The military is tasked with the all-incredible task of protecting an entire nation and its people. So, it only makes sense that it is tough and robust.
Then, when we hear that something is described as being “military-grade,” we automatically assume that it is tough and robust too.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
… So what does military grade mean?
“Military grade” products satisfy one of the U.S military‘s standards. But there are just about a bazillion standards in the military, and not all of them are about the soundness of a product. There are ones about formats and other aspects completely irrelevant to quality.
That being said, the phrase “military-grade” is (more often than not) taken advantage of and used as just a marketing tool to get customers (like you and us) to pay more.
For more details, keep reading! We will dive deeper into military standards, and towards the end, we will also answer two frequently asked questions. When you finish reading, you should have a sound grasp on what military grade entails and make other decisions like whether you should spend money on military grade products.
Table of Contents
Everything About Military Grade
As we have mentioned, the meaning of “military-grade” is often misunderstood, simply because we think and associate the military with superior toughness and robustness.
The actual definition is that it complies with any (of the very long list of) military standards. Just for your reference, the non-exhaustive on Wikipedia specifies over 50 standards in the U.S military, as follows:
- Catalog Handbook H2 for NATO Stock Number Federal Supply Classes and Groups
- Catalog Handbook H4 for vendor code details
- Catalog Handbook H6 for NATO Coding System and Item Names
- Catalog Handbook H8 for vendor code details
- MIL-STD-105 for sampling inspections
- MIL-STD-130 for property marking identification
- MIL-STD-167 for shipboard equipment mechanical vibrations
- MIL-STD-188 for telecommunications-related standards
- MIL-STD-196 for JETDS (Joint Electronics Type Designation System) specifications
- MIL-STD-202 for test methods of electronic and electrical component parts
- MIL-STD-276 for porous metal castings and powdered metal components vacuum impregnation
- MIL-STD-348 for interfaces of radio frequency
- MIL-STD-461 for electromagnetic interference of subsystems and equipment control
- MIL-STD-464 for systems electromagnetic environmental effects requirements
- MIL-STD-498 for documentation and development of softwares
- MIL-STD-499 for system engineering and engineering management
- MIL-STD-704 for characteristics of aircraft electric power
- MIL-STD-709 for color coding and design of ammunition
- MIL-STD-806 for logic diagrams graphical symbols
- MIL-STD-810 for test methods of environmental effects
- MIL-STD-882 for system safety practice
- MIL-STD-883 for test methods of microcircuits
- MIL-STD-1168 for classifying ammunition production
- MIL-STD-1234 for pyrotechnics sampling, inspection, and testing
- MIL-STD-1246 for space hardware contamination levels
- MIL-STD-1376 for sonar transducers guidelines
- MIL-STD-1388-1A for analysis of logistics support
- MIL-STD-1388-2B for analysis of logistics support
- MIL-STD-1394 for hat construction quality
- MIL-STD-1397 for digital data and input-output interfaces standardization
- MIL-STD-1472 for human engineering
- MIL-STD-1474 for small arms sound measurement
- MIL-STD-1464A for naming weapons and other materials
- MIL-STD-1553 for digital communications bus
- MIL-STD-1589 for programming language JOVIAL
- MIL-STD-1661 for naming and designating by the Navy
- MIL-STD-1750a for airborne computer instruction set architectures
- MIL-STD-1760 for interfaces of smart weapons
- MIL-STD-1815 for programming language ADA
- MIL-STD-1913 for mounting brackets on firearms
- MIL-STD-2045 for data transfer connectionless application layers
- MIL-STD-2196 for optical fiber communications
- MIL-STD-3011 for protocols of join range extension application
- MIL-STD-6011 for message standard tactical data link (11/11B)
- MIL-STD-6013 for data link Army tactical
- MIL-STD-6016 for message standard tactical data link (Link 16)
- MIL-STD-6015 for the format of variable message
- MIL-STD-6040 for message format of USMTF
- MIL-I-17563C for an application-compatible vacuum impregnation sealant
- MIL-PRF-38534 for specification of hybrid microcircuits
- MIL-PRF-38535 for specification of manufacturing microcircuits
- MIL-S-901 for shipboard equipment shock testing
- MIL-E-7016F for analysis of aircraft AC and DC loads
- MIL-S-82258 for gum rubber construction of rubber swim fins
Sometimes, the material(s) of a product can be described as being “military-grade.” In this case, it might just be a material, such as steel, that is used by the military for various applications.
For example, the Ford F-150 military-grade aluminum alloy that was “laughed at” during its marketing campaign in 2015. (You may have heard of the discussion on Reddit conversation chain).
You can watch the marketing video for its campaign here.
According to Alex Hollings, an ex-Marine, the phrase military-grade is “mostly just a marketing ploy.” He also points out that using the same materials as the military is not as incredible as it sounds because the military does not always get the ‘top-of-of-the line’ materials; most of the time, the ‘cost-effective’ one is chosen.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
So, does that mean we should not get products that are called military-grade?
Being described as military-grade does not render a product useless or low-quality. Hence, you do not have to be worried about not being able to use a military-grade product at all, especially when it comes to gear and outdoor items like a pocket knife or anything that is actually used by the military as an Army tough box.
Here is an example of an “Army tough box”:
And here is a military grade phone case sold on Amazon:
However, the military-grade label can be an “excuse” for manufacturers and brands to ramp up the price tag. So, for items that are not used by the military, such as an “Army grade phone case,” we recommend against shelling out money for the “military-grade” description.
What are some items that are commonly marketed as military grade?
You can find flashlights, laptops, smartphones, signal mirrors, luggages, watches, belts, glasses, goggles, ponchos, and T-shirts — to name a few.
Here is an example of a pair of glasses marketed as being military grade:
So, to recap our answer to, “What does military grade mean?” It is a marketing ploy that tricks us into adding intrinsic value to a product and perceiving it as having “higher quality.” As a result, we will be more willing to pay a high price for it.
However, a product can easily become “military grade” as long as it meets just one of the long and various lists of military standards. For example, a product can be considered military grade if it satisfies the MIL- STD-810, which is in fact a military standard, but is only a loose collection of rules for the manufacturers and not the product itself.
A product can also become “military grade” if its main material is one that is used by the military, but this is not necessarily good as the military typically prioritizes a material’s cost-effectiveness.
If you are thinking about adding that military grade phone case to your cart and putting the one that is not called military grade back to the shelf, think again! Do not fall for this marketing language and waste a bunch of money!
If you found this article informative and interesting, please leave us a comment. Share your thoughts on this topic and any other questions you have in the comments as well. And, help us share this article with other readers like your family and friends. Thanks!
I am Everett Bledsoe, taking on the responsibility of content producer for The Soldiers Project. My purpose in this project is to give honest reviews on the gear utilized and tested over time. Of course, you cannot go wrong when checking out our package of information and guide, too, as they come from reliable sources and years of experience.