Triangle Bayonets and Wounds

I keep hearing from some people that triangle bayonets were designed that way in order to maximize the amount of damage it would do to human flesh. Supposedly, it would cause a jagged wound that was difficult to sew up. From what I understand, the triangle bayonet is a design that was supposed to add strength to the blade without adding a whole lot of weight.
So what’s the straight dope? Do triangle bayonets cause more severe wounds than other types of bayonets? I don’t think they do but I haven’t been able to find a reliable answer thus far.

Thank you.

Since before Roman times, it has been known that slashing wounds are bloody, but stab wounds kill. So weapons that lend themselves to stabbing are deadlier. But most soldiers usually use their bayonets as camp knives for general housekeeping. As a result rat-tail and triangular bayonets are not well-liked.

Does that help?

Years ago with re-enactments, we were told the purpose of a triangular bayonet was to stab (deeply), twist and then pull out. The triangular shape often meant the innards are held by the bayonet when you twist so when extracted, out comes the bayonet, dragging some of the innards as well. Makes death a rapid certainty.

Gut wounds can take a long time to finish off the victim.

ETA: ‘line-through’ added for effect (i.e. not in original)

At my historic fort, we have Martini-Henry rifles that have the triangular bayonet type (there was also a “sword” bayonet, but our research indicates that the Royal Marine Artillery at this station carried the triangular).

When I started here, the old soldier who was superintendent told us that he had been trained (circa 1937) that the “slit” wound from a knife-type bayonet might close up from abdominal muscle action (hence the need for the “thrust-twist-remove” taught to British & Commonwealth soldiers). His contention was that the Victorian triangular blade bayonet created a hole that, due to its shape, was far less likely to close up due to muscle action, and hence bleed more freely.

His personal opinion was that soldiers preferred a “sword” bayonet, as being a far more useful tool overall for multitasking. He recalled the dismay early in WW2 in the Canadian army when the old 18-inch sword bayonet for the Lee-Enfield was withdrawn in favour of a 4-inch “pigsticker,” essentially a short round spike.

I don’t contend that his 1930s instructors had the actual hard facts–the military tends to repeat a good story ad infinitum–but it seems to have been the perceived truth at the time.

I have also heard that a triangular blade doesn’t tend to get stuck in the wound - anyone who’s prepared meat will tell you that a flat blade can get a kind of suction going.

From my military experience, bayonets are primarily used as camp tool. Being that they don’t give you anything to sharpen them with, and they come to you as dull as a crowbar, they don’t even serve that purpose well.

The modern weapons are full automatic, use small caliber and high velocity ammo, are very light, and are short carbine style rifles. This makes them pretty useless for bayonet fighting anyway. Bayonets are now an archaic tool from the days of semi-auto/bolt action long guns and trench fighting.

The use of bayonets has changed quite a bit over the years. Back in the flintlock days (1600s through the mid 1800s) bayonets were shoved on the end of muskets. If you look at Hollywood movies they seem to think that flintlocks were used a lot like modern rifles, but they weren’t. Toe to toe fighting with bayonets was extremely important in those days, to the point where bayonets caused easily a third or more of all casualties on a typical battlefield.

At that time, muskets were used as pikes. The musketeers would fire off a volley, and then would advance in formation like pikemen. A flat bayonet on the end of a six foot musket could easily be bent. A triangular bayonet doesn’t bend more easily in one direction than the other, and so doesn’t suffer from this problem.

The fact that triangular pointy things make a more jagged wound was just a side benefit.

Fast forward to the days of the percussion lock and the rifled musket (U.S. Civil War era) and the changes in musket accuracy and design, combined with different tactics takes bayonets from causing roughly a third of all battlefield casualties to causing less than 1 percent of battlefield casualties. Now you finally see muskets being used more like modern rifles, and bayonets move from a primary position on the battlefield to becoming the much more rarely used last ditch type of weapon that they are today. Instead of being used in pike formations, bayonets in modern warfare are much more likely to be used in one on one type situations, where tactics and techniques are much different.

I don’t know enough about modern fighting techniques to say which type of bayonet is better these days, but back when triangular bayonets were first invented they were a replacement for pikes, and they were designed to be good at pike style formation fighting.

When was the last time a bayonet was used for its intended purpose (i.e. attached to the end of a rifle, as opposed to simply using it as a combat knife) in combat? I would be surprised if it was after WWII. (A little searching indicates that there was one in the Korean War.)

ETA: My point being that the bayonet is obsolete and totally irrelevant in the context of modern fighting techniques.

I was guessing some time in Vietnam, but I found this:

From here:

Could that be why some flat bayonets have a large lengthwise groove? One doesn’t generally see that kind of groove on knives made for cutting as opposed to stabbing.

I’m sure you heard of the recent announcement that the US Army is dropping the bayonet drill as part of basic training. End of an era.

I heard once that a drill instructor was telling his charges that if their bayonet ever got stuck in their victim, all they needed to do was shoot a round or two and that would free it up. To which one recruit replied, “If I had a round or two, I sure as hell wouldn’t have used my bayonet!” :smiley:

That groove is called a “fuller”. It’s purpose is to make the blade stronger so that it can’t be as easily bent from side to side. I beams are I shaped for the same reason.

Fullers are commonly called “blood grooves” because a lot of folks don’t really understand what they are used for. A lot of folks say they are to let the blood out or they are to prevent suction from grabbing the blade, but that’s not their purpose.

I’d heard that the major reason for bayonet training (as well as hand-to-hand training) in modern armies was not for using those weapons at all, but simply for fostering aggression. A guy who’s had a lot of practices stabbing, gouging and goring targets while screaming bloodthirstily will have an easier time pulling a trigger or throwing a grenade than someone who hasn’t so trained.

From what I have heard triangular bayonets were no longer allowed to be used after WW1.

The bayonet became obsolete in the 1800s. The introduction of repeating rifles meant that cavalry could no longer get to within lance or sabre range.

The demise of the bayonet as an anti cavalry tool coincided with the rise of belief in the insane idea that the bayonet was the key infantry weapon. Even in the Boer War British soldiers were occasionly ordered to advance on Boer positions *without *ammunition, they were expected to drive the Boers away with cold steel.

Technically speaking, a bayonet-armed soldier is essentially an unarmored spearman - which means that technologically, he lags far behind a Greek Hoplite of 2200 years earlier, and would be torn apart by one in battle.

I used to collect bayonets, and came to a few conclusions.

They seem to have started off as a form of cutlass, then there was the mutation along the lines of the Lebel needle (initially with and then without a handguard), the ultimate form of that was the Enfield spike mentioned by another poster.
Good for poking when mounted, but totally useless ‘in the hand’.

Along the way you see ‘triangular’ stabbing devices without handles, but long enough to get in the way when on the belt.

My guess was that the designers were trying to provide something single function, but the ‘clients’ (troops) wanted something multifunctional - preferably something useful for brawling as well as for use in official combat.

Personally I reckon that the USA is making a mistake dropping bayonet training, except they aren’t totally dropping it as the Marines are keeping them.

I post without a cite that just a few months ago after an ambush, a US soldier was rifling the dead bodies for intelligence when one ‘came back to life’ and had to be dispatched with a knife. I bet they both had an amazing look of surprise on their faces.

Nitpick: the fuller itself does not make the blade stronger; rather, it allows use of a heavier blade by reducing weight in the portion of the blade which is not subject to high tensile stress. For the reason you mention, of course.

A friend of mine believes that some of the inspiration for triangular blades was due to a misguided belief that leech bites (which are triangular) bled so much because of the geometry, rather than the anticoagulants in their mouth parts (which of course folks didn’t know about in early times). I find that guess to be a bit of a reach, but not impossible.

Leech bite example: