Recommended Equipment for a Color Guard

DrillMasterDrillMaster Recommends, Review 1 Comment

I received such a great question that it spurred me into creating a new tag #DrillMasterRecommends, and writing this article. Thank you, Jari Villanueva, The Taps Bugler!

Question: I’m looking at updating our organization’s flags. Our new Honor Guard would like to purchase an American flag a state flag, poles for each, and bases. What do you recommend?

For a non-military color team, you could use just about any combination of flagstaffs, ornaments and colors. However, non-military honor guard units are still military-type units and should follow either the Army or Marine Corps drill and ceremonies manual, Training Circular (TC) 3-21.5, Marine Corps Order 5060.20, both available in the Resources section of this website, or The Honor Guard Manual.

As far as colors go, nothing has changes from manual to manual. However, I encourage first responder honor guard units to follow the United States Certified Ceremonial Guardsman guidance set forth in my book, The Honor Guard Manual, the only complete guide for honor guards available.

See also: All About the Color Guard and Color Guard Flag Protocol.

So, here is what I recommend:

Ceremonial Fire Axe

Plano America has the perfect replicas for ceremonial use.

Fire Axe, Inc. also offers unbelievably awesome fire axes that can be personalized.


I suggest 4 or 6 from Glendale Parade Store. Either the black or chrome DrillAmerica M1903 Replica and here is why: Which Drill Rifle is Better? Or, the chrome DrillAmerica M1 Garand replica.

For complete information, please read All About the Flagstaff then Flagstaff Ornaments, All About Flag Sizes, Color Guard Flag Protocol, and finally, read How to Properly Mount a Flag on a Flagstaff.

Flagstaff and Colors

Army, Air Force, and Space Force

Ceremonial colors are 4′ 4″ x 5.5′ on 9′ 6″ light ash 2-piece guidon flagstaffs with the silver Army Spearhead (Spade) finial. Go to for flags and colors. Army/AF/SF need to special order 3’x4′ flags. It’s a little more expensive because it’s not a size anyone else uses, but is mandatory for these three services.

Go to for staffs. If you order from another company, you don’t know what you’ll get (thin threads, one screw on the screw joint, etc.). Go with Glendale.

  • Only Army can mount 3’x4′ colors on the 9’6″ staff.
  • AF/SF can use one-piece staffs (not recommended since they warp easily).
  • AF/SF can use 3×4 colors mounted on a 7′ staff but this combination is ONLY for posting colors indoors. No other time is this authorized.
  • Flagstaffs other than light ash wood guidon staffs are not authorized in the military and that goes for JROTC as well.

When working in smaller areas (crowded ballroom, for instance) or if you are going to post the colors, 3’x4′ colors on 8′ flagstaffs is recommended.

Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard

Please read The Why of the Color Guard – Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard.

Ceremonial colors are 4′ 4″ x 5.5′ on 9′ 6″ light ash 2-piece guidon flagstaffs with the silver spade finial. Colors that are 3’x4′ are not authorized (except personal/positional).

Navy Finials (see NTP 13(B))

  • The 9’6″ light ash wood guidon staff is mandatory and must have gold-colored ferrules and middle screw joint.
  • The gold-colored spade is not authorized.
  • The standard finial is the Battle-ax (Battalion Lance). Read Replacing the Army Spade Finial.
  • The Flat Truck means the finial is completely removed (Lt CDR & below).
  • The Star (CDR & equivalent).
  • The Ball (Captain & equivalent). Must be gold in color.
  • The Halberd (For flag officers whose official gun salute is less than 19 guns, and for civil officials whose gun salute is 11 or more but less than 19 guns.). Must be gold in color.
  • The Spread Eagle (For civilian officials and flag officers whose official gun salute is 19 or more guns.). Must be gold in color.

Civilian/Civil Color Guards

Unless your organization is tied to the military, (military school or veteran service organization, for instance) there is no need to purchase the special sizes of colors.

  • Use the military sizes for flagstaffs, 8′ and 9’6″, and then mount 3’x5′ colors on the 8′ staff and 4’x6′ on the 9’6″ staff.
  • Those colors dimensions are common and on hand. Military sizes must be specially ordered and can be a bit more expensive because of that.


Army/AF/SF requires fringe on all flags. The MC/Navy/CG requires fringe on all flags except the national. The Navy does not put fringe on the infantry battalion color.

  • Civilian/Civil Color Guards can have fringe on all or none. Your choice.

Color Bearer Harness

I suggest practice and performance equipment. For practice, the Best Quality Web Carrier, a web double harness, is best.

For performances, the most professional harness that I’ve used for years and what the presidential service honor guard color teams use, is the black clarino (high gloss) or white leather harness with either chrome or gold-colored hardware that just looks superior. The Honor Guard Leather Double Harness. Match the hardware color with the uniform accents and the hardware on the flagstaffs for a complete look.


(I suggest at least 2) My first choice is the Military Floor Stand. This is the required stand for the USAF/SF by AFI 34-1201 and all other services use this stand for ceremonies in DC. Years ago I worked with Wendy Lazar, the founder and previous owner of Glendale Industries (, and this stand is now offered without the extra hardware which holds 2 more flags.

My second choice would be the cast iron Admiral/Liberty Floor Stand which comes with a small plastic sleeve to support a guidon flagstaff’s ferrule or you could also use these Floor Stand Adapters (a tube that is inserted into the floor stand) and even use carrying cases. These are a much less expensive option,


Flagstaff covers the military uses are Canvas Covers. However, the canvas is relatively lightweight and can easily wear or get a hole in it from a misplaced Army Spear. The nylon cover is more durable or you could use the airline carrying case or this case for each of your flagstaffs.

JROTC color teams do perform these tasks as part of a competition. The nylon cover is not authorized for competition.

Comments 1

  1. Pingback: How to Start an Honor Guard Unit | The DrillMaster

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *