Spanish Bolo Bayonets
The bayonet on the bottom of this photograph is a Spanish Modelo 1941.
My father probably picked up the hand-crafted knife above it while he was undergoing jungle survival training in the Philippines, at some point during his three tours as an F-4 pilot in Southeast Asia.
The people of Palau call Filipinos chad ra oles, “people of the knife.”
Even before they were colonized by Spain in the 1500s, the people of the archipelago that came to be known as the Philippines used forward curving, heavy bladed knives with cutting edges on the inside of their curve to farm, hack paths through the jungle, and chop coconuts.
The Filipinos speak many different languages. In Cebuano, this ubiquitous farm and fighting implement is called a sundáng. In Hiligaynon, it’s a binangon. In Tagalog, it’s an iták.
In form and function (mostly function), it’s not entirely unlike a Malasian / Indonesian parang. Its distant cousin is the Nepalese khukuri.
The Spaniards called it a bolo.
It’s unclear what influence, if any, the straighter bladed Spanish machete had upon the development of the bolo, and vice-versa. But the dropping point and heavy bellied blade of a typical bolo make it both a lethal stabber and a hacker.
It’s instructive here to differentiate between hacking, slashing, and thrusting.
In 1884, Richard F. Burton observed that “. . . the cut wounds and the thrust kills” (The Book of the Sword, p. 255). This is generally true, but perhaps an oversimplification.
When I fenced at the Air Force Academy, Maj Worsdale, the JV assistant coach, tried to keep us on point–literally–when lunging (thrusting). We could parry with our foils, but not swashbuckle. “Enough with the hack ‘n’ slash,” he would say in his New England English, nearly devoid of Rs. “That’s gahbage. Get rid of it!”
And Worsdale was right, of course–if one is fencing with a foil, or reaching past your co-conspirator to puncture Francisco Pizarro’s neck with the tip of your rapier.
John Styers, who codified the USMC’s bayonet fighting style in his 1952 instruction manual Cold Steel, called a smashing parry (what Maj Worsdale called “hack”) the beat.
But when using an axe or a bolo or a khukuri directly on a coconut or an enemy’s head / neck, it would best be described as a chop. The chop might be followed by a drawing slash, but the slash is an add-on, a nuance, not the main coup. A chop with a bolo was every bit as lethal as a thrust–as many Spaniards (and later Americans, and Japanese) in the Philippines found out the hard way.
So respected were the Filipino bolos, that the Spaniards copied the idea and carried it throughout their empire. The bolo remained, even as the Spanish withdrew from the PI and Latin America. Pancho Villa was said to carry a bolo.
Americans, having been on the receiving end as well, issued bolos in both world wars, primarily (but not exclusively) to medics.
Henry Johnson’s bolo
On the night of 15 May 1918, then-Private Henry Johnson and Private Needham Roberts of Company C, 369th Infantry, 93rd Division, AEF were on sentry duty when they spotted at least 12 German trench raiders approaching. Both sentries were wounded. Despite multiple injuries, Johnson leapt out of his position and attacked the Germans, cleaving through the skull of at least one with his bolo, repulsing the attack.
The concept of a broad, single edged, leaf shaped blade with a forward curve to the point, the spine on the outside of the curve, and the cutting edge on the inside, is far from new. The ancient Greeks called it a kopis (Burton, Book of the Sword, p. 236). The Etruscan (pre-Roman) civilization of the north central Italian peninsula had similar weapons 700+ years before Jesus of Nazareth gave his Sermon on the Mount.
And the legacy of the bolo lives on. Muslim Moro tribesmen who fought US troopers in the PI at the turn of the 20th century would have been proud of the motivation, but disappointed by the poor performance of, a radicalized 19 year old Islamic convert who attacked NYPD cops with a bolo on 31 Jan 2022.
Three officers were injured. The payaso who attacked them was shot and taken into custody.
He clearly didn’t have any clue what he was doing. Any self respecting Moro would’ve killed at least two of his enemies, and forced the third to completely martyr him, before succumbing.
Bolos at Balangiga
The bolo, if wielded with sufficient skill and motivation, is more than capable of doing its job. Just ask the troopers of the Company C, 9th US Infantry, who were overwhelmed and almost entirely annihilated by Filipino LtCol Eugenio Daza’s bolo armed insurrectos in Balangiga, on the island of Samar.
As you can see from the image at the top of this article, some Spanish bayonet designs were clearly adapted from the bolo.
Machete Modelo 1907
The Spanish military issued their own bolo knife, ostensibly for artillerymen, the Machete Modelo 1907. It had a 11.75″ blade, and a downward curving pommel. The ends of the cross guard had two large, flat-sided finials offset to opposite sides (forward on top, and rearward on the bottom), giving the straight crossguard an S-curved appearance.
This image of a Spanish M1907 bolo above is from International Military Antiques (ima-usa.com)
A finial is a ball or circle on the tip of a ricasso or cross-guard. I’m not sure if the term would appropriately be applied to the little ball of metal at the tip of many metal sheaths.
Machete Bayoneta Modelo 1941
The Spanish M1941 bayonet for Mauser rifles was a shorter (not quite 10″ bladed) version of the M1907 machete, with a straight hilt so it could be mounted to a rifle. The top of the crossguard had a muzzle ring. It retained the long lower quillion with the large, flat sided finial, only the finial is offset to the front (opposite the offset of the lower guard on the Spanish Modelo 1907 artillery machete).
One thing I admire about the M1941 is that the hilt and the scabbard are dark, so as not to give away a soldier’s position. The blade, in contrast, is made of bright shiny naked steel–as a bayonet should be, for full psychological effect.
This particular bayonet was made in Toledo, Spain, a region with a long tradition of blade making excellence.
When my father was stationed in Europe in the 1950s, he purchased a fine cup hilt rapier made in Toledo. A real one, with a sharp, strong, flexible blade. Many was the cardboard box skewered by that swashbuckling sword when my dad wasn’t looking–especially after I saw Michael York playing “d’Artagnan” in the 1973 – 74 Musketeers movies.
The Modelo 1941 appeared on the scene well after the Spanish civil war in which fascist Francisco Franco, aided by the Nazis, took power in Spain. Spain was officially neutral in WWII, although Spanish “volunteers” served on the Eastern Front. Unlike, say, a German Mauser or British SMLE or Japanese Arisaka or Russian Mosin bayonet, any given Spanish M1941 probably never got very close to the proverbial Elephant.
The above photo is titled “Corporals at Sidi Ifni.” While it may have been taken before (or after) the Ifni War of 1957 – 58, it’s apparent that Franco’s Spanish forces in North Africa used leftover WWII era equipment (including Mauser rifles) during the West African decolonization wars.
A Spanish M1941 bayonet in your collection may have seen action there. Judging from the sparse vegetation in the background, it’s not likely to have been used as a bolo for cutting vegetation, although a soldier cutting branches to camouflage his position might just as well hack as saw.
I used to drive a Jeep Scrambler. I loved that bucket of bolts, although truth be told, it was too long to be a Jeep and too short to be a truck.
Similarly, the M1941 was probably never the bolo it was intended to model. Real bolos came in many different shapes and sizes, but all shared a heavy, thick (and wide) blade that gave them sufficient momentum for chopping. Like my Scrambler, the M1941 was just too light for really effective chopping, and too curvy to be a knife. The blade was too irregularly shaped for common cutting tasks, and probably difficult to consistently sharpen.
That said, I’m sure that machete modelo 1941 staring at you through the glass case of the pawn shop, begging to come home with you, may very well have been a source of comfort for some lonely, cold soldado on sentry duty.
Machete Bayoneta Modelo 1964
You may see this listed as a “Spanish M58 bayonet” in mom ‘n’ pop gun stores or online. That’s because it was made to fit the Fusil de Asalto Modelo 1958, the CETME.
Some of the German engineers who had produced small arms during WWII (including Ludwig Vorgrimier) escaped to Spain after the war, where they produced the CETME rifles, ancestors of the StG45(M) sturmgewehr, and predecessors of the H&K G3.
It retains some of the curvature of earlier bolo bayonets, but the curve is significantly reduced, possibly in response to complaints about the extreme curvature of the M1941. The M1964 bayonet fit on the CETME, as well as Spanish FR-7 and FR-8 rifles (see below).
The minimalist guard is bolted through the blade / tang junction with two pins. The checkered black scales of the grip are plastic. The pommel is also held on by two pins.
The left side of the ricasso (the flat part of the blade, behind the edge and in front of the hilt) is stamped with the serial number, and the gear-behind-a-sword emblem of the INI, Instituto Nacional de Industria, Empresa Nacional de Santa Barbara de Industrias Militares: loosely translated, “National Industrial Institute, National Business, Santa Barbara Military Industries” (Ezell, Small Arms Today, pp. 179 -80).
Much of what I learned about the M1964 came from WorldBayonets.com, an excellent resource for bayonet identification and nomenclature.
The plastic grip is checkered with mild, rounded finger grooves.
Unlike the M1941, the M1964 has no fuller.
This bayonet was also made in Toledo.
The right side of this M1964 bayonet’s ricasso bears the crest of Toledo: an eagle with a crown over its head, and a cross (or cruciform short sword) on its breast.
One unusual feature of the M1964 is that the receptacle for the bayonet lug is a rectangular hole, rather than the inverted T-shaped mortise slot found on most knife bayonets.
In my ignorance, believing a previous owner had butchered it by grinding a divot in the rear 2/3 of the blade, I used this M1964 as a throwing knife for years. Throwing knives is next to useless as a tactical skill, but I enjoy it a lot more than golf.
When I finally got curious about this particular bayonet, I found that the Spaniards had intentionally shaped the blades that way, somewhat like a bolo. That’s why they called it a machete bayonet.
The CETME M1958, a modern assault rifle, was adopted in (duh) 1958, but the Spaniards chose to supplement their limited supply of CETME assault rifles by upgrading their existing Mausers at about the same time. Spanish M1893 and M1943 (essentially a German ’98) Mausers were re-chambered in 7.62x51mm (as was the CETME Model C). They added a flash hider and a bayonet mount to fit the Machete Modelo 1964. The ’93 became the FR-7, and the ’43 (’98) became the FR-8.
These quasi-modern bolt action rifles were issued to home guards. During the Spanish counterinsurgency against Basque separatists (the ETA) from 1959 to 2011, it’s likely that Guardia Civil forces may have secured the sites of bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations with FR-7s and / or FR-8s and / or M1958s. When they did, M1964 bayonets may have been dangling from their belts or even mounted to their rifles.
The Modelo 1964 almost certainly saw service with M1958 CETME rifles in the Western Sahara revolt of 1973 – 75.
If your version of the M1964 bayonet, unlike mine, has smooth grips, a black plastic scabbard, and an oval mounting hole in the pommel, it was made for export. The Guatemalan Army, for example, ordered Spanish CETMEs and M1964 bayonets in 1969 and 1973. Yours may have been used in the tragic Guatemalan civil war which lasted from 1960 to 1996.