“Battle Rattle” is slang for a soldier’s warfighting gear in general; this is usually US military jargon, and exact meanings will vary. “Full battle rattle” usually indicates a heavy loadout from head to toe, e.g. individual and sometimes squad weapon(s), a helmet with all the furnishings, body armor, battle belt, CBRNE ensemble (MOPP gear), NODs/NVGs, hydration gear, and of course all the accouterments and oddments necessary to haul a combat load of ammunition (“frags and mags”). Armor might be as (relatively) light as a plate carrier or as cumbersome as an IOTV or MTV with plates all the other fixin’s (i.e. collar/gorget, groin flap, side plates, etc.).
Short story long, Battle Rattle includes most all the tactical gear that soldiers refer to as “LBE”, “LCE”, “LBV”, “web gear”, “deuce gear”, “TA-50”, et al. It usually features an abundance of MOLLE/PALS and occasionally an embarrassing amount of Velcro. In the UK we’d refer to PLCE or “webbing” as a Brit warfighter’s battle rattle.
Donning such gear is variously referred to as “jocking up”, “kitting up”, “gearing up”, etc.
Equipment included in someone’s battle rattle will differ from MOS/AFSC/Rate to MOS/AFSC/Rate, mission to mission, service to service, and of course from country to country. Current US battle rattle is refined from what was previously referred to as ALICE (All Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment), IIFS (Individual Integrated Fighting System) tactical vest, PASGT (Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops), K-pot, etc.
“I think some of the engineers who come up with these names (ALICE and MOLLE) are 40-year old virgins.” Mike Searson
Naturally, Battle Rattle has evolved over the centuries, though a few things (such as loading individual warfighters down with so much kit that it impacts their ability to fight) remain common.
Note that some people, particularly FPS gamers, think that sounds cooler than “Battle Rattle”.
Maybe that’s because it sounds more “operator”, more like something a commando would wear vs. that of a grunt, I don’t know. But I suck at FPS games and this is my article (not to mention my website), so for the purposes of this article, we’re sticking with battle rattle.
Besides, loadout just doesn’t have the same over-burdened, “Marius’s Mules” connotation as battle rattle.
But I digress.
Here is some battle rattle our forbearers wore.
Frontier Force & Queen’s Own Corps of Guides, circa 1918
The men were armed with single-loading Lee Enfield .303 long rifles, very accurate and reliable weapons. Each man carried a brown leather bandolier with pouches to hold fifty rounds of Mark VI ammunition. This bandolier was slung over one shoulder and across the chest.
When out on road protection duty or on gasht1 the men wore partogai, long, loose trousers and a shirt, both made from mazrie cloth, a light grey-coloured material, hard wearing and ideal for the country we worked in. The dark-grey and black rock of those hills made a wearer almost invisible at anything above short range.
A felt-covered water bottle and a light haversack for food, and first-aid pack completed a soldier’s equipment. All Pathans, for footwear, prefer wearing sandals to boots, as the former are much lighter and also more flexible. These chaplies for hill work, are incomparable. All officers also wore this type of footwear and I became so accustomed to the chapli that I continued to use them all through my service, and still do.
(Maj. Cummings, referring to Pathan colonial soldiers of the South Waziristan Militia)
Frontier Fighters: On Active Service in Waziristan
The Memoirs of Major James Cummings
Once upon a time, battle rattle meant a specific instrument used to sound an alarm and call to quarters in the Navy. That is no longer the case.