Swiss M1878 Vetterli Sawback Bayonet
Straight spear pointed blade with sawback and false edge, with single fuller on one side, the other side completely flat. Steel hilt with upper muzzle ring & foresight notch and lower lobe quillon, beaked steel pommel with locking button and external leaf spring for the locking mechanism. Slab grips of chequered gutta percha (a form of natural rubber) secured by four steel rivets, the leaf spring running through and screwing into the centre of the grip on the fullered side. Brown leather scabbard with steel throat and chape pieces, the throat piece with frog loop, the chape piece with ball finial. Leather frog, its front side black, reverse brown.
The blade is stamped at the ricasso with the manufacturer ‘S J G Neuhausen’, and on the hilt with the serial number ‘14460’. The pommel is stamped with ‘D’ and the lobe quillon is stamped with a Swiss cross and ‘C’. The frog is stamped with ‘J. Schmid 1888’, probably its manufacture date, and the reverse is stamped with a Swiss cross and ‘B’. The scabbard finial is stamped with a Swiss cross.
Thought to have been inspired by the British Elcho bayonet, the Swiss M1878 fitted to the 10.5mm Vetterli repeating rifle. This rifle was introduced in 1869 and originally used a socket bayonet. When the switch to a sword bayonet was ordered, the new model was designed to mount on the right side of the barrel rather than below it, like a socket bayonet, and with unusual projections from the muzzle ring that engaged with the foresight as it locked into place.
Its blade is also unusual in that it is flat on one side and with a ground edge on the other. It incorporated the then-popular ‘sawback’, saw teeth cut into the spine of the blade intended to make it useful for field work like cutting brush. The bayonet’s length is noticeable – when mounted the rifle and bayonet together are more than 6 feet in length. There are several successor models which used the same blade - the M1878 is the earliest version, produced for only three years, distinguishable by the four rivets used in its grip (reduced to three in the M1881).
The blade is bright and clean overall, with only some very small spots of pitting towards the point on the flat side. The saw’s teeth are unbroken and do not appear heavily used. The grips are in good condition with no cracking, a couple of small chips around the rivets. No dents to the scabbard fittings. Some light dents and occasional scratches to the scabbard leather, its stitching is all intact. The black finish has rubbed on the front of the frog’s belt loop, but only where the pommel contacts it while sheathed.
No retaining strap – this is a separate leather piece that would thread through the loop on the scabbard’s throat piece and attach to the buckle on the frog. The scabbard still sits in the frog correctly but can’t be locked in place with the belt & buckle system.