Members of the military often use slang words and phrases or abbreviations to quickly and concisely communicate with one another. But to many civilians, it can sometimes feel like the Armed Forces speak a different language altogether.

That said, you don't have to be in the military to pick up a few of these terms. For example, if you've ever watched a TV show or film that depicts military characters, the chances are you'll have come across the term "klick". Similarly, the word may crop up if you enjoy video games or books based on the military. However, as a result, you may have been left questioning what a klick is.

Well, we're here to help! In this article, we're going to explain all you need to know about the word "klick", including what it means and where it comes from. So regardless of whether you're just curious about the definition or you're considering a career in the military, you won't be stumped by this term again. Let's jump in, shall we?

A "klick" is a unit of measurement used by the military to measure distances. A klick is equal to a kilometer, which is a unit of measurement found in the Metric System.

Also known as The International System of Units, the Metric System is the official system of measurement in most countries. For this reason, it's used by the military, even in countries that still use the Imperial System. This allows different countries to perform combat operations and training together, using common standard units of measurement.

The term klick is used by the military to denote a distance of one kilometer. Therefore, one klick is also equal to the following:

  • 1,000 meters
  • 0.6214 miles
  • 3,280.84 feet

The U.S. and U.K. militaries have been using the Metric System since performing operations with the French in World War One. The reason is that the French use the Metric System and were supplying maps to the U.S. and U.K. military. In order to avoid miscommunication and to make it easier to read the maps, they decided to use common standard measurements. Hence, the U.S. and U.K. military adopted Metric units of measurement, including the kilometer.

As for the term klick, there's some debate as to the origins of the word. However, it's likely that the military coined the term as it's shorter and easier to communicate quickly amongst one another. But regardless of where it comes from, it's a standard unit used by the military worldwide.

Why does the US military use klicks?

The U.S. military, like other militaries worldwide, uses the Metric System, which includes the unit kilometers — also known as klicks. The reason is that the Metric System is used in most countries around the world. In fact, the U.S., Myanmar, and Liberia are the only countries to still officially use the older Imperial System of measurement. As the U.S. frequently performs operations and training in other countries and with international military partners, it's simpler to adopt and use the Metric System.

Additionally, the U.S. uses the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) when referencing location points. This system is the standard used by NATO to specify accurate locations anywhere around the globe. The System works by dividing the planet into a square grid which is measured using Metric units.

Finally, most foreign maps will have elevation contour lines measured in Metric unit meters. This is again why the U.S. military uses the same system for measuring distance and identifying specific locations — it just simplifies things.

The exact origins of the word klick are unknown. That said, there are two main theories as to where it came from. The first theory is that it was formed during World War One, which took place between 1914 and 1918. During this time, the U.S. and U.K. militaries used maps created by the French, who used the metric system. To simplify communications and avoid confusion due to language barriers, they adopted a common measurement, the "klick". This is a shortened term for the metric unit "kilometer".

On the other hand, some military historians believe the term "klick" originated in Vietnam in the 1960s and was used by the Australian Infantry. It's stated that the soldiers would follow compass directions and measure the distance traveled by counting paces. One or two soldiers would be assigned the job of keeping track of this.

To measure distance, they counted 110 paces when traveling on level ground, 120 paces going uphill, or 100 paces going downhill, which all equate to around 100 meters. Each time the soldiers hit the 100-meter mark, they would move the gas regulator on their Australian L1A1 rifle by one mark. For this reason, 100 meters is considered a "mark".

Once the gas regulator had been moved ten marks, the soldiers would notify their commander and use hand signals to denote the distance traveled — in this case, 1,000 meters. To do this, they'd lift up their rifles and rewind the gas regulator, which produced an audible "click". It's suggested that the clicking noise became synonymous with a distance of 1,000 meters (one kilometer), hence the name "klick".

In the military, the word "click" refers to a minute of arc which is a unit of measurement used during the process of sighting-in a weapon. It is most commonly used when sighting in rifles, as rifle bullets don't travel in a straight line. Rather, they fall in the shape of an arc after being fired.

Sighting-in is where a person adjusts their weapon to hit a target at a specific range, by moving the weapon's sight adjustments. On most modern weapons, adjustments are made in clicks. One click is equal to a minute of arc, which is one inch of distance at 100 yards. So by moving the sight adjustment on a rifle "one click", the point of impact for a target 100 yards away moves one inch, two inches for a target 200 yards away, and so on.

A klick is a military unit of measurement used to measure distance. Despite the exact origins of the word being unknown, it's a universally accepted abbreviation for the Metric unit of measurement, kilometer. Therefore, one klick is equal to one kilometer, or 1,000 meters.

It's suggested that the word klick may have been coined by the Australian Infantry stationed in Vietnam in the 1960s due to the clicking noise made by their rifles which they used to track distance and count paces. Alternatively, the term could simply be an abbreviation of the word kilometer.

Regardless, klicks are used by the military worldwide, even in countries that do not officially use the Metric System. These include the U.S., which still uses the Imperial System. The reason is that it makes it easier to perform operations and training with other countries using a standard common system of measurement.