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The Army Lensatic Model 1950 compass

Posted: Thu May 12, 2011 9:53 am
by Niner Alpha
I took a notion I wanted a "real" Army model lensatic compass. I wanted one that was produced for the Army back during the Vietnam war years, and not just a copy. It had to work, but it was not that I expected to do any land navigation with it. I had just got to remembering the compass I was loaned by the Army back then was, like the maps I had access to, symbolic of what was expected of me and and probably the third most important tool of my temporary trade after the map and the radio. It was the CIB of the enlisted man Forward Observer as long as the Army loaned it to us. The Army wouldn't pay us to think...God knows it took nearly an act of Congress to get a promotion to Specialist E4 back in 1970.....the artillery had no promotions to hand out to guys they sent to the infantry....and to add insult to injury half the E4's back in the battery we offically belonged to were hard stripe corporals. This insured guys like me got plenty of KP and guard duty and other BS details back at Ft. Sill when we returned to the states.

So, what did I do? Went to Ebay of course. There aren't any such compasses..real compasses..... any place else that I could find. And sure enough they were there on Ebay in ones and twos any day you go there. But... sometimes they brought crazy prices. One that wouldn't even work went for $70. Another I was watching for a couple of days went for $94. Then.... by doing a different search I saw a Union Instruments compass that looked to be in great shape and the price wasn't going anywhere. Probably because the guy didnt advertise it as Vietnam era or Army or some othe such word. And so...I won the bid for $29, which is where the bid started.

If you are interested in the common Army compass, check this site first. You will note the features and the manufacturer dates and other information about the compass to make you at least reasonably able to tell the "real" from the copy. ... nsatic.php

I'll attach some photos from the auction and one of me with my original Army loaned compass.

Re: The Army Lensatic Model 1950 compass

Posted: Sat May 14, 2011 1:48 pm
by Ron
Now that you've brought up some of the older lensatic models here's a couple of pix of what I purchased at an anrmy surplus store way back when. Being I was getting into camping and enjoying the outdoors after I got of service I decided to purchase a pretty reputable compass and one that I was familiar with. The surplus store was in my neighborhood and at that time stocked a pretty good supply of camping equipment.
Most of the compasses shown on the surplus link are made on the East coast and mine was manufactured here in Grand Haven, MI. Guess anyone who could obtain a governmant contract at the time could make these compasses. The company that made mine is still in business making electronic equipment and giving flight lessons.

Re: The Army Lensatic Model 1950 compass

Posted: Sat May 14, 2011 2:22 pm
by Niner Alpha
That one might be a bit rare as to manufacturer. See where one sold on Ebay for $99 recently. ... 0569743895

That stock number is a lot like one listed as 6605-00-151-5337 that the military reportedly at one time removed from service. The -00- being a question mark. Best I can tell it was because of the radioactive Tritium being in some way out of spec. My compass is also one close to the second number considered for recall. However, from the FOI site I found it looks like the military decided tracking them all down in Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, was more trouble than it was worth and in the end decided to certify them as ok for inventory and distribution. The thinking was that by that time the 12 year half life of the radioactive tritium was past and wasn't particularly dangerous, particularly if the compass wasn't taken apart.

I asked some questions about the possible problems at a site that is the big one for collectors of miltary crapola. ... pic=109619

Re: The Army Lensatic Model 1950 compass

Posted: Sat May 14, 2011 8:49 pm
by Niner Alpha
Saw this Stocker and Yale that has the actual 6605-00-151-5337 number....including the -00-. It's for sale on Ebay now and lingers at $20 at the moment.

Re: The Army Lensatic Model 1950 compass

Posted: Mon May 16, 2011 4:19 pm
by Niner Alpha
More stuff you probably could care less about. The NSN on the compass in the last post with the -00- means National Stock Number. The -00- means US property as would 01 if a compass is found with such a number. The Vietnam era compasses have FSN in the prefix. The FSN, best as I can determine, means Federal Stock Number. Since they were for US service use only they probably didn't need any Nato stock number so the extra two numbers were not used......I surmise.

Got the one I bought on Ebay today. I bought a second one that was also cheap that the owner said was her Dad's and he was an Arvin adviser in Vietnam and it was actually a compass that had in Vietnam. However, buy the merchandise and not the story. It's still in the mail.

The H3 radio active warning on the back of this compass is for the Titium coating in various places that mark the arrow tips, the hood dots, and the line in the cover so that they would glow in the dark.

Found this since first posting:

A Federal Stock Number (or FSN) was an 11-digit numeric code used to identify items contained within the Joint Army-Navy Catalog System. The Federal Stock Number was used from 1949 to 1975 when it was replaced by the National Stock Number. The conversion from FSN to NSN was typically done by adding "00" between the first set of numbers (the Federal Supply Class, or FSC) and the second set of numbers. For example, the FSN: