Just as with the selection of weapons and armor, the selection of a shield can be an important decision for a combatant within the MMCG. A shield that is unsuited to one’s fighting style or that is far out of the period of that fighter’s weapons and armor would obviously not be encouraged. Some shields can be quickly and easily made, while others can be quite difficult. Below are some questions to ask oneself to help determine the right type of shield to use—if any! Because the answer to these questions may vary dependent upon the situation, it is not uncommon for a fighter to own two or three shields—sometimes more.
Shield Terms Glossary
What About the Other Shields?
Which Shield Should I Bear?
How much armor do I already wear? Fighters in full plate may not need to use a shield at all—in fact, the use of shields diminished almost in exact coincidence with the rise in the quality of plate armor. Indeed, the design of certain kinds of plate armor make the use of a shield difficult and impractical. Conversely, most cultures that wore little or no armor used shields. If your armor consists of quick footwork and boldness, perhaps a shield would be well-advised in case your adversary is quicker than you.
What is my role as a fighter? Those who value speed and agility over strength and endurance might choose a buckler for its swift, dexterous use. Those who tend to plant themselves before an enemy might appreciate the defensive capabilities of a kite shield. And for the many in between, a target or a round center-grip shield would likely be a useful addition to their armory.
How concerned am I with authenticity? If this is a big issue for you, then you will want to think hard about the region and time period upon which you focus, and decide accordingly. Wearing 15th-century Burgundian plate harness and using a 9th century Saxon center-grip shield is not the best combination. If your main focus is practicality over authenticity, then a target shield or heater shield is appropriate for most eras covered by the MMCG scope of recreation.
What is my budget? How handy am I at making things? These two considerations go together, because a shield is a personal item that many wish to make themselves. While a great many shields can be purchased through different suppliers, they vary almost as much as armor in their functionality and authenticity. As well, shields that are acceptable for use in the MMCG must not cause injury when used under normal combat conditions (i.e., combatants running at one another, swinging weapons wildly, and generally contributing to the chaotic hullabaloo). Therefore, iron-rimmed shields with pointed edges—while excellent in real combat—must perforce be modified or simulated rather than used as-is.
The resources available when researching shields and shield use are not as myriad as those for weapons or armor, but any search on the internet for shield construction techniques or shields for sale will turn up a great many sources. Of course, just as with anything on the internet, be careful of what you believe. Below is some suggested reading for further understanding of medieval shields and their use.
The Sword and Buckler Tradition: John Clements of the ARMA discusses the use of the sword & buckler throughout the Middle Ages, and its place in society as well as upon the battlefield.
Spada & Spada II available at Chivalry Bookshelf: Both these anthologies include influential works by Stephen Hand and Paul Wagner, who have done great work in demystifying the use of the early medieval sword and shield through careful study of iconography.