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A buckler (French bouclier ‘shield’, from old French bocle, boucle ‘boss’) is a small shield, 15 to 45 cm in diameter, gripped in the fist; it was generally used as a companion weapon in hand-to-hand combat during the Middle Ages, as its size made it poor protection against missile weapons (e.g., arrows) but useful in deflecting the blow of an opponent’s sword or mace. There are two major forms of medievally documented bucklers. The first is a simple round shield with the fist positioned directly behind the boss with a variety of shapes of face and depths of rim. These could also have projections from the top and bottom as in Hans Talhoffer’s Fechtbücher or serrated rings around the boss as in one example in the Wallace Collection. The second major form is a corrugated rectangle as suggested by Achille Marozzo in his Opera Nova.
MS I.33, considered the earliest extant armed-combat manual, (around 1300) contains an early description of a system of combat with buckler and sword.
The buckler was more widely used than is commonly known. It was a simple yet effective weapon, often combined with a short sword, falchion, or rapier. It was popular circa 1100 to 1600. The buckler had a variety of roles when it came to swordplay, but four principal means come to the fore. Each use recognizes the shield’s small size and maneuverability when dealing with light blades.
In classical antiquity, bucklers on medals were either used to signify public vows rendered to the gods for the safety of a prince, or that he was esteemed the defender and protector of his people: these were called votive bucklers, and were hung at altars, etc.