Sawback bayonets began a brief popularity in the period following the U.S. Civil War. Introduction of the Minié rifle spelled the end of Napoleonic tactics, by making it suicidal for infantry to line up on an open battlefield. The result was the emergence of trench warfare. This change, and the invention of barbed-wire in the 1870s, influenced adoption of the sawback bayonet.
Sawback bayonets were never intended for general issue nor were they intended to produce more devastating wounds than standard bayonets. Their purpose was solely utilitarian (as a saw), although sawback blades were later issued to non-commissioned officers as a status symbol.
Although Britain and other countries flirted with the sawback bayonet, Germany and Switzerland made the most extensive use of them. Germany issued sawback bayonets extensively during the First World War. Switzerland issued sawback bayonets to special troops, armed with the superb Schmidt-Rubin K31 Short Rifle, into the 1950's. The picture below illustrates a Swiss M1914 Pioneer Bayonet attached to the 7.5 mm. Schmidt-Rubin K31 Short Rifle.
Adding sawteeth to the bayonet blade spine provided troops who had a need to clear barbed-wire obstacles or vegetation, with a dual purpose tool.
© Ralph E. Cobb 2009 All Rights Reserved
1860s—The Sawback Bayonet