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A Crazy Prepared or Disaster Scavengers 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 on a Scavenger World. May be donned as part of a Lock and Load Montage.

Bucket Helmet is a Sub-Trope.

Examples of Improvised Armour include:


  • 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.
  • In Iron Man, he has to improvise his first suit of armor out of missile parts, IN A CAVE! WITH A--oh wait, we did that joke already. Then again, this being a life-supporting suit of Powered Armor with fully operational flamethrower and mostly-operational rocket-pack, "improvised" is a bit of a stretch.
  • 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. Then again, this is Batman - who's to say he hasn't had all his silverware specially reinforced for just such an occasion?
  • In The Gauntlet, Eastwood makes an APC out of a bus, by welding steel plates to the exterior.
  • In Total Recall, 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.


  • 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 centimetre or inch less of penetration can make the difference between a trip to the hospital and a trip to the morgue.
  • As depicted above, 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.

Live Action TV

  • The Wire, when Omar ends up in prison he duct-tapes several thick books to his body before going to shank an enemy as an example to the other inmates.
  • Unable to acquire an armored vehicle, Michael Westen of Burn Notice once filled the insides of an SUV's doors with phone books.
    • This was deemed plausible by the Myth Busters. It worked quite well, but you'd need so many phone books to cover the windows it's impractical for Real Life.
    • Which was explained in Westen's voice-over: "You don't want to skimp on ballistic glass."
    • In a later episode where Michael's in prison, he and another prisoner fashion temporary armor from several library books.
  • 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).


Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40000 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.
    • Done in All Flesh Must Be Eaten, similar to the D20 Modern example above.
    • Post-Apocalyptic Hero gives its front cover character a Stop sign shield and a helmet that started life as sporting equipment.
  • In the Oriental Adventures sourcebook for Dungeons and 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.
  • There are many examples in the Fallout 'verse, but the most obvious are the Raider armours from Fallout 3. Highlights include using sieves as a bikini, 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.
  • In Disgaea, one of the lower rank armour items is actually a pot lid.
  • In Breath of Fire 2 the first helmet you can buy is called a Salad BWL. Guess it's better than nothing.
  • Various Dragon Quest games have pot lids as the cheapest shield.
  • In Command and Conquer Generals the GLA has pickup trucks and tanks which 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.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Without going into the reasons for it, 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.
    • Used in larger scale 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 slatt-armor to detonate the shaped charges away from the tank's armor.
  • 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.
  • Convicted NZ murderer Graeme Burton packed newspapers and magazines under his prison uniform when he stabbed another inmate, quite possibly inspiring the example from The Wire, 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 travel much faster 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.
  • Very popular amongst the SCA heavy weapons fighters. At least until they purchase real armour or learn armoursmithing themselves.
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