Mitten Shells

Mitten shells, usually worn with wool knit inserts, are very effective for soldiers operating in cold weather conditions. However, military pattern mittens have to deal with mission specific issues such as the ability to operate weapons or equipment.

10th Mountain Division soldier at Camp Hale, CO during winter training.  Appears to be wearing first pattern Mittens, Shell, Trigger-finger.  Photo dated to 1943-1944
10th Mountain Division soldier at Camp Hale, CO during winter training. Appears to be wearing "Mittens, Shell, Trigger-finger" of the first pattern. Photo dated to 1943-1944.

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Mittens, Shell, Trigger-finger (World War II)

This style of soldier's mitten originated in World War II as "Mittens, Shell, Trigger Finger", made of olive drab cotton poplin with the palm faced in leather. Originally developed for special purposes with Mountain Troops and Ski Troops, it was adopted eventually for general use in cold weather. The mitten style had a thumb and trigger finger but not the other fingers. There was a single web strap across the back of the wrist area to adjust the opening. (Top photo on this page.)

There were two patterns during World War II. The first pattern had the trigger finger and thumb both located on the palm of the mitten while the second pattern (confusingly called Type 1) moved the trigger finger to the rear of the mitten. The Type 1 also featured a second adjusting strap and a wider leather facing.

An olive drab knit wool liner called "Mittens, Insert, Trigger Finger" was issued with the shells. The inserts were changed to match the relocated trigger finger when the Type 1 was standardized in 1943. A white overshell (Mittens, Over, White) was issued for winter camouflage.

Shell, Mittens, Gloves, Trigger Finger (MIL-M-810)

MIL-M-810A M-1951 Trigger Finger Mitten markings.  Photo courtesy of Edmund F. Leavitt
MIL-M-810A M-1951 Trigger Finger Mitten markings. Photo courtesy of Edmund F. Leavitt.

After World War II the U.S. Army updated the successful trigger finger style mitten using poplin shells with leather facing, but some improvements, an elastic cuff and adjustable wrist strap on back, and a longer overall size so it can go over or inside the sleeves of a field jacket or parka. Cord is used to connect the two mittens so they can be removed outdoors without loss.

The Trigger Finger mittens were worn with an olive drab knit wool insert of matching size and shape (photo, left), similar to the ones developed in 1943. The inserts were M-1948 made to specification MIL-M-809F, nomenclature "Wool mitten liner, trigger finger, M-1948". At some point the all wool material was replaced by wool blend that was 70% wool and 30% nylon. The inserts were marked with white stencil on their outside near the wrist.

Specifications MIL-M-810 and MIL-M-810A were manufactured in the 1951-52 time frame as Mitten, Shell, Trigger Finger M-1951. The use of specification MIL-M-810 continued for years, as in the M-1965 mitten called "Mitten Shells, Cold Weather (Trigger Finger) M-1965" which were manufactured at least until the late 1980s. Updated field jackets and parkas continued to be integrated with this style of mitten. The specification underwent a series of small modifications at least until MIL-M-810H dated 29 September 1986. These were in the supply system with NSN 8415-00-926-1526 for medium and NSN 8415-00-926-1527 for large. This item continued to be issued to the U.S. military in the 2000's. The solid olive drab fabric has been augmented by other colors and camo patterns, as in the photo.

The wool trigger finger mitten insert, MIL-M-809F pattern, continues to be used, the same M-1948 design. Mltten Shells, Snow Camouflage, Cotton, White, Two Finger are used when needed for snow operations.

Extreme Cold Weather Mittens (MIL-M-834)

MIL-M-834 Mitten ECW.  Photo courtesy of Edmund F. Leavitt
MIL-M-834 Mitten ECW. Photo courtesy of Edmund F. Leavitt.

For extreme cold weather, a mitten set was produced according to MIL-M-834 (or MIL-M-834A 25 July 1950 through MIL-M-834L 23 Oct 1989), at first named Mittens, Arctic, M1949. The mitten set features OD cotton gauntlets, deerskin leather palms, and brown cotton/alpaca pile backs. Each mitten has a snap-in removeable liner made from quilted white wool/cotton originally, then of nylon. Adjustable straps on the gauntlet provided a snug, draft-free fit. A Drawstring Harness is provided that can be used to keep the mittens from being lost when slipped off temporarily.

MIL-M-834 mittens were later known as Mitten Set, Extreme Cold Weather, part of the Extended/Extreme Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS). The MIL-M-834 components have their NSNs assigned according to this table:

Item Size NSN
Arctic Mitten Set S 8415-00-782-6715
Arctic Mitten Set M 8415-00-782-6716
Arctic Mitten Set L 8415-00-782-6717
Liner, Nylon, Arctic Mitten S 8415-01-323-2174
Liner, Nylon, Arctic Mitten M 8415-01-323-2175
Liner, Nylon, Arctic Mitten L 8415-01-323-2176
Drawstring Harness, Arctic Mitten n/a 8415-01-323-2177

MIL-M-834 Mitten Set ECW instruction label.  Photo courtesy of Edmund F. Leavitt
MIL-M-834 Mitten Set ECW instruction label. Photo courtesy of Edmund F. Leavitt.

Thanks to Edmund F. Leavitt for help with this page.

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