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Questions about m1917 Bolo Knives


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Hi, Guys! I am hoping that someone here can answer some question about the Bolo knives. :) I've seen pictures on here from time to time, and absolutely think it is an amazing looking blade! These are probably basic questions, but I'm interested!

 

Were they only issued/used during the Great War?

 

What size are they? Can't really tell by pictures, how long/what size they are.

 

Why are they called "Bolo"? 

 

Are they a combined knife and machete, basically? 

 

Who would they have had issued them to?

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Not much help here, but here goes.  I believe the name originate's in the Philippines.  A combination of an agricultural tool and weapon.  There is a wide variety of shapes that fall under this term.

The U.S. probably first experienced these at the start of the 20th century during the Philippine Insurrection. We've used them pretty much ever since.  You could think of them as either a big knife or short/heavy machete.  The blade length seem to run between 12-16 inches generally, but they can be shorter or longer.  I think they are most commonly a part of special tools/equipment kits used to support other functions, like engineers or artillery.

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To add to the above; knives referred to as “Bolos” in US service generally have a blade profile that is wider and heavier at point further from the handle- not all models that collectors term bolos were officially designated as such by the government who referred to some of them as simply knives.  They are impressive looking blades- to your question on M1917 bolos I have included a picture with a ruler for scale as well as a picture of the M1917 with a M1909 and M1904 for comparison. It is my understanding that the M1909 and it’s replacements the M1910 (not shown but very similar to the M1917 which is merely a simplified M1910), and the M1917 were issued to machine gun crews and others in need of a stout knife for clearing/constructing fighting positions.  I believe were issued until supplies ran out in early WW2.  

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The M1917 Bolos were issued to Machine Gun Squads and used to clear fields of fire.  They are based upon the M1910 Bolos made by Springfield Armory, but are made by Plumb and ACC.  There may be another maker I'm missing.  There are other Bolos but in general, the M1917s are WW1 issues and tended not to be used in WW2.  You may see them sold as "fighting knives" but other than as an emergency, not use in that capacity.

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As far as weight goes, I don’t have a scale handy, but the M1917 is the lightest (and smallest of the three shown.). The M1909 is by far the heaviest with the thickest blade.  The balance of a bolo favors the point which makes it good for chopping.  The M1917 is heavier than your average combat knife however I don’t find it very cumbersome and it balances well.  I’ve never used these blades in my collection for real work, but as a user of several different types of blades I am a fan of bolo and kukhri style blades for clearing brush and performing camp chores, finding them much more efficient and durable then any machete.  
 

There were other bolos designed for and issued by the US Gov, most came as a result of experience in the Philippines pre-WW1.  Bolo bayonets were even made for the Krag and M1903 rifles where there additional weight and blade profile made for a good tool off the rifle but a lousy bayonet on it. 

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It is also probably worth mentioning that the m1917 can be found with two different types of sheaths. The first is a wooden sheath covered in a thin paper like material that fits in a canvas cover similar to the 1903 bayonet. The other is a metal sheath that I think dates to the WW2 era and is less common. For some reason it is extremely common to find new canvas sheath covers that do not have the wooden insert to hold the blade so that is something to watch for if you end up looking to pick one up.  

 

Another thing worth mentioning is that the majority of these blades (or of the ones I have seen anyway) show quite a bit of wear on the handles and blades which probably means they saw a lot of use in the field. My example the soldier it was issued to went crazy with his name stamp and marked it with his name 17 different times. So it must have been important to him.

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M1917-1.png

m1917-ex.jpg

m1917-ex2.1.htm.jpg

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15 hours ago, Doctorofwar said:

To add to the above; knives referred to as “Bolos” in US service generally have a blade profile that is wider and heavier at point further from the handle- not all models that collectors term bolos were officially designated as such by the government who referred to some of them as simply knives.  They are impressive looking blades- to your question on M1917 bolos I have included a picture with a ruler for scale as well as a picture of the M1917 with a M1909 and M1904 for comparison. It is my understanding that the M1909 and it’s replacements the M1910 (not shown but very similar to the M1917 which is merely a simplified M1910), and the M1917 were issued to machine gun crews and others in need of a stout knife for clearing/constructing fighting positions.  I believe were issued until supplies ran out in early WW2.  

DB14EABA-3FD9-4C0A-AB7F-25D0F21509FF.jpeg

4CC0C349-3937-42A0-8649-6D1A45EC6A31.jpeg

 

 

Thanks for all the detail! In your above picture . . . is the 17 on top, with the 09 in the middle and the 04 on the bottom? The bottom one looks like a non-foldable version of of the AAF knife. That 17 is a beautiful thing! I wondered about it being half-machete! I think that is super cool about the PI connection! The American time with the PI is so interesting! 

 

That middle one looks like a machete! On the 17 . .  . is the handle leather, wood or something else? 

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If you ever want a custom hand-embroidered (no machine) patch, I'm open to commissions! Pay or trade!
***********************
For an idea of my military collecting interests and wish list, see my profile page!
Looking for Old-Style US Coast Guard Commendation Medal (w/ or w/o ribbon)!

Oh, tarry and be strong; Tell God in prayer. What is thy hidden grief; Thy secret care.

Yet, if no answer come; Pray on and wait: God's time is always best; Never too late.

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13 hours ago, Ray42 said:

It is also probably worth mentioning that the m1917 can be found with two different types of sheaths. The first is a wooden sheath covered in a thin paper like material that fits in a canvas cover similar to the 1903 bayonet. The other is a metal sheath that I think dates to the WW2 era and is less common. For some reason it is extremely common to find new canvas sheath covers that do not have the wooden insert to hold the blade so that is something to watch for if you end up looking to pick one up.  

 

Another thing worth mentioning is that the majority of these blades (or of the ones I have seen anyway) show quite a bit of wear on the handles and blades which probably means they saw a lot of use in the field. My example the soldier it was issued to went crazy with his name stamp and marked it with his name 17 different times. So it must have been important to him.

M1917-1.1.png

M1917-1.png

m1917-ex.jpg

m1917-ex2.1.htm.jpg

 

Very interesting to see the pictures of the sheaths! I haven't seen a metal one, as far as I can remember. 

 

One other question . . . how much would be a range for a 1917 one? This might be one thing I might have to work at saving up for! :)

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If you ever want a custom hand-embroidered (no machine) patch, I'm open to commissions! Pay or trade!
***********************
For an idea of my military collecting interests and wish list, see my profile page!
Looking for Old-Style US Coast Guard Commendation Medal (w/ or w/o ribbon)!

Oh, tarry and be strong; Tell God in prayer. What is thy hidden grief; Thy secret care.

Yet, if no answer come; Pray on and wait: God's time is always best; Never too late.

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14 minutes ago, stratasfan said:

 

 

Thanks for all the detail! In your above picture . . . is the 17 on top, with the 09 in the middle and the 04 on the bottom? The bottom one looks like a non-foldable version of of the AAF knife. That 17 is a beautiful thing! I wondered about it being half-machete! I think that is super cool about the PI connection! The American time with the PI is so interesting! 

 

That middle one looks like a machete! On the 17 . .  . is the handle leather, wood or something else? 

You are correct on the order M1917 on top, M1909 in middle and M1904 on bottom.


The M1909 and M1904 do feel closer to heavy duty machetes than knives.  The M1917 feels to me more like a big knife than a machete. The M1904 is much larger and heavier than the USAAF survival machete.  

 

All the handles are made of wood.

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Oh, that's interesting about the AAF Survival machete. I thought it looked huge in pictures! 

 

The 09 one looks like a ceremonial blade . . . just without the fancy decorating! I still think the 17 is a beautiful piece! Something about it. 

 

Appreciate the ruler in the top picture! Really puts it into proportion! 

 

I had never thought about machine gun crews having to clear fighting spots, but it totally makes sense now that I think about it. I've never really thought through how the machine guns were set up on a field!

donation2018.gif

If you ever want a custom hand-embroidered (no machine) patch, I'm open to commissions! Pay or trade!
***********************
For an idea of my military collecting interests and wish list, see my profile page!
Looking for Old-Style US Coast Guard Commendation Medal (w/ or w/o ribbon)!

Oh, tarry and be strong; Tell God in prayer. What is thy hidden grief; Thy secret care.

Yet, if no answer come; Pray on and wait: God's time is always best; Never too late.

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47 minutes ago, stratasfan said:

Oh, that's interesting about the AAF Survival machete. I thought it looked huge in pictures! 

 

The 09 one looks like a ceremonial blade . . . just without the fancy decorating! I still think the 17 is a beautiful piece! Something about it. 

 

Appreciate the ruler in the top picture! Really puts it into proportion! 

 

I had never thought about machine gun crews having to clear fighting spots, but it totally makes sense now that I think about it. I've never really thought through how the machine guns were set up on a field!

Here is a comparison picture of the M1917, a folding USAAF survival machete (folded), a fixed USAAF survival machete and the M1904.  Maybe I shouldn’t have said the M1904 was “much larger” than the USAAF machete, but it is both larger and heavier with a different blade profile as shown.  The folding machete is heavier than the fixed USAAF one due to its handle construction/folding mechanism.  
 

My M1917CT bolo is made by Plumb and dated 1918.

The M1904 is dated 1914 by Springfield Armory

USAAF folding by Cattaragus 

USAF fixed by Case

The M1909 in my other post is a Springfield Armory dated 1910.  During WW1 these put put back into production by Plumb since Springfield Armory was otherwise engaged.
 

I have also included a photo of a USMC Hospital Corps knife (often referred to as a bolo) from WW2, and the M1917 bolo in the Hospital Corps sheath- to show they are similar in size.  The USMC knife pictured is made by Chatillon but there were several other makers. There are some good threads on this forum about those if you’re interested.  

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