Almost anyone familiar with the legends or tales of the Middle Ages, remembers seeing in some painting or illustration a piece of clothing covering the hands of a warrior or a knight. However, on further observation, one sees that the piece of glove-like accessory turns into an important part of offensive weaponry or a defensive device; moreover, in many instances, a matter of life or death.
Protection Of The Hand
Although the use of gloves go back to antiquity, usually as a means of protection from the elements, or even from the thorns of certain plant life, it was actually during the Medieval times that gloves and gauntlets became almost synonymous with weaponry.
While a protective glove generally covered the entire area of the hand, front and back and beginning at the wrist, a gauntlet was in reality a flared cuff for the hand that began at the wrist and extended upwards over a man's forearm and elbow.
While sometimes used as a part of dress clothing for the knights and the nobility, and were many times made of flexible fabric or even leather, gloves and gauntlets were also made from mail or even actual plate armor which rendered the best overall protection. Over time, the use of this wear came to be used by the common infantry soldier in battle as well.
Other Forms Of Gloves And Gauntlets
Sometimes used instead of full sets of gauntlets were demi-gauntlets which meant "short." Basically a plate armor gauntlet that protected only the back of the hand and the wrist, and left the rest of the arm unprotected, demi-gauntlets were made with a stronger material such as mail or mail reinforced and padded with several layers of leather. While allowing greater flexibility and range of motion, the fingers remained practically open to serious wounds or even amputation in battle.
All this being said, there did come a time during battles that swords could be lost, and men had to resort to built-in knuckle busters to attack or defend themselves. If it came to blows and punches in a mêlée encounter, then a user could use the knuckle buster to offer damaging blows to their opponent's exposed body parts, such as to the head, the underarms or to the groin area.
However, against an armed warrior with a sword, spear, firearm or other form of weapon, the effectiveness of a knuckle buster was truly of none effect whatsoever.
With the arrival of re-loadable weapons such as pistols, rifles and evolving forms of artillery units, the use of gloves and gauntlets declined even further as a primary mode of defense protection or as an offensive weapon. As military technology and strategies evolve, gloves and gauntlets serve today as a mere reminder of another age in military history.
Source: How Effective Were Medieval Gloves & Gauntlets?