The name “Marine” conjures up the image of the best fighting man in the world. Some may take issue with that statement, but they will lose that fight if they so choose to carry it forward. My experiences in the Corps have always had Marines doing more with less than the other branches. When I went to Vietnam, the 105 artillery howitzers we had were all WWII vintage. The army had the new equipment. However, the Marines always had the “warrior ethos” which seemed to make up for any deficiencies we might have in equipment.
I remember as a child, my dad had brought home some of his equipment that he carried in WWII in the Pacific. One of those items was his fighting knife. It was known in the Marine Corps world as the “KABAR” fighting knife.
Brief History of the Name
There have been numerous versions as to how the name came about. The most accepted one is where a fur trapper used this knife to kill a bear. He wrote a letter, in very rough English, and sent to the knife company. He indicated that his gun had jammed and he had to use this knife to kill the wounded bear that was attacking him. He was thanking the company for the quality of the knife they manufactured, but all that was legible was the scrawling “k a bar” which they took as “kill a bear”. The company felt so honored they created the trademark “KABAR”.
I grew up carrying around my dad’s old KABAR. Then, one day, I joined the Marine Corps myself and after a short period of time, found myself heading off to do battle. I got permission and I took my dad’s KABAR to Vietnam with me. For some strange reason, it gave me a degree of confidence to know that this knife had made it through WWII and maybe it would help me, in some small way, to make it through Vietnam. The only thing that I know for sure is that we are both still around.
There were many different knife manufacturers that made the knife for the Marines and some Navy personnel. In fact, the knife that I have was made by Camillus out of New York, but I still refer to it as a KABAR. This knife has been the standard issue since at least WWII. As many remember, we not only had the KABAR knife, but those that carried a rifle, also had a bayonet. In my mind, this would be a bit of redundancy, or at a minimum, extra weight.
Anyway, around the end of the 20th century, a solicitation for a “USMC Improved Bayonet” was sent out. Part of the criteria was:
“The USMC Improved Bayonet shall be used primarily to engage in hand to hand combat with the intent of killing, maiming, or disabling the enemy through a thrusting blow while affixed to the M16A2 rifle or when used separately as a hand held knife. Secondary uses of the Bayonet will be for slashing, cutting, prying (windows, crates, etc) cutting wire (chain link, barbed, concertina) and sawing (plastic, wood and light metal). The bayonet must be able to work and withstand all terrestrial extremes and in all weather conditions.”
In early 2000, the Marine Corps started looking into the idea of coming up with a better more effective bayonet/fighting knife. This time they allowed Marines to have input into the design. First, they wanted it to be a bayonet, second a combat knife and third a utility knife. The Marine Corps used black-belt Instructor Trainers who staff the Martial Arts Center of Excellence as their testers. They utilized experts like Homer M. Brett, (USMC class of ’70) MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program) Subject Matter Expert, Edged Weapons. With his support, The Marine Corps Martial Arts (the MACE) working with MARCORPSYSCOM cooperatively drew up the general design specifications it wanted for the new Marine bayonet. They offered it out to private industry and the responses resulted in a competitive “knife off.”
Seventeen bids were received and then they went to the testing phase.
The bayonet was tested in many different areas. They were tested by live fire to see what effect they had on the rifleman’s ability to shoot; they were used on the bayonet assault course; and then they were then tested to see how they would function as a fighting knife. An evaluation report was made out by each instructor. In the end, Ontario Knife Company, Franklinville, New York, won the competition and was awarded the contract.
It was named OKC3S: Ontario Knife Company, “3” third version, “S” serration. Some of the specifics about it are as follows:
The OKC3S has an 8 inch blade made of high carbon steel; 1 3/8 inches wide 3/16th inch thick and 8 inches long; the rear of the blade has a 1 ¾ inch section of serration and 3 ½ inches of the false edge is sharpened. It has a grooved Dynaflex handle is 5 inches long and is ergonomically designed to reduce hand fatigue and blister points. The overall weight is 14 ounces and the overall length is 13 ¼ inches. The sheath and handle are a polyester Elastomer in the “Coyote Brown” color. There are 2 retention straps, a stainless steel retention spring and a ceramic-coated aluminum rod on the read to fine hone the edge and serration.
Bottom-line, this bayonet/fighting knife is the top of the line for all military issue equipment issued for its’ purpose to date. It is designed by Marines for Marines. It exceeds all capabilities that the KABAR had. It is bigger, heavier, more durable, more functional and it gives you a feeling of confidence. It has eliminated the need for an additional weapon that the Marine has to carry. All in all, it is a big winner!
As a side note, there is a civilian version available to the public because it was “required” to be identical to the military version. I would highly recommend owning one of these knifes. In fact, I own several of them.
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