- "The Mandalorians wear the finest armor blood can buy."
- ―Count Dooku
The warlike culture of the Mandalorians inspired them to develop many distinctive sets of armor during their long history. Such armor came to be known collectively as Mandalorian armor or Beskar'gam in the Mando'a tongue.
- "A warrior is more than his armor."
- ―Mandalorian proverb
The first, widely recognizable version was the Crusader Armor which was the signature armor worn by the Mandalorian Crusaders led by Mandalore the Indomitable during the Great Sith War. It had a jagged, organic form that varied from soldier to soldier. The design of Crusader Armor was centered around defending its wearer during melee combat, which was considered by the Mandalorians to be the most honorable form of battle.
During Mandalore the Ultimate's reign as Mandalore, the Neo-Crusader Armor was designed by Cassus Fett for use in the Mandalorian Wars to foster a sense of unity among the many disparate species being recruited into the Neo-Crusader movement. By the invasion of Taris, the Neo-Crusaders' beliefs had spread far and wide among the Mandalorian clans and the armor all but replaced the earlier, more individualized suits. Neo-Crusader armor came in three colors, each corresponding to a rank—gold for Field Marshals, crimson for Rally Masters and blue for all others. Later in the war, new armors were developed for use by special units such as the Neo-Crusader Shock Troops.
Millennia later, the Mandalorian Supercommando armor was developed to replace the older designs which were now referred to as Mandalorian Shock Trooper Armor. It was no longer full body armor, but partial armor that left limbs almost completely undefended, and focused its strength on the vital areas such as the torso, head, and groin. The new armor was a collection of blast resistant plates, made from Mandalorian iron or duraplast, which were attached to a waterproof, armorweave flight suit. A liner shirt with a micro energy field projector and two layers of ceramic plates greatly improved protection around the chest, back, and stomach. This careful layering of segmented armor plates ensured mobility, which could be further increased by wearing a jetpack. The Mandalorians began to see the value of extra weapons mounted on the suit, and so simple dart shooters, grappling wires, wrist-mounted rocket launchers and flamethrowers were added to the overall assault capabilities of a Mandalorian Supercommando.
The classic Mandalorian design could also be seen in the armor of clone troopers, and evolved from the basic clone trooper and Katarn-class commando armor specs to those of the armor of Imperial stormtroopers and the Emperor's Royal Guard. The ARC troopers and a few commanders wore kamas, long, skirt-like belt spats, from their waists, which were parts of older Mandalorian armor designs and often contained pockets for hidden weapons. Some Mandalorians such as Goran Beviin, Fi Skirata and Isabet Reau were known to wear kamas.
During the Galactic Civil War, the Death Watch colluded with Black Sun to manufacture Crusader MK III armor in their bunker on Endor. This was a Mandalorian armor variant made from alum and they produced two different versions of it, one to sell to the Empire and one to sell to the Rebel Alliance.
By the Second Imperial Civil War, Mandalorian armor, such as that worn by Hondo Karr and Tes Vevec, had taken on a more segmented appearance, providing the wearer with maximum coverage and mobility.
Throughout Mandalorian history, three major features remained constant in Mandalorian armor design:
- The wearer was protected from the majority of all blaster fire. Armor made of actual Mandalorian iron, which could also deflect blaster bolts, made it lightsaber-resistant.
- The helmets almost always possessed a T-shaped visor and a sophisticated heads-up display (HUD).
- Mandalorian warriors decorated their armor to reflect personal accomplishments, clan affiliation, or simply personal preference. They often repainted their armor to reflect rank, clan, and possibly the current terrain. They were also known to paint their armor in the traditional colors that represented specific causes the individual might currently be undertaking. The colors, however, did not always have a specific meaning. Sometimes they were just colors that the particular Mandalorian liked. Some Mandalorians wore pieces of armor to honor relatives, both dead and alive. As of the Clone Wars, these colors were known to have significance:
- Gray = Mourning a Lost Love
- Red = Honoring a Father
- Black = Justice
- Gold = Vengeance
- Green = Duty
- Blue = Reliability
- Orange = A Lust for Life
Mandalorian armor was traditionally made out of almost indestructible Mandalorian Iron (beskar), but this was rare and expensive, so many Mandalorians, such as Jango and Boba Fett, opted for less durable materials instead, such as durasteel or duraplast. The Galactic Empire mined much of the beskar off of the surface of Mandalore, so for a time it was nearly impossible to get any. However the Yuuzhan vong blasted craters deep into Mandalore that were later found to have opened up several new beskar mines. The name for the armor in Mandalorian, beskar'gam, meant Iron skin, or Iron carapace (for Mando members without normal skin), because Mandalorian Iron was a crucial part of the armor design for millennia, until just before the Clone Wars. The secret of producing armor made from Mandalorian iron was kept within the Mandalorian clans for years. Some Mandalorians would also wear cloaks on the outside of their armor.
The helmet served as the control center for most of the suit's abilities. A rangefinder attached to the armored helmet was a common upgrade and could track up to thirty targets, while a battle computer inside the helmet allowed the wearer to control the suit's weapons, sensors, and jet pack through verbal commands. The dark macrobinocular viewplate offered a variety of vision modes, including infrared. A pineal eye sensor on the helmet combined with an internal overlay display to provide tracking information within a 360-degree radius. Motion sensors, an encrypted internal comlink, and a broad-band antenna completed the helmet's devices, all of which could be linked to the wearer's weapons or their personal starship. The helmet could also act as an environmental filter system, with a two hour reserve tank providing breathable air to the Mandalorian warrior.
There were a few special suits of mention from the Galactic Civil War. Some of the most famous were worn by the bounty hunters Boba Fett and Jodo Kast, although unlike traditional Mandalorian armor theirs were made from durasteel. Montross continued to wear his armor while working as a bounty hunter, despite being exiled by the Mandalorians. During the Clone Wars, Jango Fett's death showed a weakpoint in the armor's design that would later be fixed around 40 ABY with the addition of a Gorget, or collar piece, to protect the neck from rapid beheadings.
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