Mil-spec, sometimes referred to as MIL-STD, refers to any component that the U.S. Department of Defense utilizes for their military equipment. These mil-spec parts are components that have been manufactured to meet comprehensive requirements that have been set out by the Department of Defense in an effort to create standardization and interchangeability of parts. Mil-spec components are often denoted by a prefix (i.e. AN, MS, NAS, or NASM) before a part number.
Unlike commercial parts that may serve the same function, mil-spec components are held to a much higher degree regarding their physical attributes and performance capabilities. Manufacturers of mil-spec parts also have been designated by the U.S government for their allowance to produce such parts. While the rights to the design may belong to the government, various approved manufacturers can compete against each other in their production. Suppliers who have authorization to create and distribute such parts are listed on the Defense Logistics Agency’s Qualified Suppliers List for Manufacturers (QSLM). There also exists the difference in the rigorous requirements that mil-spec parts have to meet that commercial parts are exempt from, thus further separating the two.
When purchasing a mil-spec part or mil-spec fasteners, they should always come with a Certificate of Conformance (CoC) to prove that they meet the requirements set out to qualify their standard. If there is not a CoC available, there should be another form of record to ensure that the part has been manufactured to specific guidelines to qualify as a mil-spec component. The Defense Logistics Agency has various handbooks and guides that they provide on their website for buyers to search for certain parts that they need, or browse catalogs.
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