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M1918 Trench Knife

Discussion in 'Small Arms and Edged Weapons' started by KodiakBeer, Oct 4, 2016.

  1. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    War is ugly.

    It's more hidden today because we kill at longer distances, but it's just as ugly and just as lethal as it always was. With that in mind, I've always been interested in what, to me, is the embodiment of that ugliness in the Trench Knives of WWI. These are simply dirty back-alley killing tools made for the hand. The "knuckle dusters" are obvious, and if you look at the hilt you'll see it's equipped with a "skull crusher" (yeah, that's the official technical term). The United States produced at least three different versions of this knife, most of which never made it across before the war ended.

    Following WWI, they were put in storage and then issued to various units (the Airborne for one) in WWII. Kurt Vonnegut wrote about his actual capture in WWII within the 'novel' Slaughterhouse Five. The soldier captured with him had one of these knives on his person and was summarily executed for possessing such a weapon.


    An authentic Trench Knife is very expensive, but this below is a pretty close replica (at least in heft and balance) of the most common type, the M1918 Trench Knife. I got it from the BUDK catalog for twenty bucks. This Chinese copy would not qualify as a good fighting knife (mostly because the blade is made of soft 984 steel), but even so, since the dimensions and weight are right, it feels like dirty business in the hand... In this copy, the handle is made of some pot metal colored to look like the original brass, though I doubt anyone struck with it would complain about that lack of authenticity.

    Paperweight for my man-cave.


    [​IMG]

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  2. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Nice knife indeed. I saw an authentic one for sale at 80 euros last month . It was quite rusted ,but still ok , but I nontheless decided not to buy it. Maybe I misseda bargain. There was no scabbard .
     
  3. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    In the US, an authentic trench knife in good condition (with scabbard), will fetch about $1,200. Even in poor condition without the scabbard, they go $700 to $800. There are more good fakes than real ones out there, and many of the "real" ones have a replacement blade attached to an original knuckle-duster hilt. The blade screws directly into the 'skull crusher' nut holding the blade in, so over the years the blade often becomes unattached and lost, then replaced - a half-fake if you will.

    Anyway, if you can find one in Europe, in any condition, it would be a smart buy to repatriate to a US collector. There are three different types, with varied appearance, so check them out and keep your eyes open.
     
  4. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member

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    Kieth, thank you for posting this. I have always been fasinated by them and boy are they rare in good and comlete form. I went top a lot of gun shows as a teen, 60 or so years ago and you would see several at each show in good shape, $20 to 30 bucks, good money back then and fakes were a thing of the future. Yup, a close combat killing tool.

    Skipper it seems likely that quite a few ended up in France and may not be as sort after there.

    Gaines
     
  5. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Yeah, if we knew back then what would become collectable, we'd all be rich!

    Note the round hand guard in the pix above. In reading about these, it's notable that the knives reissued in WWII had the sides of those guards clipped or ground off by the armory so the knife would ride comfortably in the scabbard. The ones with the clipped guards command a premium since they were actual combat issue (in WWII), while nearly all of those with a complete guard were never issued. Most of these (at least the M1918) were not manufactured on time to make it to France before the armistice. The M1917 version were actually used in WWI, but very few were made and even fewer are on the market.
     
  6. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Damn, then I lost a great opportunity. I suspect the one shown to me was unearthed , but it was still ok. Maybe I missed an opportunity. I believe it was a genuine one, but thire is always a doubt , it's the first time I saw what I think to be a real one, as compared to the ones you see at militaria fairs, though I must admit some copies are really good . The fact that is was rusted made me think it could also have been a pigeon trap, so I skipped it. This being said they are very popular here too, much more than than the other models.
     
  7. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    You a

    You are correct the one I saw was dated 1917, so it had to be a M17 model.
     
  8. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I don't think (I could be very wrong on this) that the M1917 is commonly faked. The M1918 has a cast brass hilt, so it's easily (and cheaply) faked. I suspect a M1917 would cost close to 80 Euro to reproduce, so it was likely real.

    As for the M1918, those that actually went to Europe in WWII should have the round hand guards ground off on the sides. Very few, (if any), M1918's went to Europe in WWI, so anything with the full round guards over there is likely a fake.

    In the US, of course, many of these with the full round guards were sold off as surplus and are floating around in the collector market.
     
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  9. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Learning every day here. Thanks for that. I'm aware the M1918 is popular because it was also re-used during WW2 .
     
  10. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I had another thought about why so many of these M1918s have a replacement blade. Maybe somebody with more knowledge on metallurgy will comment? Anyhoo, with a carbon steel blade attached to a brass hilt, wouldn't that "dissimilar metals in contact" rule come into play? In effect, wouldn't the steel begin to corrode after a few years?
     
  11. Poppy

    Poppy grasshopper

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  12. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    KodiakBeer and Poppy like this.
  13. Poppy

    Poppy grasshopper

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    Damn, that was a good read. You still got it MrT...how come ur not married?
     
  14. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Haven't found one interested in totally useless trivia.
     
  15. Poppy

    Poppy grasshopper

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    I'd like to see forged in fire make a trench knife. ..i hope this doesn't detract from KB's OP. Conversation moves the topic along.
    KB's knife might get some jail time here.
     
  16. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member

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    Thanks , Poppy and Takao for adding to this interesting thread. . Poppy I do not know about the illegality of such, I believe brass knuckles have been outlawed by some agencies. The triangular blade would seem to produce a deep ugly would and with three blood grooves cause considerable blood lose but that is far beyond my level of injuries. It is notable that blade shapes were so explored. Any input on the effectiveness of either appreciated.

    I agree the brass handed 1918 is a very visually appealing item. Three functions in one small piece.

    Gaines
     
  17. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

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    Loving the trench knives, but can I make a nerdish point about 'blood grooves'. (Sorry. A mate is a talented bladesmith so these things get discussed. :unsure: )
    They may often get called that, but have no technical purpose to do with blood. They're 'fullers', and purely to do with efficiency of material, lightness & stiffening/twist in use.

    I used to believe the triangular wound thing too, but in military use a stab is generally more efficient than a cut, and sharply triangular stilettos and spikes simply improve the chance of depth &, to an extent, potential for repeated fast stabs (with a fair amount of utility in past requirements to get between plate and through mail).
    If a long, thin blade has got in as deep as intended, the target will ideally no longer care about stitching the hole. (Which isn't as awkward as legend has it, if my experience of 'pig-cutting' is to be believed.)
     
  18. Poppy

    Poppy grasshopper

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    "the target will ideally no longer care about stitching the hole."
    i laughed. Thanks.
     
  19. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I watch that show also. I think this style of knife would make a great goal for an episode.
     
  20. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Regarding the legality, it's up to the individual state. In Arizona, any type of knife is legal, as well as brass nucks. I wouldn't choose to carry a pound of bronze and steel trench knife when a pistol of the same weight would serve better.
     

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