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Army Shoulder Straps: Gold Bullion or Nylon?

We are often asked what the difference is between the gold bullion and nylon shoulder straps and what we would recommend.  We offer this as a service to help Soldiers identify the criteria by which they can make decisions. Well, here are our thoughts, as objectively stated as we can state an admittedly subjective opinion:

Cost: The most obvious difference to the buyer, the Nylon Shoulder Straps cost $32.00. The Bullion are more expensive at $59.00.

Regulations: Both versions of Shoulder Straps fulfill Army uniform regulation requirements.

Appearance: The Bullion Shoulder Straps have a gold-plated wire and have a much richer appearance with a 3-dimensional relief (click the smaller images for a higher resolution view, or scroll to the bottom of the page for large photos).

History: The bullion straps of today are essentially the same as the straps worn in the Civil War era and are still hand-made in much the same way.  The machine-made nylon shoulder straps are a modern variation that cannot reproduce the handmade uniqueness of the bullion.  With the return of the Army Service Dress Blue uniform as the Army’s Class A (as the Dress Blue was since the early 1800’s), we suspect officers will choose bullion straps more often as a reflection of that heritage.

Field Grade Male Hats: The appearance of the Bullion Field Grade Male cap visor is without question better than the nylon; however, it is again more expensive than the nylon.  Keep in mind that nylon straps are worn with nylon visors; bullion straps with bullion visors.

Our Bottom Line Recommendation: At the risk of trying to sell the more expensive uniform items, we have to honestly recommend the following:

  1. New 2LT’s – A toss-up, though one can use the unofficial “White-Out” method of changing the gold bars to silver (we do not really recommend this, but acknowledge that it is done). If you are wearing Blues for your wedding, the bullion straps look amazingly better.
  2. 1LT’s, CPT’s, and Warrant Officers – Go with the bullion for the sake of the official photos for promotion boards and for the statement of pride in the profession.
  3. Field Grade Officers – We think the more professional and rich look of the bullion straps and cap visor far outweigh the additional cost (about $50 more for males and $30 more for females).
  4. General Officers – No question here. Go with the bullion.

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