For civilian use, little thought has been given to the bayonet, other than interest as collectors’ curiosity. With preparation for civil disaster, the bayonet should no longer be considered a collector piece, but as an essential item in the survival toolbox.
Starting in late WWII, the bayonet changed in form and function. Prior to that time, most military bayonets were almost a type of short sword, with a blade roughly from 10-17 inches in length.
This length gave the soldier maximum reach for thrusting through their opponent when battle was close or ammo was low. However, this bayonet length, or the spike-style bayonet on the SKS was really not good for a whole lot of other purposes, and it spent most of its time adding weight to a soldier’s belt without maximum utility.
As WWII progressed, and the M1 carbine was in front-line combat service, there arose a cry for a bayonet that would fit it. Due to the short length of the carbine, the old school full-length sword bayonets would unbalance the gun severely. The M4 bayonet was introduced along with the barrel band bayonet lug. The M4 was much like the Ka-Bar fighting knife that was made for the U.S. Marines.
With a 6.5-inch blade length which could be sharpened on both sides, the bayonet was no longer a little-used burden for a soldier to carry, but a piece of equipment that could be used as a bayonet, fighting knife or tool for prying or opening rations.
Eventually the M5 knife/bayonet was introduced for the M1 Garand, which replaced the “sword blade” bayonets that were previously issued. The M5 used the same blade as the M4 and was equipped with a plastic handle.
The advantages of the knife bayonet were not lost on the rest of the armies in the world and many followed suit by switching to knife-style bayonets.
Use of the bayonet on today’s survival rifles is not for last-ditch bayonet charges. Where the bayonet shines is for use as the ultimate weapon retention device. There are a many long gun retention techniques taught to law enforcement officers in order for them to safeguard and control their guns (although my method of defense is a pull of the trigger to discourage the attempt) but affixing a bayonet is most likely the best method of retaining control. Even though some long-range accuracy may be degraded, any close-quarter gun grab would be stopped immediately.
In addition, the modern bayonet is of course, a knife and a tough one at that. If you have a rifle that can accept a bayonet, find a good used one or a new reproduction model, and make it your survival knife to maximize its usefulness. Anything you are carrying for emergency evacuation use should have as many uses as possible for it to earn a space on your body.
One particular bayonet that does this is the newest M-16 bayonet, the M9. There are a number of manufacturers who make the M9, which has more focus as fixed-blade survival knife, since that is the most likely use for this tool in today’s army. The M9 is an upgraded version of the previous M-16 bayonet, the M7 in that a wire cutter attachment has been added to the scabbard tip in a fashion similar to the design on the AK-47 knife/bayonet, and the handle is hollow for storage of a small amount of survival items. The M9 makes a very fine stand-alone survival and camping knife even without the rifle to go with it.
Note that the M9 can be added to properly equipped Mossberg 500/590 shotguns as well, which helps address their lower magazine capacity issue. Any rifle that can mount a bayonet should have one available for it. If you have one of the Auto-Ordnance M1 carbines, a barrel band bayonet lug can be added to it with little effort.
More About Military Firearms
The history behind bayonets and military guns is covered extensively in the 6th edition of the Standard Catalog of Military Firearms. It offers more reading about the ways militaries wage war from past to present.
Click here to order the Standard Catalog of Military Firearms at a great discount.
About the Author: Scott Wagner is a 32-year law enforcement veteran. Currently a police sergeant in Baltimore, Ohio, he spent 20 years with the Union County Ohio Sheriff's Office as a Reserve Deputy where he worked patrol, training and SWAT, and was the assistant SWAT team leader and a team sniper. Wagner has been a state-certified police firearms, fitness and defensive tactics instructor for 26 years, and has been a criminal justice professor and police academy commander for 20 years at a community college in the Midwest.He is the author of the Gun Digest books, "Tactical Shotguns,", "Own the Night—A Guide to Tactical Lights and Laser Sights," and Survival Guns.
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