I'm currently playing a character that can switch fairly easily between a front-line tank and a spellcaster. I know that for my material components I will require a hand free to access my component pouch/focus or to use somatic gestures. The problem is, I plan to be using a sword and shield most of the time.

I know I can sheathe a sword as part of a move action, but what about a shield? Shields technically count as light armor, but the donning/doffing rules only seem to apply to a set of armor.

So, how quickly can I take my shield off so that I can cast a spell?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ There is no such thing as a "move action" in 5E. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Mar 29, 2018 at 14:21

2 Answers 2


Page 146 PHB.
It takes 1 action to don or doff a shield.

Getting Into and Out of Armor

The time it takes to don or doff a type of armor or a shield is shown in the Donning and Doffing Armor table.

Don. This is the time it takes to put on the item. You benefit from it's AC only if you take the full time to don it.

Doff. This is the time it takes to take off the item. If you have help removing armor, reduce this time by half.

Category Don Doff
Shield 1 action 1 action

As stated in Purple Monkey's answer, it takes an action to don and to doff a shield (per page 146 of the PHB).

However, you can always drop your sword, cast your spell, and pick your sword back up with your interact with object free action. The important thing here is that the intent of the rules is to not kill you on the action economy for casting while wielding a weapon. This answer by me has more details.

Also, if you only need somatic components, the War Caster feat (as suggested by John Evans) will help you with this. It allows you to use your shield hand while performing somatic components (it strangely doesn't mention material components, which is an unfortunate oversight). It also has other benefits for casting in melee which you'll want to take advantage of.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ One hack I've heard of for Paladins is to just draw your holy symbol on your shield. Then you can use it as a spellcasting focus. Not sure how other classes would work around this issue, though perhaps your DM might allow you to mount another type of arcane focus into your shield. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eliot
    Mar 18, 2020 at 23:59

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