No More Bayonet Training

I suspect a lot of folks will disagree with the Army’s decision to end bayonet training in basic training. But it seems to be a matter of opportunity costs. In other words, what other things could you be teaching soldiers? One military historian had this to say:

Bayonet training is, in short, used to undo socialization – to “basically to try to mitigate or eradicate the reluctance of human beings to kill each other,” Mr. Kohn says. It is one of the challenges in US or Western society “where we have such reverence for the individual, where we socialize our people to believe in the rule of law, and all of that,” he adds. “What you’re doing with young people is trying to get them used to the highly emotional and irrational and adrenaline-filled situations in which they are liable to find themselves whether they are within sight of the enemy or not – and the reluctance to take a life.”

It would seem that for soldiers who are likely to end up in hand-to-hand combat situations, some knife and bayonet skills would seem to still be warranted. But I can see the logic in replacing it in basic training with other skills that might be more useful. What do some folks who have served in combat think about this?

h/t Instapundit

31 thoughts on “No More Bayonet Training”

  1. The further pussification of America.

    There is NOTHING more important in the development of a warrior than inculcating the willingness to get up close and get bloody. If you want to trade bayonet training for knife fighting or something else, fine. But frankly bayonet training brings home what you’re doing–what you’re training to do–in a very VERY visceral way.

  2. I agree. You don’t want to just stand there with someone coming at you with your dick in your hand. It takes repeated training, so it’s second nature, to be able to shoot, knife, hit, whatever. You can read how to repair an engine but until you get down and dirty with it, you’ll never know how the grease feels and to realize it just cleans up with soap and water.

  3. Since I’m looking at this from an untrained member of the United States militia perspective, I’m inclined to think: what good do bayonets do?

    But I’m also inclined to think that, since Congress seems so determined to ban bayonet lugs from rifles, they are likely important for something! :-)

    I, for one, think basic marksmanship (rifle and pistol), and likely bayonet and knife fighting, should be taught before anyone even thinks of starting basic training.

  4. You have to keep in mind how we, us in the .mil fight our wars nowadays. Sadly enough, often from vehicles, and dismounted in civilian populations where bayonets won’t win hearts and minds. Also in the last decades bayonet training has been pretty weak, not building real bayonet skills. Pugil sticks build aggressive attitude, not skill.
    ALSO, the current hand2gland/combatives program is pretty damn advanced, and probably more useful.

  5. This is a good thing. The Army’s got a pretty well developed combatives program that has a building-block approach throughout a soldier’s career. Bayonet training was sort of a one-time thing for most with practically zero applicability.

    It’s better to use that time introducing trainees to a program of h2h that they’ll be doing for the next two decades than to use it for an intro to something they’ll never see again. Both get to the same bottom goal of teaching a physically aggressive mindset, but combatives also teaches a practical means of applying it.

  6. I was in ROTC for a couple of years, we never got around to using a bayonet. However, I have read too many accounts of hand to hand fighting where basic skills like marksmanship were useless in the balance between winners and losers. That we hope it is unlikely for our troops to have to close with the enemy so tightly has no bearing on whether they should have some training on how to do it and win.

    The biggest thing I want is for as many of our troops as possible to survive whatever they meet on the battlefield. It seems to me the current enemy is quite ready to use blades on people, if they usually have a bunch of their buds hold the subject still, brave heroes that they are.

    Every skill our troops take into the field to make the other poor bastard die for his country is another bit of margin to make sure they come back alive. Finger painting isn’t useful.

    This reminds me of when USAF took guns out of fighter aircraft. The smarties figured all they needed were missiles. Vietnam showed how false that assumption was, and a lot of money was spent on a crash program to equip USAF and Navy F4’s with guns. We lost a bunch of airplanes and aircrew for this mistake.

    Hopefully it will not take a similar lesson for someone to change this ruling.

  7. As a likewise unorganized militia member, I think it is a bad idea. While considered useless, I understand wholly the point of reminder our soldiers of what their job may entail.

    As a militaman, I see value in the bayonet. In a civil disorder breakdown and having to defend my property, a bayonet is part of my kit. Solely for the fact that a big ass knife on the end of a rifle does more for psychological effect that the size or a appearance of the rifle itself. It sends a deep, visceral message. People can rationalize being shot in the abstract but a lot of people fear the pain and prospect of being stabbed much more.

    Symbolically, the bayonet is a symbol of war and conflict. The descendant of the pikemen and spear carriers of old. As such, the skill should be taught for the same reasons we teach close-order drill. The combat need of that drill has long faded to symbolism as well but we still teach it for the values and connections it instills. The bayonet deserves no less.

  8. The Brits know their steel. A platoon of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on patrol came under attack in Iraq and mounted a bayonet charge, outnumbered five to one they prevailed and killed 35 of the enemy.
    And in Afghanistan a young (24ys old) Lieutenant with the Royal Regiment of Scotland ran out of ammo and used his bayonet to charge a Taliban fighter – and “neutralised an enemy flanking attack which could have resulted in casualties for his platoon.” He received the Military Cross
    It’s still a workable thing to do.

  9. At the risk of being branded a curmudgeonly retired NCO who longs for The Old Days, I direct your attention to these paragraphs of the article:
    “Traditionally in the 20th century – certainly after World War I – bayonet training was basically designed to develop in soldiers aggressiveness, courage, and preparation for close combat,” says Richard Kohn, professor of military history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    Bayonet training is, in short, used to undo socialization – to “basically to try to mitigate or eradicate the reluctance of human beings to kill each other,” Mr. Kohn says. It is one of the challenges in US or Western society “where we have such reverence for the individual, where we socialize our people to believe in the rule of law, and all of that,” he adds. “What you’re doing with young people is trying to get them used to the highly emotional and irrational and adrenaline-filled situations in which they are liable to find themselves whether they are within sight of the enemy or not – and the reluctance to take a life.”

  10. It’s the right thing to do.

    I don’t have a single buddy in any service who has ever had to “fix bayonets”. And every argument for keeping bayonet training here in the comments seems more based on tradition or somehow reminding the soldier his mission is to kill in a more personal way or some other such B.S. Allow me to suggest this line of thinking is being proffered by armchair warriors or those who fought long ago.

    First, I think it’s ludicrous to suggest bayonet training will somehow make a soldier more cognizant of all entailed by taking a human life. Second, I must reinforce Andrew in comment 5 and say time saved by not teaching bayonets is better spent teaching combatives. MACP is far more applicable, and has whatever “up close and personal” aspects one might feel are needed.

  11. Army spends WAY to much time on crap training designed as CYA for the top level administrators who never leave Washington. Hours and hours of sexual harassment training, don’t rape the civilians training, don’t steal stuff training. Being a huge organization, somebody goes and harasses/rapes/steals anyway, and the Brass orders everyone re-trained. Lots of the videos are good and one might have use of the information, but for all the other soldiers they wasted the limited time a reserve unit has to get ready.

  12. My brother bought me a bayonet for an Enfield for Christmas one year. My grandfather picket up the rifle and went straight through the manual of arms with a bayonet. He said that he had that drilled into him in training, but never had any real use. All of his fights were close quarters with a 1911 or an ’03 Springfield without a bayonet, or his fists. He was in the Navy from 1921-1953. He spent a lot of time in Nicaragua and Central America where fighting was against insurgents and in local bars instead of against charging ranks of infantry. His fighting in WW2 was mostly with 5″ deck guns.

  13. OMG! No Bayonet training! Next thing you know, they’ll be abandoning the drum and bugle corps and getting rid of the brightly colored uniforms.Bayonet training is stupid and a waste of time. It does not teach aggression, or hostility. Nobody wants to run full tilt boggy towards a telephone pole with a tire bolted onto it so they can attempt to jam a dull, flat metal bar against it. You get hurt doing stupid shit like that.
    What Bayonet training teaches you is that the military brass will cling to worthless, obsolete ideas that haven’t been determinant factors in actual combat in more than a century because they don’t know how to think outside the box or overcome their own shoddy training.
    The only time I was ever issued a Bayonet outside of Boot Camp was before we went to Iraq. You know where my Bayonet was attached? To my pack, on the side of the truck. A pocket knife is a whole hell of a lot more useful than a Bayonet as a utility knife, and the goddamned things are so dull they couldn’t cut butter. We were even told that it was against the Hague Conventions to sharpen our Bayonets. You already have to carry around so much weight that a Bayonet is essentially an unnecessary burden. I’d rather carry more water, an extra MRE, or more ammo than any Bayonet. A USMC OKC-3S weighs 1.4 Lbs and a USA M9 Weighs 2.0 Lbs, so you can carry between one and two extra loaded 30 round magazines for the same weight.
    When it comes to hand to hand combat, you can ruin somebody’s day by giving them a poke in the face with the muzzle of a rifle. Imagine getting hit in the eye socket with a 22mm steel tube. Do you thing that would change your attitude? I think a focus on knife fighting should be maintained and enhanced for military personnel, but a Bayonet is NOT a knife. This is the smartest thing the Army Brass has done in YEARS.

  14. Thank God for my Marine Corps! I went through Paris Island in ’89. Hand me an M-16 and I’ll show you the 5 Killing Blows right now.

    Bayonet training helped transform us from civilians into warriors. It taught us to kill, not just shoot. Bayonets are part of our killing tool kit. Obviously tanks and artillery from long distance, then our rifles, machine guns and grenades, then the bayonet – then knives and hands.

    When I went into battle almost 20 years ago, I was well trained and practiced at dealing death at every one of those levels.

  15. Small Arms Review, either the Oct. or Nov. issue, 2010 has an article on the written requirements for mounting a bayonet to rifles. Author ends with quote of officer sitting on the requirements board: “When all else fails the bayonet is the one last chance for a soldier’s survival.”

  16. Use of a Bayonet requires several factors to be true in order for it to be effective:

    1) The enemy has to be close enough to poke with a stick.
    2) The enemy needs to run out of bullets when the soldier does.
    3) The enemy either has to be extremely aggressive after he runs out of ammo, or suicidally stupid. He doesn’t know that you are out of bullets.
    4) The enemy CANNOT be wearing body armor. Even many kinds of home made body armor will be effective at stopping a bayonet, even though they would be worthless at stopping a bullet.
    5) The soldier must be a better hand to hand combatant than the “tough-as-nails, never-owned-shoes-even-though-I-walk-across-rocky-mountainous-terrain-everyday-since-I-was-3” and “Never been to a doctor even though I’ve been shot before” enemy. I’ve seen Iraqi kids push each other in front of a bus during a fist fight over a PACK OF SKITTLES. They are very tenacious in the third world as a matter of survival. Our guys have to learn to do without AC, these people have never even drank ice water.

    The best thing that we can do is teach our soldiers how to fight WITHOUT weapons, and that means without pads, or helmets, or gloves, bloody noses and busted knuckles, rough and tumble, the way the 8 year old kids do everyday in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then fighting with a rifle will be easy.

  17. The Brits who fixed bayonets and charged the Iraqi insurgents scared the shit out of the tough-as-nails-never-worn-shoes crowd who panicked and fled – and died – even though the Brits must have been at a disadvantage, what with the short barrel bullpup design of their weird rifles.

  18. Well, I’m going to go with the general who made this decision. If bayonet fighting is so important, why is it not taught in any other unit or school outside of Basic?

    As for the development of aggressiveness, that is total BS. The development the willingness to use deadly force in soldiers has improved dramatically since WWI and remarkably since Vietnam, yet the bayonet training hasn’t changed much at all.

  19. If Bram actually believes any of the crap he posted, he would do well to read Paul Gardner’s “Lessons Learned in Combat” over at and realize that TTPs have come a loooong way in the 20+ years since he enlisted.

    The belief that your training was the best is great when needed to inspire confidence. It will also get you killed when you fail to evolve.

  20. I will grant you that the Bayonet is very important when you have a crappy rifle like the L85 that doesn’t work. The Brits gambled on a stupid move against an enemy that has NO real training of any kind, and they were lucky. You will note that they scored ZERO kills during their “successful” bayonet charge. The 35 dead were shot, and the nine captured were wounded (by bullets). You wanna try that move with professional soldiers, be my guest. They would have been better served with more ammo, and like I mentioned above, a bayonet weighs as much as an extra 30 round magazine.

  21. I’m not a veteran, but three thoughts nonetheless:

    1. From talking to those who’ve been in Iraq, it does sound as though close combat skills, including “escape from a press of grabby third-worlders” skills, would be more helpful than bayonet training.

    2. What is the psychological value of a bayonet? David Grossman, in his book “On Killing,” argues that it’s incredibly valuable. I’m also told that bladed weapons (knives, swords, tomahawks) have special resonance in many cultures.

    3. What other non-firing training does the Army provide, if any? Do they provide other training where the recruit uses the rifle as a bo or a club for blocking, disarming, or whacking?

  22. They’ll probably bring it back or introduce something else. If we ever go up against a large well trained military force that knows how do deal with our shield of CAS and fire support. Of course it’ll be after it’s needed. Machine guns, tanks, poison gas, and all that were the latest greatest gadgets of their time. Yet things got medieval in the trenches with knives, clubs, and other implements of death. I’m sure the concealed carry crowd and law enforcement members are well aware of the danger of knives. Same can be applied to warfare.

    Needless to say I’m not impressed with MAC. I will admit it is quite fun and good PT. Sadly unless you’re in certain active duty or reserve units you’re not going anywhere past level 1 or 2. If you get that at all. Still it is my firm belief that any martial art involving mostly grappling (striking is above the level myself and others were taught) is unsuitable for warfare. Especially when there is a good chance of you being outnumbered and the possibility of other weapons popping up. I doubt I’ll be able to keep someone in a choke hold or arm bar when they stab me in the leg, arm, etc., their buddy turns my head into a foot ball, or their buddy decides to saw my head off.

  23. Matt Groom – 1 and 2 are true of course.

    3. The magazine or belt in his weapon must be empty – the amount of ammo on his person is irrelevant if #1 is true. CCW types always talk about how a drawn knife is equal to a holstered pistol at 20 feet.

    4. We trained against each other in body armor. That is why we slash and smash at the face, throat, arms, and groin.

    5. Really – You have read too much and experience too little. Iraqis were convinced our uniforms and armor were air-conditioned because they couldn’t believe we would wear all this shit in 120 degrees. I was in the Gulf for 7 months and didn’t experience air conditioning until the day we flew home. I met plenty of those never-had-shoe types. They generally weigh in at 110 lbs and couldn’t lift the gear I carry, much less hang with me for 10 seconds of hand-to-hand. They were literally terrified of the massive Marines who captured and guarded them.

    At one point as Desert Storm was winding down, we had some Iraqi prisoners rush a bus we were loading. All but one of them stopped when we fired into the ground in front of them. A large Marine executed a perfect horizontal buttstroke to the chest of the one prisoner who continue to run. He got his wish – a faster ride back to Saudi – with a bunch of broken ribs that had punctured a lung.

  24. Eric R. Shelton – Seems like every generation has to learn those lessons. I’m lucky I didn’t have to learn them that hard a manner. Marines don’t spend enough time with combat shooting – the Army doesn’t train most soldiers to shoot at distance.

    I’m not sure what the story has to do with bayonet training. Maybe he should have bayoneted the Haji instead of reloading.

  25. On 3. Nobody stands in the open twenty feet away from each other and dumps mags into their exposed enemies, Bram. Most people will shoot from cover or concealment. When they run out of ammo, they tend to retreat or find a new position where more ammo is available, they do not foolishly charge the enemy hoping that he’s out of ammo and won’t shoot them dead as soon as they expose themselves. We aren’t talking about drawing a pistol against a drawn knife from twenty feet, we’re talking rifles at the ready, rounds fired, adrenaline and blood flowing.

    On 4. Why do you train in body armor, Bram? Because a Bayonet won’t go through it, so you have to use the buttstock or the end of the muzzle to hit someone in the face? Gee, you proved my point. Thanks!

    On 5. “Really – You have read too much and experience too little.”
    Are you talking to yourself here, Bram? You must be, because you clearly never got into a firefight with the scared little church mice that you encountered. My guys and I didn’t get to SHOWER for 4 months when we were in Iraq, and we were using our drinking water and chopped up bars of soap to do laundry by hand with while being restricted to Two MREs a day. I was down to 55 rounds of ammo for several days at one point because there was no resupply, as our lines were spread so thin. So if you wanna talk shit, you better mumble it to yourself.

    A buttstroke is not a Bayonet (maybe they didn’t cover that in training, but that’s the back of the rifle) and as you described, it was plenty effective, even though that devil dog probably didn’t have his bayo mounted. Wow! It’s like he didn’t need his silly bayonet at all! Maybe he could have used extra ammo had he encountered hostiles and not refugees.

  26. “My guys and I didn’t get to SHOWER for 4 months when we were in Iraq,” Same deal – we went to border (from the 1stMarDiv field base) the day after the air war started and stayed in the field until it was over.

    Got our firefights in around Khafji before the “ground war” supposedly started.

  27. “A buttstroke is not a Bayonet”

    You are suggesting we train soldiers to use the 3 blows using the buttstock, but it’s just too darn time consuming to teach the Slash and Jab?

  28. Some of these comments are beyond ignorant. Bayonet training is quite important just for the obvious reasons alone but also, as mentioned, it is training a mindset needed for survival. But besides those reasons, bayonet training is one of the most physically grueling exercises anyone could ever partake. I’m talking about pugil sticks. What you learn about yourself while completely exhausted and facing an enemy to the death is an experience that will never be forgotten. What you learn about your limitations could save your life. This is not something you want to learn at the last minute.

Comments are closed.