I have heard this story for years now, about how the US military paid $600 per hammer for everyday garden-variety hammers.

Today, for the first time, I saw an article debunking the story.

But that article is hardly on a credible site. So, did the US military paid $600 for a hammer?

  • 2
    Another example of the claim, though it's mentioned in fiction: "You don't actually think they spend $20,000.00 on a hammer, $30,000.00 on a toilet seat do you?"
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 9:14
  • 12
    There are some tools that are highly specialized and calibrated or use special materials. A hammer that wont cause a spark but is still solid enough to pound in a bolt on the space station is not cheap. Because in space wont spark 99.9999% of the time is not good enough.
    – Chad
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 16:00
  • 1
    @rvs - The claim i have heard just says hammer usually... but there is almost always a reason that the costs are higher than seems reasonable. But yes they want you to think $20 hammer but the truth is rarely that simple. But you need a specific claim to counter it.... that is lacking here
    – Chad
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 16:28
  • 5
    I'm not sure why we are speculating about transport costs, the need for specialised hammers, and non-recurrent engineering costs when the question cites a retired procurement official as saying it was a bookkeeping exercise spreading R&D costs out evenly over a large number of diverse items.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 23:32
  • 7
    What is not credible about that site? It is journalism from 1998 produced by Atlantic Media Co, and provides a plausible explanation of the story.
    – Henry
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 0:54

1 Answer 1


But that article is hardly on a credible site.

The site copied an article from 1998, specifically, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., "The Myth of the $600 Hammer," National Journal (December 5, 1998), vol. 30, page 2860.

For further confirmation of the article's content see the 26 July 1983 UPI article Defense drops hammer after cost overruns

In the latest case, Weinberger issued a statement disclosing that Gould Simulation Systems, Inc., of Melville, N.Y., charged the Navy $436 for a sledge hammer, $435 for a claw hammer and $437 for a 12-foot measuring tape. The tools were purchased for work being done at the Naval Air Station, Whiting Field, Fla.

  • The UPI article is not "further confirmation" of Freedberg's article at all. Freedberg's article debunks the story while UPI takes it at face value.
    – benrg
    Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 18:12
  • @benrg both articles are consistent with $15 plus $420 overhead for a total of $435 (as opposed to $600).
    – DavePhD
    Commented Jun 3, 2023 at 0:50

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