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US NAVY & US MARINE CORPS MODEL 1895 MILLS POCKETED CARTRIDGE BELT FOR THE WINCHESTER LEE 6mm RIFLE - SCARCE SPECIMEN IN VERY GOOD CONDITION AND COMPLETE WITH ALL THE POCKET FLAPS AND THE FULL SET OF ORIGINAL SUSPENDERS:  This Model 1895 Mills Woven Pocketed Cartridge Belt for the Winchester 6mm Lee Straight Pull Navy Rifle was issued for a relatively short period of time, however as described in Dorsey’s American Military and Naval Belts, this belt’s design “cast a long shadow” on the style of future American military rifle cartridge belts and the Mills Woven Cartridge Belt Company for many years to come.   

Designed by members of the US Navy Bureau of Ordnance in cooperation with Thomas Orndorff, the manager of the Mills Woven Belt Company facility in Worchester, Massachusetts, the first Model 1895 Belts were not delivered until July of 1896.   


All of these belts were manufactured in the dark blue woven material with 12 separate pockets integral to the weave of the belt body.  Each pocket was designed to hold two 5-round clips of 6mm cartridges.  Since Mills had not yet developed the technique of weaving integral pocket flaps which would appear with the Model 1903 Cartridge Belts, the pocket flaps on this belt fashioned of black pebble grained leather, each of which was attached to the back of the belt body with two brass eyelets.  Each pocket is fitted with an iron finial over which the flaps are buttoned.    

The weight of the belt was supported by a pair of dark blue woven web suspenders.  The suspenders were crossed in the back and anchored at the crossing point with a single brass eyelet.  The four ends of the suspenders are fitted with sheet brass hooks which are assembled with two eyelets above each hook.  There is a brass adjustment slide on each of the front straps of the suspenders.  The suspenders attach to the belt by engaging two of the eyelets on the back of the belt, and one of three eyelets on each side of the front center of the belt.   

Each of the belt ends are held in place with a sheet brass keeper and a brass wire keeper.  The belt ends are joined around the waist with the Mills cast brass “C” closure.  In addition to the 24 eyelets which attach the pocket flaps, there are an additional 8 eyelets along the top of the belt for attaching the matching woven suspenders, and an additional 11 eyelets along the bottom of the belt to provide attachment points for the bayonet hanger wire. 

While these belts were successful during their period of issue, their service life was relatively short, being pulled from service before any deficiencies such as the manner in which the pocket flaps were attached were noted, and changed.  After these belts found their way into the surplus market, poor storage and improper handling led to many specimens being damaged beyond repair.  Most of the belts which survive are missing some, if not all of the pocket flaps and those flaps which remain are often found torn or having pulled free from the eyelets used to attach the flaps.    

This specimen is in very good condition, featuring a vivid dark blue color with no fading, is complete with all twelve original pocket flaps, retains a complete set of matching suspenders, the woven web shows only minor wear, and all of the original brass hardware is intact and present.     

The belt body and pockets are all intact and the woven material shows no significant signs of wear or any damage.  The eyelets are all present, with only the one eyelet where the suspenders attach over the left rear hip showing wear to the woven material around the eyelet and the adjacent edge of the belt.  All of the original Mills company hardware such as the sheet brass keepers, brass wire keepers, the “C” closure, and the bayonet hanger wire are present and full form.   

The pocket flaps are all present and full form.  All of the pocket flaps are supple and most retain a bright finish.  A few show some crazing along the top fold or around the finial hole – areas where wear is to be expected.  Only one pocket – the one directly over the attachment point for the right rear suspender strap – has experienced a failed eyelet where the eyelet holding one corner of the flap has pulled through the webbing.  The eyelet is still present in the flap and the material of the belt body is not substantially damaged, hardly noticeable.  Only one flap – on the first pocket to the right side of the center front of the belt – shows any appreciable wear where the sailor’s or marine’s other equipment would have worn against the flap.  That flap is still full form but it has a ¾” cut across the face of the flap – certainly done during the period of use – and a small separation on the back side of the flap where it has been carefully reinforced with a barely noticeable patch.  All of this wear has not compromised that flap and the wear can be seen in the photographs provided below.  

The suspenders are full length and show only minor wear along the edges where they have worn against the adjustment slides.  Otherwise the webbing of the suspenders is overall strong with an even color and shows very little wear.  All of the brass hooks are full form and all of the eyelets securing the hooks are still firmly anchored.  The eyelet which secured the crossing point on the back is present, but has pulled through one of the straps.  This use of a single eyelet at this location was a consistent point of failure which was reported during the period of use, and this means of anchoring the crossing point was changed in future models of cartridge belt suspenders.  Where this eyelet pulled through, the web material was not substantially damaged.   

I have made a concerted effort to give a fair and complete description of the belt for all of its components which are considerably more complex than the average Mills belt of the period.  None of these minor defects are particularly apparent and they are only noticeable upon very close examination.  Given the scarcity of these belts, especially specimens such as this one which are complete with all of the original components, these minor signs of wear and age do not detract from the appearance or quality of this belt.  

Overall this is a very good example of the scarce Model 1895 US Navy and Marine Corps Mills Woven Pocketed Cartridge Belt, one which would be very difficult to improve upon or upgrade, and it would be a good addition to your collection to display with your Model 1895 Winchester 6mm Lee Straight Pull Navy Rifle.  (0210)  $1550



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