Medic Yoke Primer
Review Date: 7/23/2007
Author: Chris Guska
This article was updated on 1/30/2008 to reflect the recent release of a new medic yoke from WWII Impressions. The yoke now being offered by WWII Impressions is being made here in the US by WWII Impressions and not AP Co as previously made. I was able to examine the current offerings of WWII Impressions and At The Front at Fort Indiantown GAP on January 25, 2008.
The WWII Impressions yoke is totally new, and not offered by any other company. At The Front’s yoke has not changed from the example that I own. I am unaware of any companies currently selling the AP Co yokes.
The purpose of this article is to illustrate and compare three of the popular medic yoke reproductions to original examples from my collection. I will be reviewing the offerings from AP Co, WW2 Impressions and At The Front.
WWII Impressions was the first to offer a reproduction Medic's Yoke in 2000 or 2001. The medic yoke being offered was a product of AP Co, which was supplying web gear to several other companies. Reproduction gear was just beginning to come to market, with the quality and authenticity of the reproductions being generally poor. The cost for all reproduction gear was generally greater than the cost of originals. I thought it prudent to invest in a reproduction as not to tear up my original "rare" medic yokes.
The going rate at that time for an original yoke was about $60-$100 depending on condition, the gall of the seller, and how much the buyer really had a hard-on for it. eBay was getting popular amongst militaria collectors at the time, nowhere close to where it is now with newbie reenactors and people with “gotta have it now” syndrome, or sellers with the “if he sold that POS for 50, mines worth 500!” syndrome inflating prices.
Several years later, I think 4 or 5 years ago, At The Front came out with their own version of the medic yoke. I think the price at the time was $60, a few dollars cheaper than the AP Co yoke offered by WWII Impressions @ $70.
To date, the only reproductions that I am aware of, are AP Co, WWII Impressions, At The Front, Bayonet Inc, and Fortune of Soldier (UK). I have handled and examined AP Co, WWII Imp’s, ATF, and Bayonet Inc’s reproductions. My comments will be limited to the two that I own, as well as the new photographs from Ft IG.
Comparisons:Let’s introduce the originals that I’m drawing my comparisons to.
Remember that these are my personal opinions, experiences, and photos. The photos are pretty clear cut, and you can make your own decision based on them. My opinions and experiences are colorful, if you don’t like them, what I have to say, or how I say it, too bad, look somewhere else.
On the left is an absolutely crisp, mint unissued yoke. On the right is a well used, not abused, original yoke. Note that between the two, the colors don’t match, but the pattern is exactly the same.
Let’s look at some of the details on the yokes –
Look at the construction details of the back bottom, note that the straps, on one side and the other, don’t even match in color! Holy bat guano batman! Rollin Curtis would get off to that - since the colors don’t match. Also, note the size of the O rings that hold the straps to the body of the yoke. Note on this example, since its unissued and new, the webbing hasn’t stretched out at all, leaving a very very small gap between the top piece of webbing and lower strap. Note as well the center tape that holds the two sides of the yoke together, it’s a very fine weave webbing, almost canvas, but not like the webbing tape used for the straps. Also note the bottom shape of the yoke, how it comes to a flat portion, like the edges are somewhat squared off. The shape is not a continuous curve.
This is the front of the yoke, notice again, the webbing doesn’t match! Gee golly! That’s silly, what a bunch of idiots who made that trash, they didn’t even take the time to make sure the colors matched. Note again, since it’s an unissued example, how small the gap is at the O ring. I’m pointing this out, because on the reproductions, the O ring is substantially oversized. Note the hardware, it’s the WW1 style web adjusters, and the later style stamped steel and wire hooks. Note the shape of the hooks, with a rounded hook, rather than squared off hook.
Rear view, where markings would be if it had any - Hey look! No contractor markings! No US marking!
Let’s look at the used example.
Continuing the discussion of the O rings, although just a minor detail of the overall yoke, note on the used example how the webbing has stretched and formed to the shape of the O, revealing more of the metal ring. Also, note once again, the different color webbing used in construction. Also note that the hardware on the used yoke is the “early” style brass cast hardware.
Here’s the back/bottom of the yoke. Note once again, the different colored webbing used in construction, every single piece used is a different color! Also note, no manufacturer markings are visible.
Notice how irregular the stitching is on the yoke arm, at the rivet. This was not “perfect” when they made it. Also note that both brass and steel rivets are being used. Note the brass rivets on the yoke body and first web rivet, and the 2nd rivet is steel.
Same deal on the used yoke – no markings to be found whatsoever. Also note some of the ugly stitching; these things weren’t 100% perfect.
Why does the weight of the material, length of the straps and construction matter?
It’s all a matter of how the gear rides –
The bags should be higher and tighter when worn, they shouldn’t just lie on your thighs and flop around and bash your legs and junk as you run or walk. They’re a lot nicer to wear when they’re up a little higher at your waist Additionally, your pistol belt should be worn snugly around your navel or above, should you decide to hook your yoke to that as well as your bags. There’s too much of this wear your pistol belt or Garand belt hanging off your ass amongst reenactors. The gear is a LOT more comfortable and gives you far less problems if you wear it properly. You look like more of a soldier, and you don’t have to hold yourself together as you move. Longer straps simply allow people to hang the bags or their belt down around their ass. They just need to pose with their underwear hanging out like one of those BS Tommy Hilfiger ads.
Secondly, the construction matters, as if you use your yoke as intended, you should be able to connect your litter straps to your yoke and carry the litter hands-free via those straps, or at least use the straps to lighten your load. This works with original yokes, since they’re made out of heavy weight canvas, and the material around the canvas tab holding the O ring and front straps on does not pull excessively. The weight is transferred and distributed across the yoke. On the reproductions, since the material is lighter weight and pulls awkwardly, the weight is put mainly on those canvas tabs, the stitching and rivet there, pulling uncomfortably and making you fear that you’re gonna tear your yoke. This problem is exacerbated on the reproduction yokes that have had their “arms” lengthened, as this positions those O rings further down on your chest, below your nipple line in many cases, pulling down on that bit of canvas and not distributing the weight as it should. In some cases, the O rings are so far down, that it makes using the litter straps impossible or impractical, the angles just don’t work.
Can you guess which ones are the reproductions? It should be painfully obvious.
Left to right, Unissued original, used original, ATF, AP co. (Remember – this photo was taken for the initial review, and does not contain the newly released WWII Impressions Yoke.)
Before I get into maker specific points, I’ll note that all the reproduction makers feel a need to “jumbo” size all their uniforms and gear “to fit modern sizes” – What a crock. The only people that need that garbage are the size of Andre the Giant. When was the last time you saw a King Kong sized medic? Most of ‘em are 12 year old kids who want to play army but cant do the rifle thing yet, and end up with random bags with red crosses painted on ‘em and don’t have yokes anyways… but that’s another rant. It all comes back to, if you’re going to do something, do it right.
Basically, reproductions were altered in two ways, either the “arms” of the yoke that come across your shoulders were lengthened (AP Co) or the webbing straps were lengthened (AP Co, At The Front)No big deal, its just bigger, I’ll adjust it smaller if I need – WRONG. The yokes were altered so substantially, that they effected the way the gear is worn and how it fits. A combination of these alterations and lesser weight materials have led to these yokes being very poor for actual use. I’ll substantiate these claims with photos and explanations below.
Basically, an original will work well for you if you are under 6’2”, and you can fit into an original pistol belt. If you play in the NBA and/or need to hook 2 pistol belts together, maybe one of these “Hungry Man Sized” sized reproductions would fit the bill.
At The Front (ATF)
History: I ordered a yoke shortly after ATF introduced them years ago. The price was too cheap not to try out, $60. No brainer.
At The Front makes this yoke in house.
I received the yoke, and had mixed emotions on it. It compares favorably to originals based on the weight of canvas used, quality of webbing, color and feel, but had other major flaws.
Here’s a general overall picture of the ATF yoke laid out. Note at the bottom of the yoke, how it has a continuous curve where the back straps originate.
When an original yoke is laid on top of the ATF yoke, the pattern of the ATF repro is OK, but still not dead on. The arms are a ¼ to 3/8 inch wider. The back of the yoke is slightly longer. Note the shape difference, how the original yoke is distinctively squared off, while the ATF yoke has a continuous curve as noted above.
OK, so the pattern is decent but it’s not perfect.
Remember how I spent all that time “noting” the O rings that the webbing attaches to? Well, here it is, the rings on the reproductions are MUCH larger. I hope this photo clearly illustrates that. Also note that both of these yokes have the webbing FULLY drawn in, and the ATF yoke has an additional 2 inches of webbing on the front. This is where proportions can get screwy in how it is worn. Look at the hardware, the ATF hardware has a distinctive SQUARE bend to it, while the original is a uniform curve; it just struck me as unusual, I’ve never noticed squared off J-hooks on other pieces of gear before. I’m not saying it’s wrong, it’s just something I never noticed, and I’m usually good on details like that.
Looking at the back of the yoke, the webbing is drawn almost all the way up on the repro yoke, and the webbing is let almost all the way down on the original, and the original still doesn’t come close to the length of the repro. The repros are WAY longer on the back webbing.
This is a comparison of the materials used in construction. The original is on top, the repro on bottom. Note the width and weave of the center tape that is used to join the two halves of the yoke together. Note how much finer the weave is on the original. All the originals I have examined have been like that. Additionally, note how coarse of weave the body of the yoke is. The canvas of the original yoke is of much heavier weight, and does not pull or flex like the reproduction.
The ATF yoke I received had a problem here. The stitching on that center joining tape was irregular to the point where there was 2 inches of the tape not even sewn down. I saw Matt (now deceased) from ATF at an event, showed him what a piece of excreta it was, and he gladly replaced the item for free and also hooked me up on other stuff.
Here’s a photo of the yoke, showing the markings as well as the inside back. What is nice is that it’s made from non-homogenous colored webbing and canvas. I like the fact that none of the parts really match up, which is true to originals. The marking, well I can do without it. It’s no big deal really; it just is another way of identifying to idiot “collectors” that it’s not real. IT should scream fake as it is with the flaws it has, let alone just the feel and look of the material.
The price is right - $60. The pattern of the yoke body isn’t perfect, but it’s closer than others. The webbing has been lengthened. The components of the yoke don’t match in color, which is cool. The first yoke I got had a major sewing goof, but they replaced it no questions asked. Matt actually seemed embarrassed by that goof. The canvas of the body is a bit light weight, although it is better than other reproductions. It’s cheaper than buying an original, as originals are around 100-150$ now. The ATF yoke is good for sliding around in the mud, but, for serious display, try and get an original.
The Pro and Con list is short, as there’s not a whole ton of things I can say that are good or truly bad about it.
Decent color materials.
The straps were lengthened
The pattern of the body isn’t perfect.
Cost: $70 (current retail)
History: I ordered a yoke from WWII Impressions about 6 months after they were introduced. WWII Impressions was carrying the AP Co yoke until around January 1, 2008. At the time, they were the only reproductions available on the market.
Before I totally lay siege to this yoke, I must note, for the sake of fairness, WWII Impressions does not make this yoke in house. This yoke is made by APco, (American Patrol company – I think.) APco was one of the first makers of reproduction WWII US gear, and most of it was plagued with one problem or more. Juan is making some gear in house now, but not all of his gear is made by him. He clearly marks on his website what gear is made by WWII Impressions and what is not.
I received the yoke and realized it was an absolute abortion.
I should have returned the thing and cut my losses, ate the $15 I spent on shipping, and the 5$ it would actually cost me to return ship it. I was a young dumb kid, and didn’t. BUT! The good thing is, I still have this piece of garbage, so I can take photos of it for you, and you can see what a giant piece of excrement it is.
Without further ado-
So, right there in the lineup, the AP Co one is the furthest on the right.
How about that awesome color? It’s most definitely tan-brown, there is no green tint whatsoever. It’s like a bad pair of knockoff Dockers, and even then, those would be more “tan”. This photo really doesn’t quite show well enough how much longer the “arms” of the yoke are. They are significantly longer, as can be almost seen in this photo.
This photo clearly shows how much longer the arms are, the original is on top, it is directly laid over the AP Co yoke, with the bottom edges being even. The arms are three to four inches longer, even before the additional webbing that they added.
Here’s a photo of the webbing, side by side. The webbing is at least 2 inches longer, same as at the front, as well as the O rings being much larger. So, just on the front alone, the arms being lengthened and the straps, adds another 4-6 inches.
On to the back – Note how the back is a continuous curve, unlike the squared off originals. Look how much larger those o rings are, again. How about that awesome color?
The back straps. They’re not lined up perfectly, but I hope this illustrates well. The original straps, when let out FULLY to their maximum length, are SHORTER than the reproduction straps, at their SHORTEST length. That adds another 6 inches or so to the length?
Note the “manufacturer” marking stamp. Also, note the weave of the material as well as the center tape that holds the two halves together. The center tape is by far the most authentic part of the reproduction. It’s much more accurate to my originals than the ATF reproduction. The rest of the yoke is pure Hippie Yippie Woodstock or Haight Ashbury drug induced fantasy. The weight of the body of the yoke is much lighter than the ATF yoke, let alone the originals. When I tried to use the yoke as intended and carrying litters, it pulled very awkwardly from the inferior canvas, (it didn’t break under 5 minutes of use, which was good) as well as pulling awkwardly because the arms of the yoke are so long, the rings were well below my nipple line.
$70 can buy you an ATF and a 12 pack of decent beer. Better yet, look around, spend a few dollars more and get an original. Don’t waste your time with this steaming pile. The cut is totally wrong. It’s a fantasy piece. Medic yokes were NOT sized proportionally for larger guys. If you were king kong sized, the yoke would look small on you. If you were “average” sized for back then, it would not look HUGE. It’s not like the whole yoke was proportionally enlarged on this reproduction, some parts were stretched without regard to proportions. I can spot an AP Co yoke miles away in photos or at events, they stick out like a sore thumb.
It was the first on the market. It was the only thing available for about a year or two, back in the early 2000’s. Not exactly a pro now!
You can have something to remind you of how dumb you were not to return it.
Its totally wrong.
It’s the most expensive repro on the market at $70.
You’ll wallow in embarrassment and farb every time you put it on.
History: After some discussion on the WWII Reenactor’s forum – Juan from WWII Impressions announced that he’d be making his own medic yoke in house. I offered to re-review his new yoke, amending this review. Additionally – he happened to be planning on attending the Fort Indiantown GAP – which worked out well for me to be able to take photos of his new yoke and chat briefly.
WWII Impressions makes this yoke in house, the AP Co yokes are gone, no more, never to be sold by Juan ever again. Thank god. Praise Allah. Whatever your flavor is.
Prior to going to the GAP- Juan updated the photos on his site – very nice, large, detailed photos of the yoke. The photos were sufficient to really show what you’re getting for the money – and I was excited to see the yoke in person.
Juan is making a regular (authentic) version, as well as a “long” version, with lengthened web straps for Andre the Giant. (people over 6’)
Here are the photos posted on his site –
From first impressions – just of the photos – many of the egregious details missed in other yokes have been fixed. The rear of the yoke is squared and not a continuous curve like on the AP Co and ATF yokes. The arms appear to be the correct length, as well as the straps. The O rings appear to be the correct size as well at a quick glance.
Overall first pass- just based on the photos on the website – very positive!
Let’s start at the end and work our way around. Looking at the hardware – the straps on the “normal” version are the right length. His repro is constructed slightly different than my example, with the sewing and reinforcing rivet on one side rather than the other. This is not a defect or problem – just a variation. The webbing is the right length and width, but feels slightly “thinner” than my original. I’m not doubting the strength or quality – its simply an observation from feel. The O rings are much improved being very close to the 7/8’s on the original. When I say very close – I had to directly lay the rings on top of each other to feel any difference. The repro’s ring is maybe a MM larger on the outside diameter -pretty damn good – variations existed – we’re not talking precision interchangeable gun parts here…
Looking at the end of the yoke arms from the bottom side – the construction details are similar – in the correct general style. I wish I would have brought my unissued original for comparison – but I didn’t pull it out of the Tupperware at home. The shape and size of the yoke arms are totally correct. The weave of the body fabric is very close to the original and well within the generally accepted color palette. I believe that the repro is closer to the color of my unissued original, as seen in the initial color line up. The used original I am comparing it to is slightly greener.
Another image for color and weave comparison of the materials. The lighting and my camera were sub optimal – but the color is pretty good, browner than greener, but still 1000X better than the old AP Co excrement.
View of the bottom back of the yoke. A good illustration of colors, materials and pattern. The pattern of the yoke body is a direct overlay of the original. The repro yoke was approx ¼ to 3/8 inch larger in width on the arms – but this may be attributed to comparing a used, weather worn yoke to a brand new reproduction that was most likely patterned off of an unused or far nicer condition yoke. Also note the squared bottom of the reproduction. The WWII Impressions yoke is not marked in any way – just like originals.
View of the rear construction details. Notice the improved hardware – correct sized O rings. The center rear tape is the correct style weave.
Detail view of the rear straps. They seem just a tad longer – but the straps on my original my have shrunk slightly due to weathering. I didn’t have a cloth tape measure on hand to really check. The big thing is – the straps are not substantially longer, as with the older reproductions – where the strap on the repro, fully drawn in, was still longer than the strap on the original fully let out.
As of 1/30/08, it’s the best medic yoke out there. It’s right in the butter zone at $55.00 – you can’t beat that with a dead cat for what you’re getting. For what it is – a reproduction medic yoke – it’s pretty damn good. By no means is an original – having exactly the same properties and materials, but it does embody all the correct characteristics and dimensions of an original. The color is well within the acceptable spectrum, the pattern is right on, the straps are generally the right length, and it appears to be well constructed. These are all things that haven’t been met by the other reproductions on the market. My only concern is the webbing and body materials – they felt just slightly thinner than the original I compared it to. All things considered – I don’t like compromising, I’d love for it to be a dead exact perfect match in every single way, but it is perfect for the re-enactor. I would like to believe that it will stand up to weekend warrior use, just as well as an original would. Only time and use will really tell on durability.
To the knowledgeable collector – these yokes should identify themselves as reproductions. To the novice – a used and aged WWII Imp yoke could possibly be passed as original.
If you have to buy a medic yoke – This is the one to buy. I wasn’t comfortable with any of the yokes up until now. Now, I feel that I can put my originals away.
(Hey Rollin- Fix your shit! Lets have some real competition)
The right price - $55.00 – Cheaper than ATF
The pattern is better than the others on the market
The straps are the right length
The materials are generally good
The hardware is “Mil-Spec”
They weren’t available 10 years ago.
The materials may be a little thin – and that’s just me being anal.
90th IDPG Reviews