Bracer Vs Vambrace, Main Differences And Uses For Each

In Roman times it was a valuable military prize to get part of the armor of the enemies. These pieces or ornaments are made of gold, silver, or some precious metal. One of the most appreciated pieces was the armor bracelets. The soldiers who stood out in combat were rewarded with one of these pieces of war.

The difference between the two words is that a “bracer” is a strap made of leather, plastic, or stone that covers the inside of the archer’s arm to protect it when shooting the arrow. A “vambrace” is a kind of metal plate armor for the forearm. It is part of medieval forearm armor.

Medieval warriors and archers were men who used to go to war and to achieve that. They had to be always ready for a fight. That is why armbands are an essential part of their armor, as they fulfill a crucial protective function. Let’s understand the meaning, uses, and origins of these two terms that at the time were very common for all medieval warriors.

What Is A Bracer?

A bracer (or arm guard) is a strap or sheath often made of leather and found in plastic or stone. This piece covers the entire arm of the archer and serves as protection when he shoots his arrows.

Bracers protect the archer from accidents that may happen when shooting arrows and protect him from injuries caused by the bowstring or needle barbs.

Bracers only cover part of the forearm, so archers also wear a protective plate on the chest and several metal plates on other parts of the body to reduce the risk of accidents.

If the archer wears unique clothing and has specialized bows, he may not need to wear bracers.


What Is A Vambrace?

A vambrace is a piece of armor used to protect the arm from the elbow to the wrist. It is a word that is now practically in disuse; that is why the experts name this piece the lower part of the arm.

“Vambrace” (French for Avant-bras, also known as lower cannons in the Middle Ages) are forearm protectors for medieval warriors. They are shaped like a tube so that the forearm can fit smoothly and comfortably. To put it simply, the vambrace is a component of the war armor used for forearm protection.

Soldiers used vambraces with or without metal plates on medieval armor. These early vambraces were made of leather baked to steel, then reinforced with hardened leather or metal to create a powerful suit of armor.

The Origin Of The Vambraces

Vambraces were a critical component of the armor of the warriors of the Great Steppe and Islam. This word had its origin in the XIV century. Historians say that vambraces did not appear in Poland until the 1770s, in the Caucasus region, in Persia until the 19th century.

There is evidence of Greek and Roman vambraces. They were made of bronze and with the perfect shape and design to fit the warrior’s arm. There are very few samples of iron vambraces that are dated before the Viking era.

An important fact that could have helped the use of the vambraces was the shields. In medieval times shields were used more frequently, making soldiers more likely to engage in hand-to-hand combat. For this reason, they had to improve the protection of their body, which prompted them to use more metal parts in legs and arms, and one of them was the vambraces.


Origin Of The Bracers

Regarding the origin of the bracers, there is no concrete historical record of their birth date. What seems clear is that their creation is linked to archery in classical civilization.

The Persians, Macedonians, Greeks, Indians, Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans had many archers in their armies. Arrows at that time were very destructive and decisive in winning battles.

But in the Middle Ages, archery ceased to be decisive in Western Europe. Archers were the soldiers who earned the least in the army, and many were peasants. The bow and arrow were much cheaper than the equipment of a soldier-at-arms with a sword and armor.

Soldiers who were archers needed expensive and time-consuming training to become good, so encountering one with these characteristics was very rare in Europe.

Unlike in Europe, archers were very successful in Asia and the Islamic world. Horse archers were one of the great military forces of Genghis Khan’s army.

Today the bow, arrow, horses, and bracers are no longer used for military combat. Still, in certain countries, archery has become a highly developed sport. What happened is that firearms made bow and arrow combat obsolete for warfare.

Main Differences Between Vambraces And Bracers

We will now review some of the main differences between these two terms.

  • Vambraces were components of the armor of combat soldiers, while bracers were a protective piece of armor for archer soldiers.
  • Vambraces covered the soldier’s entire forearm, while bracers only covered the inside of the archer’s forearm.
  • Most vambraces were made of leather with metal or iron plates, while braces were mainly leather.
  • The vambrace is a piece of war armor, while the bracer is a piece of protection and is not part of the armor.
  • The vambrace is now obsolete, while the bracer is still used in the sport of archery.

How People Use The Words Bracer Or Vambrace?


Despite the antiquity of these terms, some contemporary applications can still be found.

Bracer As A Noun

  1. Anything that reinforces binds or makes solid something, band or bandage
  2. In archery, a cover to protect the archer’s arm from the vibration of the string
  3. As a brace for the arm when there is an injury. A device intended to hold the arm in a 90° position while healing
  4. Armor for the forearm
  5. Medicine. A kind of astringent or tonic, which helps to tone any part of the body

Vambrace As A Noun

  1. It is the part of the armor that protects the arm from elbow to wrist
  2. Part of a suit of armor

Decorated Bracers

As a curious aspect, it is interesting to comment that the bracers have also achieved an unexpected space as a fashionable or decorative product.

The Navajo and Hopi Indians created a type of bracer called Ketoh. These Ketoh are decorated with silver and other ornaments. Ketoh always has a central motif, sometimes with a stone ornament and four curved shapes coming out of each corner.

Ketoh has a smooth leather surface on the inside of the arm. They are used for archery and are also popular as personal ornaments to perform Indian rituals or signature works of art.

Some historians believe that the stone wristbands from European Bronze Age Beaker culture tombs were archer’s bracers.

This theory is not entirely proven, as these stone wristbands have only two holes, which means that they do not fit snugly on the arm. They also have rivets sticking out. This causes them to get tangled with the bowstring, which is very uncomfortable to use as a bracer.

These findings always appear in the central tombs that belonged to the heads of families and other important figures. This was a status symbol of the skill of that personage.

Gold or amber bracers have also been found. Many experts believe that they are purely decorative bracers.

Bracers were also used in sports other than archery, such as the ball game called Follis, which was played in ancient Rome.

Examples Of The Use Of The Words Bracer Or Vambrace In Everyday Sentences

We took a journey through time to understand these two terms and why they are different. We understood that they are not synonyms and that each has its own definition, usage, and history.

We are aware that they are not words that are commonly used in our everyday conversations unless you are a lover of the Middle Ages or a fan of the sport of archery.

We know it is essential to understand these words and their fascinating history. So we want to show you some practical examples of using them in concrete sentences.

  • Sodding boots and vambraces have metal plates.
  • Most of the vambraces of the Middle Ages were bulletproof
  • I’m going to buy a bracer because on Sunday I start archery practice
  • Tonight Dorothy will help Peter put on the vambraces
  • I feel safer wearing these bracers when I shoot the arrow

A Final Thought On Vambraces And Bracers

We learned the differences between bracer and vambrace. We learned a little more about their origins and how they have been used to this day. We imagined that we were in the Middle Ages. We got into the skin of soldiers and archers to facilitate the understanding of these concepts. For all this, we hope it was a satisfactory experience in the vast and exciting world of knowledge.

Let’s exercise our minds and continue learning new knowledge every day. This will give us personal satisfaction, which will be our best reward.

By Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.