Article's Done for the O.K.C.A. in 1998
The Bayonet, Evolution and Design
Last month we briefly started the modern mounting systems known as the muzzle ring. I use the word "modern" loosely as this system dates back to around 1840 in it's first use. The system in use today uses this same principal in that the guard is sized to slip over the muzzle of the using firearm as an alignment and holding device. The actual retainer is some type of locking mechanism usually fitted to the bayonet in the handle or pommel. Thus with the two devices used together the bayonet is kept in alignment and retained to the firearm to prevent it from becoming dislodged. This last item is mainly used on the retrieval of the bayonet after something or someone has been pierced. In the withdrawal many of the older bayonets relied on friction only. Needless to say that was not very reliable.
In the earliest days of the muzzle ring attachment the bayonet itself was still mounted along side the firearm to make way for the ramrod usually underneath the barrel. When cartridge loading firearms were invented the ramrod became obsolete and mounting took the place that we know as the conventional place today, under the barrel. As the firearm itself underwent dramatic changes in the late 1800's the bayonet responded likewise. As smaller bore rifles out placed the large bores the obvious reduction in muzzle ring followed. When the armies of the world changed over to smokeless powder and repeating rifles the bayonet took an even further back seat as a useful weapon. By the time of the First World War gone were the bayonet charges of yesteryear. Firepower took over the often times hand to hand combat. With a repeating rifle and clips of ammunition, the soldier of the time would not stand a chance to get close enough to his advisory to use the issue bayonet. The reason I have departed to this area of firearms is to show that the development of the bayonet was changed not only by the natural progression of steel and manufacturing but also by the inventions surrounding and influencing it. Many of the great generals of the time refused to relinquish the bayonet to obscurity even if it would never be used in the field. Today with automatic weapons and missiles dominating the battlefield the bayonet is still a standard issue item although greatly changed from it's former relatives of the 18th century.
The first US muzzle ring bayonet is considered to be the Model 1841 for the Mississippi rifle of that same year. It is curious that the bayonet in earlier years was always designated by the rifle it was attached to. It would come at a much later date that the bayonet actually had a name or model designation of its own. The Model 1841 was a typical sword bladed bayonet discussed in an earlier article. It's funny to note but the original 1841 Mississippi rifle came initially without a bayonet. It wasn't until 1855 when authority was given to upgrade many rifles in the US Armories to modern specifications. This authority was given by then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis later to become President of the C.S.A.. From this point onward the vast majority of bayonets produced for the American forces took on the muzzle ring as it's mounting system.
Not long after this system was introduced the above quoted rifle advances also took place. In a natural evolution the bayonet was again looked at for more utilitarian use. The first Knife Bladed bayonet is considered to be the Model 1861 for the Plymouth / Whitneyville rifle. It is perhaps better known by it's nickname the Dahlgren Bowie Bayonet, named for it inventor Admiral John A. Dahlgren. Many article have been written about the Dahlgren bayonet but what I find most intriguing are the actual letters from the Admiral himself regarding it's design and use. As we know the basic use of a bayonet is mounted to the end of a rifle or musket. To Dahlgren's thinking this is not the proper used of his newly invented arm. It should be known that Admiral Dahlgren was in command of several Navy ships and knew first hand what close quarters fighting was about. With this in mind perhaps we can relate to the admirals thought when he wrote that the bayonet was best used in the hand not mounted on the end of the rifle it was designed for. It is also interesting to note that the 1861 rifle already had a sword bayonet designed for it at the time of Dahlgren's invention of the new bayonet. In Dahlgren's own words he called it the "most useless thing in the world except at the end of a musket." Perhaps this explains why most Dahlgren bayonets do NOT fit the Model 1861 rifle. They were meant to but they were also designed to be used as a close quarters fighting weapon in a sailors or marines hand. The Admiral invented a bayonet because a knife would not be sanctioned by the Ordnance Board. But being the clever fellow he was the bayonet did not really have to fit the rifle either. Next month more on the evolution of the modern system and the knife bladed bayonets. Perhaps we can even move into the twentieth century. On second thought.............
The Bayonet, Evolution and Design
Moving along with today's modern mounting system of muzzle ring attachments brings us to the Pre World War I knife bladed bayonets. Prior to the war the official rifle of the United States was the Krag - Jorgensen. This rifle, adopted in 1892 was a close copy of a rifle then in use in Europe. The bayonet likewise was copied. The Krag bayonet blade was 11 3/4 inches long and in most cases left in the white. The scabbards were formed from sheet metal with a simple belt catch devise. The scabbards were then blued and polished. As was the case with many U.S. rifles and bayonets, samples were provided to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for cadet use during drill exercises. In many cases the arms were scaled down for use by the younger men. The Krag bayonet was no different. A cadet version was made with a blade length of 8 3/4 inches. These "dress" bayonets were bright chrome plated for a much sharper appearance. During the years the Krag bayonet was used the U.S. entered into several skirmishes around the globe. These different environments tended to change the opinions of the Ordnance Department in the role the bayonet was to play. We have seen the role of the bayonet change from weapon to utilitarian tool several times in the past, i.e. the trowel bayonet of the west, back to weapon. The 1900's were no different. Two different versions of the standard Krag bayonet appeared for test purposes. In 1900 the Krag Bowie bayonet appeared. It had a bright blade 9 3/32 inches long by 1 3/4 inches wide. The bowie bayonet featured the same sheet metal blued scabbard in an appropriate width and length. While in 1902 the Krag Bolo bayonet appeared. It too had a blued sheet metal scabbard. Both of these bayonets were developed for the use of troopers in the Philippines. The heavy jungle forced the use of machetes for travel. It was the idea of the Ordnance Dept. to lighten the load of the individual soldier by incorporating the machete into the bayonet. Needless to say the bayonet then changed roles back to a tool. In both cases it was impractical. The bowie bayonet blade was very thin to cut down on weight which made its use as a machete negligible. The bolo bayonet was too heavy when mounted on the rifle. Both of these bayonets were made only in small numbers and are extremely rare today. Copes have been made so exercise extreme caution if contemplating a purchase of one.
The next large scale issue rifle was the 1903 Springfield. With the 1903 came the adoption of a little known version of a U.S. bayonet, the Rod Bayonet. Since the invention of breech loading rifles the ram rod for loading was deemed obsolete. Rods were still issued for cleaning bores but this was a secondary use. The Springfield returned us to the rod mounted under the barrel but in this case it was for the purpose of stabbing not loading or cleaning. It reduced the weight carried by an individual significantly. The rod bayonet thankfully lived a short life. It is one of the few documented pieces of equipment that went by the wayside due to the insistence of one man, the President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt. Below is the letter sent to the Secretary of War by the president, it speaks for itself.
THE SECRETARY OF WAR:
I must say that I think the ramrod bayonet about as poor an invention as I ever saw. As you observed, it broke off as soon as hit with even moderate violence. It would have no moral effect and mighty little physical effect. .............. After you have gone over this subject of the bayonet and sword, do take it up with me. THEODORE ROOSEVELT
In a few short months a new knife bladed bayonet was developed for the Springfield rifle. The Model 1905 bayonet would be used for several years to come. The standard length of the blade was set at 16 inches. The pommel, guard and first 1/2 inch of the blade were blued on the earliest made 1905's. Later when problems were encountered in humid regions around the globe the entire bayonet was blued. Later during World War II the finish was changed to Parkerizing. Walnut grips and the slight birds beak pommel resembled the earlier Krag bayonet but the locking mechanisms differed considerably. Several scabbards and web belt attaching devices were developed for the 1905 bayonet through out its life. The scabbard itself was made from a wooden body covered in rawhide and topped with a leather cover. Added to this at a later date was a cotton duck cover made in different colors for the differing branches of service. This was a transition time for the Army to the well known olive drab as opposed to the earlier blue of the uniform. Next month we will explore the bayonets of the World Wars. These bayonets were made in huge numbers and are some of the most encountered bayonets on the market today. Stay sharp.
The Bayonet, Evolution and Design
With America's entry into World War I the standard Springfield '03 rifle with the Model 1905 bayonet was the standard issue. Due to a rapid build up in military forces the arsenals at Springfield and Rock Island could not sufficiently meet the demand for rifles. Commercial gun manufacturers were already geared up and producing rifles for Great Britain at the time. The United States Ordnance Department merely classified a new rifle as standard issue and thus became the Model 1917 Enfield. With this new adoption came the requirement for a new bayonet to fit this arm. The British bayonet designed for the rifle also fit the bill for this purpose so it too was adopted. The U.S. Model 1917 bayonet in it's earliest form was over stamped with U.S. along with various British marks. The Model 1917 was made in large numbers by Remington and Winchester, who also supplied the rifles, and is often encountered on today's market. Blade length is 17 inches. The scabbard was made of leather with a metal throat and tip. The leather portion has a seam running up the back, unlike the 1905 scabbard which has the normal end seams. It possessed the mounting clip for attaching to the web belt to be found on many scabbards of the U.S. in the future. The date stamping encountered on the bayonet blade will easily document the production year. These bayonets used the earlier Krag type locking system which had already been abandoned on the Model 1905. The grips were made of walnut with two grooves ground in to allow for quick recognition between the British issue bayonets. Although we hear much about the Springfield '03 the Model 1917 was the predominate rifle/bayonet system supplied to the doughboys of World War I.
The Model 1905 bayonet was produced at Springfield Armory and Rock Island Arsenal. The first bayonets encountered will be stamped 1906 for both manufacturers. These bayonet were continually produced by Rock Island until 1919 and by Springfield until 1922. Many collectors have made this a specialty unto itself by trying to collect one of every year produced. It makes for an impressive display. Although the '03 Springfield rifle underwent numerous changes during its U.S. military career the 16 inch bladed Model 1905 was left unchanged, other then finish treatments discussed in the last article, during its entire production run at the U.S. Arsenals. During the years between the First and Second World Wars the U.S. adopted a new main battle rifle, the Garand. Fittings were made on the new weapon to mount the same bayonet already in use. It was during these years that budgets had been cut to a bare bones state for the U.S. military. Remember the U.S. was also in a depression at the time so every dollar was being stretched. Upon the U.S. entry into World War Two the standard issue bayonet was the reliable old Model 1905. Again as had been encountered in World War One the rapid buildup of military forces necessitated the use of other manufacturers for production of bayonets. The Model 1905, with some enhancements for ease of production, was produced by six different manufacturers. This leads to the re-designation by many of the Model 1905 to the Model 1942. Although not an official designation the Model 1942 caught on and is forever to be known as such.
The Model 1942 bayonets differed from the Model 1905 by the plastic used for the grips instead of walnut. Usually the grips are black but one manufacturer made them of a brownish colored material. Much experimentation went on with the new plastics in use as the effect of different solvents caused several types to melt. Another new use of plastics was in scabbard design. The official scabbard for the new bayonet was the M3. The body of the scabbard was made entirely of plastic. The throat and hanger were of the traditional steel type. The color was the now in use olive drab. The blade length remained at 16 inches and Parkerizing was the preferred coating to be used as a rust inhibitor.
In order to save steel and again to switch roles to a more utilitarian tool the bayonet blade was reduced to 10 inches in 1943. This resulted in a new designation as the M1 bayonet. The remaining stock of Model 1905 and Model 1942 bayonets were recalled to under go a blade reduction process resulting in the Model 1905E1 bayonet. Again the blades on the M1 and the 1905E1 were parkerized for protection. A new scabbard was developed along the lines of the plastic M3 and was designated the M7. In effect the Springfield '03 and the Garand rifle had three issue bayonets, all of which would be correct for historical purposes. These bayonet were cranked out by the millions during World War two.
The Model 1917 of World War One issue was also retained as a limited issue item to be used on shotguns for combat and guard duty purposes. No new Model 1917's were produced during World War Two. New plastic scabbards were made as the leather items in storage since 1918 had deteriorated to a point as being deemed unusable.
A somewhat different bayonet was created for training and guard purposes and to allow for other uses of steel. It was made mainly of plastic with a steel reinforcement running down the interior section. These bayonets were made for the U.S. Navy and are rarely encountered in one piece today. They were designated U.S. Navy Mark 1 bayonets. The scabbard resembled the M3 as the blade length was 16 inches except the marking on the throat was different, USN / MK1.
At this point we cut off the articles and switched over to the Knife Knotes format.