Gary Cunningham's

Bayonet Point's

Updated October, 2005

Bayonet Points #29 - Oct, 2005

The Bayonet, Model of 1905

Background History: In 1900, Ordnance began to develop a new rifle based on their experience with the Krag during the Spanish-American War and the fighting in the Philippine Islands. The first experimental rifle, the Model of 1900, was to be fitted with the standard Model 1892 Krag bayonet.

After further testing and evaluation, a new pattern was developed in 1901. Again, the first prototype of this rifle was to use the Krag bayonet, but the second one was fitted with a rod bayonet similar to that which had been in use with the Model 1888 "trapdoor" rifle. In the 1901 Fiscal Year report of the Chief of Ordnance, it was stated that "The sword bayonet with which it (the Krag) is equipped is considered by the Chief of Ordnance as imperfect and antiquated. It is heavy, and, with its scabbard, a costly part of the soldier's equipment, and is a needless impediment to his freedom of action and comfort on the march, and as an intrenching tool, it is a poor substitute. The bayonet has now only a very rare use and may well be dispensed with, relieving the soldier of considerable weight and inconvenience, and saving the very considerable cost."

Following extensive testing of the Model 1901 and 1902 rifles, it was decided to keep the rod type bayonet with some modifications. The final report contained the following comments concerning the bayonet: "In recommending the adoption of the rod bayonet, the board was influenced by the weight saved, the unsatisfactory means provided for carrying the knife bayonet, the unavoidable noise made by the bayonet in its scabbard, the frequent loss of the bayonet in the field, that the use of the bayonet with the clip-loading magazine arm will be very limited, and that, as a matter of fact, the muzzle of a military rifle carries with it a well known moral effect regardless of the presence of a bayonet."

The testing resulted in the adoption of the U.S. Magazine Rifle, Model of 1903, Caliber .30. This rifle was equipped with a rod bayonet of nearly .29 inch diameter and about 23 1/2 inches long. The tip extended about 10 inches beyond the muzzle when extended. The bayonet came to a fairly blunt point, and had three scalloped out areas at the tip.

There had originally been some thought that the rod bayonet could also serve as a cleaning rod, as it had on the Model 1889 .45-70 rifle. However, further study indicated that this would not be desirable and the rod should not be used for this purpose. The rear end of the rod was left smooth and flat, and could be used to "knock out" a fired case if it jammed in the chamber and the extractor ripped off a section of the rim by dropping it down the bore.

 

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The Model 1903 Rod Bayonet

 

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Close-up of the tip of the Model 1903 Rod Bayonet

 

I have seen two stories in print concerning the intervention of President Theodore Roosevelt concerning the use of the rod bayonet. According to one story, the White House Marine Guards received the Model 1903 rod bayonet rifles in late 1904. President Roosevelt, who is very well known for his interest in firearms, asked one of the guards to let him see his rifle. Supposedly the President looked the rifle over and extended the rod bayonet. He made a few warm-up passes and struck one of the White House pillars with the bayonet, which promptly broke off at the locking cannelure.

Another story appears in Hardin's The American Bayonet. According to a story in a Philadelphia newspaper, the President was meeting with a British General. General Crozier, the Chief of Ordnance brought a new Model 1903 rifle with him, and demonstrated the ramrod bayonet by driving it repeatedly through a 1 or 2 inch pine board. The President inquired as to whether he felt it would stand against a knife bayonet, to which General Crozier replied that he was sure it would. The President called for a Krag rifle and bayonet and took a few warm-up flourishes. He was quickly able to catch the rod bayonet and with a quick twist, broke it off.

Which, if either, of the stories are true, President Roosevelt wrote a letter to the Secretary of War dated January 4, 1905. In it he said, "I must say that I think the ramrod bayonet about as poor an invention as I ever saw. As you observed, it broke short off as soon as hit with even moderate violence. It would have no moral effect and mighty little physical effect. I think the suggestion of a short triangular bayonet a great improvement. After you have gone over this subject of the bayonet and the sword, do take it up with me…… I would like to have the opinion of Captain March, and then the opinion of the other military attaches who saw the fighting between the Russians and Japanese, about both the bayonet and the sword. I would also like to have the opinion of any of our officers in the Philippines who have seen the bayonet actually used."

The Secretary of War then convened a committee to study and report on the subject of the bayonet. The Russo-Japanese War had just ended, and had featured a novel form of warfare in the night attack. The bayonet had proven to be a valuable weapon in this style of fighting. Most countries had begun to feel, as mentioned above in the report on the adoption of the rod bayonet that "The bayonet has now only a very rare use and may well be dispensed with, relieving the soldier of considerable weight and inconvenience, and saving the very considerable cost." Now however that thinking had to be revised in the light of this new style of warfare and the bayonet had regained much of its importance.

Several styles of bayonet were tested, including rod, knife, bolo and triangular types. The committee determined that the rod bayonet was lacking, and that the bolo bayonets were more of a tool than a bayonet and were not well suited for either purpose. The final choice was a bayonet of the Krag style except for a 16 inch blade, which was to make up the difference in "reach" between the 30 inch Krag barrel and the 24 inch Model 1903 barrel. The method of attachment was a slightly modified Krag upper band. (For a more detailed survey of the early rod bayonet rifles and the test reports, the reader may refer to The Springfield Model 1903 Rifles by the late Col. William S. Brophy, pages 335 to 353.)

From 1963 to 1970, I worked as a Rifle Counselor at a summer camp for boys in western Massachusetts. In my free time, I often went to Springfield Armory and spent some time both viewing the collection and studying some of the thousands of documents the museum had on file. Not realizing that I would ever write on the subject, I did not copy them, but simply jotted some notes to myself. Many of the following comments are based on those notes rather than the documents themselves.

Early testing of the knife bayonet included a Model 1903 rifle with a modified Krag upper band and using the Krag bayonet. At first it was felt that this would be a simple and practical solution, as there were large numbers of Krag bayonets available which would therefore be usable on the new rifle. The use of a band that would allow use of the Krag bayonet was felt to be satisfactory and that was recommended for adoption.

The committee considered the use of the Krag bayonet very carefully, and although it was strongly considered for adoption, there were two factors that finally led to the adoption of the Model 1905 bayonet.

The first of the two changes that were made was the lengthening of the blade from the 10-inch blade of the Krag to a 16-inch blade. As mentioned above, this was designed to compensate for the 6-inch shorter barrel of the Model 1903 rifle and provide the soldier the same "reach" with his bayonet that he had with the Krag. It was also in line with the thinking in other major powers such as Japan, Germany and Great Britain, which had adopted or were planning to adopt bayonets with long blades. In later years of course it was proven that a shorter blade allowed for better handling and a quicker response time, but the long blade remained standard in most nation's armies into World War Two.

The second change has seldom been mentioned or the reasons for it given much consideration. That change was from the Krag locking system, which was essentially a push stud cross bolt basically similar to that in use as early as the US Civil War, to the Norwegian Krag system. This change was intended to solve two problems that had been found with the Krag bayonet and scabbard.

The first problem was with the contact with the locking lug on the bayonet stud. Looking at the rear of the lug, it can be seen that it is essentially an inverted T. If you look straight down at the undercut groove slot in the top of the Krag pommel, you cannot see any of the locking stud, which means that the cross stud of the Krag locking system bears only on one side of the crossbar of the T.

When the rifle is fired, the rifle recoils and the inertia of the bayonet causes a great deal of force to be exerted on a very small area of that crossbar. It was found when firing the Krag with the bayonet fixed that a very small number of shots (as few as 6 in some tests) could at times cause that small contact area to shear off, allowing the bayonet to fall off the rifle.

It does not appear that tests were made concerning this problem with the Model 1903 rifle and the test model bayonet with the Krag lock. However, it was certainly apparent that the heavier recoil of the rifle and the greater weight of the bayonet would only worsen the problem.

The Norwegian Krag locking system utilized a pivoting locking bar which placed the actual contact of the bayonet catch on the vertical bar of the T and to some extent to either side. This distributed the recoil force much better and resulted in a much stronger attachment.

The second problem that the Norwegian Krag locking system helped to solve dealt with the bayonet scabbard. Complaints had been lodged against the Model 1892 scabbard on several counts, including:

    1. The ease by which the scabbard could be dented.
    2. The blue finish was readily scratched or worn resulting in a "loss of military appearance".
    3. The noise made by the bayonet rattling in the scabbard.
    4. The rusting of the scabbard under field conditions.
    5. At times the blade would rust against the flat springs that retained the blade in the scabbard making it difficult to withdraw the bayonet.
    6. The contact of the edge of the blade against the metal inside the scabbard was considered to slightly dull the blade edge.

 

Some of these complaints were either esthetic only, or were somewhat questionable. However, the decision was to totally redesign a scabbard for the Model 1905, in which another aspect of the 1894 Norwegian system was to be used.

The throat and attaching hook of the new Model of 1905 scabbard were similar to the late Krag scabbard, except that the metal throat portion extended downward only about 1 1/2 inches. The body of the new scabbard was to be made of wood, which was felt to be quieter, not as likely to be dented, and to not dull the blade edge. Although not mentioned in the sources I have, I believe the wood was coated with a clear varnish or other sealer to help repel water. For appearance, the wooden body was covered with a thin russet leather cover sewn up the right side.

The bayonet was not retained in the scabbard by spring steel "fingers" as had been used on the Krag scabbard, but utilized the 1894 Norwegian Krag system where an extension of the release button engaged a hook on the top of the scabbard. This was felt to retain the bayonet in the scabbard more securely, prevent wear on the blade by the springs, and prevent the rusting to the springs problem. Unlike the Norwegian version, the US throat has hooks on both sides so that the bayonet can be inserted in either direction.

Toolroom drawings and parts began to be produced in the spring of 1905 after approval of the basic design in May. A drawing for the new combination bayonet and scabbard catch design is dated June 3, 1905 and a finish dimension drawing for the bayonet is dated August 8, 1905. Other changes continued to be made, even after the Master Drawing was approved on October 3, 1905. In the Annual Report to the Chief of Ordnance from the Superintendent of Springfield Armory for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 1906, he states: "As the form of knife bayonet was not approved until May 5, 1905, and as frequent changes since then have been made in its construction, but 2,100 were fully completed during the year. There were, however, about 80,000 in various stages of completion. They are being finished at about the rate of 430 daily." As the report does not show any deliveries to the Store Room, the first production bayonets were apparently not delivered until after July 1, 1906.

That report shows 20,000 Bayonet Scabbards, New (fitted with long hook and fastener) as having been delivered to stores, as well as 2,000 Bayonet Scabbard Mouthpieces (for R.I.A.) As Rock Island Arsenal was to manufacture the Model 1905 scabbards, I believe the 20,000 mentioned were the late model Krag scabbards fitted with the same hook and fastener as the Model 1905 scabbard. I have one of the early Model 1905 scabbards, and it is marked R.I.A. 1906. The 2,000 mouthpieces were probably to get Rock Island started in their production. After this year, Springfield does not mention Bayonet Scabbards in their reports.

In a future Bayonet Points I will get into the production models and variations of the Model of 1905 bayonet, and then will follow up with another article on the Scabbards. Hopefully these will be ready in the next two or three months.

 

M1905 and M1 Bayonet Forgings

I have had these raw forgings for some time, and have reason to believe that they are from the Geneva, Ohio plant of American Fork and Hoe. Viewed mainly as curiosities by most collectors and of minimal value, they do serve to illustrate the beginning of the production of the World War Two bayonet.

 

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Forged M1905 and M1 Bayonet Blanks. Note that the fuller is already formed in the blade, with only minimum finishing required. Some companies, from examination of their finished blades, did very little further finishing on the fuller.

 

 

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Close-up of the handle area of the M1 Bayonet forging.

The 1080 indicates that this blank is WD-1080 steel and the R is for Republic Steel Corporation who supplied the raw steel. This mark assured that the blank would receive the proper heat treatment as different steels were sometimes used and each required its own special heat treatment.

Most of the earlier forgings, such as the one shown here for the M1905 did not have this marking which resulted in difficulty in keeping the various steel types separated and sometimes the wrong heat treatment.

 

 

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The tip of the forged blank for the M1905 bayonet. Note that very little steel remained to be removed during the finishing process, as steel was in very short supply and every effort was being made to conserve material as much as possible.

E-mail me at bayonetman@suddenlink.net

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