Part of the fun of collecting martial arms is collecting the various parts and pieces that go along with them. Items such as bayonets, cases, scopes, ammunition belts, cleaning kits, grenade launchers, flash surpressors, field an technical manuals, etc.
The most interesting item that I have thus far been able to obtain is the M1 bayonet with an M7 scabbard. You can see what this looks like when fixed to the rifle. No martial arm is complete without a bayonet.
Looking closely at this bayonet, a couple of things stick out pretty quickly. First is obviously that there's a bit of oxidation on both the scabbard and the handle of the bayonet but, really, no more than it has a right to have after perhaps 60 years. There's no serious pitting, just that brown tinge to the metal, more noticable the closer you get to the pommel. There are also marks on the pommel indicating that it was used for pounding at times. (Something the designers fully intended, don't forget.) I also see two sharp and relatively deep impact marks on the back of the guard near the barrel ring. From the surrounding scratches and the orientation of the two marks, it appears that whatever happened to cause this just happened once to make both marks. I'm not even going to try to guess what might have occured to cause them though. It could have been something as simple as being dropped a fair distance during training.
Next I noticed that the belt hooks have broken off the scabbard. The seller had made mention of this in the description but at the time, I was more interested in obtaining the two items together and most particularly in finding a good bayonet with the correctly shaped blade so did not actually notice this until I had received it. I can get a better scabbard later if I choose to.
I had to stare at this bayonet for a while before I noticed that the right and left grip panels are not matched. In my determination, the right grip belongs on this bayonet and is probably original. The left panel is most likely a commercial replacement as it's obviously of different material, not the bakelight type used earlier. The grip panels are not always marked so it can be hard to determine who made them and nearly impossible to tell when. The original panel shows a "T * Y" (star, not asterisk) framed by a rectangle. This is located on the back of the panel, nearly in line with and about half an inch back of the mounting hole. The left panel is unmarked save for a very small "10" near the very back of the piece. It is suggested that this "10" may be a mold number.
Another obvious problem is that this blade does not have the factory edge on it. It has clearly been sharpened more than once by someone who either didn't know how to do it properly or just didn't care. (The boundry of the edge and the body of the blade is not even close to a straight line.) However, it is also obvious that this blade has not been sharpened in years so it is possible that this was done while in service but it is far more likely to have been done after it transitioned into civililian hands. The angle is also wrong for something intended to be a slashing blade, again, indicative of someone who didn't understand what they needed to accomplish. (I can speak sith some authority on this, having learned through other means far more about what the edge of a blade should look like for various uses than I ever wanted to.) It also appears that either the initial sharpening by AFH was not quite uniform or that someone took this blade to a grinder at some point as semi-circular marks appear up to a half inch back from the edge. While these appear nearly the entire length of the blade, the markings are not pronounced enough that they obscure the original finish marks though. Just slight carelessness by a previous owner. (Please never sharpen such a knife except by hand and learn what the edge should look like before you start.)
While the year of production is not always marked, the manufacturer's identification is located just above the hilt of the blade along with the "flaming bomb" ordinance mark. These makers consist of at least Utica Cutlery "UC", Union Fork & Hoe "UFH", American Fork & Hoe "AFH", and Wilde Toole "WT". My blade is marked AFH. AFH is also the most common, being 38% of overall production estimated at nearly 3 million. The scabbard also shows the flaming bomb marking but scabbards were not generally marked with the maufacturer so there's no real way to tell where this one came from or precisely how old it is.
An interesting point in these two markings is that the flames are different between the two marks. The earlier mark used by AFH showed the flames seperated but the later mark used on the scabbard shows the flames coming to a point. AFH used the earlier style through their contract, apparently, so this is not an indication of the age of the blade and since there were several other variances in the appearance of the bomb, depending on the maker and the year, it doesn't speak to the age of the scabbard either except to suggest that it is post 1942. Knowing what to expect to see in a mark from a particular maker and also where that mark should be located (which side of the blade and how far from the guard, etc) can help you quickly gain confidence in the authenticty of a given piece. From the information I have been able to gather from various sources, it appears that makers initially all stamped the year of production below the flaming bomb emblem. This practice appears to have been discontinued at some point in 1943. Since mine does not posess the year mark, that indicates production would have taken place during the latter half of 1943 and October of 1945 when the contract was finaly canceled, the war being over and all.
By the various grading scales I have run across, I'd probably have to rate this blade as a grade 4 item mainly because of the replacement grip panel and the previous mentioned marks on the guard. Otherwise, I'd put it at grade 5. This is, of course, debatable. The condition of the blade section of the bayonet is actually pretty good, having been shielded inside the scabbard. It shows appreciable wear from repeated trips in and out of the scabbard but there's almost no pitting or other deterioration other than the sharpening of the edge. The main detractor is the hilt where things are not so rosey. However, since I am interested in the blade's historical value, this is at least a good start. I will note that I have applied a light coating of grease on the metalic surfaces to prevent further oxidation while in storage so that it will at least stay in the condition that its in now. I will also note that in the past I have found that applying a heavy coat of grease and working a metal object over with a paper towl or something similar is also a good way to remove loose oxide without harming the material.
It should be noted that bayonet collecting (specifically bayonets, not merely blades in general) is a field unto itself and there is just as much to pay attention to on a bayonet and scabbard as there is on the rifle it was used with. I have not even attempted to go in to any great depth here, merely to provide some basic information.
Oh, and lets not forget the en bloc clips and ammunition. Afterall, a rifle is not nearly so useful if you can't shoot it. Observe the color of the clip in the bottom center. This is a new production clip. The others are from some earlier period. It is almost impossible to tell when a clip was made.