Gary Cunningham's

Bayonet Point's

May 2003

The Camillus M4 Bayonets

Camillus Cutlery Company of Camillus, New York has made leather gripped M4 bayonets in three different time periods - 1944-45, 1953, and the 1990s. Since many collectors may have some difficulty in determining in which time period a particular bayonet was made, I decided to detail some of the differences. Frank Trzaska supplied some of the information concerning production quantities and other data. It should be mentioned that Camillus, unlike many other makers, has supplied Frank with a virtual open door to their archives and they are to be highly commended for their assistance to collectors.

During World War Two, Camillus supplied about 330,000 M4 bayonets, making them the 3rd most common behind Imperial and Utica. To date I have not been able to locate production figures for the 1953 contract, but they do not seem to be common. Beginning about 1992, Camillus manufactured a commercial version of the M4, very similar in appearance to the 1953 contract. They have made a number of production batches up to the present time (2003), and total production seems to have been about 32,000.

As with many makers, Camillus only made the blade for the M4 during World War Two. They bought all the other parts from subcontractors. The butt (pommel to most collectors) came from Standard Products of Port Clinton, Ohio. The plastic spacers in the grip were obtained from Beckwith Manufacturing, and the 34 leather washers for the grip came from Simplex. The guard was made by Square Stampings. Camillus made the blades, assembled the bayonets, and packaged them with Beckwith scabbards supplied by the government.

World War Two production is readily identified in a number of ways. The easiest to note is the presence of a small Ordnance Shell and Flame mark on the underside (blade side) of the lower guard. There are a number of other differences also which will be shown in the photographs that follow.

The difference between the 1953 contract and current production is not quite as easily defined. Possibly the easiest way (and also something that could be faked without a great deal of trouble) is the starburst peening of the tang over the pommel. Other differences include the shape of the X marking on the pommel, and the shape of the letter M in Camillus and M4. Also, the backcut on the commercial model is about 3/32 inch further from the guard than on the 1953. These differences will be pointed out more closely in the photos that follow.

The X on the pommel of the 1953 contract indicated manufacture by L.C. Smith (the shotgun company) on subcontract with Camillus. The X on the commercial model probably was added to make it more similar to the 1953 contract.

In each of the photos, the 1944-45 production is at the top or on the left, the 1953 in the middle, and the commercial at the bottom or right.

 

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The three M4s look quite a bit alike, but to a collector, the differences can mean quite a bit of difference in perceived value. The most common, and most popular, is the World War 2 production. This is "the" M4 to most collectors. The 1953 production seems to be the least common today, and to a more advanced collector, probably the most valuable. The modern commercial production beginning about 1992 was strictly for the commercial market, and has little interest to the collector of military bayonets.

 

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In the photo of the grip area, it may be noted that the World War Two produced M4 has brown plastic inserts at both ends of the grip. This was to keep the leather from contacting the metal, as the leather drew dampness and caused the metal to rust. By 1953, the leather was treated with a rot and mildew preventive material, which made the grip much more water resistant, and the plastic spacers were dropped. The MRT process sealed the leather, it also makes the leather harder and darker than the earlier grips. Note also that the newer grips are not "burnished" to a gloss as was done in WW2.

The current production copies the 1953 type grip.

 

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This photo shows the catches. It might be noted that the World War 2 specimen shown has a hole in the plastic spacer. This was to allow the retaining pin to be reached for removal to replace a broken catch when necessary. Later in the war (circa February 1945), the pins were changed from a taper pin to a straight pin which was center punched in place and the hole in the spacer was dropped. Note also the differences in the shape of the anti-slip cuts in the catches.

 

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A view of the face of the pommels. Note that the two catch pins on the WW2 specimen are not staked in place, indicating that they are the earlier tapered pins meant to be removed for replacing a damaged catch. About February 1945 the style was changed to a straight pin staked in place (similar to the 1953 specimen). After that, the bayonets were issued as an assembly with no spare parts. Damaged ones were replaced, not repaired. In this view, notice also the starburst peen of the tang on the 1944 and 1953 specimens as compared to the smooth peen of the current commercial model. Also the first two are Parkerized, while the new model is painted black. On the 1944 one, the intertwined SP and the batch? number are visible. Note that both the 1953 contract and modern versions have an X on the pommel, but the location and shape of the X are different.

 

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In the photo of the guards and markings, several differences can be noted. The 1944 specimen has the narrow guard typical of all World War Two production. The two later versions have the wider guard with the stress relieving half moon cuts near each corner of the blade, which was officially adopted in 1951 after tests at Springfield Armory. The inset on the upper photo shows the Ordnance Shell and Flame mark found on the underside of the guard. Also, look carefully at the M in Camillus and M4 on the 1953 contract and commercial M4s. On the 1953, the center of the M comes down only about 2/3 of the way to the bottom, while on the commercial specimen it comes clear to the bottom.

There are differences in the finish that do not show well in the photos. Camillus polished the metal of their World War Two M4s before Parkerizing (in their terms, glazed and park). They also used a dark Parkerization that made their blades almost look blued, especially if they have some light wear and are oiled. As mentioned earlier, the leather grip was burnished to a shine before the V grooves were cut, and the grooves show up much lighter than the rest of the grip.

The 1953 contract has a medium gray fairly smooth Parkerized finish. As with all Parkerized finishes, this can change quite a bit with wear and oiling. The grips were not burnished to a gloss, and the V grooves were cut prior to the coating with the mildew and rot resistant coating, which gives it a dark brown almost black color.

The current commercial model has been made in several batches over the past 12 years, and they vary somewhat from one to the other. One of the specimens in my reference collection has grips that are a russet brown color while another has the dark almost black color found on the 1953, and both are more polished than the 1953. The colors and shine of the metal also vary somewhat, especially if oiled.

 

I do appreciate all of the emails that I get from the readers. However, I must repeat that I cannot evaluate your item. There are too many factors that might influence the value for me to try to price a piece from your description or photos. If you have an interest in knives and bayonets, you should get a copy of U.S. Military Knives, Bayonets and Machetes Price Guide from Frank. Just go to the Book Listing section on this site and you can order it directly. Not only is it a good general guide for pricing, but you can use it for a checklist of what models and makers you might want to look for.

Frank has a lot of good books for sale, and a library is truly necessary to anyone who collects. There is a book that covers almost any blade collector's specialty. If you are fairly new to the blade collecting field, you really need to read before you buy.

E-mail me at bayonetman@suddenlink.net

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