The Ridiculous Rod Bayonet in U.S. Military History

by Miles

One of the odder inventions that eventually reached active service in an issued rifle, the rod bayonet existed in the 1800s and early 1900s. It was an attempt to reduce the load of the soldier by creating an extremely lightweight rod or tri-bladed bayonet that was internal to the rifle. A soldier wouldn’t have to worry about losing a long knife and theoretically had an ideally better tool for stabbing. It originally seeing some experimentation on the Hall rifle, then later on the 1873 Trapdoor Springfield. It was evident on early Springfield prototypes as well and finally becoming main issue when the 1903 Springfield was adopted in 1903. However this is what was the final nail in the coffin for the rod bayonet because it started encountering problems when being employed in the field. It was too thin, could easily be bent and then get in the path of the round, and even worse, could not be fitted back into the stock of the rifle if it did get damaged. Things came to a head when President Theodore “Teddy” Rosevelt broke one off in the White House and demanded a better version be produced. Experiments were done with enlarging the rod and strengthening it, but at this point the soldiers might as well have been issued an original bayonet for the same weight and even more utility. It was eventually completely taken off from all the production rifles and thus ended the rod bayonet.

Ironically, the British tried a similar concept with their own versions for the No.4 that could be completely taken off but were shaped like a 6-inch rod. Troops hated it so much that later versions incorporated an actual blade and later was completely switched out to an actual bayonet when the SLR became adopted.


Hall Rifle prototypes
1873 Trapdoor Springfield prototypes
M1903 prototypes and production rifles

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Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I've made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at

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2 of 26 comments
  • Gunsandrockets Gunsandrockets on Jul 31, 2018

    One factor not mentioned, is how fixed bayonets typically change the zero of a rifle.

    The Mosin-Nagant rifle sights were zeroed with the bayonet mounted.

    I've heard the complicated and expensive nose cap design of the British No. 1 Lee-Enfield rifle was to provide a bayonet mount that minimized changing the zero.

    One possible advantage of a rod bayonet is avoiding that zeroing problem.

  • Tiger Tiger on Aug 07, 2018

    We have come a long way since T.R. I can not picture POTUS 45 or 44 in the Oval office doing bayonet drill.