As both a re-enactor and a collector, parts of my collection are worn and used as they were always intended to be. I use original webbing, entrenching tools, helmets etc. However there is always a danger that when you use original items they are going to get damaged or destroyed. This then leads us into the thorny minefield of original vs replica items. Napoleonic reenactors have no choice but to use reproduction uniforms and equipment, however for those of us concentrating on the twentieth century judgement calls need to be made.
Nothing is more accurate than original equipment and certainly for my collection and for display purposes I always try and use original kit. However if I am wearing it or battling then I do use some reproduction kit. I have an original pair of trousers, but due to their value I will only wear them for a walking around sort of event, if it’s muddy then the repro ones come out.
Equally some items are very hard to find in modern sizes, a friend of mine is 6 foot 2 inches and it would be impossible for him to find original uniforms to fit so he wears modern reproductions. Some items are too rare or expensive so reproductions are the only option, however not all reproductions are equal.
When buying repro kit, the most important factor, in my opinion, is accuracy. You want it to look authentic if you’re going to spend your hard earned cash. The best ways to ensure accuracy are to know your subject (or have a friend who does who can help) and if possible to buy in person so you can check the quality. If you have to buy over the net, as is often the case, try and find reviews and feedback to see what others think.
You also need to know what’s worth buying as a repro and when you are better with an original is the way to go. A good example is 37 pattern webbing, there are reproductions out there, but the original is plentiful and actually cheaper than the modern copies.
As is often the case the use of modern reproductions is a judgement call, and the purist won’t touch them, however for reenacting they do have a place.