The M9 Bayonet - The Real Story on this Popular Knife

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The M9 Bayonet - The Real Story on this Popular Knife
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A friend approached me the other day and wanted the REAL story on the M9 Bayonet. He was interested in starting a Military Knife Collection and thought the M9 Bayonet might be a good starting place. He had seen the many M9 Bayonets for sale on eBay and had a whole series of questions related to the M9 itself, and it's potential collectability. His request reminded me of the numerous questions we have had from customers on the same topics. This guide is our effort towards answering all those questions in one place. Here's all the stuff the other guys aren't telling.................

We will not attempt to recite the history of the M9 here - there are much better and more scholarly sources available to the reader, including several websites dedicated exclusively to the subject. Just enter M9 BAYONET into your favorite search engine and be prepared to read for hours. Much of the information available is from collectors and enthusiasts - some of it is valuable, but some is quite dubious. Research is invaluable when considering the purchase of collectables. A prudent researcher should be aware that there is no single source of information that can be considered authoritative on the subject of the M9 Bayonet. 

A little background, however,  is essential to the task at hand. The M9 was designed for the US Army in the 1980's with an eye to replacing the venerable M7 Bayonet with a more effective, multi-mission platform, that could be maintained in the field. Trials were held and several contracts awarded. There were (and are) four primary contractors involved in the awards - Buck, Phrobis, Lan-Cay, and Ontario Knife Co.. All of these companies are US based manufacturing concerns. The M9 bayonet (as issued to US troops) has never been manufactured overseas. The potential M9 enthusiast should note that bayonets made by other than these four US companies are knockoffs (or clones) and probably should not even be considered as M9's at all. A good example is the M9 clone made at one time by Marto of Spain under contract for Phrobis International. The Marto bayonet was never an issue item for US Troops and was a commercial failure. It may be that there are some exceptions to this, prototypes and the like, but they would be quite rare and hard to document. The various brands of Asian made M9 clones are hardly servicable, and certainly not collectable. Some of these Asian copies are constructed of inferior materials and are best avoided.

In a nomenclature sense - the M9 Bayonet is a modular, fully articulated, multi-mission, military edged weapon. What this means is that the M9 is a tactical knife/bayonet system made out of mass produced, interchangable parts - more on this later. Some early problems with materials and design caused an unknown number of blade failures and many suggestions for improvement. The net result was a series of modifications being made to the M9 over time. These changes, however subtle, resulted in the different versions, or editions, of the M9 that collectors find irresistable!!!

The early blood groove (fuller) of the Buck, Phrobis, and early Lan-Cay products was first modified and then completely eliminated. The placement of the scewdriver tip on the scabbard was changed, the scabbard itself was modified, the webbing configuration has had several modifications, the sharpening stone on the scabbard has been eliminated, the handle design changed, etc., etc.. Thus, all the discussion of First Contract, Early Grip, Shallow Fuller, and so on. Lan-Cay manufactured a strictly civilian version of the M9 that they called the M9 Utility. Lan-Cay also offers special edition M9s with USMC, Special Forces, Airborne, and 10th Mountain Division marked blades - very nice! Ontario Knife Co. has offered several Limited Edition commemorative issues.

It might be helpful at this point to discuss the various sources of the M9's that you might see for sale. This is a controversial subject with lots of differing opinions. Many of the self-styled M9 experts out there may take issue with parts of this information, but we have made every effort to stick with the known facts. There are basically five legitimate sources for M9 Bayonets in the current marketplace, and one illegitimate source. Lets look at the legit sources first:

1. Commercial Production - these are Bayonets made specifically for the Civilian market. These would include some runs of the early Buck M9's in commercial packaging, the Lan-Cay M9 Utility and Special Editions with Custom marked blades, the Ontario Knife Co. Commemorative Collector Series, etc.. Some collectors specialize in the Commercial, Special Edition, and Commemorative M9's.

2. Military Contract Overruns - These bayonets are excess production made during the Government contract order periods that are subsequently released to Dealers and Distributors by the manufacturers. These bayonets are identical in every way to the production sold to the Government and are generally bulk packaged with the standard arsenal preservative applied. Some collectors do not consider the overrun bayonets to be issue since they have never been owned by the Government. However, the argument is moot due to the fact that there is no way to tell one from the other!

3. Military Bringbacks - A certain number of M9's are brought back from military service by individual soldiers. You will occasionally see reference to this in eBay listings. This is a very limited source, and the bayonets tend to show lots of wear. A new bayonet that is claimed as a bringback should be viewed with some scepticism. There are several collectors we know who specialize entirely in this type of bayonet. They feel that battlefield use authenticates the individual item. Differences in collector interests add considerable diversity to the marketplace. 

4. Surplus - This is a very limited source indeed. The Department of Defense does not, in general, liquidate NEW current issue equipment in the surplus market. Therefore, legitimate surplus M9's are quite rare. Can you tell which ones are legit surplus? Yes. Legitimate surplus M9 Bayonets must go through the DEMIL process - that is, the winning bidder at the surplus auction MUST be cleared for purchase and certify by submission of signed documents that the DEMIL items will not be sold or transferred to other than US citizens and will not be exported. The buyer is then REQUIRED to advise any subsequent purchaser of the DEMIL status and restrictions. DEMIL restrictions do not disappear when the bayonet is resold - these items can NEVER be exported or sold to non-US citizens.

Note: The adoption of the OKC3S Bayonet by the Marine Corps has resulted in a small number of M9's being surplused by the USMC recently. The M9 was never adopted for general issue by the Marines, however, they did acquire a limited number (several thousand) for indivdual unit issue, testing, and other purposes. A number of these have recently appeared in the government surplus auctions. These are mainly Gulf War I vintage, but there is a mixture of vintage and brands being offered of late. We expect to see the market in the much sought after Phrobis M9's somewhat depressed by the release of these USMC M9's - supply should outstrip demand for a time - depressing prices.

5. Parts Knives - As noted above, the M9 is modular and articulated. Any manufactured good of this type can be built entirely out of it's component parts - which are completely interchangable. Therefore, anyone with a set of Allen wrenches and an adjustable Cresent wrench can build M9's all day long out of new and/or used parts. These Parts Knives are neither Fish nor Foul - they don't fit in any of the standard source categories. Is that 1st Contract M9 your buying the real thing? None of the Collectors that we know consider Parts Knives to be collectable in any sense. An M9 made out of parts is kind of like a car with a salvage title! We find it amazing that there is at least one seller on eBay who brags about building M9's out of parts, and even asks the full retail price for them! Caveat..............................................

5A. Questionable Origin - Although nobody likes to talk about it much, there is a lively trade around the larger military bases in equipment of questionable and suspicious origin. These items quickly drift out into the civilian market. M9 bayonets and parts are no exception. We have seen many NEW bayonets advertised for sale that have arsenal numbers painted and etched on the knife and/or the scabbard or are still in the unopened military contract packaging. The buyer should closely question the seller about these items. If a claim is made that they are surplus then the seller should be able to produce DEMIL documentation to support the claim - and remember DEMIL items CANNOT be exported, and can only be legally transferred to US Citizens. Beware of buying suspicious items! Besides the moral issues - the risk is just not worth it!!!

It's a good idea to make at least a good faith effort to establish the source of the M9 you want to buy. This is especially true for collectors. Protect yourself and your investment!

There is at least one legitimate M9 variant on the market that deserves our attention in this discussion - the M11 EOD knife. The M11 was designed specifically for issue to Military EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Technicians and is made exclusively by Lan-Cay. The basic modification is the removal of the barrel-ring crossguard and pommel latch of the M9 - these are replaced by a straight crossguard with lashing holes and a solid, hammer style pommel. In addition, there is a tool pouch available that is custom fit to the scabbard. The tool pouch is designed to hold the essential working tools of the EOD Tech - including a special EOD Multi-tool and small tactical flashlight. The tool pouch will also fit the M9 scabbard. The genuine issue type M11 actually has a different blade stamp that reads - M11 EOD - Lan-Cay - USA in three lines on the ricasso. A kit is available to convert  the standard M9 bayonet to an M11 style knife - a conversion will have an M9 blade stamp. The M11 modification yields a very nice and useful field knife. The clunky barrel-ring crossguard and delicate pommel latch are replaced with parts that make the M9 even tougher! The M11 is worth consideration..........

There are also some nice upgrades available for your M9. Unless you intend to actually attach your M9 to the end of a rifle barrel, the M11 conversion is a nice step to take. Our company President's personal carry is an M9 with the M11 kit installed and a scabbard mounted Mag pouch. He says it attaches easily to his daypack and is very useful when hiking and camping. A number of aftermarket sheaths will fit the M9 nicely. The addtion of a tactical sheath cuts weight and generally allows multi-carry options, M.O.L.L.E. compatibility, and pouches for accessories on some models.

Hows does the M9 stack up against other Tactical Knives? Well, the comparison is not really fair since the M9 was designed as a multi-mission military tool. The M9 is designed to serve as a weapon (bayonet) and a multi-tool for everything from wire cutting to digging foxholes! The M9 makes a great camp knife and general outdoor/survival knife. It is tough, relatively maintenance free (stainless steel), and versatile - it also weighs upwards of 2 pounds! This may not be the ideal daily carry for your average Boy Scout.

We personally think that the M9 is a true classic piece of US Military field gear, able to stand up to heavy use and worthy of collector interest! Please feel free to contact us with any questions you have about the M9 or any of the other fine products that we carry. And be sure to check out our eBay Store for all of your Tactical equipment needs. Click this link M9 Tactical Supply to go there now!!!


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