Copyright 2006 T. Sheil & A. Sheil  All Rights Reserved

Milihistriot Quarterly

The Journal for Military Miniature Enthusiasts

Shield and Buckler

One of the most misunderstood weapons is the shield.  many think it is little more than a small wall to catch the blows of an opponent.  In actuality, the shield and its smaller version, the buckler, are weapons in their own right.  Rather than catching a blow passively, they are moved to parry and deflect.  A fighter would rather push a blow aside than catch its full force on his shield.  Shields and bucklers are also used aggressively. They can strike, push, trap and pin as well as defend. 

While I am saving my best material on the subject for the book, I will give you important facts to help you better understand shields and bucklers.  For one thing, the shield does not stand passively on the soldier's left arm.  It is an active part of his kit, and he uses it with purpose.  He will hold his shield forward, ready to move it in any direction.  He will look to block an enemy's weapon in such a way as to create an opening for a strike. When the soldier attacks, he will position his shield to reduce his own vulnerability.  You can be certain that the shield will always be poised between himself and the enemy. 

The soldier does not stick his shield out stiffly.  It is a fluid thing, moving with him. 

The buckler is a small shield, used mainly to deflect, trap and strike.  While it is useful for duels and small fights, it is not good for large-scale battle.  Bucklers are not good for handling arrows or other large projectiles.  These little shields were mostly carried by individuals who might have to defend themselves in day to day situations.  Granted, they gained tactical importance for a short time during the era of pike and musket warfare. However, they were a civilian weapon.  Appreciate how the difference in size and circumstances might affect how a buckler would be used.

Remember that blocking and parrying are part of Medieval warfare, but the favorite defense was to avoid a strike altogether.  Dodging, ducking and evading were important skills for the Medieval fighter

The images selected here are from the days prior to the rapier. The one-handed swords of the day were a variety of arming swords, short swords and falchions.  The style of fighting is Medieval.   



Illustrations from 13th Century manuscript.  Man on left jams opponent's buckler while striking high.


Buckler is raised to protect face; sword poised for low strike or parry.


Buckler is forward to deflect; sword arm is kept out of enemy's range.


An aggressive stance, possibly a prelude to rushing attack.


Buckler is in throat area, sword extended.


Buckler extended, sword kept back. good pose to wind up a powerful strike


if you look carefully, you see that the fighter is looking over the shield at the enemy. His sword arm is protected, but not impeded by the shield.


This large shield covers the body. 


This swordsman keeps the shield between himself and the enemy.



Spearman advances, shield is ready to deflect attacks from the left.


The soldier has jammed his opponent's sword arm, and is thrustign from below.


The man on the right has evaded and deflected his opponent's sword.  He has landed a thrust in response.

Disclaimer: the fighting methods shown here are for illustrative purposes only.  They are not intended as actual instruction in Medieval fighting and should not be used as such.  Close combat training is dangerous.  It can be as dangerous for the user as it is for the target.  If you wish to learn close combat, seek a qualified instructor. One should never attempt close combat without the instruction and supervision of a qualified expert instructor .


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