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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.

History

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 Bayonnemarker but does not give any further description .There is a legend that during the mid-17th century irregular military conflicts of rural Francemarker, 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. 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/metres 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 Killiecrankiemarker 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". 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 Unionmarker, 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.In All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque, the book's author, reported that in World War I Frenchmarker soldiers killed Germanmarker prisoners who had serrated blade bayonets, as they assumed they were for cutting off the limbs of Allied soldiers. These were carried by combat engineers as tools and by NCOs as signs of rank.
Bayonet M.
1898/05 used by Prussian Army during WW1
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 50 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 pike once used to repel attacks by boarders in favor of the cutlass bayonet.
German Soldiers at Bayonet practice 1914
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.

Design

future 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 (Russianmarker, Romanianmarker, Yugoslavian, early Chinesemarker), or a cruciform (late Chinese) or triangular (Albanianmarker) 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 whats up. 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. [8574]

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



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. Modern warfare still sees the use of the bayonet for close-quarter fighting. The British army for example, performed bayonet charges during the Falklands War, the Second Gulf War and the war in Afghanistanmarker. 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 to and how to use a bayonet to push aside an enemy's weapon.

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. The unmistakeable appearance of bayonets has strong visual and psychological impact for anyone on the receiving end. Professional soldiers who have grown used to the experience of having bullets fired at them in combat can find the idea of being stabbed or slashed by a sharp, pointed blade of cold steel much more unpleasant.

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 Nagant rifles 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. 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 gunman were killed and 12 were captured. 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 Afghanistanmarker: 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.

Commonwealth armies



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 hider and the blade is offset to the right of the handle.

U.S.

The modern sawback U.S.marker 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.
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 long, wide, thick steel blade, and weighing 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.File:Krag Bowie Bayonet.JPG|Krag Bowie Bayonet marked 1900Image:M1bayonet.JPG|M1 Bayonet made by American Fork & Hoe; used with M1 GarandImage:M6 Bayonet.jpg|The U.S. M6 bayonet and sheath used with the M14 rifleFile:M7 Bayonet & M8A1 Sheath.JPG|M7 Bayonet and M8A1 Sheath used with M16 rifleImage:M9bayonet2.jpg|Adopted in 1984, the U.S. M9 bayonet and sheath used with the M16 rifle and M4 carbine.Image:Bayonet OKC-3S - Ontario Knife Company.jpg|The USMC OKC-3S Bayonet

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 UKmarker (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 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.

Fictional "chainsaw bayonets" are depicted in media such as the Warhammer 40,000 miniature wargame and the Gears of War video game series.

In the popular BBC sitcom Dads 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"

In the manga/anime series, Hellsing, Alexander Anderson, a vampire slayer, uses blessed bayonets as his weapon of choice.

References

Hunting weapons, Howard L Blackmore, 2000, Dover Publications

Footnotes

  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 Telegraph, 2004-06-13.
  6. U.S. Army Field Manual 3-25.150,2002-12-18.
  7. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8252974.stm


See also



External links




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