Bayonets (baïonnette), those rather nasty pointy things on the end of a rifle were used throughout World War 1 on both the Allies and Central Powers. The Great War started on 28 June 1914 and raged on from 1914 to 1918. The war was triggered after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his pregnant wife Sophie.
The countries involved on the Allies side included Russia, France, British Empire, Italy, United States, Japan, Rumania, Serbia, Belgium, Greece, Portugal and Montenegro
The countries involved on the Central Powers side included Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria.As a result of so many nations being at war, there were numerous styles and types of bayonets produced. Whole books are dedicated to the various bayonets used and what they looked like.
What I am going to try to do is educate you on some basics of the bayonet and what to look for when buying them.
History Of Bayonets
The first type of bayonets incorporated a plug, which when affixed, prevented the rifle from firing. They were initially created as a defensive weapon to stand against Calvary charges. If you happen upon one, snag it, because they can fetch a pretty penny.
As weapons and bayonets got more sophisticated, they were able to be attached without effecting the shooting capability of the weapon.
Around the end of the of the sixteenth to late seventeenth century, the French introduced various types of socket bayonets. The socket bayonet used a barrel sleeve to fit around the rifle/musket. Once fitted, it could be locked in place using a slot and stud mechanism.
Bayonets during WWI were mostly used in charging situations where the attacker would “Fix Bayonets” and then charge into enemy lines or in times when ammunition would run out and as a result, it became the next best offensive/defensive weapon the soldier had.
During World War 1’s Trench Warfare, Bayonet charges were frequent as both the Allies and Central Powers fought for control over trench lines.
One especially gruesome bayonet was called the “Sawback Bayonet”. On one side there were saw like teeth, that when used would cause horrible injuries. Around 1917 these were eventually band by Germans and the saw blades removed.
Bayonets – An Overview
Another give away is the crossguard. Many WWI bayonets had the barrel sleeve integrated with the crossguards (socket bayonet) that would attach around the gun barrel. In WWII, most bayonets had crossguards without a barrel sleeve.
Many of the earlier bayonets also had curved crossguard (quillion) that stuck out. I am not exactly sure if this was for decoration or served a purpose. Many of them were made to protect the hand. I assume these were made if the bayonet was used as a hand weapon rather than being attached to a rifle.
Most of the Saw Blade Bayonets were modified and the saws removed after 1917 due to the gruesome injuries they could inflict. Finding one of these with a wooden handle, may suggest that it was made prior to 1917.
Look at the markings. Most bayonet markings are on the Ricasso, CrossGuard, below the Press Catch, and Scabbard. When bayonets were issued with scabbards, they usually had matching numbers, one of the Ricasso and one on the Scabbard.
Prices are pretty much all over the place when in comes to bayonets. If you can find one in good condition with scabbard for under $30, you can probably make money on it. Sawback bayonets seem to fetch $75 or more.
Here are some articles I wrote on various WWI Bayonets that I think are worthy to have in a collection. I will be adding to this list as I write more articles.
1907 Australian Lithgow Bayonet
1898 German Butcher Blade Bayonet
1896 Swedish Mauser Bayonet
As with many antiques, you need to also watch out for replicas and forges.
Here are some good books for German bayonet research
The sword and bayonet makers of Imperial Germany 1871-1918.
The German bayonet 1871-1945.
History of the German bayonet 1919-1945.
Swords of Germany 1900-1945.
Edged weapons of the Third Reich vol;1-8.
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