What Does “MilSpec” Really Mean Anyway?

BY Herschel Smith
1 week, 5 days ago

Shooting Illustrated.

Let’s start with a simple definition: Mil-spec is “A document that describes the essential technical requirements for military-unique materiel or substantially modified commercial items. MIL-STD-961 covers the content and format for defense specifications.” In simple terms, mil-spec is a list of standards to which goods sold to the U.S. military must adhere. These standards might apply to truck tires, hats, t-shirts, and yes, firearms and ammunition. There is even a spec that specifies “Requirements for swim fins made of gum rubber for wear by military personnel for swimming purposes and for general utility.” Exciting stuff.

In the munitions context, a standardized “spec” ensures that everyone is armed with firearms that are of equal quality and with interchangeable parts. This simplifies logistics and ensures a basic level of quality. In the marketing world, mil-spec has taken on a life of its own. It is promoted as some sort of gold standard for quality when, in fact, it is a floor rather than a ceiling. The military itself is rarely at the cutting edge of innovation, instead relying on private industry to meet the needs of the force. Just because a product meets the mil-spec doesn’t mean that is the best thing on the block.

[ … ]

If a firearm truly meets the military specification, we know that it satisfies a baseline standard for quality. If you’ve ever slept in a military sleeping bag, used a military backpack or hiked in military boots, you’ll probably agree that the issued items are rarely the best on the market. The same goes for firearms, which is something that we should all take into account when making our buying decisions. Just because a product is right for the military, doesn’t mean that it is the right choice for you.

Sounds like something I said before.  “Don’t slip past these paragraphs, because they explain why “Milspec” is 1:7.  It isn’t because 1:7 shoots M193 or M855 more accurately.  It’s because of the weight of tracer rounds.  As we’ve discussed before, the term Milspec doesn’t mean better, or worse, or anything at all except that it precisely meets the specifications outlined in the purchase order(s), excepting whatever variance notifications they might make on a given batch of guns.”


Comments

  1. On February 12, 2020 at 8:00 am, ragman said:

    My only experience with “Milspec” is associated with building AR15s and AR10s. One is “Milspec”and the other is not. The AR15 parts are interchangeable and are of good quality. Just like the original 1911s. Made by many different manufacturers, they worked just fine. Many years later an incredible industry supplying ARs and 1911s is in place, We can choose from literally hundreds of parts and firearm providers for both platforms. Or we can select basic “Milspec” models made new in 2020. The AR10 is a different animal and a builder must be careful that his parts are compatible.

  2. On February 12, 2020 at 1:02 pm, MTHead said:

    Absolutely Ragman. In fact many AR10’s, and the pistol caliber AR’s are manufacturer specs. Palmetto state being one of the worst offenders in AR-10’s.
    If it’s not AR-15, mil-spec., make sure of parts compatibility before you buy folks! I can’t count how many people came into the shop trying to buy, sale, trade, swamp, or return parts that didn’t match up on there gun builds.

  3. On February 12, 2020 at 1:11 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @MTHead,

    Well, most manufacturers make Milspec stuff for AR-15s, excepting barrel length, coatings, maybe castle nut, whether the charging handle is ambi, materials (to lighten up the forend), etc. In this case, following Milspec is good because it ensures that parts are compatible by DIMENSION.

    In the case of AR-10s, there is essentially no such thing as Milspec. It appears to be the Wild, Wild West, with different manufacturers doing their own thing. This is a common complaint over at AR15.com.

  4. On February 12, 2020 at 2:21 pm, MTHead said:

    Ya, Herschel. I believe it really hurts the industry as a whole. Many manufacturers got into the game by making parts to fit mil-spec AR’s. Just as SAAMI spec cartridge allows all manufactures to chamber guns/ make ammo to those specs.
    Making proprietary guns/parts is short sighted. At least in the AR/Mil type guns. As a rising AR tide has floated a lot of boats.

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You are currently reading "What Does “MilSpec” Really Mean Anyway?", entry #23310 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published February 11th, 2020 by Herschel Smith.

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