Some of the best equipment, clothing, and supplies are available as military surplus. Although this market is smaller today than it was right after World War II, there is still a vast amount of military surplus on the market at all times. This section of Olive-Drab.com will help you find your way in the government military surplus market.
This page is about where and how to buy Military Surplus. Take a look at the huge Olive-Drab.com section on Militaria for photos, descriptions and history of hundreds of specific items of military surplus equipment, uniforms, and gear, especially the section about Soldier's Clothing & Gear. You can learn what to look for and how to distinguish genuine military surplus from fakes.
One of the best places to find individual sales of government surplus items of all kinds is now the eBay
online auction. Above, on the left you can see a live list of a few items on sale right now. Every day there are thousands on auction, of all types. Many surplus dealers now sell on eBay; some have even closed their retail store to focus on eBay.
For a detailed discussion of how to buy directly from US Government surplus auctions, look at the Olive-Drab.com section on Government Surplus Military Vehicle Auctions. That section is focused on how military surplus auctions work for vehicles, but the auctions work the same for any type of military surplus. Sales are going on all the time, all over the world.
A sensational review of the U.S. military surplus disposal program is covered in this article from U.S. News titled "Weapons Bazaar". In the article the many errors in coding for demilitarization are discussed along with possible criminal or espionage exploitation of these problems. See Demilitarization Requirements for more on the subject.
Military surplus dealers often have a wide range of things in stock. If it is really surplus, the supply is always uncertain since it depends on government sales of that particular item. Sometimes there will be a glut of an item as it is purged from military inventories. Later it may be in short supply. One dealer may swear all supplies disappeared years ago, another may insist it never existed, and a third may have all you want for a few bucks. Bottom line: check around, compare prices and condition before buying. eBay can help by giving you a place to check availability and typical prices even if you plan to buy from another dealer.
Use the Military Supplier Index on the bottom of every Olive-Drab page, or the supplier part of the Olive-Drab.com Search page, to find sources of military surplus including manufacturers who make products for the military and also sell to the public. Keeping in mind the caution about militaria, you can also find items of interest under that category, particularly higher value items like watches, cameras, optics, and the like. There are also surplus related web sites and topics on the Olive-Drab.com Directory in categories like electronics and firearms.
At one time, every little town had a military surplus dealer with piles of genuine gear. Those days are gone and very few of the old time dealers are left. For a great review of the good old days of Army-Navy Surplus, visit Military Surplus - Remembering what it used to be like.
The Rise of Militaria
Today a lot of what used to be "Army-Navy Surplus" has become "militaria". That's like a doughnut becoming a "gourmet pastry" -- the main difference is that the price goes up. You can find web gear, camping equipment, and other military items in both categories. (Take a look at the Olive-Drab.com Militaria page for more information -- use the menu at the bottom of any Olive-Drab.com page to search for Militaria dealers.) Make sure you know exactly what you are getting and, if original military origin is important to you, make sure it is not a reproduction. Ask the dealer about markings, tags, etc. that will indicate its military origin. Beware of descriptions that say "military style" or "just like issued". If it is original military it will usually (not always) be stamped or tagged with the manufacturer, contract numbers, dates, model numbers and so on. "US" will normally appear on United States equipment, but not always. Read up on the category you are interested in, ask people who know, and be prepared to pay for your mistakes.
Military Surplus Sales Have Been Privatized
On 13 June 2001 the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) awarded Commercial Venture II (CV2) to Surplus Acquisition Venture, LLC and Government Liquidation.com both subsidiaries of Liquidation.com, LLC, which is based in Washington, DC. Government Liquidation.com acquired Levy/Latham Global, LLC, (a SurplusBid Company), and the result is a partnership between Government Liquidation.com and the DRMS to privatize the sale of Department of Defense surplus property. Accordingly, many sales that used to be handled by DRMS will now be carried out by this new, commercial channel. This change does not lock you out. Just the opposite, its easier than ever. To use Government Liquidation.com as your source for commercial or government surplus, you can register for a free Buyer account at their web site.
In 2014, a new contract split the work between Government Liquidation.com and GovPlanet.com. The disposition of all "rolling stock" (trucks, trailers, etc.) was transferred to GovPlanet.com while the balance of surplus categories will continue to be handled by GovLiquidation.com.
The bottom line today is that most sales of U.S. surplus will be through GovPlanet and Government Liquidation. They are dedicated to moving as much of the mountain of surplus as possible so they have made it fairly easy to participate. Instead of the old sealed bid system the Government used, these companies sell most lots using an on-line eBay type system. To use GovPlanet.com or GovLiquidation.com as your source for commercial or government surplus, you can register for a free Buyer account at their web site. You can become a buyer as an individual or as a business. The Olive-Drab.com page on Surplus Auction Tips & Techniques tells more on how to actually go about it.
There are many fine websites that have additional information on this
topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go.
Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.
For good results, try entering this: military surplus. Then click the Search button.