Way back a lot of armies, would allow the officers to buy their own pistols. World War II guys would have their own pistols send to them. Vietnam I have heard stories of snipers buying there own scopes for weapons. I think that after Vietnam, mostly, that they stop letting them get their POWs (Privately Owned Weapons). That is kinda weird that your friend couldn't have his own knife or muti-tool, I know that is still allowed.
In combat, Ninety-nine percent reliability is not good enough for small arms.