How to Buy Chainmail
This is a guide about how and where to buy chainmail. At the bottom, you find a list of recommended shops.
Riveted or Butted Chainmail?
If you put in the effort to land on this page, the answer is very clear: You are likely someone who actually wants to buy riveted chainmail. But isn’t that expensive? In fact, riveted maille costs about twice as much as butted maille. Yet it’s definitely worth it, especially if you want to do historic reenactment. In my opinion, it’s better to only buy a riveted chainmail coif – if you don’t have enough money – rather than a shirt or hauberk of butted chainmail for the same price. Don’t get me wrong here. Butted chainmail can be nice for chainmail jewelry projects or if you want to experiment with chainmail tailoring. Nevertheless, riveted mail is superior in longevity and appearance when you wear it as armor – for example in historical martial arts. Keep in mind: The most expensive purchases are those things that you have to buy twice.
How to buy Historic Accuracy
Congratulations, you have decided to buy riveted chainmail. But which rings would fit best for your reenactment character? If your period is medieval Europe or Viking Era, choose mild steel rings between 6mm, 8mm and 9mm. If you can, avoid 9mm rings. These are a bit too wide for my taste. Don’t worry whether you should buy round rings, flat rings or a certain rivet type. There are a lot of opinions about this topic in the reenactment scene, but the questions are complex and statistical evidence is rare. Apart from that, the rings that you can buy today don’t necessarily look like medieval chainmail rings anyway. Back then there were also partially flattened rings and rivet heads that neither look like modern round rivets nor wedge rivets. More examples on Pinterest.
That said, there are two claims that I support: There is a tendency of Roman chainmail for 6mm or smaller alternating riveted and solid rings. Furthermore, wedge rivets seem to be a fashion of the late medieval era. Summing up it is ok to buy modern riveted chainmail. After all you want to show history with your impression and you can present more other well-researched aspects if you don’t get lost in this particular detail.
How to Buy Quality Chainmail
Now let’s talk about how you get the best quality chainmail. I will generalize here because most merchants seem to obtain their maille from the exact same city in India. What you get is more or less the same chainmail except for different shares of broken rings and loose rivets. The quality is generally just acceptable and far from perfect. There can be sharp edges and there are usually many torn rivet holes. The sheets and garments never reach the quality that you would have if you were buying rings to make chainmail ring by ring. Yet you can buy additional loose rings and replace the bad rings in your shirt. That is good practice. However, of the loose rings from merchants, you can expect that you have to sort out 10% to 40% rejects.
If you buy ready-made coifs, shirts and hauberks off the peg their shape is utterly primitive and lacks the benefits of tailored chainmail. Wide sleeves will dangle and slow your moves. Misshaped armpits will force you to lift half of the torso part while raising your arm. So buy some loose rings and be ready to modify your chainmail. This the most rational way for most people. It will cost you a few hundred euro/dollar. If you do research, you will also find people who can do the tailoring for you (including myself). That brings costs in the range of one or a few thousand euro/dollar.
Buy Chainmail in Online Shops
Before I write about my favorite chainmail merchants, you get to discover Ironskins Chainmail Search. It is a search tool that I made to help you find specific rings in online shops. Click on the image below.
And these are my top online shops to buy riveted chainmail from:
Germany, ships worldwide, sells shirts and rings. Battlemerchant is an established medieval merchant with high standards. I ordered many times there.
Germany, ships worldwide, sells shirts and rings. Zeughaus has a huge selection of chainmail and beautiful images. It’s my favorite place to look for extraordinary riveted rings.
India, ships worldwide, sells shirts – no rings. AllBestStuff offers chainmail at low prices. I was doubtful, but friends ordered with success. Quality was not great yet ok.
USA, ships to USA and Canada, sells shirts and rings. ArmorVenue offers costumes from Romans to WW2. It can help save shipping costs if you live in North America.
United Kingdom, ships worldwide. Selling shirts, materials, tools and off the peg items. The owner Mark is very competent. Can recommend.
United Kingdom, ships worldwide, sells shirts and rings. GDFB has similar stuff as Battlemerchant. The pictures look like quality.
Australia, ships worldwide, sells shirts and rings. This would likely by my favorite shop if I was living down under.
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