Military Uniforms: What are the abbreviations BDU and ACU?

Military Camouflage Uniform   

Field uniforms are very popular with hunters as well as sports fans such as airsoft and paintball. But they are also very suitable for people who just love going out and hiking in nature and looking for comfortable, sturdy and functional clothes. When choosing a field uniform, the two abbreviations you will most often encounter are BDU and ACU. What they mean and what is the difference between them you will learn in this article.


Two soldiers with different military uniforms


The two abbreviations come from the names Battle Dress Uniform and Army Combat Uniform, respectively, and indicate the field uniforms used by the US Armed Forces. Some people associate these names with a certain camouflage color, but in fact they characterize the pattern of the uniform. This is especially true after the commercialization of the two models, when different companies producing military, sports and hunting apparel begin to market them in a variety of camouflage colors. Here is a brief history of the two most popular uniforms.

The United States Army introduced the BDU uniform in 1981, replacing the Vietnam War model. The name also emphasizes "battle" to emphasize that it is intended to be used in the field, unlike uniforms worn during garrison service and parades. The color in which it appears is the four-color forest camouflage of the US Army - woodland, whose colors are consistent with the northern European woodland. The original fabric material standard is 50% nylon, 50% cotton. This combination adds great strength to the uniform. But after complaints were received from troops using it in hot regions that the cloth was mating, in 1987 the first lightweight versions made of 100% cotton intended for a tropical climate were introduced. However, this affects the strength and durability of the "tropical" uniform. The original army uniform also has a coating that provides a degree of protection for the soldier when monitoring with infrared spectra. In general, from 1981 until today, the model has undergone only a few minor modifications and is liked by the military. Suffice it to say that its replacement began only in 2008, when the new ACU standard was introduced. However, this applies to the US Army. The BDU model is still widely used by a number of armies as well as paramilitary formations. Syria is the most recent example of the use of BDU in a hot conflict zone. There, the main field uniform of the Syrian Arab Army is BDU in classic woodland coloring.

Of course, because of the comfort it gives to this cut, it is also popular in civilian life. Preferred by hunters and nature lovers, workers and even for everyday use, as individual items of uniform have come into fashion. Today the BDU model is offered by different companies in almost all modern camouflage colors as well as in monochrome variants. The fabric of the fabric also varies from US Army standard (50/50 nylon / cotton), through different percentages of polyester and cotton, to 100% cotton. The fabric is usually woven using ripstop technology (used with the original uniform), which makes it more resistant to tearing. Typically, the button fastener uses ordinary plastic buttons with a button, no zipper anywhere. The jacket has four large pockets with lids - two on the chest and two underneath, and the sleeves are reinforced at the elbows. The trousers have a total of six pockets - two standard in the front, two rear and two large side lids. It is reinforced at the knees and has tightening links at the lower end of the trouser leg. The jacket is worn loosely over the trousers. In the attached photo you can see what the BDU pattern is.

The new model uniforms, already finally introduced to the US Army - ACU, were first introduced in 2004. The uniform includes a number of design changes as well as new camouflage shades (the most widely used is the UCP digital tri-color camouflage). Their production is outsourced to the same subcontractors as the BDU model. The standard fabric of which they are made again is a fabric of 50% nylon and 50% cotton, with the use of ripstop technology. 

Two military soldiers with camouflage unifroms

The changes in the model are not small. Overall, the cut is freer than BDU. For the design, veterans with solid experience have been employed as consultants who have suggested how to improve the functionality of the uniforms. For example, one of the changes is the angle at which pockets are placed in order to facilitate access to them. Also, all the pocket buttons are replaced with velcro, which also provides significantly faster and easier access. A jacket zipper has been introduced, both for fastening and double (and velcro), and under the arms for ventilation. The jacket pockets are four again, with two also located on the chest, but the other two are moved to the sleeves, just below the shoulders. This allows them to be used even when the soldier wears a tactical vest over his uniform. The side pockets are positioned so that their contents will not be affected even when rolled over the shoulder. They are also covered with velcro because on this model, the uniform straps are attached so that they are not sewn directly. With the newer modifications to the model, the jacket also has another pocket with three sections of pens on the left sleeve above the wrist. The elbows are reinforced, with the ability to attach internal soft elbow pads to special compartments designed for them.

The trousers are very similar to the BDU uniform, but with the exception that the pockets are fastened again with velcro and both sides are slightly angled. It is reinforced at the bottom, except for the knees. Again, it is possible to attach the internal soft knee pads. There are also two smaller pockets with a lid above the ankles. The US Army also uses a refractory version of the ACU uniform from 2010.

This new cut that gives new functionality is quickly gaining in popularity. The model has been adopted by different armies, with some making additional modifications or developing their own models based on it. It is also increasingly used by paramilitary formations, with ACU uniforms on both sides in the Ukrainian conflict.

The ACU model is also available on the market by various companies manufacturing military equipment. As with BDU, the fabric of the fabric also varies by US Army standard (50/50 nylon / cotton), across different percentages of polyester and cotton. Also available in many different camouflage colors.

Both models have their advantages and conveniences - whether you prefer to bet on the tried and tested BDU classic or choose the innovative ACU model is up to you.