A bandolier or a bandoleer is a pocketed belt for holding either individual bullets, or belts, of ammunition. It is usually slung sash-style over the shoulder and chest, with the ammunition pockets across the midriff and chest.[1] Though functionally similar, they are distinct from chest rigs, which are designed to hold magazines instead.

Mexican Revolutionary General Pancho Villa wearing two bandoliers


In its original form, it was common issue to soldiers from the 16th-18th centuries, and contained either pre-packed chargers; small containers of wood, metal or cloth containing the measured amount of gunpowder for a single shot with muzzleloading muskets or other guns; or early forms of cartridges also containing a ball.[2] It might also carry grenades, powder flasks, or other accessories for shooting.[3] Any bag worn in the same style may also be described as a bandolier bag; similarly, pocketed belts holding ammunition worn around the waist may also be called bandoliers.

Modern Afghan National Army soldier wearing a belt of ammunition

A somewhat different form of bandolier came into use in the 19th century, when it held more modern metallic cartridges and hand grenades. Bandoliers are now less common due to the use of detachable magazines and belt-fed firearms, though extra ammunition belts are often carried around the body like a bandolier. They are, however, still often used with shotguns, hand grenades, and grenade launchers.

Shotgun shells can easily be stored in traditionally designed bandoliers. In fact, some aftermarket shotgun slings are designed in a fashion similar to traditional bandoliers, albeit with a far more limited capacity.

In World War I and World War II, bandoliers were issued primarily to riflemen. They were made of cloth, stitched into pockets which held clips of rifle ammunition.[4] In civilian use, bandoliers are often worn by hunters and recreational shooters using shotguns.

The Chetniks of World War II made heavy use of bandoliers, often carrying two over the shoulder and two around the hip, using the latter as a holster for revolvers and daggers.

Another modern use of a bandolier is for the automatic rifleman of a military fireteam. Since a squad automatic weapon is often belt-fed, an automatic rifleman will carry an extra belt on his person; either in a separate compartment or slung over the chest in bandolier fashion. The bandolier was used to keep ammunition off a soldier's hips, as carrying too much weight on the hips can constrain movement and cause difficulty in retrieving the ammunition.

In popular cultureEdit

Bandoliers made from spent or dummy rounds are sometimes used in fashion. Michael Jackson famously wore a bandolier as part of a military-inspired costume during his Dangerous World Tour in the early 1990s.[citation needed]

Fictional characters who have worn bandoliers include:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "bandolier". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  2. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bandolier" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 313.
  3. ^ Martin, Emma. "Cartridge Belt / Bandolier". National Museums Liverpool. Retrieved 2022-01-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ "Bandolier, .303 rifle ammunition: British Army". Imperial War Museums. Retrieved 2022-01-05.