All pics courtesy of KMJ Photography.
Had a very successful workshop down at Act Tactical swinging sword & shield. All and sundry worked hard, fought hard, and learned a lot.
All pics courtesy of KMJ Photography.
I've known Matt Clanton (owner of Act Tactical) for a couple of years now. Being the first guest artist down there was a big honor.
With the 237th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps yesterday (oorah), this week we’re looking at one of the Corps’ iconic personal weapons: the KA-BAR fighting knife. The Kbar knife company, now KA-BAR Knives, Inc, (the trademarked name is actually KA-BAR, including the all capital letters) was around for a while before creating the blade we all can recognize. A rather large group of Pennsylvania cutlers formed the Tidioute Cutlery Company in 1898.
Company legend claims that a fur trapper wrote to the company praising one of their blades. The trapper was accosted by a bear when his gun jammed, leaving him armed only with a knife. Said trapper proceeded to take down and kill the wounded bear with his knife. However, the trapper’s penmanship was kind of lousy, so that all that could be read from the phrase “kill a bear” was “K a bar.” With a name and story like that coming out of nowhere, the company saw a winning brand name (though they wouldn’t change the actual company name until after the war. They had shit to do, like make a few metric asstons of knives.)
The fighting knife commonly called the USMC KA-BAR was born in the beginning of WWII. Pearl Harbor kick-started an American wartime production machine that needed a laundry list of gear and needed it yesterday. WWI-era trench knives were used for this initially, and while they were decent enough weapons, they were lousy as tools, and both were needed. For a while, a stiletto-looking copy of the British Fairburn-Sykes fighting knife was used by Marine Raiders, but they proved even more useless as tools. As usual, supply was the lumbering paperwork dinosaur it’s always been, and troops often bought their own knives, usually hunting styles.
Eventually the supply pogs got their shit together and took data and suggestions from veterans of the Battle of Guadacanal for a design that would become the K-bar. The initial bits were all there: The clip point, almost like a scaled-down Bowie knife, the small crossguard, stacked leather handle, and thick pommel. There were a few early design flaws, almost all of which revolved around “it breaks too easily with (insert feature here), let’s fix it.” While not all Kbars were from KA-BAR, it was the company that bore the knife’s name that was generally agreed to have made the best.
Then, as now, the Kbar was issued first and foremost to warriors armed with pistols, carbines, and machine guns (riflemen already had bayonets). Today, it is most currently issued to S.A.W. gunners in the USMC.
There have been surprisingly few variants in design over the years. One of the most interesting is called the Stone skull & cobra knife. One of the design problems that cropped up in the Pacific campaign was the leather handle rotting after prolonged exposure to seawater. Enter E.W. Stone, Sr., a sailor aboard the USS Holland. After several Marines and Sailors commented on the problem, Stone used scrap aluminum from downed Japanese fighter planes to form new handles for these blades. Checkered and hand-molded grips based on snakeskin patterns helped assure they wouldn’t slip from the user’s hand in wet weather, and distinct skull-shaped pommels made for useful percussion tools & weapons.
Stone knives are one of the more obscure bits of WWII memorabilia, with a number of fakes and copies in circulation. Stone’s son Bill maintains a website with some nice looks at the originals.
As for my personal Kbar? I have 3, actually. One is in my bugout bag. One was my Grandfather’s from his time in the Pacific theater during WWII. One was a gift from my little brother, which I took into combat (and at one point used to disassemble a particularly belligerent grenade launcher that had gone down at an inopportune moment, but that’s another story) and is kept at hand to this day.
So that’s a look at the Kbar. Happy Veteran’s Day, Semper Fi.
Halloween may have already come and gone this week, but the emphasis on spookiness, folklore, and farming implements is still fresh in the mind, therefore this week’s weapon is the scythe.
The scythe is one of those weapons you rarely see used, but is kinda awesome when you do. My current personal favorite was seeing a mute Amish farmer take on zombies with one in Diary of The Dead.
Of course, the reason it’s used seldom is mostly because it’s an agricultural tool and not a weapon. But then again, a lot of weapons began that way (see the machete, kama, morningstar, axe, ect.)
Your average scythe is around 6′ long, with a blade 2′-3′ wide emerging perpendicular to the handle. It’s invention lies somewhere in antiquity, and has spent far more time as a symbolic weapon in the hands of the Grim Reaper than in those of mortal fighters.
In it’s usual form, the scythe has some pretty hardcore disadvantages in that you can’t attack directly at full extension. Even when facing an opponent in front of you, a slash with the scythe using the handles “normally’ would mean a thrust with the blade at an opponent’s left side. That said, the blade’s inward-facing edge would make for a powerful hooking slash if you managed to get past an opponent’s parry or shield.
On occasion, the scythe would be modified to have the blade extending directly from the handle, making a polearm called a war scythe. Having a peasant uprising full of farmers who were used to swinging such things for hours on end had to suck mightily.
And just to clarify: The last few episodes of Buffy: The Vampire slayer features a weapon consistently referred to as a scythe. It’s actually a battle-axe with a single axe blade and head & pommel spikes. The design makes it look like it began life as a heavy metal guitar. Still awesome, but not a scythe.
“Where do you put the Bayonet?”
-Chesty Puller, upon seeing a flamethrower for the first time.
In an effort to get myself to use this more, I’m adding a new feature: The weapon of the week. Every week I’m going to take a weapon and throw around some history, trivia, and whatever else comes to mind. Some may be meticulously researched, some may be off the top of my head. Either way, I’ll try to make it entertaining.
And with last night’s U.S. presidential election debates fresh in mind, I’m going with the Bayonet as our first weapon of the week.
Bayonets are kinda weird in that they’re an edged weapon that came about as a direct result of firearms (as opposed to say, a rapier, where introducing gunpowder was one of a handful of reasons for it’s evolution). Even as the arquebus became the musket, early guns were still single-shot weapons with short ranges and long reload times. And where they really sucked was in the defense. Muskets were good for reaching out and touching someone (by the standards of the time, anyway), but once you’d fired off your shot and surviving opponents were headed your way, life would suck.
(Note to self: find out the plural of “arquebus.” Arquebii? Arquebuses?)
Suckage was somewhat alleviated by forming mixed-use companies of musketeers and pikemen. Musketeers would fire a volley and reload while pikemen kept the enemy’s charging and ensuing suckage to a minimum. It worked, kinda, but it was clumsy and felt like it. The solution was to merge the 2 weapons.
Why they’re called bayonets is unknown for sure. Best guess I’ve heard is that they started to first crop up in Bayonne (France, not New Jersey).
The first bayonets were jammed into the musket barrel and called “plug” bayonets. Useful if you could only get off one shot, but it also meant everyone could tell that you hadn’t reloaded and weren’t planning to anytime soon (and if you had reloaded, it probably sucked almost as much to stand near you as in front of you). Some Scots called Jacobites once took advantage of British soldiers armed with plug bayonets by shooting a volley and charging. By the time the British fixed bayonets, they had a couple hundred pissed-off Scots in their midst with swords and shields, making their displeasure energetically known.
The problem: how to get the bayonet the hell out of the way so reloading could happen. The most popular method was called a socket bayonet. This was a blade attached to a twist-lock cylinder that fit over the muzzle of the musket. The blade stuck out to the side or under the muzzle, keeping out of the way of the bullet (and hopefully the hands of the gunner trying to reload.
There were other designs that cropped up over the years, which ranged from the workable (the spring-loaded bayonet, which folded under the barrel. The Chinese used a variant of this design on the AK-47 well into the 1980′s) to the bizarre (a trowel-bayonet, ostensibly designed by someone who figured soldiers would spend more time digging than fighting. While not necessarily wrong, it may well have been a case of misapplied engineering).
By the time multi-shot rifles came around, a trend cropped up of merging the bayonet with a camp knife, turning a weapon into another kind of weapon as well as a tool, because hey, you have to carry everything, and multiuse tools are always handy. The Russians went one step further and rigged up a nut-and-socket system with one of their bayonets, turning the blade and scabbard into a set of wire cutters.
So, that’s my look at the bayonet beyond the political quip. It’s been useful since they showed up, and I think it’s going to be around as long as blades and projectile or even energy weapons exist.
Musings on combat, film, theater, and various combinations of all three.