Marines, Aussies & Kiwis hone their bayonet skills

The US Army may have abandoned the bayonet, but the art of the bayonet is alive and well elsewhere. Earlier this month, at the Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting 2011, Australians, New Zealanders and US Marines participated in a joint bayonet exercise.

Marines.mil reports

U.S. Marines with Marine Shooting Detachment Australia, Australian Army soldiers and New Zealand Army soldiers executed a bayonet course here May 15 under the watchful eye of Australian Army Maj. Gen. David Morrison, commanding general, Forces Command.

The bayonet course was one of more than 100 events held during the Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting 2011 (AASAM), an annual, international meeting dedicated to combat marksmanship.

“The bayonet course had you sprint up and stab the target and shoot five rounds at the 100 meter line within 20 seconds, and then advance to the 50 (meter line) to shoot five more rounds,” said Sgt. Brandan Jansan, competitor, Combat Shooting Team, Weapons Training Battalion, Marine Corps Base Quantico.



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • griffin

    Only some fool in the US army would think that a bayonet is useless.

  • andrew

    Griffin: It’s not they the US Army thought it was useless, but they pulled bayonet training from basic training/boot camp because it is largely irrelevant and took up time that could be used to train skills that are used far more often in modern urban warfare.

  • Lance

    That’s where a M-16A4 has another BIG advantage over a M-4 in bayonet CQB fighting. The AUG would be at a huge disadvantage due to its very small length.

  • armed_partisan

    They don’t teach you how to make fire in Boot Camp or MCT, but they still teach you how to run like an idiot with a pointy stick at someone who is presumably armed with a rifle. The difference between a bayonet and making a fire is there are lots of situations where fire will save your life. A bayonet? Not so much. Lucky for me, I was a Boy Scout before I was a Marine, otherwise I would have never learned any useful survival skills. Unless staying awake for 72 hours is a “skill”. If running like a lunatic at the enemy is enough to make them break from their presumably 19th century military formations and run, then you don’t actually need a knife on the end of your rifle to do that, because you’ll never catch them.

    Oh, and while we brushed up against land nav in MCT, (didn’t learn it, but they mentioned it) I was never issued a Compass, which is another one of those handy gadgets that can save your life, unlike the intentionally dulled bayonet which are blunted to prevent troops from being injured in training. They aren’t even sharp enough to open an MRE (everybody carries their own pocket knives for that). Any situation where a bayonet would be useful, a pistol would be more effective, and only moderately heavier. The US military has their values completely ass backward, or at least the USMC does.

    • Jake

      Wow, having a bad day champ? While I’ll agree with you something needs to be done with our (USMC) basic training plan, I hardly feel as though it’s as inadequate as you seem to be portraying it.

      Your fellow countrymen come from all walks of life and experience. Where as you had the privilege of receiving good instruction in the scouts, some guys might have never been out of their city until the Marines. Uncle Sam only has so much time/ money allotted him to train us to a standard, hence “basic” training.

      School of Infantry does a pretty solid land nav course, as does squad leaders course and any other combat arms/ leadership school I’ve attended.

      Fixed bayonets worked for us in Fallujah and in the corn fields of Lashkar Gah. You sound jaded, devil… Sorry the fleet sucks for you. Do your time a move on.

  • JT

    Isn’t this the same thing as when the Air Force thought a gun was useless in air combat. If a rifle fails or runs out of ammunition it just seems to make more sense to fight with a knife on the end of something than a knife alone. Not to mention the psychological effect of having somebody screaming and bayoneting your comrades.

  • I haven’t heard anything about the Army abandoning the bayonet and what I get from the article is that bayonet drills have been dropped as a form of PT. Someone have a link more credible than cBS?

  • Zach

    Check out: “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” by Dave Grossman.

    There is a whole section on bayonets and their psychological value in combat. I think, historically at least, shovels and rifle buts and such have proven more effective, but the notion of getting skewered by a bayonet is powerfully psychologically. Interesting stuff.

    I can see why, with limited time and resources, the army would choose to leave bayonets out of basic training. Isn’t marine corps boot camp like a month or more longer than the armies anyway? More time for this sort of thing I suppose

  • subase

    What’s bayonet training? Just run up to someone screaming ‘ARRRHHR!’ and stick the pointy end into someones solar plexus. Not complicated.

    The tactic is more of a morale booster. Granted as a last ditch intimidation tactic it worked against the taliban, but I wouldn’t try that on a professional army.

    Also in regards to the bullpup, a bayonet makes more sense. The bullpup being better balanced means the bayonet is faster and one has more leverage on it. In addition, the CQB indoor distances a bayonet would actually be useful means that the length of ones rifle is of critical importance. Meaning a bayonet on an M4 indoors would probably be more trouble than it’s worth but on a Steyr Aug it just makes the rifle M4 length.

    Saying all that. The bayonet is a purely stabbing weapon is rather infective for hand to hand combat, where major quick blood loss is the only reliable way to bring someone down. What’s needed is a slicing weapon and the bayonet mounted vertically makes any useful slicing very difficult. The Russians with their AN-94 have made a revolution in bayonets simply by mounting it horizontally. This means one can actually slit throats and bellies open without problems, or close in within inches and still be able to use the bayonet. (incredibly important if one is tackled)

    • subase, when you say “professional army”, I am sure you mean “a well disciplined, well trained and well equipped army” … most nations capable of fielding such an army are also capable of diplomacy to avoid such conflicts 😉

  • Calimero

    I remember reading a paper from the French Army that had the testimony of a captain, retelling their assault to take over a bridge in Sarajevo in 1995.

    They used bayonets on their FAMAS as the fight ended up at an arm’s length. You may very well argue that a pistol may have been more efficient (an that we’re speaking of “cheese eating surrender monkeys”) but under high stress pistol skills may go out of the window (and won’t penetrate body armor) plus your rifle helps you keep one foot or two of “buffer” between you and the other guy.

  • JT

    The marines look a tad incorrectly dressed in that desert gear haha

  • ParatrooperJJ

    Ask the Brits who fixed bayonets and fought off a sustained taliban assault in AFG if the bayonet training they received was irrelevant.

    • Jake

      rah!

  • James.Denholm

    Australians – Because if we are too drunk to shoot strait, we’ll just stab you instead.

    • Chris B

      Correct. In Australia we can’t carry a personal sidearm.
      A bayonet will not stop enemy from running away but at arms reach its anazing the irrational fear people have of pointy sharp things.

    • Chris B

      I agree that hundguns are better, unfortunately some army’s dont issue or allow sidearms. Given the choice of an M4 or M9 bayonet i’d go for the m4 as its lighter to carry. You join up to visit exotic and distant lands, to meet interesting people ……and to kill them, not sing and hold hands. Bayonet skills might be pointless but any skill used to kill, wound and scare the enemy is a skill you MAY need.

  • subase

    Well in the Australian army a couple of decades back when things were tougher in basic training. Bayonet training also involved screaming “KILL KILL KILL!” at the top of your lungs until hoarse and stabbing human shaped rubber targets. All this was after weeks of being broken down by your superiors. As the joker says ‘a knife is more personal’, no doubt the bayonet serves it’s most important role in reminding soldiers of their primary job, killing the enemy.

    @Steve – Well I’m just saying the Taliban aren’t as committed to fighting. Unlike say religious extremists from all over the world waging jihad.

    I guess it depends on the level of fighting commitment of your enemy on whether they will surrender to a bayonet charge, as well as their perceptions of you. In regards to the Finns in world war II, something that contributed to the finns considering their bayonets as useless, was soviet propaganda which told russian soldiers the Finnish would torture them to death. In the case of the Japanese, they would actually torture and execute you, in addition to fighting to the death. In regards to NATO it is common knowledge execution of prisoners and torture (well mostly) is illegal, and so a bayonet charge would be quite effective. They know if they surrender, they will be taken prisoners and treated fairly well.

    I’ve also read on another forum that bayonets a very helpful in crowd control situations. Civilians know soldiers can’t shoot and so push their luck. With a bayonet, unruly civilians practically hurt themselves relinquishing soldiers any wrongdoing.

    In regards to civilians, I would presume the same holds true for criminals. They’d rather surrender or make a run for it than get stabbed/shot. A bayonet will also help in them taking you seriously. That you can pull the trigger or attack them is alot more convincing if you have a bayonet hanging from your rifle and your screaming at the top of your lungs. And maybe in the case of drug effected criminals, a knife with gun will get the message across better than solely a gun.

  • JT

    “Check out: “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” by Dave Grossman.”
    Great book. I don’t think that the body of the book supported his thesis, but all the material between the intro and conclusion is very well-researched and eye opening.

    I’ve also wondered why nobody’s created a collapsible polearm/prybar by now, but that’s another thing. Is there anything out there besides the traditional spike or bayonet/knife?

  • subase

    Here’s a nice link on some incidents where bayonets were used.
    http://m14forum.com/edged-weapons/86012-bayonet-still-required-2.html
    And keep in mind the british have a bullpup, one officer mentioned ordering his men to attach bayonets due to the deep undergrowth which made enemy proximity much closer. Considering the M4 already is severely imbalanced, attaching a bayonet like the british with their L85 would probably be more problematic.

    The M4/M16 offering more reach with a bayonet attached compared to a bullpup is irrelevant. (a moot question though considering both the standard Steyr Aug and L85 are the same length as the M4) Reach with a bladed weapon is mainly of importance if the other person also has a bladed weapon, which is practically never the case with a bayonet as it’s used in a charge and with the element of surprise. It was only an issue when everyone had a bayonet on their rifle, around 100 years ago.

    A bayonet on a rifle nowadays is less a spear than it is a two handed knife, the butt of which serves as a club. This is only a recent development with rifles becoming shorter and shorter due to CQB demands. This means we will see the transition of bayonet use away from thrusting/stabbing to slicing instead. The russians with their horizontal mounted AN-94 bayonet know where it’s at. This is even reflected in the older AK-47 design (16 inch barrel) where the bayonet was actually sharpened and it’s blade pointed up instead of down, making slicing movements easier. Older style bayonet weren’t sharpened, the reasons being probably to reduce accidental cuts and prevent the blade being caught inbetween the rib bones. (a scourge of modern sharpened knives doubling as bayonets) But seeing as modern rifles are alot shorter, (M4/Steyr Aug/L85 30% shorter than an M14) a rifle with attached bayonet is easier to handle making injury of yourself or others less likely. (Also medical tech has advanced so much that little nicks and cuts are of much less consequence than in the past)

    In summation, bayonets remain useful, and they need to be refined and made even more useful not gotten rid off. Weight seems to be the biggest argument against them, and it’s a good one. Kel tec has a folding knife bayonet, a nice innovation saving weight.

    The question now is, should pistols have bayonets on them? I mean with pistols being so underpowered going hand to hand is very likely. In weapon retention it’s obviously a huge advantage, especially if designed more carefully for this purpose. Also the pistol having a knife already on it, makes going for your blade/pistol the same thing, a great advantage. Sure the grip on ones pistol is much weaker than a grip on a knife, but this can be improved and worked around. Also if that pistol bayonet was polished and looked obviously like a knife, then a pistol + knife + screaming maniac would be pretty intimidating. A bayonet on a pistol is potentially more effective than one on a rifle, considering you can’t really use a pistol as a club anymore. (too lightweight and you could break it) Also concerning pistols with suppressors to get rid of sentries, a pistol with an effective throat slasher would allow one to approach a target and attempt a knife kill without sacrificing the distance ability of a suppressed pistol, best of both worlds. (pistol in one hand knife in the other is a poor compromise) This is even more pronounced when covertly carrying a pistol. A shot from an unsuppressed pistol will alarm everyone, unlike a knife but a gun is more intimidating. Then lastly there is the application of less lethal force when subduing or disarming someone, it’s much harder to shoot to injure or disable someone at grappling distance than it is to cut them. Being able to cut someones arm or leg would not only be easier but more effective at subduing or disabling them. A pistol bayonet would give one this ability.

    This reminds me of that baton that fired bullets, was a torch, had a laser for aiming and had an integrated taser. A nice idea in theory, but instead of starting from a baton, the lowest weapon available. One could instead start with a fully capable pistol and add things on that without hampering it’s primary function. We are already seeing this happen. We have laser and flashlight accessories for pistols, soon we’ll have a taser, CS spray, usable knife (not the gimmicky ones now available) and a garrote.

  • Lance

    One of the main reason the USMC uses A4s is that they are better in hand to hand combat with bayonets. Ergonomics in hand to hand cobat is alot poorer with a bullpup since all the grips are at the back of the gun instead of midway. Since most Carbine armed men have M-9 bayos instead of M-16 armed troops with M-7s bayo it increases lenght. More handy in a fight.

    • Lance, no, thats not why they use A4s. They use them because some of their generals like the A4 because it is a rifle not a carbine.

  • subase

    @JT – There aren’t alot of other things soldiers now carry that would make a better weapon than a rifle with bayonet. Pickaxes and beefed up prybars/shovels maybe. But the most important thing in hand to hand combat is speed of violent action. 1 second of hesitation is enough to get you killed. And for this reason the pistol or any other secondary weapon that needs to be drawn might be your end. A hard fact to swallow but just picture the scenario of two guys a couple of yards from each other one or both going empty on their rifles, one guy goes for his pistol or knife while the other attacks with his rifle with bayonet (or just rifle), more often than not the latter will win.

    In this regard I have given the bayonet more thought and a bayonets stopping power is more complex, but I would now place it’s slicing capability as of secondary importance against unarmored opponents, and less effective than blunt trauma in taking down a person. (butt or barrel hit) The reason for this is that although blood loss is effective in bringing down a person it takes far too much time in CQB, this reveals the effectiveness of deep stab wounds that larger bayonets still offer. Deep stab wounds although causing less blood loss, are able to reach nerves deep within the body and internal organs causing enormous nervous ‘shock/pain’ usually causing a person to freeze. But we also can’t ignore the blunt trauma that a barrel causes and which is just as likely to provoke a similar ‘shock/pain’ response. The efficacy of being hit in the face with a heavy club is self explanatory. Psychologically the realization that one has been stabbed with a knife is also a factor. In comparison the only way to do something almost as effective with slices is to go for major arteries, (not to be overlooked as the neck in modern armies is one of the few vulnerable areas still unarmored) smaller targets that are harder to hit.

    This creates an almost catch 22 situation in that heavier, larger and longer bayonets are more effective to stab (or as club) but due to their weight make a rifle more cumbersome, hazardous and less responsive, as well as being a less than an ideal survival knife given weight considerations. It’s likely for this reason that the SCAR hasn’t got a bayonet lug, it was considered too much of a hassle with little benefit. It suggests SOCOM has recognized the inferiority of the current survival knife/bayonet and instead is almost encouraging it’s soldiers to purchase their own knife, saving crucial weight and boosting morale as having a personalized knife is a long macho tradition. (or just a misunderstanding as almost all the scars are the .308 version) It’s a shame there aren’t many knife makers who have bayonet versions of there knives, you could probably drill a hole in the tang of a knife and make some barrel attachment device of sorts.

    @Lance – In regards to fencing with bayoneted rifles, that’s similar to bayonet charging, mainly a morale booster. Same with martial arts, those poles with foam at the end and knife fighting. It instills a degree of warrior ethos and confidence that shooting rifles simply can’t provide. It makes one feel more physically powerful and confident in general, when your gun is out of ammunition dropping your rifle and putting your hands up or perhaps running the other way won’t be your first response. One could say that the practice of fencing with rifles is a simulation or reminder of sword/spear dueling.

  • armed_partisan

    Anybody who thinks an skinny twit with a metal spike on the end of his rifle is intimidating has never had a hand grenade thrown at them. Bonsai charges may be scary in jungle warfare, but they’re not effective. Why do you think the Japanese, who EMPHASIZED the bayonet charge lost to the American’s who considered it a last resort? A guy named Bruce Menning
    wrote a book called “Bayonets Before Bullets” which explains why the Imperial Russian Army LOST so many battles between 1861-1914 and theorizes why solders participated in the revolution WWI.

    A dull bayonet (we were FORBIDDEN from sharpening ours) will NOT penetrate body armor, but a pistol from any serious caliber, including the ubiquitous 9mm, definitely will. It won’t defeat a SAPI plate, but that’s designed to defeat rifles. Point it at the guys face! As for accuracy under stress, you don’t need to be accurate with a pistol when you’re talking about the ranges where a knife on a stick would be effective. It’s point and click at that range.

    Also, I’m not surprised that Grossman would endorse Bayonet training, since he’s an idiot. Not to imply that all who endorse bayonet training are idiots, but Grossman certainly is. Every conclusion he makes in that moronic book of his is WRONG and I have been demonstrating the reasons for this since I was in HIGH SCHOOL. He’s the imbecile who invented the conspiracy theory that violent video games make you a homicidal maniac, whereas every legitimate psychological study on this topic has demonstrated THE OPPOSITE. Violent videogames, television, and movies make you violent? That must be why Africa is such a peaceful continent, and why there were no wars in the middle ages!

    I wish his book would just go away, but like works of (edit: political) and (edit: political), it’s probably gonna be around for sometime to come. For an interesting perspective on why the military requires would be officers to read it, I recommend the book “On the Psychology of Military Incompetence” by Norman F. Dixon.

    • armed_partisan, to be fair, no one was advocating charging down hills into American machine guns 😉

  • Lance

    Steve im just saying what ive heard fomr Marines and some on Miitary.com.

  • andrew

    Lance, no Infantry Marines carry their bayonet with them in the field for more than a month after they get out of SOI. It’s dead weight.

  • subase

    Yep armed_partisan. Bayonet design and thinking is still stuck in WWII if not further back.The practical niche use of a bayonet is not it’s intimidation factor (duct taping/tying a knife to the end of ones barrel will suffice for that) but it’s use in realistic hand to hand combat. In this regard the current bayonets being fielded except the latest russian ones are poorly designed for combat and the training for using them is even worse. Realistically, fighting with a rifle bayonet should be as close as possible to fighting without a bayonet. Only the russians have figured this out and that’s why a horizontally mounted bayonet on their AN-94 would from the firing position without modifying ones grip enable one to cut decisively at someone neck. Can’t do that with the M4/M16 bayonet or the AK-47 upward facing bayonet. The funny thing is this may have been a side effect of affixing a bayonet along with a underbarrel grenade launcher.

    @armed_partisan – A properly setup pistol that’s properly trained with (what could be termed hand to hand pistol training) both of which don’t appear to be the case in any branch of the military, would I think make the bayonet obsolete even at hand to hand combat distances. But given weight considerations are now critical, carrying a properly designed knife bayonet would be at least 5 times lighter than carrying a pistol. But overall it’s kind of a moot question, since the capability of a suppressed pistol negates alot of it’s weight considerations and making any knife ‘bayonet capable’ requires around 3 ounces. Also no decent bayonets currently exist to purchase.

    Although for special forces with their pistols and specialized CQB weapons (SBR’s and such), a bayonet is more of a minus than a plus. (just purely seen from training viewpoint) I think for the average grunt in the military, who don’t have or choose not to have pistols, a properly designed knife bayonet along with proper training would be an asset.

    It would seem that the greatest problem facing the bayonet is it severely increases the length of a rifle, not good for CQB. But this could be reduced to 1 inch and less with a properly designed knife bayonet. Employing it would be identical to a rifle with the difference being that a horizontally mounted bayonet with it’s spine hugging the barrel would turn ones barrel from a club into a hatchet of sorts. Not good enough to cut wood but good enough to half decapitate someone. (and stab effectively an unarmored opponent if necessary) With this design a folding knife bayonet seems complimentary as the blades rear would be supported by the barrel. This sounds effective but we can’t discount how brutal hacking open the side of someones neck directly in front of you would both look and feel like. Dispatching someone in this manner sounds too politically correct these days, which may go to explain a little why bayonets are stuck in WWII.

  • subase

    And just so people know, the true original purpose of a bayonet was to improve the rifle/pistol as a hand to hand weapon, that’s it. Specifically it added the ability to stab and/or cut, where previously one could only club. I hear it was invented in France when someone shoved cutlery into their muskets barrel. Ever since it’s invention, this concept has become increasingly corrupted. The concept of improving ones rifle or pistol as a hand to hand weapon remains credible, we now have enemies with head and torso armor, who use battle enhancing drugs and who only fight CQB, but bayonet designs and training need to evolve.

  • subase

    Here’s a great thread that talks about the bayonet at length.
    http://forums.milnet.ca/forums/index.php/topic,28762.0.html
    And a nice article.
    http://regimentalrogue.com/papers/bayonet.htm

  • armed_partisan

    @ Subase
    I’ll agree that better training with any weapon would be a good idea. A very well trained man with a SHARP bayonet is probably more dangerous than someone with a handgun who doesn’t know how it works. My experience with training in the military is that it’s piss poor regardless of the topic.

    As for wight considerations, the semi-obsolete M7 Bayonet weighted about 10 ounces sans sheath, but the US Army’s M9 Bayonet weight something like 33 Oz, more than a loaded Glock, the USMC’s new OKC-3 Bayonet weights 47.8 ounces, more than a fully loaded Beretta and a loaded extra magazine, and I have no idea if that includes the weight of the sheath. If the idea of the bayonet is to save on weight, then nobody told the US Military. Of course, the M-16 started off weighing 6.3lbs, and the current USMC M-16A4 weights 9.3lbs, so…

  • Glamdring

    Bayonets were pointless (pun intended) once military stopped charging enemy on horses.

    The Bayonet was designed so you could combine pike with musket (well arquebus if your being picky) so you could ADD firepower to unit, while keeping a long pointy stick to keep the horses off you, while your buddies reloaded.

    If you read Mcbride’s “A Rifleman Went to War” you will note he speaks how a person with a handgun (1911) was the equal of at least 3 men with bayonet.

    Further he states “if they really knows how to handle his pistol” they can kill 5 men armed with bayonet.

    On page 176 in my copy of that great book.

    He also states he had only 3 occasions to prove it personally.

    Now I am not certain. But I am pretty sure that the modern level of combat use of the handgun is much advanced from where it was when McBride wrote that back in 1935.

    I know of nothing to indicate bayonet fighting has advanced from that time period. Was only maybe one generation after horse charges were effectively used in combat.

  • subase

    Yeah, although the bayonet is romantic, seeing as it involves a knife. I too just can’t see it beating a headshot from a hicap pistol.

    Perhaps it has a place in covert ops on a pistol or rifle, but really as the bayonet designs stand right now, their use in that capacity is not practical.

  • Cahal Mcgirr

    The order to ‘Fix bayonets’ turns up in many British books on the current experience in Afghanistan. Which would you prefer? An empty pistol or an empty rifle with a bayonet attached when confronted by a ‘Talib’ in the undergrowth or a compound ?

  • Spiff

    The bayonet has been, and always will be, a creater of trauma – it is one thing to sit off at a distance and shoot at your opponet, it’s another to KNOW that your opponet intends to stab you to death at close quarters! Well organized bayonet charges will demoralize most opponets, and a strong bayonet training program boosts military morale. And, last but not least, the bayonet is a tool that can be used for mine detection, digging, opening boxes and cans, and the silent dispatching of opponets…
    Spiff