Friday, January 29, 2010

Are Bayonets Obsolete?

I note that one of our generals feels that the Army is trying to teach too much in too little time during basic training these days. So, something must go. Such as bayonet training. After all, as he puts it:
In today's wars, there's no reason for Soldiers to learn how to fix bayonets to their rifles and disembowel an enemy combatant, Hertling said. Besides, bayonets don't fit rifles Soldiers carry today, he added.

Let's address a few things here. First, the man is an armor officer. How much time has he spent with troops whose main defense against attack is a rifle and a hole or some sandbags, rather than self-propelled steel and composite armor? Second, if there's a greater need to teach troops hand to hand combat techniques (literally use only their hands, per his comments) what basis is there to take a weapon that permits a soldier to keep an enemy at a little more distance? In the upcoming deployment, if I'm in a direct support position, you may be damn sure I WILL NOT have complete and utter faith in my rifle. ALL rifles can fail, or need a reload at the worst possible time. Because of this, I WILL carry a knife suitable for punching a nice, deep hole in someone's viscera. Most likely, it'll be the same surplus Viet Nam era M7 bayonet I carried that last time I had to tote a rifle everywhere. And because I believe two is one, and one is none, I'll have a back-up beyond that. Entrenching tools can hold a hell of a sharp edge. Enough said. Hands are a the last option. They're soft, easily injured, and don't punch through a skull or lacerate major arteries with the authority I'm looking for.

Now, he says that bayonets don't fit the current rifle. My current rifle is an A2. It still fits. I'm told I'll be getting an M4 once deployed. Haven't played with one yet. From what I've read, the M7 fits it also. If anyone knows the answer to that, I'd like to hear it. But either this General doesn't know what he's talking about, or we have what I believe is the first widely, although not standard issue, Army rifle without bayonet capability. And that's foolish, for a number of reasons.

As noted previously, rifles do fail, especially dirty M4s using a high rate of fire, from some reports I've read. And something sharp, pointy, and a couple feet long is better than a Mark One Rock or fingers. But there's other uses. Bayonets also work well for display of force purposes in crowd or prisoner control. They are suitable for poking about in spaces you'd rather not put a hand into. Properly designed, they are fine fighting knives. Apparently, that's not good enough anymore. There's just not enough time for something so unimportant as a combat skill.

Somehow, I'm guessing there's some Equal Opportunity lectures that could be delayed until after basic. Unless sensitivity training is one of those vital skills for fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.


Bob said...

I have to agree, since I'm more a blade guy than a gun guy, anyway. I have a friend who was in Vietnam and ended up having to fight hand-to-hand with an e-tool, so his story of that experience drove home the point (so to speak) that a good backup is needed when the gun malfs or you run out of ammo.

MauserMedic said...


I think the army has a large number of people who think we've moved past the need for something so....well, they'd probably call it primitive or barbaric. Much like the early '60s when the Air Force leadership did away with gun systems on fighters. Nobody uses a gun when you have ultramodern missiles! Until you've shot them all off, and that Soviet surplus early-model MiG was slinging 23mm cannon shells at you.

Simplicity has its own virtues.

ebd10 said...

The problem with things like hand-to-hand training or bayonet drills is that there's no "gee whiz" factor. Officers can't show it off to the press, and the Mothers of America will be offended to think that that their Precious is being taught how to kill people. With widgets and whizzums you can impress those gentle souls with technology and they don't have to think about the screaming, bleeding jihadi on the other end.

Gizmos help advance a career while simple training benefits no one except the grunt on the ground. No career embellishment there.

Jay G said...

"...the screaming, bleeding jihadi on the other end."

That would be a feature, not a bug...

jon spencer said...

I wonder if these Scots thought that the bayonet is useless?

ebd10 said...

"...the screaming, bleeding jihadi on the other end."

That would be a feature, not a bug..."

To you and I that's a feature. To reporters and those who never served? Well, they still think that wars can be fought without hurting people.

MauserMedic said...


I've long suspected that many an officer's career advancement at the higher levels has depended more on marketing than military skills. High-tech lends itself to this end far better than review of sweaty, dirty grunts training on a dirt field.


Indeed, that's the point of the thing (cue rimshot).

J Spencer,

Good for them; that's as personal as combat gets I would think.

Oh Hell said...

Gee, we can't have anyone thinking that soldiers actually, well, uh, kill someone, can we? Best put those pointy things away. They are soooo not PC.
I think some of the people in charge are forgetting exactly what the goals are here.

Nilk said...

Wandered over from GoV.

This has to be one of the dumbest things I've ever heard of.

The military is designed to break things. This is not a bad thing; in the case of jihadis it's a mighty fine thing.

The idea is to ensure the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen (okay, the 2nd greatest after us Aussies ;p ) has all the machinery they need to Win. The. War.

If that means going low-tech with bayonets, well duh!

In any case, if a terrorist was running screaming at me brandishing a big knife, I don't know that I'd be comfortable offering him a hug and a counselling session.