NICE US MODEL 1880 HUNTING KNIFE

$695.00

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Item Code: 490-3259

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These wide-bladed knives were intended to be multi-purpose. Butchering game and various duties around camp were concerns. One veteran praised them since up to that time, “whenever we went out on campaign we had to provide ourselves with hunting or butcher knives at our own expense. (Government bacon being too strong or tough for the ordinary case-knife.)” When not battling government rations, however, they might also be used for entrenching, something increasingly stressed in tactics, and were deemed effective enough for that purpose that the trowel bayonet was declared obsolete in late 1881, though it was another ten years before the knife was redesignated as an entrenching tool in 1892.

These were produced in two variations of the knife and five for the scabbard. The overall form of the knife did not change: it used an 8.5-inch blade, 2-inches wide, with a spear point and median ridge. The handle was maple, cylindrical, with grooved grip and flat overhanging pommel for a secure grip. The first 1,000 produced, completed in early 1881, used an iron guard and handle socket. Another round of production began in early 1883, but used brass guards that could be made at Springfield. This subsequent production was done in two batches of 5,000 knives each and each batch separately numbered from 1 to 5,000. This is from one of those two batches and has a brass guard clearly stamped “US / SPRINGFIELD” on one side of the handle socket and serial numbered “4761” on the other. A final group, made after the 1892 redesignation, numbered just 500 and was not serial numbered.

The scabbard on this knife uses the final form that utilized a fixed brass hook to fasten over a cartridge belt, where earlier patterns were envisioned as using a simple waist belt. The first pattern used a hinged clamp. A later version used a narrow leather belt loop. Once carrying it on the cartridge belt was approved a larger loop was introduced in 1887, changed to a brass hook and swivel in 1888, as used on the bayonet scabbard. Only in February 1890 was it realized the swivel was unnecessary and the brass hook alone authorized. This was produced at both Watervliet and Rock Island Arsenals, and applied by the simple expedient of cutting off the loops of the older leather loop scabbards, sewing the resulting short tabs together and riveting on the brass belt hook. This one shows the clear RIA mark of Rock Island Arsenal.

The blade is mostly steel gray color, with some dark gray spotting near the tip. The edge is good and shows just slight roughness near the tip, more evident to the touch than the eye. The wood grip has nice color and surface. The edge of the pommel has a small chip on one side. The top of the pommel shows some dings, scratches and light wear that has done away with any inspector initials and date. The scabbard has very nice, original deep brown color, excellent seams, and just some flexing cracks to the finish on the reverse. The rivetted brass throat plate is still in place and secure. The reverse shows a small stamp about halfway down reading, “R.L. HART II,” a modern owner or collector.

This is a nice example of how the army tried to adapt its equipment not only to different environments, but to changing tactical doctrines as the age of the muzzle-loader gave way to longer range and more rapid fire weapons, leading to the increased use of improvised field works and rifle pits.  [SR] [ph:m]

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