The Marines are looking for a few good bayonets—more than
a 100,000 of them—but they aren’t sure yet what the
weapons should look like, according to James Riordan, director of
combat equipment and support systems at the Marine Corps Systems
Command in Quantico, Va.
The bayonet, named for the city in France where it is said to have
originated in 1647, is one of the oldest weapons in warfare, but
the Marines are convinced that it still has an important role to
play, even in an era of precision-guided munitions, Riordan said.
In fact, the service—citing a continuing series of bloody
ground actions, such as Afghanistan and Somalia—is increasing
its emphasis on close-combat training, including use of the bayonet
and combat knives.
“Sometimes, infantry still finds itself in situations where
it can’t shoot and there are still enemy soldiers to fight,”
he said. In those cases, bayonets—affixed to the barrels of
rifles and carbines—can be formidable weapons, he said.
Bayonets are also useful in peacekeeping operations, such as crowd
and riot control, where casualties need to be limited.
What the Marines want to do, Riordan said, is replace their 1960s-era
M-7 bayonet, which is primarily a stabbing weapon, with a new version,
having a cutting edge, that also can serve as a combat knife.
“Right now, Marines who need a combat knife and a bayonet
have to carry around two blades, which is awkward,” Riordan
The service wants to fix that problem, and it wants to do it quickly,
he said. Last fall, the Marines announced plans to award a sole-source
contract to the German-based company, Eickhorn-Solingen.
The firm was “the only known source capable of delivering
bayonets with the Marine eagle, globe and anchor markings at a rate
of 5,000 per month beginning 30 days after acceptance of the first
50 limited production units,” the notice said.
The result, however, was a barrage of letters, e-mail and phone
calls from U.S. manufacturers—including many of those who
made the M-7 and the Army’s M-9 bayonet—demanding a
chance to compete.
“They were outraged,” said retired Marine Maj. Homer
M. Brett, author of “The Military Knife & Bayonet,”
who helped design the M-9.
So the Marines cancelled their original plans and announced a new
competition for the contract. A total of 17 firms responded.
The Corps wants to field the weapon within six months of awarding
the contract, Riordan said. “We hope to buy an existing design,”
he said. “We’re trying to take advantage of the state
of the art.”