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Stencil Your Gear

By The ITS Crew

stencil01Stenciling is something the Navy hammered into our brains as a way to distinguish our equipment from the next guy. It worked most of the time, even though I lost several pairs of  skivies during laundry… go figure.

In the Navy they had a large stencil cutting machine that would punch letters and numbers out of card stock making a perfect stencil. You’d then use Texpen Fabric Markers to color in the stencil on whatever you’d need your name on. There were times that the stencil markers just didn’t cut it (crap out) and you’d resort to a Sharpie.

stencil02The problem with both of these options is that some surfaces won’t hold the Texpen or the Sharpie… What then? Well, after investing heavily in Magpul’s revolutionary PMAGs and coupled with my OCD, I bought  a Dremel Engraver.

stencil03The engraver comes with a carbide tip and functions similar to a Tattoo gun, which makes short work of any stencil job. Clothing should still be left to a Texpen or Sharpie, but most things I truly value now get engraved.

I use the standard ID number the Navy taught us which is the first letter of your last name, followed by the last three digits of your SS#. Use whatever works for you.

There’s a small stencil square that comes with the engraver which I started out using. I traced what I wanted in pencil, then ran the engraver over it. The more I did this, the more I noticed the pencil lead was staying in my engraving marks and making it more difficult to read. After that I just started  free-handing  everything, and with some practice it comes out quite nicely.


Here’s a photo of the engraver markings on a PMAG that I’ve done as an example (top of the image). I also use a DecoColor Paint Marker to mark my Magazine numbers so that if I have an issue I can isolate that magazine easier.

I’m  definitely  sold on the engraver, and it’s worth way more than I paid for it… It’s also come in quite handy around the house.

What do you use to stencil your gear?

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  • Chad

    I sharpied two of my pmags tonight with my last name initial and a number 1,2,etc then of course I get online and see this great idea about engraving haha. My worry mainly is when doing range drills and my mags walking away. The black sharpie with definitely allow me to see at a glance that my mag is getting away.

  • BootlegGucci

    Very interesting idea. I might have to try this.

  • Matt
    • Very cool Matt, never heard of these before. That’s great that they also seem to share the characteristics of fabric markers.

  • Jason

    Since most of our gear is black, I use the silver metallic Sharpie, works great. At first the rest of the guys laughed. Next training day when they were trying to figure out who had who’s magazines, they suddenly wanted to borrow that silly Sharpie of mine.

  • Nick

    I’ve recently started using this method for marking my gear too. It also works great for matching keys to locks if you have a ton of locks laying around. If you only need the engraving tool and not the rest of the functionality of a Dremel tool, check out this little tool:
    It’s much cheaper than a Dremel. I picked mine up for about $17 at a craft store near me. Apparently you can find them at Target, Walmart, etc. as well.

    • Nick, never seen that kind of engraving tool before. How does it do on metal and plastics like PMAGs?

    • Nick

      I was a little hesitant at first because the construction of the tool is not as stout as something like a Dremel, but it did great on all of my hardened steel locks. It does still have a diamond coated tip and the box says it can be used on “metal, tiles, glass, slate, wood, stone, leather, plastic, acrylic and more”. I haven’t had the chance to use it on any PMAGs, but I did mark all of my contico boxes with it and it worked perfectly. The plastic on the conticos is probably a little softer than that of a PMAG, but I think if it worked on hardened steel, then it would surely work on anything softer than that.

    • Thanks for the info Nick, definitely have to check that tool out. Does it take batteries or does it plug in? Couldn’t tell from the link you posted. Might be the perfect thing to put in a range box…

    • Nick

      It takes 4 AAA batteries, so it’s nice and portable. Definitely a good thing for a range box! I’ll be taking it with me on deployment in about a week. You never know what kind of stuff you’ll have to mark up 😉

    • Thanks Nick, sounds like a great buy. Stay safe on deployment! ~ Bryan

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