Improvised Armour

A Crazy-Prepared or Disaster Scavenger character makes body armour or a shield out of materials to hand, quite possibly to back up an Improvised Weapon.

Indicates that the character, at least, doesn't think Armour Is Useless. Related to Pocket Protector, a protection unknown to the audience which is therefore much more likely to save your life.

Expect to see a lot of this in a Scavenger World or as part of a Scavenged Punk setting. May be donned as part of a Lock and Load Montage.

Bucket Helmet is a Sub-Trope.


    open/close all folders 


  • An advert for Strongbow cider had a guy giving a Braveheart-esque Rousing Speech to massed ranks of tradesmen with suitably working class Improvised Weaponry and armour - the shield wall is made up of satellite dishes and dustbin lids, various "soldiers" are armed with spirit levels, paint rollers and garden tools, and most of them are wearing hard hats.

     Anime and Manga  

  • A Scavenger World example: in Japan (the manga by Kentaro Miura), body armor is cobbled together from available junk. The main character has an old tire as a pauldron.
  • In Holyland when Masaki fights Taka the former uses a knuckleduster as an impromptu mini-shield. Yuu also uses books as bracers.

     Card Games  

     Comic Books  

  • Deadpool once wore a bunch of frozen meat to beat Bullseye. In his own words. "I am the meat."
  • An issue of The Punisher (one of the Summer Specials back from the late 80's - early 90's) had the titular character fighting an evil school principal with a penchant for handing out guns to his students (don't ask). This (like many fights in schools) gets dragged to the library, where the Punisher decided that to survive the situation, he needed protection. A little duct tape and some textbooks later, we have the glorious invention of book armor!.
  • This is essentially Iron Man's origin, although where he gets the material varies from retelling to retelling. Most famously, he used parts of his own stolen missiles to build his armor IN A CAVE! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!


  • A Fistful of Dollars, with the steel chest-piece.
  • Back to the Future Part III has Marty manages to slip the door off a stove under his clothes in preparation for his showdown with Buford in an homage to A Fistful of Dollars. It works like a charm, stopping not only the bullet but also causing Buford's punch to backfire. He also whacks him in the face with it before beating him senseless.
  • In Iron Man, he has to improvise his first suit of armor out of missile parts. Then again, this being a life-supporting suit of Powered Armor with fully operational flamethrower and mostly-operational rocket-pack, "improvised" doesn't do it justice.
  • In The Devil's Rejects, the Firefly family shoots it out with the police wearing various amounts of improvised armor. The most heavily armored Firefly stays behind to cover the family's retreat. The armor proves very effective, but ultimately he succumbs under the hail of gunfire.
  • In The Good, the Bad, the Weird, Tae-goo survives a particularly crazy shootout by putting on a huge, metal diver's helmet. In the longer alternate ending we learn he survived the three way shootout by also having an oven door hidden under his jacket in another shout out to A Fistful Of Dollars.
  • In Batman, Bruce Wayne hides a small silver tea-tray inside his jacket, as body-armor against the Joker's gun.
  • In The Gauntlet, Clint Eastwood welds steel plates together to create an armored compartment around the driver's area of a passenger bus.
  • In the original Total Recall (1990), Quaid (Arnold) uses a dead innocent bystander as a human shield to stop enemy bullets by holding up the dead body from falling.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Mr. Hyde uses a steel door in order to block enemy bullets.
  • In National Treasure, Ben uses the Declaration of Independence as a shield when he's being shot at (or rather, the case fitted with bulletproof glass the Declaration was being kept in).
  • In Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, The Chosen One uses a squirrel to protect himself from Master Betty's deadly attack.
  • In The Incredible Hulk, the Hulk shears some metal sheets off a crushed APC to use as shields against the army's guns (because those .50 cals itch something fierce).
  • In Friday After Next, Damon has the protagonists wrap him in phone books when going to a party, due to a Noodle Incident where he was stabbed. Notably, Damon has recently got out of prison, so he still has an inmate's mindset.
  • In The Little Rascals short "The First Seven Years" two of the rascals have a swordfight and they armor up first. One uses a catcher's mask and the other uses a beekeper's hat-and-veil.
  • In World War Z Brad Pitt's character duct-tapes glossy magazines around his forearms as a precaution against zombie bites.
  • J and K in Men in Black 3 block several spikes being thrown by the villain with a metal door.
  • Friday the 13th (2009): When Lawrence goes out looking for Chewie, he picks up a pan to be his shield.


  • Mentioned in one of Andrew Vachss's Burke books. A prisoner who suspects he's going to get attacked will stuff as much newspaper as he can under his clothes. It won't totally stop a shiv, but even a centimeter or inch less of penetration can make the difference between a trip to the hospital and a trip to the morgue.
  • In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, Tweedledum and Tweedledee get Alice to help them dress in this sort of armor before fighting a not-very-lethal "battle".
  • The 'Za Lord's Guard in The Dresden Files have this. In Summer Knight, Fix cobbles together some makeshift armor for Meryl by attaching tableware to a heavy jacket.
  • In The Hobbit the Dwarf Thorin Oakenshield gains his sobriquet after he uses an oak branch as a shield in battle when his own shield gets broken.
  • Dies the Fire features many examples. In later books, most cultures have learned to make proper armor, but occasional savage bands wearing improvised armor still turn up, such as the Bekwa, and their trademark stop-sign (or rather, "Arrêt"-sign) shields.
  • In the Collegium Chronicles, during tryouts for the new Kirball teams, one character shows up for his tryout wearing assorted bits of stovepipe.
  • Egil's Saga: When Egil and his companions expect an ambush on the forest road between Varmland and Norway, Egil ties a large flat stone to his chest by winding a rope around his upper body. Thus prepared, Egil fights his way through two ambushes and comes out without serious wounds.
  • The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal: Ingolf and six of his men go after a party of thieves and discover them in a hideout where eighteen of them are together. Not wanting to turn back, Ingolf picks up two flat stones from a nearby ravine and fastens one to his chest and the other between his shoulders. With only one companion to help him, he attacks and routs the robbers but also receives a lethal wound.

     Live Action TV  

  • In The Wire, when Omar ends up in prison he duct-tapes several thick books to his body. Sure enough, only minutes later someone attempts to shank Omar for the large bounty put on Omar's head by a vengeful crime boss. Thanks to the books the attempt is foiled and Omar horrifically turns the tables on his attacker as an example to the other inmates of why they shouldn't try to claim that bounty themselves.
  • Unable to acquire an armored vehicle, Michael Westen of Burn Notice once filled the insides of an SUV's doors with phone books and put ballistic glass in the windows. This was deemed plausible by the MythBusters. It worked quite well, but the windows were noted to be an Achilles' Heel, so that ballistic glass was a good investment.
    • In a later episode where Michael's in prison, he and another prisoner fashion temporary armor from the hard covers of several library books. Adequate to stop a plastic shiv.
  • Several episodes of Brainiac: Science Abuse have mannequins dress up in improvised armour based on the setting, and fired at with a slingshot, longbow and crossbow. For example, if war broke out in a home, a mannequin in the kitchen might use a wok as a chestplate.
  • In The Lost Room, the protagonist uses the Coat as body armor, as Objects are indestructible. He is still hurt (unlike actual body armor, the Coat does nothing to spread the impact of a bullet).
  • Arrow: In "Trust but Verify", Oliver uses a garbage can lid as an improvised shield to block a tear gas grenade.
  • In an episode of Spellbinder, the protagonist fashions herself a suit out of mirrors when faced with a reactivated laser-armed APC guided by an AI. This comes after hearing a local children's story involving a "looking glass" being used to defeat a monster.
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.: a baddie-of-the-week wears a homemade armor suit for his back robbery jobs so he can be bulletproof.
  • Van Helsing (2016): In "Wakey, Wakey", after initially dismissing a lot of money he finds as useless because they are in an After the End scenario, Axel uses duct tape to cover his arms and vitals with the wads of cash. It works well enough to stop knives.


     Professional Wrestling  

  • Jimmy DeMarco duct taped a fruit bowl to his head in an effort to protect himself from DDTs when he met Jake "The Snake" Roberts in the International Wrestling Cartel. It didn't work.


  • Einsteinian Roulette: One player character makes a suit of armour out of locker doors. It doesn't help much.
  • Roll To Dodge: Savral: After slaying a tiger, one of the player characters uses its corpse as makeshift body armor.

     Tabletop Games  

  • Warhammer 40,000 has 'Ard Boyz, relatively bright Orks who realize that by slapping together plates of scrap metal into a crude set of armor, they have a better chance of surviving the charge across the battlefield into melee. Of course, all Orks' armor counts as improvised, as do their weapons, vehicles, architecture, medicine...
  • Pick a Scavenger World, any scavenger world. One post-apocalyptic d20 Modern setting featured illustrations of thugs using American football shoulder pads for armor and a Stop sign for a shield.
  • In the Oriental Adventures sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons, Nezumi are fond of making makeshift armor out of whatever they can cobble together, like tower shields made of the shells of turtle-like monsters called Kappa.
  • GURPS: High-Tech has rules for homemade armor. Buckets can be made into a plastic lorica segmentata strong enough to provide noticeable protection from a shotgun blast.

     Video Games  

  • In Plants vs. Zombies, some of the zombies have obtained armour that makes them more powerful, such as traffic cones, metal buckets, American football gear, screen doors, bobsleds...a Humongous Mecha. On the plant side, Pumpkins provide this for other plants.
  • There are many examples in the Fallout 'verse, but the most obvious are the Raider armours from Fallout 3. Highlights include using a pair of sieves tied with shoestrings as a bikini top, a cow skull as a shoulder pad, and an empty shell of a spherical hovering robot as a helmet. In Fallout 3, Super Mutants wear bits of tire as shoulder guards, while their Behemoths wield car doors as bucklers.
    • In the original games, Leather Armor was based on Pre-War designs used for contact sports.
      • Used again in Fallout: New Vegas, where Caesar's Legion makes ersatz Roman armor out of football pads, baseball catcher's pads, and the occasional (presumably metal) dinner plate. Elite legionaries show their status with bits of armour from tougher foes they've felled. Serves as a visual contrast to the NCR Army's use of pre-war ballistic armour for their troops and the Veteran Ranger's LAPD Riot Squad armour.
  • In Disgaea, one of the lower rank armour items is actually a pot lid.
  • In Breath of Fire II the first helmet you can buy is called a Salad BWL. Guess it's better than nothing.
  • In The Escapists the player can craft a variety of armoured versions of their jumpsuit. Possible sources of protection include (from weakest to toughest) a pillow, a book and a sheet of metal.
  • Various Dragon Quest games have pot lids as the cheapest shield.
  • In Command & Conquer: Generals the GLA has pickup trucks, buses and tanks that can be upgraded by collecting wreckages of destroyed enemy vehicles, which they use as improvised armor.
  • In The Godfather 2 the so-called armoured cars are clearly cobbled-together, with things like metal bars welded over the windscreens.
  • In City of Heroes there's a group of mutant hobos called "The Lost" with Elite Mooks who use various types of armor such as a STOP sign for chest protection and a TV set (with a broken screen) as a helmet.
  • Minions in Overlord will use almost anything as a helmet, even a pumpkin rind or dead rat.
  • In Punch-Out Wii, King Hippo duct tapes a manhole cover to his stomach when he rematches you in an attempt to keep you from exploiting his vulnerability to body blows.
  • The player character in The Forest can wear lizard skin as armor.
  • The New Conglomerate in PlanetSide 2, being backed by mining and security MegaCorps, often makes use of cast-off or archaic designs for their armor and weaponry. Their MAX Powered Armor in particular is obviously based on a mining exoskeleton with some extra armor panels welded to it, in contrast to the purpose-built Terran Republic MAX and the heavily augmented Vanu Sovereignty MAX. Early concept art had the improvised armor being more prevalent on NC gear, with their engineer appearing to use mining gear for armor.
  • In Evolve, the assault character Lennox built her armor out of a salvaged exoskeleton meant to protect scientists from lava flows. Similarly, Markov's armor is actual an environmental suit used by orbital welders.
  • Heavy Troopers from Spec Ops: The Line wear a body armor suit made out of a bomb disposal suit, with cannibalized plates reinforcing weaker spots, and an aviation helmet to top it off. This makes them slow as molasses but more durable than anything else in the game, and they're dangerously aware of it, requesting covering fire all the time and rarely attacking alone, when their weaknesses are at their most dangerous.
  • The Pot of Yesterdayers boss from Our Darker Purpose is a living (or possessed) vat of spoiled potato stew. It wears a saucepan for a helmet, a cookie sheet for a breastplate, and shoulderpads made out of steamer baskets.
  • In some Lufia games, some of the equipment available early in the game is a Pot helmet, and a Chopping Board shield.

     Web Comics  

     Western Animation  

  • Dragons: Riders of Berk: When faced with Dragon Hunters armed with anti-dragon arrows that can fell a dragon in one shot, Hiccup decides to make temporary Dragon armour by stitching together Screaming Death scales, the hardest dragon scales he can think of.
  • The Simpsons: Homer Simpson builds a bear-hunting suit (with one notable gap) out of stuff he finds in his garage.
  • Total Drama Island: During the last episode of the fourth season Lightning creates a suit of armor consisting of sheet metal from a trash can and a smashed in frying pan for a helmet, while Cameron creates a of armor with a laptop he coded to become said armor.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: While investigating the hideout of a ninja who stole a scroll describing how to perform a Touch of Death, Batman notices a training dummy that showed signs of great force being exerted on a specific part of its chest. Batman pretends to No-Sell the Touch of Death in the fight with the ninja by hiding the dummy's chest padding under his costume.
  • The Grand Finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender has Toph bend a metal door around her to protect herself from Firebenders.

     Real Life  

  • The infamous Killdozer is a literal bulldozer with more than one foot thick armor slapped around it, made of concrete-metal sandwich. It's immune to small arms and explosives. The driver sealed himself into the cockpit by lowering a multi-ton concrete block around the cockpit and using TV cameras to see.
  • U.S. soldiers in Iraq resorted to using "Hillbilly Armor" to reinforce their vehicles for better protection against Improvised Explosive Devices (underside armor was an important first step). Some of their designs were so popular and effective that they became "kits" used throughout the army.
  • In World War II, tankers would weld spare tread links onto their tanks or even use sandbags. Later, when shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons became more common, they would use thin metal sheets or wire mesh as so-called slat-armor to detonate the shaped charges away from the tank's armor. Russian tanks confronted by the Panzerfaust rocket-launcher took to scavenging bedframes with bedsprings as improvised spaced armour to safely detonate anti-tank rockets away from the vehicle's main armour.
  • The first M26 Super Pershing sent to Europe was modified by its crew. The Super Pershing was built as an up-gunned variant to kill Tigers and the crew thought its armour wasn't quite up to the confrontation, so they welded huge slabs of boiler plate steel all over the front, as was not uncommon for up-armouring tanks in the era.
  • Up-armouring was not always a good thing, a common modification of the M4 Sherman was a extra plate welded over the ammo racks. Unless done very skillfully to hide the change (painted over, weld smoothed down), this just provided a 'shoot here, explode me' marking. The first M4 "Jumbo" Shermans were a desperate field modification using additional armour, scavenged from tank wrecks, welded to the original armour of the M4. British tanks used smaller "patches" of additional armour spot-welded over the tank's most vulnerable points: this was preferentially done to the more valuable Sherman Fireflies, up-gunned with the 17 pounder main weapon that allowed British tanks to compete with Tigers and Panthers at least in terms of an equivalent weapon. This only served to identifiy Fireflies to the savvier German gunners...
  • Ned Kelly. His homemade armour stopped at least twenty direct hits during his infamous shootout against Australian law enforcement. Unfortunately for Ned, the armour was heavy and didn't protect him all over. A shot to his ankle brought him down.
  • Possibly in the spirit of Kelly, the desperate expedient in wartime New Zealand, the Semple Tank, consisted of a civilian tracked bulldozer given an armoured shell out of anything that happened to be immediately available. This lash-up desperation vehicle had more than a look of the HeathRobinson about it and was utterly useless for any sort of combat. The Semple tank was scrapped when better purpose-built vehicles were made available.
  • Convicted NZ murderer Graeme Burton packed newspapers and magazines under his prison uniform when he stabbed another inmate, quite possibly inspiring the examples in The Wire and BurnNotice, above.
  • During the North Hollywood shootout, one of the bank robbers wore a full suit of patchwork body armor, including bullet-proof vests wrapped around his legs. The other robber simply wore a Bulletproof Vest with a metal trauma chestplate. Soon, however, the SWAT team arrived, in addition to a number of the regular officers acquiring assault rifles from a nearby gunstore, and both robbers soon learned the hard way that their body armor was only effective against the considerably less powerful handgun ammunition that the beat cops carried. Rifle rounds carry far more energy and sectional density and tend to go through kevlar quite easily, which is why soldiers wear ceramic armor plates inside their vests.
  • Some of the Egyptian protesters against the Mubarak regime were seen sporting helmets made of concrete slabs tied on with rope, and even loaves of bread secured with tape. The bread is actually a pretty decent choice; Egyptian bread is thick, tough, glutinous pita, and probably makes for halfway decent armor in the same way leather can.
  • Very popular amongst the SCA heavy weapons fighters. At least until they purchase real armour or learn armoursmithing themselves.
  • The oft-homaged example seen in A Fistful of Dollars above was apparently Truth in Television; if The Sheriff or some other local authority figure got wind that trouble might be breaking out, he'd sometimes don an "iron shirt" as a precaution. A stove door like Marty uses in Back to the Future Part III was pretty common, being the most readily available item of approximately the right size and shape.
  • Cottonclads were fairly standard wooden river gunboats with bales of cotton strapped to their sides, the cotton absorbing enemy gunfire so they could get close.

Alternative Title(s): Improvised Armor