M7 Bayonet Page
BACKGROUND: In the very early 1960's Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 rifle from Armalite in the hopes they could secure a military contract for the controversial rifle. Military specifications required that the rifle be produced with bayonet mounting capabilities. The M4 bayonet was considered for adoption to fit the new rifle but was found to be unsuitable. There are rare examples of bayonets that were produced in very limited numbers that have features of the M4 and M7 bayonets when they were designing the bayonet for the AR-15....some examples had M7 pommels and cross guards mounted onto standard M4 bayonets. Another example of the new bayonet that Colt experimented with was one with a two piece black plastic handle held together on the tang by two brass rivets. This bayonet was produced in such a limited number (8 or 10 at the most), that this bayonet is considered the rarest M7 bayonet ever produced. Development continued and it was decided the handle construction would be a one piece plastic OD green handle that slid over the tang. The reason the handle chosen was olive-drab green was the original AR-15's ordered and delivered to the U.S. Air Force were also OD green in color. It should be noted here that some of the original handles for these new bayonets were brown molded plastic painted OD green while later ones were molded in OD green. People have told me that they have seen these bayonets with blue handles, but according to Jerry Janzen, Colt stated they never manufactured blue handled versions of this bayonet. The new M7 bayonet looked very similar to the M4 bayonet with the notable changes being a larger bayonet ring, a pommel that was less round, and a blade that was approximately 1/4 inch longer.
PRODUCTION: According to Colt records, which were not well maintained in reference to the production of the new bayonets, Universal Industries of West Haven, Connecticut was contracted to produce approximately 20,000 of the green handled bayonets in 1961. It is possible that other companies were involved in the production of these bayonets, but this is not supported with documentation at this time. The bulk of the 20,000 bayonets produced were delivered to the U.S. Air Force and the rest were delivered to foreign countries. The production bayonets were all produced with various Colt stampings on the blade. I know of three different types of Colt stamped green handled bayonets, although there may be some I am not aware of. The posted photographs depicting the blade stampings are from my personal collection.
Here we show the three known variations of the Green Handled Colt markings on the M7
Minor variance in the blade length but note the machining of the false edge. The top and bottom blades are similar but the center blade is very different. Were there more then one producer of the bayonets or at least the blades?
I have been unable to find the production numbers for each of the types of stamped blades that were produced, but it is believed that the blades stamped with the Armalite name are the most common. Which is the rarer of the other two types is unknown without production numbers. The butt of the pommel is blackened, the cross guard is Parkerized and is completely unmarked and thinner then later production M7's, and the blade is Parkerized and 6 7/8 inches long.
Comparing an Imperial M7 with the earlier Colt version
The scabbard that was supplied with these bayonets is the same as a regular US M8A1 scabbard but the throat of the scabbard is completely unmarked. All of the examples that I have observed are marked on the back with a "VP" logo (which denotes Victory Plastics) and underneath that a quality control mold number. The three examples in my collection have the numbers 24, 25, and 44. Of the three scabbards I have only one that has the metal tip over the grommet. Scabbard length is 12 1/16 inches
The M8A1 Colt variation without throat markings
COLLECTING: With the military accepting the AR-15 into service the designation was changed to the M16. The bayonet that was accepted became the US bayonet-knife, M7. The production of M7's began in 1961 and continues until the current time. Millions have been made by US companies as well as foreign companies. There are many different and unusual variations of the M7. When it comes to collecting this particular bayonet they at first appear to be cheap and readily available. I started my M7 page with the first production M7's to introduce you to just how rare and expensive some simple M7's have become. To the collector you will find these bayonets are rare and bring some hefty prices. Dealers believe that simply because it is an early production green handled Colt stamped blade that they should be able to demand outrageous prices. From the collector's standpoint with these bayonets there are important quality issues to check for. First, make sure the handle is in the best possible condition. This type handle will scratch and chip under heavy use or misuse. If the handles are the painted OD green over the brown molded plastic then you may see some wear where the OD green has wore away and see the brown underneath. This is common on well used and misused bayonets. The blade should be well marked with one of the three known types of stampings. When searching for green handled examples the most common you will come across will be the blades marked Colt and Armalite. The single line Colt stampings are believed to be the earliest blade types and are rather hard to find. The last Colt stamped blade may be the last type manufactured and really rare. The pommels are painted black and are prone to flaking and getting scratched. The original scabbard for all three types of green handled M7's will be completely unmarked on the throat and look otherwise like a standard USM8 scabbard. An example of any of these three varieties in excellent condition will easily set you back anywhere from $800.00 to $1600.00. The black handled Colt with brass rivets, which is stamped on the blade with Colt and Armalite, just as the version with the green handle, is probably the rarest of all M7's. I could not even begin to put a value on one of those surviving examples since only 8 or 10 were ever produced.
The early Colt experimental black handled M7 bayonet. Was this the first or last Colt design. Were the black handles used as competition against the Milpar type M7 that was selected as the government issue M7. Photos courtesy of Bill Porter.
The green handled Colt M7 bayonets have been bringing some rather hefty prices as of late. The Armalite example in my collection, which I would list as excellent, cost me $1100.00 two years ago. The example that it replaced in my collection, which had a large chunk of the handle missing and a well worn blade, went for $950.00 on E-Bay last year. The Colt one line blade example in my collection is either a cut down M7 or a factory made prototype fighting knife from a M7, but once again without documentation, it is what it is. The pommel has been shortened and the crossguard cut down to eliminate the bayonet ring. The handle has a piece missing on one side. The last one line Colt M7 bayonet I saw for sale was going for $1400.00. The final example in my collection came from the estate of M.H. Cole and since I had never seen an example of that particular Colt stamping on a green handled M7 I was more then willing to purchase it for the $1600.00 asking price. This particular bayonet is the best preserved example of all the green handled bayonets I have yet seen. At recent gun shows I have seen examples of the Armalite blade M7's in really rough shape demanding prices of $900.00 up to $1200.00.
The Green Handled Colt M7 with their respective scabbards
A close up of the Green plastic handle
The M7 mounted on the M16 as it would have appeared in early 1960's
Next month I will be covering the next type of M7 bayonets that went into production and were used widely during the Vietnam War. Any comments, opinions, or new information regarding M7 bayonets or this page are welcome and always appreciated. I am a mere student of the M7 and always willing to learn.
I can be reached at: K75thranger@aol.com for questions or comments.
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