French M1886 Lebel Bayonet, Scarce Steel Grip Version
Straight shortened cruciform epee blade, steel hilt with muzzle ring, black painted steel grip, tubular steel scabbard. Dark brown leather frog. Overall length 45.3cm (~18 inches) Blade length 33.5cm (~13¼ inches).
The hilt is stamped with an inspection mark in the form of a cursive F and the serial number ‘7856’. The scabbard is likewise stamped with an inspection mark and ‘8907’.
The 1886/93/16 bayonet pattern fitted to the M1886 Lebel and M1907 Berthier rifles used by the French Army during WW1, and was the third version of the M1886 (which was revised in 1893 and 1916). This version had a simplified flat locking button and was manufactured without the quillon found on earlier types. The steel grip was a variation, possibly an expediency measure to increase production – German silver (cupro-nickel-zinc alloy) was the original material.
In 1935 many of the various types of Lebel bayonets in the French arsenals had their blades shortened to around 13¼ inches by removing the slender tip and repointing. The shorter blades were considered less prone to breakage, and perhaps with the decline of the bayonet in warfare additional reach was less important than ease of carry. The scabbards were also modified to match – this one has been cut down to size by removing the lower section then reattaching the chape finial.
The steel grip appears to have been deeply blued to appear black, this finish is in good condition with only light rubbing from handling. The blade and hilt are also deeply blued to match – notably, the repointed tip of the blade is bright where it has been ground, suggesting its bluing predates its shortening. The scabbard also has a blued finish, with some rubbing in places, and is free of dents. The leather frog is in good condition, all stitching intact and the leather quite flexible.