In Civil War we see Black Panther scratches Cap's shield with his claws, even though both are made of vibranium. How is this possible, especially given that Cap's shield is made of a vibranium alloy which is even stronger than simply using Vibranium?

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My Question is different from How were bullets able to dent Captain America's Shield? because the conclusion to that question was that the bullets don't dent the shield, whereas in this case the claws do scratch the shield.

  • 30
    I didn't see the movie yet, but, cannot be just the paint coat?
    – Bardo
    Mar 23, 2018 at 13:30
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    In the MCU his shield is never claimed to be made of anything other than vibranium. This is different from the main comic universe where it's a steel/vibranium alloy triggered by an unknown catalyst to create proto-adamantium.
    – Mwr247
    Mar 23, 2018 at 13:45
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    Given how advanced the use of Vibranium is in Wakanda my personal conclusion would be that Black Panthers claws are more advanced than Cap's shield, especially consider the shield was made in 1940's.
    – Skooba
    Mar 23, 2018 at 13:47
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    It's not the paint coat. The paint is a titanium oxide that is able to withstand even the blow of Thor's hammer without being scraped off a bit Mar 23, 2018 at 15:08
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of How were bullets able to dent Captain America's Shield?
    – Möoz
    Mar 23, 2018 at 22:12

5 Answers 5


Simple answer. In the MCU, Cap's shield is only made out of Vibranium, not an alloy, as in the comics.

"No, no, that's just a prototype."
"What's it made of?"
"Vibranium. It's stronger than steel and a third of the weight. It's completely vibration absorbent."
"How come it's not standard issue?"
"That's the rarest metal on Earth. What you're holding there, that's all we've got."
―Howard Stark and Steve Rogers

Thus, we have two items that are likely made of metals of the same toughness and hardness (there's no information on what other processing might be done with Vibranium). And that's assuming that Wakanda hasn't made any improvements on the process in the last several decades.

  • This is also covered in some detail at movies.stackexchange.com/questions/52835/…
    – FuzzyBoots
    Mar 23, 2018 at 13:51
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    TBH, I'm not even sure what "vibration absorbance" has to do with whether or not an object can be damaged. Does driving a wedge into something require making it vibrate? That being said, you can certainly use one diamond to cut another, so it makes sense that vibranium claws can scratch a vibranium shield, regardless of the particulars of how awesome vibranium is.
    – Steve-O
    Mar 23, 2018 at 14:23
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    @Steve-O Moreover, the effectiveness of a wedge tends to be inversely proportional to vibration. It's why the best competitive divers make the smallest waves.
    – Misha R
    Mar 23, 2018 at 14:44
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    A minor point - Civil War was set 75 years after Captain America, not 60. Mar 23, 2018 at 16:32

It's entirely possible to scratch strong metals, even with weaker materials. One example is using water to cut metal. It's about concentration of force, not strength. See this question on the physics Stack Exchange: Is it possible to cut harder material with a less hard material?

The pressure that a water jet can produce during cavitation; the momentum of.a soft sand grain burrowing into a hard coating; the heat generated when laser light hits a surface; the heat of electrons decelerating as they hit an anode - all these and more can be mechanisms of material removal which can be used to shape an object - "cut" it. Typically the mechanism is that local pressure, while exceeding the yield stress of the "soft" material, cannot be dissipated because of the speed of impact.

This exact question was also already asked on the movies Stack Exchange: Vibranium material properties.

We can clearly see the claws are sharpened to blades, the shield is a perfectly flat surface. The claws would rightfully so scratch the shield as they are the same density but the blades are sharp points.

If it helps think of it in terms of real world glass. You can sharpen glass to a point where it can cut through other glass not too dissimilar to a diamond cutting through glass.

Here's another related question: How does Vibranium work?

Whether normal Vibranium can be converted into Anti-metal is unknown, but the Wakandans do have small supplies of this Savage Land Vibranium on hand and have equipped the Black Panther with it.

The material coats his claws and often other weapons he uses, allowing him to tear through metallic substances with little effort.

There is also a ton of info in these questions:

  • But water is essentially incompressible, whereas no metal can be totally incompressible. Not sure if it also applies to made-up metals :) Mar 24, 2018 at 19:29
  • @JuhaUntinen Water being incompressible is a little bit beside the point, imho. Sandblasters are another example. Mar 24, 2018 at 22:38
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    @JuhaUntinen Not so. Water is not very compressible, but it's still about 15x more compressible than the most compressible metal I can find listed (magnesium alloy) and about 80x more compressible than steel. Mar 26, 2018 at 12:11

It is possible (though difficult) for an something to scratch something with a similar hardness, although it is likely that Black Panther's claws suffered some measure of damage as well.


Though it wasn't explicitly stated, Black Panther's claws are made of Antarctic Vibranium or "Anti-metal", which is the opposite of Wakandan Vibranium. While Vibranium from Wakanda strengthens vibrations, Antarctic Vibranium weakens them.

  • 4
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Please note that the context of the question is explicitly the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Do you have a source in the MCU that substantiates this?
    – DavidW
    Dec 28, 2021 at 23:27

Given that Cap's shield has three colours and does not appear to be painted I think it is reasonable to assume there are at least three metals used that are at least somewhat different.

Given they say the shield is Vibranium, not a Vibranium alloy, they may be only talking about the core of the shield, and only an outer layer on the shield that is scratched.

edit, if not then it is painted and the paint is being scratched.

  • 3
    The shield is explicitly shown to be painted
    – Valorum
    Mar 24, 2018 at 12:35
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    This confused me too. Look at the picture posted in the question. The scratches through the red part aren't revealing red metal underneath, so that's clearly just a surface color. What are you suggesting was done to make that surface color other than paint?
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 24, 2018 at 14:19
  • @Valorum: That photo does not explicitly show the shield to be painted. It only shows that, at some point in time, whatever mechanism was used to imbue it with colour had not yet been mechanismed. Mar 24, 2018 at 15:20

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