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This page refers to protective gloves - for the form of corporal punishment see The Gauntlet.

Basic Information

A gauntlet is an armoured glove, either worn to protect the hand when wielding a weapon or as a weapon in its own right (like the Roman cestus).

Technically the gauntlet can be made of virtually any protective material - leather has been common historically, sometimes little more than a heavy glove with reinforcing plates sewn on, but equally mail gloves (often more like mittens) and plate pieces were popular when they could be had.

The plate gauntlet was quite a late arrival to the party as designing, manufacturing and fitting a glove from articulated plate is a significant feat of engineering. Simpler and cheaper solutions included using a leather glove with lobstered plate on the back, sometimes known as a demi-gauntlet or demi-gant.

The primary issue in gauntlet design was the compromise between protection and retaining manual dexterity - and the balance of the two factors tended to sway back and forth over the years. In some cases, gauntlets were designed to lock onto the hilt of a weapon (typically a sword) to make it harder for the user to drop it. The downside, of course, being that the user found it harder to drop his sword if, say it broke or got stuck in an opponent - or if he wanted to use the hand for something else. As noted above, various solutions were tried - including the mail mitten, which must have been an impressively fatiguing thing to hold a sword with - and the fully articulated plate gauntlet was finally achieved, albeit at great cost for only a fairly limited gain. Not long after, the trend towards less armour began and users started to return to the leather glove, relying on handguards as part of the sword hilt to protect their hand.

Considering the "gauntlet as a weapon", it is also not ridiculous to consider the idea of mounting blades and/or spikes onto a gauntlet to make it more effective as a weapon. Obviously this increases the price of the gauntlet and probably makes it a lot harder to use it to hold things, so any radical modification is likely to be the sort of gimmick weapon used by gladiators rather than something used by the more martially inclined.

In the modern era, the word retains its meaning of "protective glove", often implying heavy duty protective gloves worn in the workplace or for sports such as fast-rope rappelling or falconry.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • In fRPG terms, if the rules system makes a distinction between armed and unarmed combat, you may have a case for making someone wearing gauntlets count as armed.
  • Historically, the throwing down of a gauntlet to an opponent was seen to be a formal challenge to combat - either to the person at whose feet it was thrown, or to anyone who cared to pick up the gauntlet. This may be over-stated as a historical phenomenon, but did occur in some investiture ceremonies (notably coronations) where a gauntlet was thrown down as a challenge to anyone prepared to dispute the authority of the inaugree.
  • Gauntlet duelling may or may not be historical.
  • A truly comprehensive set of armour rules should probably include some kind of penalty related to wearing gauntlets - whether a modern set of anti-bite gloves or a medieval mailed mitten.
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