Gary Cunningham's

Bayonet Point's

January 2003 

The Plastic Gripped M4 Bayonet - Part Two

The Plastic Gripped M4 Bayonet - Part Two

At the end of the last column, I asked if anyone had seen a Bren-Dan M4 that more closely followed the pattern of the Conetta M4 I had shown. My thanks to all that took the time to email me with information. The first to give me the information was Don Endonino, stating that he had a Bren-Dan that was a match for the Conetta. Since then, I purchased one that is very close to what I consider the contract specifications. Note that the pommel is held by a peen very similar to that of the Conetta shown earlier, and also has the small dimple at 6 o'clock found on the Conetta and the Turner. The only difference is that the latch pins are roll pins rather than solid pins, and Don stated that his has the solid pins with the center punched peen. So these bayonets may have been made at about the time the change was made from solid pins to roll pins.

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Now that we have looked at the 4 M4 plastic handled bayonets that I feel were actually made on US contract, I think some conclusions may be drawn about their manufacture and use. Before going further, I think the following notes on what characteristics a true US contract M4 bayonet with plastic grips will show may help to recognize one. Below the list is a drawing of the M4 from TM 9-1005-237-15P.

Blade has a 90 degree (or nearly so) backcut.
Pommel is marked with a dimple at about 6 o'clock (or a circled I in the case of the Imperial made specimens).
Tang has two cuts, possibly to lighten the weight.
Guard is secured by a bent metal bar passing through the tang.
Grips are unmarked except for a mold number on the Turner version, or have the proper M4 part numbers 7266828 / 7266829 molded in.
Grip screws have serrated lock washers under the screw heads.

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The M4 bayonets made by Turner were probably actually for issue to US forces, to help refill the depleted supply created by use in the Korean War.

I still have a couple of questions about those produced by Imperial, especially as to when they were manufactured. I feel that if they were produced in the 1950s for actual US issue, they would be more common today than they are. I still have a feeling that they were produced on US contract in the 1960s for sale or aid to another country. So far no one has been able to tell me when the part number began to be molded into the grips. As I mentioned earlier, the early M6 grips do not have the number, leading me to believe that the numbers did not begin to be used until circa 1962 or so. I would really like to see one in the original packaging with the contract number and date to help answer this question. Something that I failed to mention in my comments about the Imperial M4 is that the grip screws are not the type used in the other M4s (and M7s) but are the type used in the M5 and M6 bayonets. This may indicate that Imperial produced these M4s at the same time as they were making either M5s or M6s.

Those produced by Conetta and Bren-Dan were almost certainly made on US contract but were for aid/sale to another country, quite possibly South Vietnam. However, it is also quite probable that parts left over from these contracts were used to make M4 bayonets for commercial sales. If they are found with M7 grips and no slots in the tang, they are almost certainly commercial items. This is not to say that this was done by Conetta/Bren-Dan, but probably by another company that bought the overruns of parts after the contracts were completed.

Many M4s are found with World War Two markings on the guard, and often the pommel, but with plastic grips. The popular story is that these were converted from leather handles to plastic in an official US military conversion program. No record of such a program has been uncovered to my knowledge, although the idea makes some sense. Unfortunately for the story, many (or most) of those seen for sale have new made blades and M7 grips.

Some years ago I picked up a Utica marked M4 that was said to be a converted WW2 issue. Upon examination, there seemed to be some possibility of that being the case. The blade appears to be a standard WW2 blade, and the tang is very rusty as if the original leather grips had gotten damp and then removed. The grips are early M4 plastic grips, and the guard is a correct WW2 guard. The pommel is held by a typical WW2 sunburst peen. But there are two problems. The first relates to the guard, which appears to be held to the tang by rust and friction, no provision having been made to secure it to the blade or tang. Any type of sharp blow would likely cause it to loosen. The second area of concern is the pommel, which is unmarked except for the dimple found on the Turner, Conetta, and Bren-Dan examples shown previously. It is possible that the pommel was replaced at the time of rebuild, but the lack of guard support still bothers me. As it stands right now, I am very suspicious of any M4 that has supposedly been converted from a WW2 production M4 to a plastic gripped M4. Comments on this bayonet, or on other World War Two reworks to plastic grips will be welcomed.

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Here is another one of those bayonets currently being advertised as being converted from World War 2 production. At first glance it doesn't look too bad, but taking the grips off reveals a surprise. The guard is a correct WW2 Camillus guard, and the pommel is a correct WW2 Standard Products pommel. The blade has a 90-degree backcut, but a close look shows that the true edge grind is not right, as it looks suspiciously like a MilPar blade. When the grips were removed, it revealed that the blade was actually a M5 or M6 blade, probably either a factory overrun or one of those left over after MilPar went out of business and all of their remaining inventory was sold to Century Arms. The tang peen looks like it was done with a dull center punch, and the grips are unmarked and hollowed out inside. Strictly a commercial product made for the "surplus" store trade.

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This one is a bit of a mystery, but is believed to be a purely commercially made bayonet. The only markings are U.S.M4 over AKI on the blade side of the guard, and the M7 grip parts numbers molded inside the grips. The blade is reasonably well made and ground. The pommel is unmarked, the catches are held by roll pins, and the tang is smoothly peened. There is a company named AKI that makes edged tools in Hawaii, but when I contacted them they stated they had no relationship to this bayonet. One person who posted on a forum stated the name was the initials of American Korean Industries, but offered no further information. Any information will be welcomed.

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One M4 that has caused some confusion has the crossguard marked with the Ordnance Shell and Flame and U.S.M4 over K.I. The quick assumption is that this is a Kinfolks Incorporated guard and therefore is a conversion from a World War 2 bayonet. Unfortunately the marking is not the same as the WW2 mark in which the Shell and Flame is on the pommel side of the guard instead of being on the blade side. This is a commercial bayonet, possibly using the K.I. mark to fool the unwary. If the AKI mark stands for American Korean Industries, this may stand for Korean Industries, but these are simply guesses at this time. I have two variants of this bayonet, one with a 90-degree backcut and the other with a long curved backcut. The guards and pommels are the same on each, with the unmarked pommels held to the tang by a sunburst peen. The grips are M7 grips with the part numbers molded in.

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Several M4s are available that are apparently made in another country, whether for use by that nation's military or for possible sale. Several are found that are marked only K-M4 on the blade side of the guard, sometimes with another mark on the other side of the guard. The guards are of the narrow World War 2 type rather than the wider style normally found on plastic handled M4s. Several sources have identified them as having been made in Korea, with the mark indicating either the place of manufacture or the using service. I have been able to find no solid information that would support or discredit this information. One is shown here that is marked with a five segmented circle, which is identified in the Small Arms Ammunition Guide as being a mark found on Communist Chinese made cartridges. One of the grips is a US M7 grip, the other is unmarked. The pommel is unmarked with solid catch retaining pins and a smooth tang peen. It should be noted that the catches are of the US M7 type (with a flared tip), whereas most of the M4s found have the US style rounded M4 catches.

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Another M4 found at times is more likely to be an actual issue item. The blade side of the guard is marked with a winged anchor with a superimposed star and two unidentified small marks, while the back side of the guard is marked with the letters K.L. enclosed in a diamond shaped device. This guard, like the previous one, is the earlier narrow style. The grips are solid and unmarked. The pommel is unmarked, with solid catch pins and a rather crudely done smooth peen. This has been represented as Korean military issue, with various explanations of the primary mark, including Korean Air Force and Korean Navy issue. I have no firm information whatever about it.

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A very commonly found M4 is considerably different in construction from the others shown. It is marked only US M4 on the blade side of the lower guard. The blade is found both parkerized and bright, with the bright blade being apparently some sort of stainless steel. The one-piece grip is molded directly to the tang, and the solid pommel is attached to the tang with a Phillips head machine screw. The catches are of the M7 type and are retained by solid pins. These bayonets are made in Germany by Carl Eickhorn, both for commercial sale and for sale to the military of other countries.

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As can be seen, there are far more questions than answers concerning this series of bayonets. Any information any of you are willing to share concerning any of these bayonets will be greatly appreciated and will be shared with others in future editions of this column.


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