Best USMC Gifts — A Former Infantry Officer Breaks Down Your Options
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So you’re looking for the perfect gifts for a Marine veteran — or maybe a gift for a Marine boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife.
Whether 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 will give you 13 options to get you started on your search for the perfect gift.
Scroll through and read them all, 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 Marines who have served 20+ years and don’t have some sort of shadow box hanging on a wall at home.
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 rank insignia, ribbons, and medals in addition to a small engraved portion that includes name and service dates.
Or you can go all out an include a flag, dress blues, collar or shoulder insignia for every enlisted and/or officer rank held, and unit patches or coins.
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.
If at all possible I’d recommend going with a small business which is more likely to give you the personal attention necessary to do a truly memorable job.
If you live anywhere near a town like Oceanside, CA or Jacksonville, NC you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a local shop where 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 (with original stencil markings on the reverse) as well as gloss black and gloss red powder-coated finishes.
You’ve got plenty of latitude for custom engraving on the ammo cans — about 6″ by 9″ of space. And on the red and black cans we can engrave on both sides.
So you can add name, rank, service dates, or any other details you want on there.
See the below photo from a recent custom order for the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon. We stuff the can with a flask, funnel, two steel pints, and a .50 caliber bottle opener, all with custom engraving.
These products are in the same vein as shadowboxes with customization in dozens of different ways — service emblems, unit patches, rank insignia, and so on.
While they won’t have the glass front that you’d get on a shadowbox, some shops will offer 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, so you could always opt for a miniature replica guidon. Those can slip it into their own frame, or you can include it in 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 go with 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 are not one-size-fits-all.
Size will depend on height and arm length, so be certain on those details before dropping a lot of money on a sword.
Once engraved, the vendor probably isn’t going to refund you if it’s the wrong size.
The Marine Corps is the only branch to assign a sword to non-commissioned officers — and, fun fact, it’s the oldest weapon in continuous use in the US arsenal. So earning 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 rather than being “that guy/gal” who always needs to borrow one for a wedding.
If you know someone who is getting commissioned 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, which is (if I remember correctly) a required uniform item even though it’s rarely used outside of weddings, Birthday Balls, and commands like MCRD that use them for drill on a regular basis.
The modern-day Mameluke sword memorializes the sword presented to Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon following his Marines’ victory at the Battle of Derna, 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.
A sword itself may be too pricey for what you can afford — or if the Marine may already own a sword. In that case, you could 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, though as suggested above for shadow boxes you may be able to 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 244th Birthday engraving on the front and have the reverse side customized 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.
Our brass USMC .50 caliber bottle openers come 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 2019 Marine Corps Birthday Ball, please click here to request a wholesale pricing quote.
USMC Beer Stein
Every Marine is likely to have a half-dozen (at least) pint glasses with their unit insignia on them from Birthday Balls and Mess Nights.
But a fancy stein like you can see here represents a big step up from a basic pint glass. And it will see far more use, unless your Marine chooses to put it on a display rack.
Speaking of “display rack,” if super fancy is your style then something like this stein may be right for you.
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 new chevrons on every service and dress uniform.
Additionally, some uniforms like dress blues aren’t part of the seabag issue out of boot camp, so Marines have to purchase them 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 out with dress blues is a nice move.
Newly-promoted corporals must add a bloodstripe to their dress blue trousers, and new majors will need new dress and service covers with scrambled eggs on the visor.
And they’ll need mess dress uniforms, which will suck up a large chunk of that pay raise.
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.
However, a set of professionally mounted ribbons or medals will look ten times better than what you can do yourself.
Plus you’ll save time and mess from trying to glue everything perfectly in place, particularly on the medals.
As with the aforementioned shadowboxes, websites like Ultrathins will do a great job mounting your ribbons or medals,
But if you’re near a Marine base you can no doubt find several small locally-owned businesses worthy of your support.
Custom Engraved Ka-Bar Knife
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 added on the blade or branded onto the leather sheath.
The best pricing I’ve found thus far for Ka-Bars is here on Amazon, where you may also be eligible for free Prime shipping.
When 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. He had 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 along the lines of “From the Boys of Lima 2.”
Not a Ka-Bar, but you get the idea.
Gift Certificate to a Clothing Store
Another one that might not seem so obvious — there’s not a delicate way to put this, but Marines are not known for their fashion sense.
Do you know a Marine who is due to finish his/her contract soon 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 some input as to whether this particular Marine veteran gets a job or gets admitted to a university. It doesn’t help to show up looking sloppy to that sort of interview.
Not everyone can afford bespoke clothing — nor do they need it.
But it’s not too much of a financial stretch to own a well-made suit, pair of shoes, and a few dress shirts and ties. A good tailor can do alterations on all these items 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 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 of the Marine Corps or a Division CG when I was younger. But coins kinda jumped the shark for me 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 commissioning their own custom coins with over-the-top logos or mottos.
DID WE FORGET ANY?
Post your suggestions in the comments and if we like them we’ll include them in future versions of this post.