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Plug bayonets

To describe the plug bayonet, it is neccessary to read this extract from a universal dictionary containing all French words, both old and modern relating to terms used by science and the arts, gathered and compiled by Messuire Antoine Furetière of the Académie Française.


BAYONNETTE. f. f. Dague, couteau pointu; sorte de petite épée longue d'un pied et demi, ou environ, -qui n'a point de poignée, mais seulement un manche de bois de 8. à 10. pouces, et qui n'a que deux petits boutons pour garde. La lame de la Bayonnette est faite en forme de lancette, large d'un pouce ou deux, longue d'un pied et fort pointue. La bayonnette est d'un grand service aux Dragons et Fuseliers;  parce que quand ils ont fait leurs décharges, et qu'ils se trouvent sans poudre et sans plomb, ils peuvent mettre le manche de la bayonnette dans le canon de leur fusil, et s'en servir comme d'une pertuisane. Elle est,  par la même raison, fort utile aussi aux Chasseurs qui vont à la chasse de l'ours et du sanglier, et de toutes les autres bêtes qui viennent au feu : aussi leurs bayonnettes sont-elles plus larges que celles des Dragons, afin qu'elles fassent de larges playes.
Ce mot est venu originairement de "Bayonne. On appelloit autrefois Bayonniers, les Arbalétriers, à cause qu'à Bayonne on faisoit les meilleures arbalètes ; de même que les pistolets ont pris leur nom de Pistoye.

Original text in old French, describing the use of an edged weapon for hunting, placed in the barrel at the end of the firearm.




BAYONET, f.f. dagger, pointed knife, type of short sword of approximately a foot and a half long that had no hilt but only a wooden handle of 8 to 10 inches with only 2 small stops as a guard. The blade of the bayonet is spear shaped, about two inches wide, a foot long and pointed. The bayonet serves the Dragoons and riflemen well; when they have fired and find themselves without powder or lead, they can put the bayonet into the barrel of their rifle and use it as a partisan. It is, for that same reason, very useful to the hunters for among other, bear and wild boar. Their bayonets will be wider than the ones for the Dragoons aiming to cause larger wounds.

The word originally comes from”Bayonne”. In the past the crossbowmen of Bayonne were called “Bayonniers”, as they were the best. Likewise the pistols have taken their name from Pistoye.


Socket bayonets

Plug bayonets had the major disadvantage of blocking the barrel when fixed, forcing the soldier to remove the bayonet from his musket or gun before being able to fire or reload.

At the end of the 17th century, the generals and military engineers (including Vauban) had the idea of forging a blade to a socket. A small piece of sheet steel was heated to form a tube with the edges forged or brazed together. The internal diameter of the socket had to be compatible with the outside diameter of the firearm's barrel.

To fix the bayonet to the firearm, a locking system with a lug brazed onto the barrel was devised together with one or several slots cut into the socket.

By the middle of the 18th century, the armourers sought a better way to fix the bayonet to the firearm. Initially a rim was added to the rear opening of the socket over which a locking spring fitted to the firearm's barrel. In the second half of the 18th century, a locking ring system was developed, consisting of a flattened ring with screw. By rotating this piece, the bayonet was easily and correctly fitted or removed from the rifle. Both systems continued to be used in the 19th century.


During the 17th and early 18th century socket bayonet blades were usually flat. Later the blades were triangular or cruciform in profile, made with or without fullers. A curved shank or elbow forged with the blade was welded to the socket for safety and accuracy during loading and firing with the bayonet fitted on the barrel.

Sword bayonets

The poor Infantryman at that time carried when marching and during combat, a short sword (briquet), his firearm and a socket bayonet in addition to his regulation equipment.

A solution was sought to reduce the overall weight of all this equipment. It was decided to combine the bayonet and sword into a single weapon, hence the appearance of the sword bayonet.

Initially the sword bayonet had a recurving blade called a “yatagan”. This blade shape moved the point of the bayonet away from the barrel’s axis avoiding injuries to the rifleman’s hand when he used the rifle's cleaning rod while keeping the point of gravity in the barrel’s axis to allow thrusting.

The sword bayonet would later be replaced by the épée bayonet and then replaced by the knife bayonet. The First World War ended the use of sword and épée bayonets because of the difficulties encountered when troops were moving and fighting through the narrow trenches.


Knife bayonets

Knife bayonets appeared after the Franco-Prussian War 1870-71. Throughout time the importance of weapons with longer blades has reduced. However the bayonet has not disappeared as it does have a variety of uses. By the addition of a clever system many have become tools, making them essential to the soldier.

Every collection has its own curiosities and sometimes bayonets have a second life as tools or decorative elements, becoming everyday objects.




The main reference works are rare and out of print. Nowadays access to more information is made easier by new authors. Every year new subjects are studied, creating even more information and interest for bayonet collectors.

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