A Bayonet is an small knife or sword attachment compatible with many types of rifles, fitted at either the bottom of the muzzle, inside the end of the barrel, or over the muzzle of the weapon. Their primary function is to slash or stab an enemy combatant at close range where aimed fire would be impractical. Bayonets were originally concieved as an intermediary weapon (between a poleaxe or pike and a musket) to lessen the gap between melee weapons and early firearms. They were used extensively during all major conflicts from their inception in the 17th century to World War II, seeing use diminish exponetially with the advent of modern autoloading weapons. Despite the lack of use in present day conflicts, many military rifles and so called "military-style" rifles of today have features enabling bayonets to be affixed.
Early Bayonet Use and the Plug BayonetEditThe earliest use of the word "bayonet" in the late 16th century referred to a small knife or short sword worn on the person. By the mid to late 17th century, bayonets that could be to be attached to rifles were commonplace in European armies. These early bayonets were of the plug type, fitting into the end of the barrel. This in turn prevented the weapon from being fired and presented an obvious disadvantage. However, this allowed musketteers to fend off cavalry charges or engage the enemy in close combat.
Intermediate Period and the Socket BayonetEditIn response to the shortcomings of the plug bayonet, the Socket Bayonet was developed. This attachment fitted over the end of the muzzle and allowed the weapon to be fired and reloaded while affixed. These bayonets were used to follow up musket volleys with charges in pursuit of overrunning enemy positions or entrenchments. These often doubled as short swords, some as long as 24 inches.
Modern Lug-Mounted BayonetsEdit
Bayonet use continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the end of the latter seeing the advent of lug-mounted designs. The earliest of these incorporated a lug under the muzzle to support the rear of the blade as well as a metal ring that fitted over the end of the barrel. This, along with the Mauser bar system that did not require a barrel ring, became the basis for modern 20th century bayonets. During this time, bayonets became much shorter, similar to handheld infantry knives. Their use expanded in 1959 with the advent of the Russian AKM Bayonet, which exhibited a saw back for wire-cutting. This marked the extent of current bayonet technology, with newer iterations of these types as well as some socket bayonets still in use today.
Other Bayonet TypesEdit
- Cutlass Bayonets - Naval Variation intended to replace boarding cutlasses
- Ramrod Bayonets - A misnomer referring to bayonets that slide into the stock of the rifle when not in use
- Trowel Bayonet - A bayonet intended to double as an Entrenching Tool
- Pistol Bayonet - Produced in very limited numbers for the British Webley Mark IV Revolver