Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wine, Guns & The Mythbusters Converge at Martin Estate

This Spring, Mythbusters’ Grant Imahara, Kari Byron and Tory Belleci joined renowned antique arms expert Greg Martin to see how centuries old firearms fared against the crew’s replication of ancient Chinese paper armor. We turned the winery lawn into a battlefield, cracked open a few bottles of Martin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, and let the sword-wielding robot "take a whack" at the replication armor. Despite pouring rain, it was a fascinating day…and, we anticipate, an equally enthralling episode featuring wine and guns.

“Earliest references to paper armor date back to the Tang Dynasty, about 600 years BCE,” Martin says. Made from the bark of a mulberry tree, this paper, he adds, provided several tactical advantages to metal armors, including a resistance to rust and increased mobility. “In addition, it was extremely flexible as well as cheap to produce.”

But could a fragile material like paper be as effective as steel against spears, arrows and guns? According to Martin, the armor’s flexible, layered lamellar construction actually gave paper armor a leg up on the competition. “Armor with a single sheet of material is compromised by a single crack. But with layers and pieces, any damage on one layer doesn’t compromise the other. Plus, the softer materials yield and neutralize much of the impact energy before they damage.” According to Martin, armor of this type would not be pierced by arrows or spear thrusts and could withstand a musket shot from 100 yards away.

The Discovery Channel team decided to test these claims. After constructing their own armor by cutting paper into strips and folding them back and forth into multiple layers to create protective scales, Imahara, Byron and Belleci packed up their new suit and traveled to Martin’s Napa Valley winery, which also houses extensive antique arms and medieval armor.

Martin pulled some of his ancient flintlock firearms from their cases, and the Mythbusters team went into town to arm themselves with bow and arrow. Then, the quartet set up the “battlefield” outside on the estate lawn. Two dummies, one outfitted with a steel suit and the second with the Mythbusters’ paper armor, served as sacrificial lambs.

Just how well did the armor fare against the arrow deluge and ancient Chinese firearms, not to mention the robot swordsman? Stay tuned for the episode air date to find out.

For more information, please contact Brooke Gadke, or 479.414.3951.

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