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USMC MPBS M9 TRIALS BAYONETS (Part One: Phrobis & BUCK Submissions)


pwcosol

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This overview addresses attempts by Phrobis, BUCK, and LanCay to satisfy the USMC's desire to acquire a new service bayonet to replace the US M7. From about 1990 through 2002, numerous (most modified in some degree) M9 pattern bayonets were either made in limited, prototype form and offered to The Corps for evaluation, or were provided in sufficient numbers for actual field trials to test the designs. One major difficulty encountered was the "shifting sands" as it were, as to just what the USMC wanted (or did not want) in a new bayonet. In addition, changes in Corps leadership, priorities, and Congressional funding for the USMC also were problematic.

Ph M9A1 USMC Army Protos.JPG

Ph 4L BUCK USMC.JPG

Ph 3L Chv 022.JPG

BK USMC 1991 a.JPG

BK USMC 1991 b.JPG

BK USMC 1991 c.JPG

BUCK 1993 USMC STT a.JPG

BUCK 1993 USMC STT b.JPG

BUCK 1993 USMC STT c.JPG

BUCK 1993 USMC STT d.JPG

BUCK 1993 USMC STT e.JPG

BUCK 1993 USMC STT f.JPG

BUCK 1993 USMC STT 2a.JPG

BUCK 1993 USMC STT 2b.JPG

BUCK 1993 USMC STT 3a.JPG

BUCK 1993 USMC STT 3b.JPG

BUCK 1993 USMC STT 3c.JPG

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What follows it the text to accompany post #1. This format should be the same for Part Two as well:

 

When the initial US Army M9 contract was completed, Phrobis and BUCK were at odds with each other. The subsequent loss of the hoped-for, second Army M9 contract to LanCay ensured this divorce. Phrobis sold the rights to use the designation "M9" for his design to BUCK and began to market their own bayonets under the new designation "M9A1"...which was initially used for the product improved model offered to both the US Army and Marine Corps (photo #1). These M9A1s are different from the previous test and later commercial bayonets by having a special rubber "O-Ring" to help secure the bayonet in the scabbard. The outer surfaces of the Zytel grip & scabbard were glass-bead blasted for a subdued texture and appearance. The crossguard and latch plate were also made of the same steel as the blade. Though The USMC viewed this pattern favorably, other priorities precluded them purchasing it.

 

After dissolution of the Phrobis/BUCK agreement, BUCK was more successful in securing a contract for 5,500 standard M9s for the USMC. This was achieved when BUCK underbid Phrobis to secure the contract in 1991. The bayonets were well received by the Marines, but a number of minor field changes were unofficially applied or thought to be desired. Photos 2 & 3 are of a standard a Phrobis "4-Line" M9 with "BUCK" | "U.S.M.C." etched on the reverse side of the blade's ricasso. I am not sure just how this example fits into the picture, but perhaps it was some sort of "promotional" piece or possibly how the contract bayonets might have initially been considered being marked. However, a die-stamp was used on the contract bayonets instead. Photo #3 is of a withdrawn Phrobis "chevron" M9 having a serial number engraved on it by BUCK for retail sale. Comparison of the engraving style definitely seems to indicate BUCK applied the markings to both.

 

An outgrowth of the 1991 BUCK contract was a new solicitation in 1993. This was an attempt offer the USMC a M9 pattern more in line with their requirements. Foremost, The Corps wanted a bayonet with a solid-tang (they never liked the tang rod which screwed onto the blade and removable Allen nut). They also wanted the bayonet to be tamper-proof by having the tang permanently attached to the pommel/catch rump'y. to prevent disassembly. This is seen in the bayonet they finally adopted in 2003...the OKC-3S. Approximately 250 examples were manufactured for field tests...125 with a rivet and purportedly 125 with a weld used to secure the catch plate to the tang. Regarding the latter, these are just not to be seen. Examples with a Allen nut screwed into the tang are found in excellent to used condition. However, BUCK states these were too weak to ever be submitted for testing. It is possible most of the "welded-tang" were destroyed upon turn-in... with the rivet pommel examples having a much higher survival rate. These are seen in photos 7 thru 14.

 

Numerous others were produced as back-ups or for BUCK in-house or USMC destructive, hardness, or other testing. Photos 15 thru 17 are of a 1993 trials M9 with case-hardened blade. This example also has the designation "TFT 420.3" marked in black ink on the rear of the Zytel grip. Examples held for in-house testing typically had the crossguard installed upside-down and/or the catch as well. This was to ensure these bayonets could never be attached to a rifle and avoid any possibility of being intermixed with the actual test bayonets. However, this example is not modified in that manner, but was used for hardness testing as evidenced by a Rockwell test punch mark on the blade. I have the BUCK COA document for this piece stating it was 1/175 made for USMC 1993 Trials as "short-tang threaded version". There exists some confusion as to which and how many actual bayonets were produced or tested.

What differs on these M9s are:


1. The shallow fuller, blued blades.
2. Crossguards turned backwards so the two lightning cuts face towards the grip (as opposed to away from it).
3. Solid blade tang
4. Lightened scabbard by removal of the upper strap lugs. Anti-slip, textured transfer on the scabbard face.
5. Modified suspension/elimination of the Bianchi belt clip with a simplified "silent" web one w/snap.
6. Modified stone flap
7. Use of a "diamond stone" sharpener
8. Elimination of the screwdriver blade on the cutter plate (a sore point with the Marines).

 

Unfortunately, nothing more seems to have been done after this trial concluded for several years. In addition, competitor LanCay also manufactured a pair of solid-tang patterns around the same time aimed at both the USMC and Army. These are discussed in Part Two and LanCay's attempt to secure a contract with the USMC as well.

 

I also wanted to let it be known that much of the information presented here is general in nature. I acquired my M9 examples from a number of sources over close to 20 years. However, most of what I have learned can be attributed to two sources. First is Mr. Homer Brett. Homer was acquainted with many of the people...both civilian and military, whom were involved since the M9s inception. In addition, he often acquired left-over production and was instrumental in documenting these bayonets at the time and offering them to advanced collectors. His provenance letters often accompanied those he sold and are a valuable resource to the collector. In particular, Mr. Brett was often directly involved with both LanCay and needs of the USMC. I also learned much from the late Bill Porter as well, whom was both advanced collector and gentleman. Both have been immensely helpful in piecing together the MPBS M9 story.

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Awesome information pwcosol.  Great blades.  I have always wanted to hear the full story and now we finally have someone to help tell the tale.  Thank you so much for documenting this here on the forum.  👍

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PWCOSOL,

 

I am just a bit confused in regards to your information on the 1993 USMC Buck M9 test versions.  I acquired one little while back and the blade is in the standard silverish finish rather than having been blackened for the actual trials.  I contacted Buck Knives through their history link and the reply I got was that there just isn't much info on these left and therefore couldn't really give me any information. I have a feeling that because I was just some Joe Schmo I wasn't to really be bothered with.  I was referred to Richard Neyman who authored the book 'M9 Bayonet - The Authorized History'.  Mr. Neyman did give me some info on my non-blackened blade1993 USMC M9 and referred me to his book which I eventually bought.  The book states that there were 350 prototypes made for testing, - 175 long tang riveted (Version 1) and 175 short tang threaded (Version 2).  In addition there were just 10 made with the long tang inside threads (Version 3) which were not used in the testing because of the thread area weakness.  The book also states that approximately 50 M9s each of Versions 1 & 2 were sent to the Army for testing leaving 125 of each version to the Marines.  Is this were you get your 125 each figure for the Marines because in your next paragraph down you state you have a documented piece that was one of the '175' sent to the Marines for testing?

 

 In addition you state "Regarding the latter, these are just not to be seen. Examples with a Allen nut screwed into the tang are found in excellent to used condition. However, BUCK states these were too weak to ever be submitted for testing." Are you saying that Version 2 (short tang threaded, which I think you call "welded-tang") "are just not seen" and that the much rarer 10 only (Version 3) that did utilize an Allen nut to secure the pommel/catch "are found in excellent to used condition"?  Where are they found?

 

Thank you,

CG

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Bobcat87:  Thanks for your input.

 

cgutierrez: Appreciate your thoughts as well.  There still remains some confusion about the 1993 USMC BUCK trials bayonets.  Part of this is due to the surviving examples reported by collectors. Belief is the majority were turned in after trials and ultimately scrapped by the USMC. For example, the riveted pommel example I have was issued to a Marine whom was to partake in the trials. Just days before it started, he received transfer/travel orders and left his current duty station...along with the bayonet which no one requested him to turn in! Another factor is BUCK often offered surplus bayonets and knives to members of the BUCK Collector Club and among these were numerous 1993 trials M9s. This included spare/intact bayonets, those held for testing, and even examples which were damaged or broken.  Of those numbers (250) which actually were issued for trials to the USMC, it seems the examples with the rivet pommel had a higher survival rate than the "short-tang, threaded" variant. This is why it seems the short-tang/threaded pattern may be the scarcer of the two. As for the 100 which went to the Army, can't imagine they were marked for the USMC.  What ever became of them (perhaps still sitting in a warehouse to this day?) is not known to me.

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Excellent presentation and discussion.  This is how we learn.  Thanks to pwcosol for presenting these two articles to the collecting community and then engaging in commentary and discussion.  

 

 

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Gents:

I wanted to post some correspondence from the late Bill Porter shared with myself and a few other M9 collectors. The information about the BUCK USMC 1993 Trials bayonet production numbers (as presented in Richard Neyman's book  M9 Bayonet - The Authorized History) and referenced by Forum member cgutierrez, was taken from BUCK factory records. However, those bayonets which survived, been documented and/or are in collector hands, seem to question those numbers as absolutes. In a Email received in 2018, Bill Porter stated:  "I researched these quite a while back and had several exchanges of information with _______. The information I got then showed that 175 each of the riveted pommel and the drilled and tapped tang were made and submitted to the USMC.  In the book it states that only 10 of the drilled and tapped model were made and it was the mid-length tang pieces that were made in quantity and submitted.  Just from my personal experience, I can say without any doubt that there were more than 10 of the drilled and tapped variation made.  I've probably had at least 7 or 8 of them go through my hands over the past decade.  The mid-length tang however, I've only seen the two I have and those from the Buck archives."..." Attached is a photo of three 1993 USMC variations; the riveted pommel, the drilled and threaded tang and what I call the "short tang rod"...   "My thought is that when they screwed up a blade by trying to drill and thread the end of the tang, they cut it off, reformed the tang, threaded it and slapped on a short threaded sleeve and used a standard socket head cap screw to assemble the bayonet.".   As one can see, the internally-threaded tang rod was cut so thin, there is barely enough purchase for the Allen screwbolt. It is also the "Achilles Heel" in this design. In fact, one collector attempted to remove the screw to investigate what type of tang/rod configuration his BUCK 1993 USMC Trials bayonet had. In doing so, the end of the tang snapped off and came away with the screw and grip. Mr. Porter also stated even his primary contact at BUCK mentioned there seemed to be some contradictions in their data as well. By this time, nearly all those whom were involved in the BUCK 1993 USMC Trials contract were either gone or had limited knowledge of that project. So, despite what the actual physical evidence seems to show, we may not ever know everything about this both interesting and controversial BUCK M9 bayonet contract.

BUCK 1993 USMC STs.jpg

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PWCOSOL,

 

Thank you for the great pics of the 3 types of M9s made up for the 1993 trials.  I also suspected that there were probably more than just 10 of the drilled and tapped model out there - perhaps not as much as 175 but a bit more for sure. 

 

Thanks again, 

CG

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