Friday, September 30, 2011

Praxis: Get 'Em While You Can. The Supply of Previously Ubiquitous BDUs is Drying Up.

The Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) were the fatigues that the armed forces of the United States used as their standard uniform for combat situations from September 1981 to April 2005. Since then, it has been replaced in every branch of the U.S. military. Only the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy currently authorize wear of the BDU uniform (the former until October 2011, the latter at locations such as U.S. Special Operations Command until a Navy-specific digital woodland camo uniform is available). BDUs are also still worn by officers of the US Public Health Service in dirty or austere environments, and is often the prescribed uniform for any deployment activities. BDU-type uniforms still see active use in other nations (most of them ex-US stocks transferred under US security assistance programs), while others are still worn by some US Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies or activities who may work in tactical situations, such as the DEA and SWAT. -- Wikipedia.

The Battle Dress Uniform, Woodland Pattern (BDU) has been the standard of most constitutional militia formations since the 90s. The reason: they were cheap and ubiquitous -- you could find them literally anywhere, from gun shows to thrift stores to yard sales to on-line and usually for a little bit of nothing compared to other patterns. Also, those members who were veterans already had them.

For any given area of operation's terrain and foliage you can find better patterns, and in militia circles "what's the best pattern?" ranks right up there with "what's the best caliber?" and "AR versus AK" as a source of vociferous debate. But the Woodland BDU, because it was cheap and it was universally available has predominated, and likely will for a while simply because so many units have standardized on it. But I have noticed anecdotally in our thrift stores and surplus stores around here that the supplies of cheap BDUs are drying up and thus, getting more expensive.

This is because the military has shifted out of BDUs to ACUs and to MARPATs. However, a post on Survival Blog points to a source (while the window is still open) that I had never tried:

Woodland pattern battle dress uniforms (BDUs) were phased out by the Army years ago, but the U.S. Air Force has allowed their personnel to wear them longer, even as they transitioned to other camo pattern uniforms. Final BDU phase out for the Air Force is reported to be November 1st, 2011, so the availability of this used gear will continue to taper off, even in base thrift stores.

Note that with two forms of identification, most Americans can access a base to visit a thrift store. Military base thrift stores are usually operated as private, charitable organizations and have limited hours and days. - W.J.

Now, I realize that this post will start another round of "Uneeforms? UNEEFORMS?!? We don' need no steenkeeng uneeforms!!!"

But consider, camouflage uniforms are not simply about concealing you as you lie in ambush behind a bush:

1. Uniforms are called that because they are, well, UNIFORM, that is, all the same. Initially military clothing was standardized to provide simple friend-or-foe identification on the battlefield. When all target acquisition was line of sight and all communication verbal this was important, especially on a battlefield obscured by drifting smoke. It still is.

2. In the militia context, uniforms announce not only who you are, but they suggest -- to the untrained eye at least -- organization, competence and authority. Working a roadblock into your community where you have to interface with total strangers who may or may not wish to kill you if they can, uniforms state to the potential Evil Bad Guy that there may be easier targets down the road.

3. When dealing with other authorities, the same suggestion of organization, competence and authority provided by the uniform can make it easier for them to grok that you are on the same side in a breakdown situation. Assuming, that is, that you ARE on the same side.

4. Finally, they do help camouflage you from easy detection while operating in foliage.

I invite discussion of this point. Please try to keep the volume down.


Da Curly Wolf said...

I need to stop screwing around an get to my local surplus store to see if I can find any. I like ACU/MArpat digicam stuff..but jeezus the crap is expensive. I was in a tactical store looking the other day. $36.99 for a pair of SHORTS? bite me.'

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Could it be also as with the ammo drying up and becoming expensive is that they don't want the commons to have uniforms?

The American government, ruled by our ruling elite, HATE us, former military and any other true American patriots. They hate us. Their job is to make it difficult or impossible to arm ourselves and to prepare ourselves or even organize. We are penned and hemmed in like frogs in a bucket.

With their drone killing, along with the new autopilot robot drones, I believe our ass is grass before we even make it out the door.

Mark Matis said...

I would note that, if you operate in "Lone Wolf" mode, the BEST uniform is one that comes as close to that of OpFor as you can get. Nothing like getting them to shoot each other for efficiency. Reduced risk to you, and you don't even have to expend lead!

Anonymous said...

If you have a spare set of woodland BDUs consider washing it a few times with a little bleach to fade it out real good. Blends you in alot better than the fresh colors. I am told that if you spray/sponge the pale drab multicam colors over the darker areas you can get a darn good substitute for the not-so-cheap multicam. Don't go too white with the bleach or the fibers don't hold the dye.

P.S. Clorox is not for Patriot consumption. Buy an off brand.

Slobyskya Rotchikokov said...

mixed thought; taking a page from Mossad, or Mick Collins' if AO is urban, grey man - delivery truck uniform, utility company,look-alike, or other invisible grey attire should allow intel gathering or a direct strike or planned hit, then a disappearance into crowd.

Active shooters in urban environment might as well wear a target. However - if planning to attack or harass enemy forces in more rural or open areas, then camo is a real plus, chosen to suit local nature. So I think the well-dressed militiaman should be equipped with both.

The Trainer said...

BDU's are still plentiful in my AO; the quality is on par with the now super-popular multicam and MARPAT (aka 'digital woodland') patterns that cost a bit more, which means many sources have 'new' or 'almost new'.

However, careful shoppers can find used or discontinued types of the more 'in vogue' patterns such as the BDU 'style' shirt and pants in both MC and MARPAT, as the newer 'combat' shirts and ACU style pants are 'all the rage' now if the older BDU's are getting scarce.

Care tip to keep your older Woodlands from getting faded: First, always turn them inside out and button up the fly and shirt when washing. Second, always use a UV defeating detergent such as "Sport Wash" or equivalent, third, don't use fabric softener, and last, don't dry in a hot dryer. Use permanent press cycles or air dry (keeping them inside out until dry).

Following these steps will keep your woodland (or any other pattern) sharper much longer. Truly, I have several sets that were issued to me in the 80's that still look new partly because of this routine.

As to purposes for uniforms, well, they are good field clothing and the do provide rudimentary friend/foe ID as well as communicate organization, authority, etc. However, depending on the cirucmstances, folks may want to consider keeping a pair of jeans, civilian shirt, and a civlian jacket in their rucks. Wearing identifiable uniforms is also a very, very sure way to lose the ability to blend in, no matter if the AO in question is rural or urban. A set of 'civvies' might just help you navigate the OODA loop faster than your opposition...

Thoughts to ponder...

Anonymous said...

Just as gangs wear the same types of clothing with different color variations, I suspect the same will one day happen with BDU's. One local militia might opt for standard camo pants with red hoodies while another prefers blue jeans with sky blue camo tops. The color and pattern combinations are limitless, some will even go for the white/gray/pink variation I saw recently, LOL. IMO, it's not so much the concealment factor as much as identifying who's who.

Straycat said...

As a vet, I still have my BDU's, but on more than one occasion I've thought about selling them and investing in multicam. As it stands now, I have decided to keep, and utilize the BDU's. Mostly because of the cost factor, but it seems that as the .gov and police depts. start phasing them out, more Militia units are picking them up. And that's a good thing. It makes us more recognizable to other units. The only problem I see is the phasing out of new O.D. gear to go along with the BDU's. It seems that everything is "Foliage" nowadays.
Vietnam tiger stripe is still my favorite though. ;)

DH Pence said...

I'd avoid post thrift shop BDUs - from what I have seen over the years they are mostly stocked with uniforms that have been worn in garrison and heavily starched. That'll result in the black "shining" under even the most rudimentary of gen1 night vision devices.
Also avoid the eBay "uniform sets" - normally cheap 50/50 junk that won't hold up to machine washings much less any protracted field use.
V has a good point about impression - there's the old saying "appearances are everything - especially when it comes to Psyops". From what I have seen about the best tradeoff for durability vs. cost is Propper. I wore their three color deserts for a year in Iraq ( they held up admirably) and now that they are making ASAT - well that's even better.

Anonymous said...

I am rather partial to German Flectarn myself. I also like that Swiss stuff.
Top it off with one of those nice peaked mountaineer hats and you complete the retro Alpine force look.

Lets go Where Eagles Dare!


Anonymous said...

I've heard that older BDU patterns dyes (non digi stuff) have recognizable signatures that can be perceived by the new night vision devices (IR, thermal) and that was the reason for the shift to different dyes, leading to new patterns. Confirm?

--Anon threeper

bitter clinging Texan said...

Hmm.............well Mr V, I never really thought about your points on uniforms that you extrapolated on in your post, btw, very good points.
BUT, let me retort.
the very concept of militia is that we ain't soldiers, we are just regular folks who defend our homes. So, at least to me, on a theoretical level, having uniforms is antithetical(is that a word) to that.
another thing, is that If I as a three percenter, am walkin around in my dickies and house-shoes, the enemy doesnt have any way of knowing that I am a three percenter, whereas if I put on a uniform, they do. so in a manner of speaking, not wearing camoflauge is camoflauge
just a couple of thoughts

drjim said...

Just a quick question from a relative newbie.....

How many "sets" should a person have?

I can still get these pretty cheap around here, and was curious how many I should buy while I still can.

Da Curly Wolf said...

@Anon- I drive my mom to and from work alot. on rainy days she'll invariably 'borrow' one of my boonies. I keep threatening to get her a pink one in digicam. :)

Pericles said...

@ drjim - The basic issue in the Army was 4 sets and 2 field jackets. You can get by with half that, until it "goes live".

@ the guys hiding in plain sight, who may find the idea of uniforms laughable - will you be carrying arms? If so, isn't that going to give you away?

Point 5 on advantage of a uniformed group - other vets and active duty guys will recognize you for what you are and respect you more than they will a group of guys dressed as duck hunters.

drjim said...

Thank you, Pericles.
I should be good to go then, but I'll get a couple of more sets the next time I hit the surplus store.

Anonymous said...

Old cammies are old school cool but they have a lot of deficiencies when compared to modern patterns and textiles. They are not flame retardant and may contain nylon which will melt and stick to you if you are caught in a fire or explosion.

They don't have the latest signature blocking treatments either. The newest stuff out there will help hide you from regular night vision gear as well as thermal scopes (FLIR). Without these fabric treatments you will literally glow in a NV, FLIR scope, or other hyperspectral surveillance devices like UV & medium wave IR. Google the LRAS3 & the INOD Block III. These are fused multispectral scopes that have some truly amazing target detection capabilities in all weather conditions.

Another drawback of old cammies is they may have been washed in regular laundry detergents that contain UV brighteners. Washing them just once in regular ultra violet brightening detergent ruins any spectral suppressing coatings for ever. You will stick out like a 100 watt light bulb. That ain't cool on a two way range. Google detergents that do not contain UV brighteners. You also may want to run a couple of regular loads of laundry through your machine with NON-UV detergent just to make sure you don't ruin your cammies. If you are really paranoid wash them in a bucket. Bleach, fabric softeners, and stain treaters also contain UV brighteners. Don't use them.

The latest issue multicam military uniforms and skivies are marvels of technology. They are stealthy in multiple light spectrums, microbe resistant thanks to silver nano coatings, flame retardant, and insect repelling for up to 50 washings. In my opinion that makes them worth the extra cost and aggravation of finding them.

If you look back at history most casualties of war or other man caused destabilizing events (lol) ain't battle related. It's disease and injury. Anything that'll keep my butt hidden, clean(er), and healthy is worth the extra coin. Besides if you know where to look and have a little patience you can find them just as cheap as old woodland camouflage.

BTW don't be buttonholed by just looking in the US for advanced tech camouflage. There's some awesome stuff available from Britain, Germany, Italy, and Poland that you just can't get from US suppliers. The Euros will sell it to you. The US guys won't even give you the time of day because civies aren't worthy and they don't want to anger the government teat that they feed on.

Anonymous said...

If I'm out and about while armed, you'll never know I'm armed. You would be surprised at what you can carry in a gym bag, or one of those bags that little league teams use to carry bats, etc. My advice is to disappear in plain sight while acting alone or with not more than a couple of friends on a covert mission. Big uniformed units will attract the kind of attention that you don't want. Remember the Sons of Liberty.