh into an even curve, approximately the profile of a helm. Match one curved edge to the tops of the "U", and rivet it to the strip down to the start of the hammered part. Put in the first rivet 25mm for the top, and then space them 25mm apart, and 5mm from the inside edge.
When drilling the holes for the rivets to attach the mesh also drill the holes for the attachment of the leather strip or other attachment method of the aventail (note; offset these holes from those for the mesh.
Make two parallel cuts upward from the bottom of the visor, 4 cm on either side of the centre, and 12cm long. Cut off the inner corners at 45° to the weave. Push in the sides, and continue riveting at 25mm intervals, to no nearer than 50 mm for the centre. Now fold in the centre flap, and through the two layers of mesh. At the point of the visor, put in a rivet on either side, through the two layers as near as possible to the ends of the cuts. Put a washer on the rivet, on the inside, to anchor it before peening over. See figure 4.
Figure 4. Attaching mesh to "U" strip.
Bend the 25 cm piece of steel strip to match the curve of the mesh. The strip can also be shaped to follow the curvature of the helm. Rivet it to the ends of the "U" frame, on the outside. Rivet the mesh to it as before. This strip should be drilled in three places, to be bolted to an helm. See figure 5.
Rivet the leather strip around the frame on the outside to cover the raw edge of the mesh and to make it easier to attach an aventail of leather , mail or lamellar. See figure 5.
Paint the mesh matt black (Dulux flat black enamel is excellent). This will make the visor less visible, improving your aim and the aesthetic appearance of the helm.
Figure 5. Final appearance of helm and leather strip along long edge of visor.
These recommended specification are taken directly from the New Varangian Guard Inc. Combat Rules and Safety Standards. The NVG Inc. have been engaging in Projectile Combat for over a decade and these specification have been rigorously tested.
3.1.1 Projectile Combat helms (other than full-face helms) must be fitted with a visor of 3.5mm woven wire mesh of 1.6mm diameter minimum or perforated plate 16 gauge thick with holes 6mm in diameter.
3.1.2 The visor must be riveted to a rigid frame constructed from steel a minimum of 3.0mm thick and 10.0mm wide.
3.1.3 The visor must extend past the temples and below the chin and be rigidly attached to the helm.
3.2 Neck Protection.
3.2.1 The back of the neck must be protected by an aventail or a thick leather coif or an arming cap.
3.2.2 If an aventail is used it must be securely attached to the visor so that they effectively become one piece.
3.2.3 A coif need not be laced to the helm.
3.3 Full-face Helms.
3.3.1 Helms which normally provide full face cover (e.g. Barrel Helms) need only have 3.5mm woven wire mesh of 1.6mm diameter minimum or perforated plate 16 gauge thick with holes 6mm in diameter attached to eye slits.
3.3.2 Other holes in the helm exceeding 3.5mm diameter should also be covered with woven wire mesh or perforated plate.
3.4 Perforated Plate.
3.4.1 The minimum specifications for perforated plate are: 16 gauge thickness; and the holes 6mm in diameter.
3.4.2 Other types of perforated plate must be tested and passed by the Training Officer before use.
3.5 Specific Projectile Combat Helms.
3.5.1 A helm used specifically for Projectile Combat may be of a thinner gauge than specified in Section 8.1.2 of General Combat.
4. Throat Protection.
4.1 Throat protection must be worn for Projectile Combat.
4.2 The minimum requirement is a 3mm leather collar covering the throat area from above the larynx down to the breastbone in one continuous piece and is to be lined with a minimum of 12mm thickness of padding.
Note: Lamellar is considered to meet the requirement for 'one continuous piece' due to its construction.
4.3 Mail covering the throat area from above the larynx down to the
breastbone with a minimum of 12mm thickness of padding underneath is also
That a purpose built helm for Projectile combat be used.
That the visor be incorporated with a period visor or be camouflaged as much as possible.
That a padded collar be attached to the gambeson worn in conjunction to the projectile combat helm.
That Projectile combat helms not be used in public displays where historical authenticity is a requirement.
Brooke, C., et al, The Flowering of the Middle Ages, London, 1985.
Dawson, T., Alveric's Archery Visor, Varangian Voice Issue No .
Delort, R., Life in the Middle Ages, London, 1973.
Erbstösser, M., The Crusades, GDR, 1978.
Humble, R., Warfare in the Middle Ages, London. 1989.
New Varangian Guard Inc., National Combat Rules and Safety Standards, 1997.
Nicolle, D., Medieval Warfare Source Book, Volume 1: Warfare in Western Christendom, London, 1995.
Wyley, S.F, Projectile Combat, An explanation, 1997.
S.F., Projectile combat, A Battle Report, 1998.
|Copyright © Stephen Francs Wyley 1997 - 2002