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What are Ghillie Suits?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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Unless your occupation happens to be military sniper, the chances are pretty good you won't ever need to purchase ghillie suits. But for those whose lives depend on effective camouflage, ghillie suits are a necessity. Few other articles of clothing call for additions such as manure, twigs, leaves and tire tread marks.

Ghillie suits usually start out as surplus pilot suits or other types of coverall jump suits. Additional padding in the form of a canvas pillow may be sewn onto the front of the suit to accommodate hours or days of waiting for action in the field. Snipers may also have to carry hidden water rations or food supplies in their ghillie suits, although they are trained to go without such amenities for long periods of time.

Rough burlap webbing is attached to the ghillie suits with fishing line or other nearly-invisible materials. The idea is to look as natural as possible, so snipers often distress these burlap webs by running over them with jeeps or storing them in mud. Enemy soldiers on patrol may look for any silhouette or odor which seems out of place, so the ghillie suits may get a coating of cow manure as well.

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After the webbing has been properly distressed, ghillie suits often receive some fine tuning. Snipers use native plants and materials to make their ghillie suit blend in with the terrain. This could mean creating a clump of weeds or a matting of leaves, or even weaving twigs and sticks into the burlap netting. Facial camouflage is also used to eliminate any trace of human presence. Once ghillie suits have been donned and the target is in range, snipers must remain completely still for maximum benefit. Even the rifle barrels are masked to eliminate their unnaturally straight lines.

Civilian hunters may also be tempted to use ghillie suits while hunting, but the results may vary. Many states require the use of blaze orange or other brightly-colored vests to distinguish the hunters from the hunted. Even in states which allow for camouflage, ghillie suits may be seen as overkill. They are best left in the hands of military professionals who really need the extra protection ghillie suits afford.

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