Wednesday, July 6, 2011

French, Fusil Gras mle 1874 Bayonet, French Foreign Legion

Today's posting is on a beautiful French bayonet that I have had in my collection since the 1970's.  It is a French sword bayonet that was designed for use on the Fusil Gras mle 1874 rifle.  This bayonet is the last of the "Old World" sword bayonets that France issued to its troops, back when bayonets were things of beauty and not just functional tools.

This particular model of bayonet was used by the French Army, Navy and French Foreign Legion.  It was also used by a number of foreign countries as well.   Greece, Germany, Ireland, and Portugal were the biggest users.  The bayonets were usually modified to fit on the foreign rifles.  The brass bayonet-lug-slot was filed to fit the different foreign rifles and often the bayonets also received a foreign acceptance stamp or engraving.

Here is a list of the major conflicts that France used this bayonet in:

French Indo-China in 1873-1874 and later in 1882-1883.
Sino-French War 1883-1885.
Madagascar Wars 1883-1885 and 1895.
1st Mandingo-French War 1883-1886.
1st Dahomeyan-French War 1889-1890.
2nd Dahomeyan-French War 1892-1894.
2nd Mandingo-French War 1894-1895.
Conquest of Chad 1897-1914.
3rd Mandingo-French War 1898.
Moroccan War 1907-1912.
World War 1 (early war years).

This bayonet is engraved along the top edge of the blade with "Mre d'Armes de St. Etienne November 1879".  Or in English, "Manufactured at the St. Etienne Armory, November, 1879".  There are a number of small acceptance and inspection stamps on the the hilt, blade and scabbard.  One of these stamps is a small anchor.  From what I can tell from my research, the anchor stamp indicates it was used in the foreign service, or French Foreign Legion.  The serial number stamped on the bayonet hilt and on the scabbard both match, indicating that these two parts are the original pair.

Here are the photos of the bayonet........ I think they describe this beautiful piece of military hardware best:

And we will end this post with the customary archive photos.............

Irish Soldiers with the Gras mle 1874 Bayonets.


Orphan25 said...

not too bad looking.

Jay said...

How much would this rifle and bayonet be worth at a trade show or auction?

Marc R said...


Although this bayonet probably traveled the four corners of the French colonial empire once, I don't think the anchor stamped on it means it was used by the French Foreign Legion.

In fact, the anchor is the Troupes de Marine (French Marines) insigne. This troops were formerly called "La Coloniale" and traditionaly served overseas like the FFL. Both corps are always the two first sent to fight (like right now in Mali).

The way to spot if an unit or equipment belongs to the FFL or the French Marines is easy: an anchor means Marines, a flam means FFL.

In addition, Marines wear a blue beret while the Légionnaires wear a green one.

Voilà :)

Caloopin1970 said...

I have the same bayonet but mine has a serial number with only 4 digits, is that good? Serial #AB9785. Thnaks, Mike

Sharky said...

The 4-digit serial number probably means it was an early bayonet in the production run. I don't think that would affect the value on its own though. Overall condition and history are the biggest influence on value when it comes to bayonets.

JD said...

I have come across 4 French bayonets. They are rusty and I would like to know if I should clean them up or if this would alter the value/collectability? If it it's ok to clean them up, what should i use? Obviously I do not want to damage the engravings.
Thank you,

Sharky said...

I usually clean up my old bayonets and vintage tools by rubbing the rusted area down with VERY FINE steel wool and oil. The trick is to lightly polish away the rust, without damaging the patina. You will still have "rust stains" on the metal, but not coarse, active rust. Go SLOW! Take your time and you will restore that old bayonet back to "display worthy condition"! Stop the rust removal if you are starting to affect the overall patina of the piece.

JD said...

Thank you. Much appreciated.

Unknown said...

Does anyone know the value of the bayonet?