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American Tactical Gear Through Time Part 1

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Many shooters know what constitutes as tactical gear in today’s environment. Superior textile technology combined

with impressive innovation has redefined what people carry on their person when they’re heading for a fight. However, to understand how far we’ve come, let’s examine the history of the American soldier and gain a new found appreciation for all that heavy tactical gear we complain about carrying for miles. The first part of this multiple part series will focus on early American tactical gear from the American Revolution to the Mexican-American War.

America’s noble roots left a lot to be desired in terms of tactical gear. Our new fledgling nation was up against one of the most powerful empires in the world at the time! The newly born America had very little in terms of tactical gear to supply its troops. Each of the colonies was expected to raise its own army and send it to unite with the other colonies as one main force. Think of this as the modern day mobilization of a state’s National Guard.

There was no tactical web gear during the Revolutionary War. The average American soldier carried a metal/leather tin with around 30 rounds in it. The pouch would usually include some flints as well.

The non-shooting side would usually feature a bayonet in a leather sheath. Soldiers of the period carried 90% of their “living” equipment in a pack on their back, usually featuring some food rations, utensils for eating, and personal items such as clothing, combs, and a canteen. Carried equipment was complimented by uniforms that were usually blue and white, composed almost entirely of wool with a cotton shirt. Though many soldiers wore leather shoes, some units wound up fighting barefoot. Imagine being shot at in December in Virginia with no shoes!

The clear lack of equipment for the average American soldier during the Revolutionary War speaks volumes for the adversity they overcame. Soldiers, some without shoes, went on to defeat the most powerful empire of the time period; paving the way for the greatest military in the world for much of recorded history thereafter.

The gear of the American soldier remained largely unchanged until around the time of the Mexican-American War in 1846 (think The Alamo). The tactical gear of the American soldier for this war would mark a transition between the Revolutionary War soldier and the later Civil War era soldier.

The most notable change was the adoption of a white leather belt. The bayonet was relocated to the belt, while a newly expanded leather cartridge ammo pouch saw expanded capacity to 40 rounds. The canteen was now also strapped and slung diagonally over the shoulders much like the ammo pouch.

Uniforms of the war begin to show resemblance to those used less than 20 years later by the Union in the Civil War. Uniforms still remained largely made wool, which must have been excruciating for a Texas summer heat!

The American soldier would take a large turn in the Civil War years later. The next part of the series will focus on tactical gear utilized during the latter half of the 19 th century, including the Civil War and the Spanish-American War.

To be continued...