Photo by Warren K. Leffler.

Reports that local authorities brought stun grenades, unloaded missile launchers, and other military-style gear to break up protests at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in 2016 recently reignited the long-simmering controversy about the so-called "militarization" of police. However, the military has long had plans plans to tackle civil unrest, riots and even insurrections directly.

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During World War II, at the behest of the U.S. Army, Bell Laboratories tested sound suppressors for various firearms. The best known of the company’s designs was a specialized submachine gun that went on to serve U.S. special operators through three wars.

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U.S. Navy photograph.

In 1968, SEALs serving in South Vietnam reported to the Navy that they needed more firepower. Back in the United States, the service’s engineers rushed to help, crafting various weapons and accessories, including some particularly weird looking magazines.

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U.S. Air Force photo.

When people think about U.S. Army equipment, what probably comes to mind are tanks, gunship helicopters, self-propelled artillery, and other larger advanced weapons — all great for blowing things up. However, American troops often rely on a very different gear to both confuse and demoralize enemy troops and “win the hearts and minds” of civilians on and around the battlefield.

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