The burgonet helmet is characterised by a skull with a large fixed or hinged peak projecting above the face-opening, and usually an integral, keel-like, crest or comb running from front to rear. Attached to the skull are substantial hinged cheekpieces which usually do not meet at the chin or throat. A flange projects from the lower parts of the skull and cheekpieces to protect the back and sides of the neck. Though typically a relatively light helmet and open faced, a falling buffe, a sort of visor that was closed by being drawn up rather than down, was sometimes used. Some helmets, often termed "close burgonets", were made which took elements, such as the peak, crest and falling buffe, of the burgonet and combined them with the hinged bevor of the close helmet.
Intermediate helmet ("close burgonet") with the peak, crest and falling buffe of the burgonet, combined with the hinged bevor of a close helmet.
Commonplace throughout Europe, it first came into use early in the 16th century and had attained its classic form by c. 1550. Accompanied by plate armour, burgonets were mostly worn by cavalry: cuirassiers, demi-lancers and, in Eastern Europe, hussars.
The Border Reivers, of the English-Scottish borderlands, were very fond of burgonets and the morion in Elizabethan times, and as a result reivers were often called steil (steel) bonnets. Burgonets were also a popular helmet type among the Polish winged hussars, where they merged with types of capeline (zischagge) helmets, often featuring a nasal bar or facial guard.
German burgonet, c. 1560, showing the open face of the helmet.
The factors of utility of the burgonet over older helmets include:
Cost—The main factor in the decision to wear one; burgonets were significantly cheaper than large closed-face helmets.
Encumbrance—Close helmets were very bulky and heavy. It could be hard for the wearer to see, breathe or turn his head while wearing one. The burgonet, however, was light and had an open face that gave an advantage in offense.
Protection—The burgonet was not as protective as heavier helms, but still afforded some protection. Having an open face could be remedied with a falling buffe.