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Bowie Knife Bayonet and Bolo Bayonet for the US Krag

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When the US adopted the Krag rifle in 1892, a remarkably efficient and simple decision was made regarding its bayonet. The old spike socket bayonet was clearly obsolete; all the modern European armies were adopting knife bayonets; the Swiss knife bayonet was a really good example; so the US would simply copy the Swiss M1889 pattern bayonet for the Krag. They did, and it was a very good bayonet – clearly this decision could not last without a challenge!

In 1900, the Good Idea Fairy suggested that perhaps a combination bayonet and entrenching tool could be devised to reduce the amount of of gear issued to troops. Ignoring the failures of this idea in 1873 and 1880, Springfield Armory went ahead and designed a Bowie knife style bayonet and made 2,000 of them for field trial in 1900. It was a dismal failure; inefficient and awkward as a bayonet and nearly useless as a digging tool. In response, a US Captian named Hugh Long in the Philippines crafted his own concept of a useful bayonet for that theater, patterned after the local bolo knifes. This would at least be good for hacking through thick vegetation, which was a major issue for US soldiers on the islands. Captain Long sent his sample back to Springfield, where it 56 more were made for testing (50 in 1902 and 6 in 1903).

Development of the Krag bolo style bayonet was cut short by the adoption of the new 1903 Springfield rifle, which abandoned the detachable bayonet altogether in favor of a return to a rod bayonet. However, the bolo would make a brief comeback on the Springfield in 1915…but that’s a story for another video.

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