A tretise on why Dark Victory’s Black Flash Armor is the best on the field.
Once upon a time, I thought that the best armor was steel plate. Why was I so deluded? Because when I played AD&D, full plate armor was the best you could get. So I wandered into the wonderful world of armorers with the preconception that steel ruled the field. I was wrong and the armorers were happy to take my money.
I’ve learned since then that there are alternatives in the construction of armor that offer superior performance and a lower cost. And this is what Dark Victory sells.
Materials & Features
Our armor is constructed out of polyethylene barrel plastic following the natural curvature of the original barrel form for added strength. All cut edges are heat treated for a finished "no-jag" look and feel. Safer & better. The leather used for shoulder straps is generally no less that 12 oz. leather. This armor is entirely compression rivet free. Failures are rare & easy to fix. Fight all day. This armor is completely strapped. (Other armorers might leave this detail out - how crass!) It is designed for speedy armoring up and down; generally in under 5 minutes. All lacing is 550-lb. test strength poly-sheathed cord. Tough stuff.
Rust proof. Mildew free. Easy to clean. You can even swim in it as it floats! (no it’s not coast guard approved)
Conventional heavy weapons armor is separated into a few classes or types.
Chain, Metal, Leather, Plastic.
Chain, although it makes for an attractive and authentic looking fighter, is not an effective protection against crushing weapon. It is primarily useful for preventing the penetration of slashing attacks, which given the lack of “live steel” in SCA combat is not something a fighter will encounter. It is really only useful in situations where is hangs away from the body, and can thereby have time to slow down incoming shots by transferring the energy of the attack into moving the mail around. If used as primary body armor, it has no time to slow the shot down and the attack energy is transferred into the defender. Ouch. Chain shaped bruises. For the purpose of this discussion we will not consider chain a practical variety of armor for SCA fighting.
Steel and Leather types are two other options and are time tested varieties. They give good protection (assuming good fit) but can be a maintenance hassle for a variety of reasons.
1) Repairs are slow are require specialized tools. The armor is held together with either rivets or riveted straps. These straps, be they leather or synthetic, are subjected to tremendous strain which is concentrated at the point of attachment. This causes frequent and annoying failures due to rivets or straps failing and they always seem to fail at the most inconvenient time. How does one fix a rivet/strap on the field? Required parts are a) hammer b) anvil c) rivets d) skill e)time. What a pain in the butt!
2) Steel rusts, and bends leather hardens, cracks and mildews, cloth padding grows sweat based life forms. Rivets break, leather straps fail. All of these forces of entropy act upon your armor to kill it. Continual maintenance is required to slow the process down.
3) Causes exertion based injuries. Heavy armor types are certainly the cause of numerous injuries. Carrying around an extra 30-50 lbs of armor while performing aerobic exercise, often in the hot sun, will most certainly put great strains upon a person. 18-20 year olds can handle the strain for a decade or two, but experience has shown many heavy armor veterans, that their bodies have paid the price. Do you think that high impact exercise while carrying heavy weight is good for your knees? Watch an old time fighter. Do they walk like old men? Is it an affectation or do their knees hurt?
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How about an alternative? Black Flash is assembled using 550 lb. test cord. Is it possible to exert 550 lbs. on one of our connection points? No. Plastic bends and therefore redirects the torque into the structure of the armor rather than concentrating the torque at the joint. Failure is not common in Black Flash armor. Should a failure occur required parts to fix a broken strap are 1) a small piece of 550 lb. cord (easy to keep with you unlike all the other heavy repair equipment) and 2) about a minute to string it up. No specialized parts or skills are needed. Dark Victory’s Black Flash has a technological edge that cannot be disputed.
Highly competitive fighters have begun to recognize the many benefits of plastic armor.
Wouldn’t a more sensible alternative be to wear 15 lbs. Plastic armor, by virtue of it’s strength and durability can be padded and vented in such a way as to make it comfortable, even in hot weather.
Increase performance - Heavy armor will hamper a fighter’s ability maintain his endurance, particularly in long pitched battles. Lighter armor which does not compromise on safety give it’s owner a superb advantage. Have you ever tried to sprint with a backpack full of concrete? That’s the weight of conventional steel armor. Now try sprinting with a backpack with a few books in in. Better? You make the call.
When you get off the field, do you want to carefully put away your armor taking the time to oil and store each piece properly. It’s probably saturated in salty perspiration and is going to rust if you don’t. Salt water kills leather. Add oil to leather and it get’s softer, thus protecting you less. Would a better alternative be to just drop your armor off at camp without any regard to maintaining it? You have that option with Black Flash. Our armor is IMMUNE to the elements. At a past rainy Gulf Wars where the gulf engulfed the war our armor sat boldly in the mud. Were we concerned that it would rust or moulder? No way. Other armor cowered under tents, while Black Flash stood the storm. We pay no heed to weather. It has no effect on us.
Are you considering Kydex or ABS armor? Both Kydex and ABS become subject to brittle fracturing when they are exposed to sub zero temperatures? Do you ever fight in the cold? We do, and 15 years of experience in these cold climates has taught us to not use potentially brittle plastics. Our alternative, high density polyethylene, is a long strand molecular plastic and will not become brittle in cold temperature (at least not those that you’ll be even considering fighting in). It is extremely difficult to form it into complex curves, but likewise it is MUCH more durable and abuse proof that harder plastics. Harder plastic rely more greatly upon the structure of the plastic to provide protection. HDPE relies as much more upon the form of the armor overall rather than an individual piece. Because harder plastic can be formed into deeper contours it’s maker can create deeply dished parts. When these parts fail, the results can be more very serious because of the more fitted nature of the parts. Try one of those Shosiam pattern copy gauntlets. If a dished plate caves in under a glaive, I bet you could hear the scream all the way to Drakenvald.
All right, you think leather and steel are sexy? Great. Sexy is fine, but you’ll be paying a high price for it. Metal is heavy, rustworthy, maintenance difficult, repair difficult, and generally speaking expensive. Leather is heavy, mildew prone, maintenance prone, repair difficult, and consistently expensive. How about stainless? Okay, if you double the price it will not rust like mild, yet you still have to contend with all the other drawbacks.
Let me be clear on what you are considering buying. This armor is constructed of HDPE. They did not use HDPE in the middle ages through the renaissance. This armor is made from modern materials in order to provide excellent protection and low maintenance at a bargain price. Please only consider this armor if high performance is more important to you than historical accuracy.
The guys on the armoring lists have also asked me to tell you that you can cover it up with leather or canvas. Although it doesn’t add to the performance of the armor, it does make it more presentable to those folks with more of a historical bent. If you’d like to pursue this, please contact me. I also sell oversized fighting Tunics and Tabards upon which to place your livery (arms) and hide your armor from the forces of sumptuary justice.