Bayonet: Wikis


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Bayonet fighting training in Texas, United States during World War I.

A bayonet (from French baïonnette) is a knife-, dagger-, sword-, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle barrel or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear. It is a close quarter battle combat or last-resort weapon.



Early-19th century socket bayonet
Socket of a bayonet

The origins of the bayonet are somewhat hazy. The term 'Bayonette' dates back to the end of the 16th century, but it is not clear if the weapon at the time was the weapon as is known today or simply a type of knife. For example, Cotgrave's 1611 Dictionarie describes the Bayonet as 'a kind of small flat pocket dagger, furnished with knives; or a great knife to hang at the girdle'. Likewise, Pierre Borel wrote in 1655 that a kind of long-knife called a 'bayonette' was made in Bayonne but does not give any further description [1].There is a legend that during the mid-17th century irregular military conflicts of rural France, the peasants of the Southern French town of Bayonne, having run out of powder and shot, rammed their long-bladed hunting knives into the muzzles of their primitive muskets to fashion impromptu spears and, by necessity, created an ancillary weapon. Another possibility is that the bayonet originated as a hunting weapon: early firearms were fairly inaccurate and took a long time to reload; thus a hunter of dangerous animals such as wild boar could easily have been exposed to danger if the hunter's bullet missed the animal.[2][3] The bayonet thus may have emerged to allow a hunter to fend off wild animals in the event of a missed shot. The weapon was introduced into the French army by General Jean Martinet and was common in most European armies by the 1660s.

The benefit of such a dual-purpose arm contained in one was soon apparent. The early muskets fired at a slow rate (about 2 rounds per minute when loading with loose powder and ball, and no more than 3–4 rounds per minute using paper cartridges), and were both inaccurate and unreliable. Bayonets provided a useful addition to the weapons system when an enemy charging to contact could cross the musket's killing ground (a range of approximately 100 yards/meters at the most optimistic) at the expense of perhaps only one or two volleys from their waiting opponents. A foot-long bayonet, extending to a regulation 17 inches (approx. 43 centimetres) during the Napoleonic period, on a 5-foot (around 1.5 metre) tall musket achieved a reach similar to the infantry spear, and later halberd, of earlier times. The bayonet/musket combination was however considerably heavier than a polearm of the same length.

Early bayonets were of the "plug" type. The bayonet had a round handle that slid directly into the musket barrel. This naturally prevented the gun from being fired. In 1671, plug bayonets were issued to the French regiment of fusiliers then raised. They were issued to part of an English dragoon regiment raised in 1672 and disbanded in 1674, and to the Royal Fusiliers when raised in 1685. The danger incurred by the use of this bayonet (which put a stop to all fire) was felt so early that the younger Puységur saw a ring-bayonet in 1678 which could be fixed without stopping the fire. The defeat of forces loyal to William of Orange by Jacobite Highlanders at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 was due (among other things) to the use of the plug-bayonet; and shortly afterwards the defeated leader, Hugh Mackay, is believed to have introduced a ring-bayonet of his own invention. Soon "socket" bayonets offset the blade from the musket barrel's muzzle. The bayonet attached over the outside of the barrel with a ring-shaped socket, secured on later models by a spring-loaded catch on the muzzle of the musket barrel.

A trial with badly fitting socket or zigzag bayonets was made after the battle of Fleurus, 1690, in the presence of Louis XIV, who refused to adopt them. Shortly after the Peace of Ryswick (1697), the English and Germans abolished the pike and introduced these bayonets, and plates of them are given in Surirey de St. Remy's Mémoires d'Artillerie, published in Paris in that year; but owing to a military cabal they were not issued to the French infantry until 1703. Henceforward, the bayonet became, with the musket or other firearm, the typical weapon of infantry.

Many socket bayonets were triangular in cross-section in order to provide flexing strength in the blade without much increase in weight. Flexing strength was needed in case a bayonet struck a hard object: better to have it bend and be repairable, than have it be stiff and shatter on impact. This design of bayonet did not usually include a grip for using the bayonet apart from the gun, although a socket bayonet was deemed a sidearm anyway, especially in the British army of 1775.

The triangular bayonet, contrary to an old urban legend, was not designed to create stab wounds "that were difficult to stitch when attended to by a medic, as it is more difficult to stitch a three-sided wound than a two-sided one, thus making the wound more likely to become infected".[citation needed] This quote ignores the reality of surgery, in that surgeons have sewn up jagged wounds using more stitches when needed, since time immemorial. Instead, three sided bayonets were designed to be an economical compromise between flexing strength and the amount of wrought iron needed to make the bayonet (compare to a structural steel Tee-beam).

Similarly, in the Soviet Union, later bayonet blades, now made of steel, were stiffened with a small cross-section in the form of a cross, in order to make them more compact in form and fold better onto the sides of their rifles (see Mosin Nagant model of 1944). It is said that self-inflicted wounds made by soldiers to get themselves out of the line of battle would be recognized as such and bring them greater disciplinary punishment.[citation needed] 18th and 19th century military tactics included various massed bayonet charges and defenses. The Russian Army used the bayonet the most frequently in any Napoleonic conflict. Their motto was "The Bullet is foolish, the Bayonet wise". This implies that the bullet of a smoothbore musket was wildly inaccurate at ranges past about 100 yards (which was true in most cases), but with the close quarters of bayonet fighting, it was hard to miss. It should be noted, however, that in the thick of a close-quarter combat, many soldiers revert to using bayonet-mounted rifles as clubs, this apparently being a more "natural" way of fighting (as described by military historians such as John Keegan).

Bayonets were experimented with through much of the 18th and 19th centuries. In the United States Navy before the American Civil War, bayonet blades were even affixed to single-shot pistols, although they soon proved useless for anything but cooking. Cutlasses remained the favoured weapon for the navies of the time, though Queen Victoria's Royal Navy gave up the pikes once used to repel attacks by boarders in favor of the cutlass bayonet.

German Soldiers at Bayonet practice 1914
French infantry bayonet charge during the First World War. These are for the Lebel rifle.

The 19th century finally saw the popularity of the sword bayonet. It was a long-bladed weapon with a single- or double-edged blade that could also be used as a shortsword. Its initial purpose was to ensure that riflemen, when in ranks with musketmen, whose weapons were longer, could form square properly to fend off cavalry attacks, when sword bayonets were fitted. A prime early example of a sword bayonet-fitted rifle would be the British Infantry Rifle of 1800-1840, later known as the "Baker Rifle". (However, one usually removed the sword bayonet on the Infantry Rifle before firing; the weight at the end of the barrel affected balance and stability, hence accuracy)

The hilt usually had quillons modified to accommodate the gun barrel, and a hilt mechanism that enabled the bayonet to be attached to a bayonet lug. When dismounted, a sword bayonet could be used in combat as a side arm. When attached to the musket or rifle, it effectively turned almost any long gun into a spear or glaive, suitable not only for thrusting but also for slashing. World War I saw the shortening of sword bayonets into knife-sized weapons, usable as fighting knives or trench knives, so that the vast majority of modern bayonets are knife bayonets.


Modern bayonets are often knife-shaped with either a handle and a socket, or are permanently attached to the rifle as with the SKS. Depending on where and when a specific SKS was manufactured, it may have a permanently attached bayonet with a knife-shaped blade (Russian, Romanian, Yugoslavian, early Chinese), or a cruciform (late Chinese) or triangular (Albanian) spike bayonet, or no bayonet at all.

In being attached to a rifle, the bayonet slides onto the bayonet lug, a rail-like slide on the rifle, with a reciprocating feature in the hilt of the bayonet. Using spring-loaded devices that differentiate from bayonet to bayonet, the hilt is locked in place on the bayonet lug. Typically, a hole in the guard on the bayonet fits around the barrel of the rifle to keep it in place and not allow wobbling, a serious problem if the bayonet is only attached to the lug. To detach, the user simply pushes a button, usually found at the pommel of the bayonet or just behind the guard on the spine or edge side, not in line with the flat of the blade, to be pushed with the thumb. This button releases the spring locks and allows the bayonet to be removed.

Most modern bayonets have a fuller (visible on the top half of the blade shown above), which is a concave depression in the blade designed to reduce the weight while keeping the blade's stiffness. Some speculate that this design feature makes a bayonet easier to withdraw after a stabbing attack by allowing air into the wound it produces, or to allow blood to drain from it, but in fact fullers have not been experimentally shown to have such an effect. Rather, the fuller increases the bending strength of the blade in the same way the "I" cross-section of an I-Beam is more efficient in resisting bending than an equivant rectangular cross-section. [1]

Many modern bayonets are designed to be multi-use tools. A knife bayonet, for example contains all of the non-combat utility of regular knives (for example, in cooking). The Mosin-Nagant M1891/30 was equipped with a socket bayonet whose flat tapered point culminated in what is essentially a flat-head screwdriver. As such, a soldier could completely disassemble the rifle with only the bayonet.

Modern use

Swiss army Sig 550 rifle with bayonet.

The advent of modern warfare in the 1900s decreased the bayonet's usefulness, and as early as the U.S. Civil War (1861–65) the bayonet was ultimately responsible for less than one percent of battlefield casualties.[4] Modern warfare, however, does still see the use of the bayonet for close-quarter fighting. The use of Cold Steel to force the enemy to retreat was very successful in numerous small unit engagements at short range in the civil war, as most troops in the civil war would retreat when charged while in the process of reloading (which could take up to a minute even for trained troops). Though such charges inflicted few casualties, they often decided short engagements, and tactical possession of important defensive ground features. Additionally bayonet drill could be used to rally men temporarily discomfited by enemy fire.[5]

The British Army performed bayonet charges during the Falklands War, the Second Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan.[6] During the Korean War, Lewis L. Millett led soldiers of the US Army's 27th Infantry Regiment in taking out a Chinese machine gun position with bayonets. Millett was awarded the Medal of Honor for this action.

In the U.S. Marine Corps, trainees at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego for instance get their first instruction in using the bayonet as a lethal weapon on their 10th day. The essence of bayonet fighting as taught in the Corps is to spring forward from a modified crouch and thrust the blade into the enemy. Recruits are taught how to use a bayonet to push aside an enemy's weapon.[citation needed]

In a modern context, bayonets are used for controlling prisoners and as a "last resort" weapon for close quarters combat e.g. situations where a soldier has run out of ammunition, or if his weapon has jammed or is damaged.

In general, bayonets are not fitted to weapons except when such emergency situations are at hand. This is because a bayonet will impair long-range accuracy. The reason for this is because the extra weight of the bayonet affects the balance of the rifle barrel, which alters its sighting characteristics. For example, bayonet-equipped Mosin-Nagants were normally sighted in at the factory with the bayonet fixed because Russian doctrine at the time specified that the bayonet should normally be fixed. Consequently, those rifles would shoot to a different point of aim if the bayonet were removed.

A bayonet remains useful as a utility knife, and as an aid to combat morale. Training in the use of the bayonet has been given precedence long after the combat role of the bayonet declined as it is thought to increase desired aggressiveness in troops.[7] Despite the limitations of the bayonet, many modern assault rifles retain a bayonet lug and the weapon is still issued in many armies.

Although bayonets might appear to be obsolete, they have been used in combat during the 21st Century. For example, they were used as a direct attack weapon by Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders troops from the British Army in the second conflict in Iraq. When two landrovers of Highlander troops were ambushed by soldiers loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the Highlander troops fixed bayonets to their rifles and charged the militiamen. A total of 30 Iraqi gunmen were killed and 12 were captured.[6] Similarly, in 2009, Lieutenant James Adamson, aged 24, of the Royal Regiment of Scotland was awarded the Military Cross for a bayonet charge whilst on a tour of duty in Afghanistan: after shooting one Taliban fighter dead Adamson had run out of ammunition when another enemy appeared. Adamson immediately charged the second Taliban fighter and bayonetted him.[8] Both situations demonstrate that the bayonet remains an effective and psychologically powerful last resort weapon even on the modern battlefield.

Commonwealth armies

The blade bayonet for the Lee-Enfield Rifle No. 5 Mk I "Jungle Carbine" rifle showing fuller

In armies of the Commonwealth of Nations, in close-order drill the command to fix bayonets is a two-part command. It consists of the preparatory order "Fix" and the execution order "BAYONETS". It is issued only from the Order Arms position. The commands to "Fix" and "Unfix" bayonets are among the only drill commands not executed in a specified cadence.

In the Rifle Regiments of the British Army, using a practice harkening back to the days when their flintlock rifles carried sword bayonets, the command is "Fix....SWORDS!". Bayonets are also fixed on the command, "Prepare to Assault", which is given towards the end of a section or fire team attack. The bayonet in the Canadian Forces is fitted on the front of the Tactical Vest for easy access.

The current British bayonet has a hollow handle so it can fit over the flash eliminator and the blade is offset to the right of the handle.


The modern sawback U.S. M9 bayonet, officially adopted in 1984, is issued with a special sheath designed to double as a wire cutter, developed by Phrobis III. Some production runs of the M9 have a fuller and some do not, depending upon which contractor manufactured that batch and what the military specs were at the time. The M9 bayonet partially replaced, but is used in addition to, the older M7 bayonet, introduced 1964. Many troops have retained the M7, since the M9 has a reputation for breakage due to a combination of its thin blade and varying quality among the various contractors used.[citation needed]

US Marines at bayonet practice

As of 2002, the U.S. Marine Corps is also issuing small quantities of new bayonets of a different design from the M9, with an 8-inch Bowie knife-style blade and no fuller, manufactured by the Ontario Knife Company of New York. This new bayonet, the OKC-3S, is cosmetically similar to the Marines' famed Ka-Bar fighting knife. The weapon upgrade is part of a push begun four years ago by then-Commandant Gen. James L. Jones to expand and toughen hand-to-hand combat training for Marines, including more training in the martial arts and knife fighting. The new bayonet — with a 8-inch (20 cm) long, 1+38 in (3.49 cm) wide, .2-inch (0.51 cm) thick steel blade, and weighing 1.25 pounds (0.57 kg) with its sheath — is slightly longer, thicker, and heavier than the current M9. A sharper point and serrations near the handle help penetrate body armor that many modern adversaries wear. In one demonstration, a prototype was able to pierce a punching bag covered with aircraft aluminium and a ballistic vest. Also, the handle is more oval than round to prevent repetitive-stress injuries during training.

In United States Marine Corps drill and ceremonies, the command "FIX... BAYONETS!" is executed in four movements from the order arms position. In the United States Army, the movement is also executed from order arms; there are no specified movements, but the bayonet is to be attached quickly and quietly.

Cultural impact

The push-twist motion of fastening the older type of bayonet has given name to:

  • The "bayonet mount" used for various types of quick fastenings, such as camera lenses.
  • Several connectors and contacts including the bayonet-fitting light bulb that is common in the UK (as opposed to the continental screw-fitting type).
  • The BNC ("Bayonet Neill-Concelman") RF connector.

The bayonet has become a symbol of military power. The term "at the point of a bayonet" refers to using military force or action to accomplish, maintain, or defend something. EG. Bayonet Constitution

The Australian Army 'Rising Sun' badge features a semicircle of bayonets. The Australian Army Infantry Combat Badge (ICB) takes the form of a vertically mounted Australian Army SLR (7.62mm self-loading rifle FN FAL) bayonet surrounded by an oval shaped laurel wreath.[9]

The U.S. Army Combat Action Badge, awarded to personnel who have come under fire since 2001 and who are not eligible for the Combat Infantryman Badge, has a bayonet as its central motif.

Undertaking a task 'with fixed bayonets' has this connotation of no room for compromise and is a phrase used particularly in politics.

The shoulder sleeve insignia for the 10th Mountain Division in the U.S. Army features crossed bayonets.

The US Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team's shoulder patch features a bayonet wrapped in a wing, symbolizing their airborne status. The brigade regularly deploys in task forces under the name "Bayonet".

In the popular BBC sitcom Dad's Army, the bayonet was the weapon of choice for Lance Corporal Jones, giving rise to his immortal sayings "They dont like it up 'em" and "We'll give 'em the old cold steel"

See also


Hunting weapons, Howard L Blackmore, 2000, Dover Publications

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.


  1. ^ H.Blackmore, Hunting Weapons, pg 50
  2. ^ Blackmore, Howard L. 2000. Hunting Weapons: From the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Courier Dover Publications. p.66-70
  3. ^ Boutell, Charles. 1907. Arms and armour in antiquity and the Middle Ages. Reeves & Turner. p.166
  4. ^ O'Connell, Robert L., "Arme Blanche", Military History Quarterly, Vol. 5, nº 1.
  5. ^ The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War
  6. ^ a b The Telegraph, 2004-06-13.
  7. ^ U.S. Army Field Manual 3-25.150, 2002-12-18.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Infantry combat badge

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010
(Redirected to The Bayonet article)

From Wikisource

The Bayonet
by Don Marquis

THE great guns slay from a league away, the death-
bolts fly unseen,
And bellowing hill replies to hill, machine to brute
But still in the end when the long lines bend and
the battle hangs in doubt
They take to the steel in the same old way that
their fathers fought it out--
It is man to man and breast to breast and eye
to bloodshot eye
And the reach and twist of the thrusting wrist, as
it was in the days gone by!

Along the shaken hills the guns their drumming
thunder roll--
But the keen blades thrill with the lust to kill
that leaps from the slayer's soul!

For hand and heart and living steel, one pulse of
hate they feel.
Is your clan afraid of the naked blade? Does it
flinch from the bitter steel?
Perish your dreams of conquest then, your swollen
hopes and bold,
For empire dwells with the stabbing blade, as it
did in the days of old!

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BAYONET, a short thrusting weapon, fixed to the muzzle or fore-end of a rifle or musket and carried by troops armed with the latter weapons. The origin of the word is disputed, but there is some authority for the supposition that the name is derived from the town of Bayonne, where the short dagger called bayonnette was first made towards the end of the 15th century. The elder Puysegur, a native of Bayonne, says (in his Memoirs, published posthumously in Paris, 1747) that when he was commanding the troops at Ypres in 1647 his musketeers used bayonets consisting of a steel dagger fixed in a wooden haft, which fitted into the muzzle of the musket - in fact plug-bayonets. Courts-martial were held on some English soldiers at Tangier in 1663-1664 for using their daggers on their comrades. As bayonets were at first called daggers, and as there were few or no pikemen in Tangier until 1675, the probable conclusion is that the troops in Tangier used plug-bayonets. In 1671 plugbayonets were issued to the French regiment of fusiliers then raised. They were issued to part of an English dragoon regiment raised in 1672 and disbanded in 1674, and to the Royal Fusiliers when raised in 1685. The danger incurred by the use of this bayonet (which put a stop to all fire) was felt so early that the younger Puysegur saw a ring-bayonet in 1678 which could be fixed without stopping the fire. The English defeat at Killiecrankie in 1689 was due (among other things) to the use of the plug-bayonet; and shortly afterwards the defeated leader, General Mackay, introduced a ring-bayonet of his own invention.

A trial with badly-fitting socket or zigzag bayonets was made after the battle of Fleurus, 1690, in the presence of Louis XIV., who refused to adopt them. Shortly after the peace of Ryswick (1697) the English and Germans abolished the pike and introduced these bayonets, and plates of them are given in Surirey de St Remy's Memoires d'Artillerie, published in Paris in that year; but owing to a military cabal they were not issued to the French infantry until 1703. Henceforward the bayonet became, with the musket or other firearm, the typical weapon of infantry. This bayonet remained in the British service until 1805, when Sir John Moore introduced a bayonet fastened to the musket by a spring clip. The triangular bayonet (so called from the cross-section of its blade) was used in the British army until the introduction of the magazine rifle, when it was replaced by the sword-bayonet or dagger-bayonet. Sword-bayonetsweapons which could be used as sword or dagger apart from the rifle - had long been in use by special troops such as engineers and rifles, and many ingenious attempts have been made to produce a bayonet fitted for several uses. A long curved swordbayonet with a saw-edged back was formerly used by the Royal Engineers, but all troops are now supplied with the plain sword bayonet. The bayonet is usually hung in a scabbard on the belt of the soldier and only fixed during the final stages of a battle; the reason for this is that the "jump" of the rifle due to the shock of explosion is materially altered by the extra weight at the muzzle, which thus deranges the sighting. In the short Lee-Enfield rifle of 1903, the bayonet, not being directly attached to the barrel, does not influence accuracy, but with the long rifles, when the bayonet is fixed, the sight must be raised by two or three graduations to ensure correct elevation. In the Russian army troops almost invariably carry the bayonet (triangular) fixed; the model (1891) of Italian carbine has an inseparable bayonet; the United States rifle (the new short model of 1903) has a knife bayonet, the model of 1905, which is 20.5875 in. long, with the lower edge of the blade sharpened along its entire length and the upper edge sharpened 5 in. from the point; this bayonet is carried in a wooden and leather scabbard attached to the cartridge belt. The British bayonet (pattern 1903) has a blade r ft. in length. The length of the rifle and bayonet together, considered as an arme blanche, varies considerably, that of the French Lebel pattern of 1886 being 6 ft., as against the 4 ft. 84 in. of the British short Lee-Enfield of 1903. The German rifles (1898)have a length with bayonet of 5 ft. 94 in.; the Russian (1894) 5 ft. 9 in.; and the Japanese 5 ft. 52 in. In 1908 a new British bayonet was approved, 5 in. longer than its predecessor of 1903, the shape of the point being modified to obtain the thrusting effect of a spear or lance head.

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Simple English

' OKC-3S Bayonet]]

A bayonet (from French baïonnette) is a knife- or dagger-shaped weapon. It is designed to be attached to a rifle barrel or similar weapon. This will turn the gun into a spear. It is a close-combat or last-resort weapon.

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