The AN Marked M6 Bayonet
One of the hardest US bayonets to find is the M6 marked with a maker code of AN. I first became aware of this maker when the late M.H. Cole illustrated it in his book U.S. Knives, Bayonets and Machetes, Volume III. For several years I searched for one to add to my reference collection, but over a period of about 20 years I only saw one and it was in a collection and not for sale.
There has been much speculation about who made these bayonets, but to date no hard facts whatsoever. For some years it was assumed that it was either an unknown US contractor or manufactured in a foreign country. In recent years there has been some speculation that the AN mark stands for Anniston Army Depot, and that these bayonets are actually pre-production prototypes. It is known that Anniston did Research and Development work and used the AN mark on other items, but to date I still have no good information on the maker of these scarce bayonets.
Due to the kindness of well-known collector Greg Robinson, I have had the chance to handle one of these bayonets and make some comparisons with other M6s in the reference collection. I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to Greg for his generosity.
An M6 Bayonet Marked "AN"
While the bayonet on the surface appears to be a normal M6, there are a number of little oddities about it that I would like to examine in a little more detail. Hopefully some of the readers will have one that they can compare with this one and pass on any comments that they would care to make.
The Guard Markings of the AN Marked M6
In looking at the photo of the guard markings on the specimen in my possession compared with the drawing from the Cole book, it is noticed that the markings are opposite both in orientation and in location. Mr. Cole was well known to be meticulous in his drawings, so it must be assumed that the specimen he observed had the markings as he shows them. This fact adds some credence to the idea of these being prototypes rather than production models. If you look closely at both the AN marking and the US M6, they do appear to be hand stamped. As can be seen, there are slight depressions on either side of the blade that may have been an attempt to tighten the guard against the blade - these do not appear on the other side of the guard. The guard is very well and smoothly made with a slight bevel around the edges. The barrel hole is beveled on the back (muzzle) side only.
The Pommel of the AN Marked M6 Bayonet
The pommel shows no significant differences from any other M6 pommel. The significance of the red paint covering the smooth convex peened tang and the red 6 is not known. Probably a unit or arms room ID, but not impossible that it was used to identify this specific bayonet during some sort of test program. However, since this general type of mark is used in other situations, the "test ID" is purely speculative.
Above - AN Marked M6 Bayonet
Below - J&D Tool Marked M5-1 Bayonet
One thing that struck me immediately on seeing this bayonet was that the backcut of the true edge of the blade was curved in a way that is seemingly identical to that used by the J&D Tool Company of Glenbrook Connecticut on their production of M5 and M5-1 bayonets. I first thought that if this was indeed a prototype M6 by Anniston, they might have simply converted a J&D Tool M5A1 by simply replacing the guard. This thought was reinforced by the early "fat" M5 grips used on this specimen (but of course the grips could have been replaced at any time).
Close-up of the True Edge Backcuts
Above - J&D Tool Marked M5 Bayonet
Below - AN Marked M6 Bayonet
In this photo you can see the machine that made the true edge left cutter marks which curve in a radius to complete the backcut. Careful examination of the two bayonets, as well as other J&D Tool M5 and M5-1 bayonets in my reference collection indicate that the same type of tool was used on all of the J&D blades, as well as the AN blade. No other makers represented in my collection use this same method of forming the backcut. So the idea that Anniston simply took a J&D Tool M5-1 bayonet from stock and changed the guard to fit the M14 began to look like a strong possibility.
Close-up of the Back of the Tangs
Above - J&D Tool Marked M5 Bayonet
Below - AN Marked M6 Bayonet
Unfortunately such an easy answer is incorrect. On the M5 and M5A1 bayonets, the rearward motion of the bayonet is stopped by the guard plate striking the face of the gas plug of the M1 rifle. On the M14 rifle, the barrel hole in the guard fits over the flash hider and there is no point of contact to stop its rearward motion. This is accomplished by a stop machined as part of the top of the tang, while the M5 has no such stop. A very careful examination of the stop on the tang of the AN marked M6 shows that it has been machined as an integral part of the tang, and therefore could not have been converted from a M5 or M5A1.
It appears therefore that the blade was made specifically as an M6 blade, possibly by the J&D Tool Company due to the unusual shape of the backcut. J&D Tool, to the best of my knowledge, did not produce the M6 on contract. However, they may have made some blades, either in anticipation of a contract or for the test program which developed the M6. Most collectors do not realize that the M6 was developed and adopted prior to the actual adoption of the M14 rifle, although the bayonet itself was not placed in quantity production for some years later as it was first decided that the M14 would not be issued with a bayonet. Development of the bayonet (called the T12 during development) was in 1954 and the final production drawing for the M6 is dated January 24, 1955.
If anyone has any further information on this bayonet, or another specimen that might be examined, please let me know.
The FZR Marked M7 Bayonet
Another bayonet that I feel is unidentified is the M7 marked FZR. Cole identifies it as Frazier Manufacturing and another source stated it was located in Port Huron, Michigan. I so identified it in my book, and stated that I had no verification for that identification.
M7 Bayonet Marked FZR
The bayonet is an absolutely standard, well made M7. It has all of the normal characteristics with nothing to differentiate it from makers such as Imperial, BOC, and the others. My request to Rock Island for M7 contract information did not show any maker with this name. It is somewhere between uncommon and rare, enough so as to add a further touch of mystery. If anyone has any information on this maker, I would certainly appreciate hearing from you.
I don't know about the rest of you, but spring is a busy season for me, working in the yard and trying to catch up on things that I have put off all winter. Plus my grandson has things to do, and we just seem to find that there is not enough time to work everything in. My bayonet studies suffer, and I have less time or inclination to do much writing. So I apologize for a short column, and I will try to make up for it in the next month or two. Right now I am working on a detailed study of the M1917 bayonets - watch for it.
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