Peculiar mounts for an Indian Torador matchlock bayonet
Military historians and reenactors tend to get a bit morbid when it comes to describing the more gruesome aspects of historical combat to regular civilians and lay folk. It’s understandable, and easy to get carried away - nothing recaptures the attention of a slightly bored party of tourists than describing the horrific damage a musket ball does to someone’s internal organs as its soft lead “flattens out,” or the carnage a dose of grapeshot can wreak on a line of men. In doing so, however, they at times set the cart before the horse. In some cases this is so frequent that some weapons have developed a reputation so bloody that it outweighs the actual principals behind their design. The eighteenth century socket bayonet is one such weapon.
A revolutionary design that allowed infantrymen to combine the best characterstics of seventeenth century musketeers and pikemen, the socket bayonet - with only minor variations - was a near-universal tool of European armies throughout the eighteenth century and, indeed, almost to the close of the nineteenth. While different nations produced their own patterns, they by and large shared two notable features beside the socket itself - firstly, the blade was triangular in shape, with three sides rather than two, and secondly, the blade usually bore two channels or “fullers.” Both of these elements have had a bit of gory myth-making attached to their functionality.
Popular history holds that the triangular pattern was designed specifically to cause the most horrific wounds possible. Some historians will claim that a triangular wound is more difficult to stitch up, and that scar tissue is more likely to break. While this isn’t wholly untrue, the triangular design didn’t come about with this in mind. It came about because a triangular blade is sturdier and less prone to bending or shattering. As a thrusting implement, it is more effective than a flat blade.
The fuller has a similar, practical application. Going right back to the nineteenth century, drill sergeants have scared recruits by telling them that the channels are design to allow blood to run off the weapon, or to assist in breaking suction between metal and pierced flesh, allowed a soldier to more easily drag the blade free from his victim. Such descriptions, unsurprisingly, fed into the civilian sphere. In reality though there is next to no danger of a “flesh-suction” dragging or holding a bayonet. The weapon is simply too sharp and slender for such a worry to be physically possible. The fuller’s presence, prosaically, is simply to remove weight from the weapon. The presences of the channels don’t compromise the structural integrity of the weapon, and (as with sword blades) simply serves to lighten the load - and which serving soldier wouldn’t appreciate that?