Six Things You Need To Know

About The Military Retail Industry


William McKinney, President

William McKinney, President


                If you are interested in purchasing military equipment there are 6 things you should know about the industry before you open your wallet.  These issues are as follows:


1)  Genuine Issue Items.
2)  Irregular Items.
3)  Surplus Items.
4)  Used Items.
5)  Aftermarket Items.
6)  Commercial Items.


Genuine IssueGenuine Issue


Genuine Issue Items:

                Uniforms items and equipment that has made for the United States armed forces is commonly known as "Genuine Issue."  These items are made with specific materials, and they have to measure up to specific standards that have been set forth by the Department of Defense (DOD).  Before the branches of our military purchases equipment and issues it to our soldiers, it goes through years of experimentation and testing.  When a product is finally adopted by the military it still has to pass various quality inspections before being purchased. Genuine issued items that meet these high standards is commonly known as "1st quality." 


                Over the years, there has been much misinformation put out about military equipment.  Many people believe our government only purchases inferior products that has been produced by the lowest bidder.  This is far from the truth.  Since the early 1990's, military clothing and equipment has been made with the finest materials, and it uses cutting edge technology. 1000 denier Cordura nylon, polypropylene, Gore-Tex, Thinsulate, polar fleece, Nomex and Kevlar are some of the great materials being used today.  In reality, genuine issue products tend to be of the highest quality, and they're not inferior in any respects. Personally I believe 1st quality genuine issue items are the best military products in the industry although some would suggest otherwise.


Irregular Items:

                When military manufacturers make products that don't meet the DOD's high standards they're rejected by the military.  When these items are kicked back, the manufactures sell these products as "Irregular Items" to various civilian sources.  Sometimes these products are known as second quality, third quality, ...etc.  In some cases it is very difficult, or even impossible, to determine why an item was labeled as irregular or second quality.  Since irregular items sell at a significant discount, there are many people who love these products and the savings they offer.  On the other hand, sometimes the inferior quality of irregular items are very obvious.  Therefore, it's wise to closely inspect irregular items before you buy any, or you should totally avoid them if you place a premium on quality.




Surplus Items:

                  The military stockpiles huge quantities of military equipment in warehouses throughout our country.  In the event of a large scale war, our government has contingency plans for a multimillion soldier armed force.  These stock piles are properly stored and maintained, but in some cases, products have shelf lives.  In other cases the products become obsolete or outdated.  When this happens they are sold in the civilian market even though these products have never been used.


                In other cases the uniform items and equipment are taken to a Central Issuing Facility (CIF) and issued to soldiers.  Soldiers use these items in training and combat before returning their equipment back to CIF.  Typically this used equipment is reissued to other soldiers, and it's used again.  Eventually the equipment becomes outdated, damaged or too soiled for use, so it is deemed as "unserviceable." In the past, unserviceable items were sent to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMO) where it was auctioned off to civilian businesses for resale.  Today this reselling process is performed by Defense Logistic Agencies (DLA).  Historically these items are not sold piece-by-piece, but rather it is sold in large lots.


                Although surplus originated as first quality genuine issued items, you need to be aware of the condition of these items.  As sated before, some items appear new, but others are obviously used.  Some items may be torn, broken, and have dry rot.  Sometimes these items are unsightly because it has multiple DRMO stamps on them.  Keep in mind that the military had a reason why these items were deemed as unserviceable.  Also keep in mind that there are large quantities of surplus that is in excellent condition, and these items offer great savings.


Personally Owned Used Items:

                    Soldiers regularly buy their own military equipment, and they tend to put together a fairly large collection over their career.  When soldiers leave the armed forces they often sell these items when they don't need it any longer.  These used items tend to be in better condition since it was once a personally owned product.  Over my 22 years in the military retail industry, I have found that items sold by soldiers are often in better condition than DRMO surplus.  Surplus stores that are located near major military installations, such as Bradley's Military, tends to have more access to these better condition high quality used items. 


Aftermarket Items:

                The terminology of the military retail industry is a bit confusing.  There are many acronyms, jargon and slang.  Terms such as aftermarket, commercial, and military style tend to be interchanged indiscriminately, but I feel there's a big difference.  Aftermarket manufacturers and retailers tend to market their products as being of the highest quality.  In some cases, these companies feel their products possess better quality than genuine issue items.  Sometimes these companies take preexisting military items, and they strive to improve upon their concept.  In other cases these companies create totally new concepts or designs.  Despite being a bit pricy, these products are often used by soldiers and law enforcement officers, and many love these products. There have been many cases where aftermarket products have been tested by the DOD, and these products have been adopted and issued to soldiers.  Companies such as Black Hawk, CamelBak, London Bridge and Tactical Taylor produce many popular aftermarket items.




Commercial Items:


              Commercial items are typically made overseas, and they often replicate genuine issue items.  The terms commercial and "military style" often go together.  These products are significantly less expensive than aftermarket or genuine issue items, but they lack the same quality.  The quality of these commercial products varies widely.  Customers should inspect these items closely before making a purchase, but there are some outstanding commercial products on the market.  Companies such as Atlanco, Condor, Fox Outdoor Products and Rothco have better commercial products that are very inexpensive.               


 What is the Best Option for You?

                To ensure you will be satisfied with the military items you purchase you should qualify your needs.  What do you really want?  Do you want the best quality regardless of price?  Do you want clever designs?  Do you want inexpensive products, or do you want more value?  The answer to these questions should be determined before you make a purchase.



                If you want the highest quality, I recommend 1st quality genuine issue items.  These products are made in the United States, they're experimentally tested, they face tough quality testing, and it's combat proven.  You can't go wrong with 1st quality genuine issue products. Aftermarket products also tend to possess high quality, but I rate genuine issue higher.  The reason why I favor genuine issue over aftermarket products is where they're made.  Many aftermarket products (but not all) are made in countries such as Vietnam.  I'm not overly nationalistic, but I still believe "Made in the USA" means better quality.  At least this is what I have witnessed over the past 22 years in the military industry.  Last note, genuine issue products tend to be expensive.  This is especially true for aftermarket items, but you tend to get what you pay for.  *Note: Genuine issue is ideal for professional soldiers and military enthusiasts.  


Clever Designs:

                Aftermarket manufactures tend to come up with many clever designs.  They add hidden pouches, they add more pouches and then they offer even more pouches.  Worded differently, aftermarket products often offers more carrying capacity.  They tend to be more comfortable, and their designs are often very practical.  Many elite soldiers and law enforcement officers prefer these enhanced designs, but it often comes with a hefty price tag.  Some customers may experience sticker shock when they see the price tag.  *Note: Elite soldiers, law enforcement officers, and extreme survivalists  would be attracted to aftermarket products.


Inexpensive Products:

                Commercial products are a very inexpensive alternative to genuine issue or aftermarket items.  Used surplus also tends to be very inexpensive.  Many customers should ask themselves if they really need a $300 assault pack?  Unless you are an elite soldier or law enforcement officer the answer is often no.  In most cases, the typical customer will be happier with commercial or surplus items.  This is especially true for most civilians.  Let's face it, most likely you will not need to test your equipment on the battle field, and you don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars either.  *Note:  Casual outdoorsmen, security officers, EMT workers, doomsday Preppers, Boy Scouts, paintball and Air Soft players like commercial products.



                If it doesn't bother you to wear or use used items than surplus is the best value.  If the surplus item is in good condition it will have the same quality as genuine issue, but it won't have the hefty price tag.  *Note:  This is a great option for soldiers who lost equipment and need to clear CIF.  It is also a thrifty option for many types of civilian customers. 





                Based on the information and criteria provided above, you are now an educated customer.  You can ask the right questions, and find the right military products for you.  Before making a purchase, you should determine what type of military product you're looking at, what condition it is in, and if the price is reasonable.  All of these variables matter based on your needs. If you have any other questions feel free to call (800) 503-4954 or contact us at Speak with our knowledgeable staff and gather all the facts.  Keep in mind, even if we can't help you, we will be happy to direct you to other companies that can satisfy your needs.  We are less concerned about closing sales than assisting customers.  Make Bradley's your source for military information, and it will increase the likeliness that you find what you really need.    





William G. McKinney

Bradley's Military Enterprises