From Academic Kids

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The US Marine Corps' OKC-3S bayonet
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From right to left: a carbine, a straight infantry officer sabre, a short curved infantry sabre ("briquet"), two bayonets.

A bayonet is a knife- or dagger-shaped weapon designed to fit on or over the muzzle of a rifle or similar weapon. It is a close combat weapon.



The evolution of the bayonet can be traced to a certain extent to a fortuitous accident. In the mid-17th century irregular 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 that was to influence Western European infantry tactics until the early 20th century.

The benefit of such a dual-purpose arm contained in one was soon apparent. The early muskets fired at a slow rate (about a round per minute when loading with loose powder and ball), and were unreliable. Bayonets provided a useful addition to the weapon-system when an enemy charging to contact could cross the musket's killing ground (a range of approx 100 yards/metres at the most optimistic) at the expense of perhaps only one volley from their waiting opponents. A foot long bayonet (extending to a regulation 17 inches (approx 43 centimetres) during the Napoleonic period, on a 6 foot (almost 2 meter) tall musket achieved a reach similar to the infantry spear, and later halberd, of earlier times.

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A Lee-Enfield style spike bayonet

Early bayonets were of the "plug" type. The bayonet had a round handle that fit directly into the musket barrel. This naturally prevented the gun from being fired.

Later "socket" bayonets offset the blade from the 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. Hugh Mackay, a British general, is often credited with this innovation.

Many socket bayonets were triangular in order to provide sideways stability of the blade without much increase in weight. This design of bayonet did not include a handle to use the blade apart from the gun. 18th and 19th century military tactics included various massed bayonet charges and defences. The British Army was particularly known for its bayonet use, although towards the early 19th century and the flowering of Napoleonic warfare, the primacy of regular and speedy volley-fire saw the British eclipse their opponents in line to line infantry combat.

Bayonets were experimented with through much of the 18th and 19th centuries. In the United States Navy during the American Civil War, bayonets were even affixed to single shot pistols, although they soon proved useless for anything but cooking. Cutlasses remained the favored cutting weapon for the Navy at the time.

A late 19th century  bayonet
A late 19th century Prussian bayonet


Modern bayonets are often knife-shaped with handles and a socket, or 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-style bayonet of the type outlawed by the Geneva Accords, or no bayonet at all.

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 and increase the stiffness of the blade. Some speculate that this design feature makes a bayonet easier to withdraw after a stabbing attack by allowing air into the wound it produces, but in fact fullers have not been experimentally shown to have such an effect.

Modern use

Even in modern warfare, bayonets are still used as weapons because, although most combat occurs at a distance, troops are always required to close with an enemy to "mop-up". British forces for example performed bayonet charges during the Falklands War and the invasion of Iraq [1] (

A bayonet also remains useful as a utility knife, and as an aid to combat morale. Despite the limitations of the bayonet, it is still issued in most armies and most armies still train with them.

The United States

The modern sawback U.S. M9 Bayonet, officially adopted in 1984, is issued with a special sheath designed to double as a wire cutter, a design taken from Polish AK-74 bayonet designs. 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 replaces the M7 Bayonet of the 1960s, but many troops have retained the M7, since the M9 has a reputation for breakage, again due to the various contractors used. As of summer 2004, the US Marine Corps is also issuing small quantities of new bayonets of a different design from the M9, with an 8" Bowie knife-style blade and no fuller, manufactured by Ontario Knife Company of Ontario, New York. This new bayonet, the OKC-3S is cosmetically similar to the Marines' famed ka-Bar fighting knife.

Social impact

The push-twist motion of fastening the modern bayonet has given name to several connectors and contacts including the bayonet-fitting light bulb that is standard in the UK (as opposed to the continental screw-fitting type), and the BNC ("Bayonet Neill-Concelman") RF connector.

See also

de:Bajonett es:Bayoneta he:כידון ja:銃剣 pl:Bagnet ru:Штык sl:Bajonet sv:Bajonett


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