The Camillus M4 Bayonets
Camillus Cutlery Company of Camillus, New York has made leather gripped M4 bayonets in three different time periods - 1944-45, 1953, and the 1990s.
During World War Two, Camillus supplied about 330,000 M4 bayonets, making them the 3rd most common behind Imperial and Utica. Beginning about 1992, Camillus manufactured a commercial version of the M4, very similar in appearance to the 1953 contract. They have made a number of production batches up to the present time (2003), and total production seems to have been about 32,000.
As with many makers, Camillus only made the blade for the M4 during World War Two. They bought all the other parts from subcontractors. The butt (pommel to most collectors) came from Standard Products of Port Clinton, Ohio. The plastic spacers in the grip were obtained from Beckwith Manufacturing, and the 34 leather washers for the grip came from Simplex. The guard was made by Square Stampings. Camillus made the blades, assembled the bayonets, and packaged them with Beckwith scabbards supplied by the government.
World War Two production is readily identified in a number of ways. The easiest to note is the presence of a small Ordnance Shell and Flame mark on the underside (blade side) of the lower guard.
The difference between the 1953 contract and current production is not quite as easily defined. Possibly the easiest way (and also something that could be faked without a great deal of trouble) is the starburst peening of the tang over the pommel. Other differences include the shape of the X marking on the pommel, and the shape of the letter M in Camillus and M4. Also, the backcut on the commercial model is about 3/32 inch further from the guard than on the 1953. These differences will be pointed out more closely in the photos that follow.
The X on the pommel of the 1953 contract indicated manufacture by L.C. Smith (the shotgun company) on subcontract with Camillus. The X on the commercial model probably was added to make it more similar to the 1953 contract.
The three M4s look quite a bit alike, but to a collector, the differences can mean quite a bit of difference in perceived value. The most common, and most popular, is the World War 2 production. This is "the" M4 to most collectors. The 1953 production seems to be the least common today, and to a more advanced collector, probably the most valuable. The modern commercial production beginning about 1992 was strictly for the commercial market, and has little interest to the collector of military bayonets.
It may be noted that the World War Two produced M4 has brown plastic inserts at both ends of the grip. This was to keep the leather from contacting the metal, as the leather drew dampness and caused the metal to rust. By 1953, the leather was treated with a rot and mildew preventive material, which made the grip much more water resistant, and the plastic spacers were dropped. The MRT process sealed the leather, it also makes the leather harder and darker than the earlier grips. Note also that the newer grips are not "burnished" to a gloss as was done in WW2.
It should be noted the World War 2 for sale here has a hole in the plastic spacer. This was to allow the retaining pin to be reached for removal to replace a broken catch when necessary. Later in the war (circa February 1945), the pins were changed from a taper pin to a straight pin which was center punched in place and the hole in the spacer was dropped. There also were differences in the shape of the anti-slip cuts in the catches.
The guards and markings also offer several differences. The 1944 bayonet has the narrow guard typical of all World War Two production. The two later versions have the wider guard with the stress relieving half moon cuts near each corner of the blade, which was officially adopted in 1951 after tests at Springfield Armory. The inset on the upper photo shows the Ordnance Shell and Flame mark found on the underside of the guard. Also, look carefully at the M in Camillus and M4 on the 1953 contract and commercial M4s. On the 1953, the center of the M comes down only about 2/3 of the way to the bottom, while on the commercial specimen it comes clear to the bottom.
There are differences in the finish. Camillus polished the metal of their World War Two M4s before Parkerizing (in their terms, glazed and park). They also used a dark Parkerization that made their blades almost look blued, especially if they have some light wear and are oiled. As mentioned earlier, the leather grip was burnished to a shine before the V grooves were cut, and the grooves show up much lighter than the rest of the grip.
The 1953 contract was a medium gray fairly smooth Parkerized finish. As with all Parkerized finishes, this can change quite a bit with wear and oiling. The grips were not burnished to a gloss, and the V grooves were cut prior to the coating with the mildew and rot resistant coating, which gives it a dark brown almost black color.
The current commercial model has been made in several batches over the past 12 years, and they vary somewhat from one to the other. One of the specimens in my reference collection has grips that are a russet brown color while another has the dark almost black color found on the 1953, and both are more polished than the 1953. The colors and shine of the metal also vary somewhat, especially if oiled.