Gary Cunningham's

Bayonet Point's

December 2002 

The Plastic Gripped M4 Bayonet - Part One

One of the questions that I am often asked concerns the many M4 bayonets that are found with plastic grips. These are seen commonly advertised at very attractive prices, and many collectors are interested in acquiring one to put on their M1 carbine.

Unfortunately most of them are non-military bayonets created for the "surplus" market. I have divided them into categories, keeping in mind that in some cases I am not totally sure where a certain bayonet might fit:

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Those actually made on US military contract for issue to US troops.

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Those made on US contract for sale/issue to other countries under aid programs.

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Those made using some US surplus parts for the civilian market.

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Those made by other countries for issue to their forces.

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Those made by foreign makers for military or civilian sales.

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Those made new for sale on the civilian "surplus" market.

In the rest of this article, I am going to show a few of these and make some comments about them. However, keep in mind that there are many that I don't show (and many that I have never seen), because I really don't collect these except for the first category. Also keep in mind that the descriptions are based on specimens in my reference collection and there are almost certainly variations among these that I am not describing. The ones that I show have been picked up cheap here and there, or in some cases given to me. Please note that the bayonets are usually darker in color than the photos show, as I use bright lighting to highlight some of the characteristics and markings.

Due to the fairly large number of these that I have, I am going to break this into two articles with the second one coming next month. In the meantime, please contact me with any comments or questions, and I will try to integrate them into the next half. Most of these I know very little about, and will certainly welcome any information that any of you may have to clear up some of the fog surrounding these bayonets.

One of the obvious changes between M4 bayonets made in 1944-45 and post 1953 is the guard. Some problems with cracking of the guard in the area of the cut for the blade occurred and in 1951 Springfield Armory changed the specifications for the guard to widen it somewhat around the blade, and introduced semicircular cuts at each end to reduce stress cracking. Shown here are the 1944-45 production guard and the later production guard by Imperial.

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First to be shown are those actually made on US military contract, and probably for actual issue to US troops. Actually, these are fairly uncommon, with only two makers fitting my criteria.

The first contract was to the Turner Manufacturing Company of Statesville, North Carolina for 298,691 bayonets in 1954. They are marked U.S. M4 / TMN on the blade side of the lower guard. These have the post-1951 wider guard. The Department of Defense Acceptance Stamp (commonly called the DAS) is found on the handle side of the guard. This mark, for those not familiar with it, is a very stylized eagle with spread wings, and three stars over its head, all enclosed in a box. This was apparently first used in the mid-1950s and replaced the Ordnance Shell and Flame mark as a sign of US military acceptance and ownership. The mark continued to be used into the mid to late 1960s. Several characteristics of the US military M4 are seen here. They include the two long slots in the tang (presumably to reduce weight), the bar bent through a hole in the tang to hold the guard against the blade, and the nearly 90 degree angle where the grinding of the true edge ends (called the backcut). However, some of the non-military "surplus" bayonets will have some or all of these characteristics, so these are not absolute identifiers.

The grips are checkered black molded plastic. In the case of the Turner production, the grips are unmarked inside other than one or two digit numbers, which are apparently mold numbers. The pommel is secured by a sunburst peen, and the latch retaining pins are solid and peened in place. There are no markings, although a "dimple" is found in the lower quadrant, (possibly the result of a hardness test?).

On most of the Turner production, all of the metal is Parkerized with a medium dark gray fairly smooth finish. Some, for reasons not understood at this time, were left "bright". These are not highly polished, but were not Parkerized. The specimen in my collection appears to have been coated with a clear material such as a varnish to retard corrosion.

Recent research by Frank Trzaska, as noted in his October 2002 Knife Knotes column, shows that Camillus supplied the blades for this contract to Turner. Other production details or subcontractors are unknown.

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The other production that I think was possibly for US service was by the Imperial Knife Company of Providence, Rhode Island. To date I have found no record of either the contract date or amount. The bayonet does fit the normal specifications (wide guard, slotted tang and 90 degree backcut) and is well made and fitted. It has the DAS on the underside of the guard. Finish is a medium gray slightly rough Parkerizing, but it must be remembered that even slight use and oiling can darken and smooth out Parkerized finishes quite a bit. The pommel is smoothly "hot peened" (by that I mean that it appears that the tang tip was heated and then struck with a smooth slightly concave tool while still hot), and is marked with an I in a circle, which I presume is an Imperial mark. The latch retaining pins are solid and very neatly peened with a deep single punch?

The grips are marked inside with the part numbers 7266827 (right grip) and 7266828 (left grip) molded into the plastic along with a letter/number which is probably mold numbers for quality control purposes. From what I have seen, this practice was not started until circa 1962 - does anyone have any firm information as to when the grips were first marked? I have taken M6 bayonets from 1961 marked packaging which did not have part numbered grips and from 1964 packs which did, but don't know for sure when it became standard.

For whatever reason, this bayonet is fairly scarce. If indeed they were not produced until the early 1960s, which is pretty late for US service use, it is possible that they were intended for sale/ or transfer to another country under a military aid program.

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The next bayonet was apparently manufactured under a US contract, but probably not for US service use. Conetta was located in Stamford, Connecticut. It opened about 1946 and closed about 1970 shortly after completing a contract for M7 and M4 bayonets. This bayonet also meets all the standard specifications, but does not have the DAS mark, as it was manufactured after the use of that mark was discontinued circa 1965. The package that this specimen was in is marked:

1005-716-0944
BAYONET, KNIFE M-4
1 EACH
DA-11-199-AMC-724(W)
A- 3/69

Conetta bayonets are well made and finished in a dark gray fairly smooth Parkerizing. The grips are the same type as used by Imperial, with the part numbers molded in. Pommels are unmarked except for a "dimple" at the six o'clock position similar to the Turner production. The latch retaining pins are solid and lightly off center peened. The tang is peened to the pommel with a rectangular stamping in the center unlike any other that I have seen. Sort of like putting a wedge in the handle of a hatchet to hold the head on.

Frank Trzaska interviewed the current owner of Conetta/Bren-Dan and the following information is quoted from Knife Knotes 3 on this site. "The strange part was the inspector was based in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and he was a sailor. Could it be that Conetta and Bren-Dan had a contract with the Navy Department (Marines) and that is the reason we could not locate records on them at Rock Island? Makes one thinků. They also told me the inspector used to laugh that the bayonets being made by Bren-Dan were obsolete and wouldn't fit anything in the current US arsenal. He used to laugh at how they were "getting over" on the govt. Again makes me think the bayonets (M4's) were going to the S. Vietnamese govt. or some other Asian country we were giving aid to and that might be the reason that Rock Island did not have records on them? From the labeling found on a few Conetta boxes it equates to a Marine Corps contract and part number so that theory is valid."

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Having mentioned Bren-Dan above, we will move on to the M4 bayonet made by that firm. For background, I will again quote from Frank's article in Knife Knotes mentioned above: " The original name of the company was Conetta Tool and Die Inc. The owner was Louis Conetta and his brother Anthony also worked for him. Somehow through the telling of the old story I had often heard it seems that Anthony was the original owner, not true. Financial difficulty shut down Conetta Tool and Die Inc. and the large factory.

Bren-Dan was kept in the family as it was a different corporation. The name Bren-Dan was a contraction of the names of Louis Conetta's first two children Brenda and Daniel. He also had a third son Anthony who was born after the Bren-Dan name was already in existence. Louis died several years ago."

The Bren-Dan version of the bayonet varies in many details from the one made by Conetta, and I have to wonder if they were actually made on a US contract. The differences include no slots in the tang, roll pins used instead of solid pins to retain the latches, and the use of slightly shortened M7 grips instead of the regular M4 grips. The tang is peened to the pommel with a flat sunburst, and the pommel is unmarked. The blade grind is slightly cruder with a less well defined and slightly curved centerline. The finish is a dark gray Parkerizing, slightly more granular than that on my Conetta.

Does anyone have a specimen that is more similar to the M4 as made by Conetta? Or were the Bren-Dan bayonets made to different (cheaper) specifications? It is also quite possible that odds and ends of leftover production parts may have been used to produce some bayonets for the surplus trade, and that most of the ones that I have seen are from this commercial run. Just another of the many questions about the plastic gripped M4 bayonets that collectors would like to have answered.

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I am going to end this here and continue on next month. Please send me your comments and any information you might be willing to share about these bayonets, and I will include it in a future article. Thanks to all of you who have emailed me with your kind comments and questions - I am running pretty late on some answers, but I will answer as soon as I can.

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