Best USMC Gifts — A Former Infantry Officer Breaks Down Your Options
So you’re looking for the perfect gifts for a Marine veteran — or maybe a gift for a Marine boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife.
It doesn’t matter if the occasion is their boot camp graduation, commissioning, promotion, or retirement.
You want to make sure you get exactly the right gift.
This USMC Gift Guide gives you 13 options to jump-start your search for the perfect gift.
Scroll through and read all of our top gifts for Marines.
Or, click on any of these links to jump to specific sections of the post:
These gifts are the gold standard for retirement gifts in particular. You won’t find too many retired Marines who don’t have some type of shadow box hanging on a wall in their home or office.
Plenty of Marines who leave active duty prior to retirement have one as well to memorialize their service time.
You can keep things simple and go with a small display that shows only a few things. Start with rank insignia, ribbons, and medals in addition to a small engraved portion that includes name and service dates.
Or you can go all out.
Shadow boxes may also include a flag, dress blues, insignia for every rank held, and unit patches or coins.
Where to Buy Your Shadow Box
There are plenty of large online retailers that can fill a shadow box order for you. Sgt Grit, for instance, has plenty of options here.
But if at all possible I’d recommend “shopping local” and finding a small business. Most likely, they can give you the personal attention necessary to do a truly memorable job.
Do you live anywhere near a town like Oceanside, CA or Jacksonville, NC?
If so, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a local shop. There, you can sit down with the designer and discuss ideas in person.
Bullets2Bandages Survival Kits
For our Survival Kits we start with an M2A1 ammo can, which is the size used by the US military for several calibers of linked ammo.
We offer the cans in their standard OD green as well as gloss black and gloss red powder-coated finishes.
You’ve got plenty of latitude for custom engraving on the ammo cans. There’s about 6″ by 9″ of space, and on the red and black cans we’re able to engrave on both sides. So you can add name, rank, service dates, or any other details you want on there.
Then, as shown in the below photo from a recent custom order for the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, we stuff it with a flask and funnel, two steel pints, and a .50 caliber bottle opener, all with custom engraving.
These products are in the same vein as shadowboxes in that they can be customized in dozens of different ways. You’re able to add service emblems, unit patches, rank insignia, and so on.
These flags won’t have the glass front that you’d get on a shadowbox. But some shops will allow you to add shelves or notches to hold additional mementos (like the all-important DD-214 shown in one example below).
Or you could always request blank spaces to stick in a ribbon rack or rank insignia.
Framed Unit Guidon
If you’re shopping for a going-away gift for a company commander, first sergeant, battalion commander, or battalion sergeant major then a framed guidon is a great way to go. I still treasure the one I received from the drill instructors and officers of Hotel Company, 2d Recruit Training Battalion at MCRD San Diego.
Framing for a full-size USMC guidon isn’t going to be cheap. You could always opt for a miniature replica guidon and slip it into its own frame or include it as part of a shadowbox.
I’ve also seen plenty of senior drill instructors receive a framed guidon upon the completion of their DI tour. In most cases they’ll feature the 4-digit platoon number of their final graduating platoon.
NCO or Officer’s Sword
Warning on this one — Marine NCO and Officers’s swords aren’t one-size-fits-all. They have to be sized to each individual based on height and arm length.
Make sure you’re certain of the correct size before dropping a lot of money on a sword. Once engraved, the vendor probably won’t refund you if it’s the wrong size.
Marine NCO Sword
The Marine Corps is the only branch to assign a sword to non-commissioned officers. Fun fact: it’s the oldest weapon in continuous use in the US arsenal.
Having the right to carry one is a big deal to new corporals.
Unless they’re heading to Drill Instructor duty a sword isn’t likely to get daily use. But it’s always nice to have your own sword and not have to borrow one for a wedding or for Corporal’s Course.
Marine Officer’s Sword
If you know someone who is earning a commission as a 2ndLt out of the US Naval Academy, an NROTC program, or OCS, then his or her initial uniform and equipment requirements will amount to a purchase in the neighborhood of $3,000-4,000.
A large chunk of that spending will go towards a sword. If I remember correctly, it’s a mandatory uniform item even though it’s rarely used outside of weddings, Birthday Ball ceremonies, and commands like MCRD that use them for drill on a regular basis.
The modern-day Mameluke sword resembles the sword presented to Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon following his Marines’ victory at the Battle of Derna. That’s the campaign from which the “Shores of Tripoli” line in the Marines’ Hymn originates.
The Marine Shop offers a very nice Mameluke with all its needed accessories, or you may be able to shop around and find a better price elsewhere.
Accessories for Marine NCO and Officer’s Swords
Is the sword itself is too pricey for what you can afford? Or does the Marine in question already own a sword? You could also purchase a display box similar to this one or a rack like you can see here for NCOs or here for officers.
Those options are available with custom engraving. However, as suggested above for shadow boxes you can likely find better prices and a more customized product by sourcing yours through a local woodworking shop.
Custom .50 Caliber Bottle Opener
Of course we’re not going to forget our own products in this list…
You can view our full line of Marine Corps gifts by clicking on the link, but if I had to choose one of our .50 caliber bottle openers to give to a Marine it would be one of these with a bloodstripe finish to match Marine dress blue trousers.
Choose from MARINES, Semper Fi, or 243rd Birthday engraving on the front. Then customize the reverse with name, rank, service dates, or any other details.
If you’re shopping for a boot camp graduation gift or an OCS graduation gift, you could have the bottle openers engraved with something like name, rank, platoon/company, and graduation date — we get orders along those lines pretty frequently, with our brass USMC .50 caliber bottle openers coming in a close second to the bloodstripe ones shown above.
On the Birthday Ball note, if you’re looking for customized unit gifts for the 2018 Marine Corps Birthday Ball, please click here and enter your contact information to request a wholesale pricing quote.
USMC Beer Stein
Every Marine is likely to have dozens of pint glasses featuring their units’ names from Birthday Balls and Mess Nights.
But a fancy stein or mug like you can see here represents a big step up from a basic pint glass. And it will see much more use unless your Marine chooses to put it on a display rack.
Uniforms or Tailoring
Marine Corps dress blues are the greatest uniform in the US military, and possibly the world — it’s science.
But Marine uniforms aren’t cheap. And every time an enlisted Marine earns a promotion, that means sewing new chevrons on every service and dress uniform in the wall locker.
Additionally, some uniforms like dress blues aren’t part of the seabag issue out of boot camp. That means they would have to be purchased out of pocket at some point.
You don’t want your Marine to be that guy/gal showing up in service alphas for a Birthday Ball. So helping him/her out with dress blues is a move that would be greatly appreciated.
Newly-promoted corporals will also have to add a bloodstripe to their dress blue trousers. And new majors will have to buy new dress and service covers with scrambled eggs on the visor. To top it off, they’ll also have to spring for new mess dress uniforms.
Mounted Ribbons or Medals
Along the same lines as the “uniforms” suggestion above…
There’s nothing wrong with buying your ribbons, medals, and stars and sliding them onto a rack yourself. But a set of professionally mounted ribbons or medals looks ten times better than what you can do yourself.
And you’ll save time and mess from trying to glue everything perfectly in place, particularly on the medals.
As with the aforementioned shadowboxes, it’s easy to find an online store like Ultrathins that will do a great job mounting your ribbons or medals. But if you’re near a Marine base you can no doubt find a locally-owned business worthy of your support.
Custom Engraved Ka-Bar Knife
(photo credit: By Rich Bowen from Lexington, KY, USA – Ka-Bar USMC fighting/work knife, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48025755)
I bought a Ka-Bar similar to the above photo in high school because I thought it looked cool. 20 years later, it still is a nice tool though I can’t recall ever actually using it for anything.
But it would still make a nice gift with custom engraving on the blade or the leather sheath.
Similarly, my platoon sergeant from 2005-06 retired as a First Sergeant few years back. One of my squad leaders from that deployment turned up in town the day before the ceremony.
In his suitcase was an Iraqi AK-47 bayonet that he had, um, “acquired” somehow a decade ago.
So we engraved it up with name, rank, and a message reading “From the Boys of Lima 2.”
Gift Certificate to a Clothing Store
Another one that might not seem so obvious when shopping for gifts for Marines…
There’s not a delicate way to put this, but Marines typically don’t have great fashion sense.
Do you know a Marine who’s due to finish his/her contract and transition to college or the private sector? He or she will likely have to interview with someone in a position of authority at some point.
That person will have input as to whether this particular Marine gets a job or admission to a university.
It doesn’t help to show up looking sloppy to that sort of interview.
While not everyone can afford bespoke clothing — nor do they need it — it is not too much of a financial stretch to own some basics. A well-made suit, pair of shoes, and a few dress shirts and ties won’t break the bank. And all can be altered a bit by a good tailor so they fit far better than they would off the rack.
A Challenge Coin
…just kidding. I think Terminal Lance and Duffel Blog have covered that subject sufficiently. I just can’t think of any reason to buy a coin period, particularly one that has PFC chevrons or a 2ndLt butterbar on it.
(Please don’t click on either of those links if you’re easily offended by profanity or if your challenge coin collection is a prized possession).
I have a shoebox somewhere full of challenge coins that’s survived a half-dozen moves over the last decade, and that’s where they’ve stayed this whole time — in the box, because coins aren’t particularly useful for anything.
I guess it was cool to get a coin from the Commandant or a Division CG when I was younger, but coins kinda jumped the shark for me. It was probably when I started seeing (a) generals handing them out en masse rather than for specific recognition of good work and (b) recruit training company commanders and do-nothing staffs commission their own custom coins with over-the-top logos or mottos.
DID WE FORGET ANY GREAT GIFTS FOR MARINES?
Post your suggestions in the comments and if we like them we’ll include them in future versions of this post.