Encyclopedia of historical weapons - Bayonet

At the end of the seventeenth century the French introduced the socket bayonet. This contained a sleeve fitting round the barrel and was locked into place with a slot and stud. This enabled the gun to be fired with the bayonet firmly secured in place. This type of bayonet was adopted by nearly all the Europeans armies.

The bayonet was originally a defensive weapon. Infantry standing two or three deep, who adopted a square formation, could defend their position against a cavalry charge. Bayonet charges were rarely attempted until the enemy was retreating.

The development of breech-loading rifles in the 19th century provided infantrymen with the firepower capable of beating off cavalry. After this, the bayonet turned from being primarily a defensive weapon to being a personal offensive weapon. The difficulties of fixing bayonets in battle led some armies to adopt permanently-attached bayonets which folded above or below the barrel of the rifle.

Encyclopedia of historical weapons

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