Sawback M7 Bayonet: Is This A Survival Knife?

Image courtesy Chris Dumm

To anyone who’s donned the uniform and taken the ‘Unlimited Liability’ oath to defend the U.S. Constitution, this knife should look very familiar. The U.S. government awarded its first contract for the new ‘Bayonet-Knife M7’ in 1964, and more than 4 million have been made in the last fifty years. This one has been modified by cutting saw teeth into the back. I like the appearance of this sawback M7, but I wondered if those sawteeth actually made the knife more useful as a utility-survival knife . . .

Image: Chris Dumm

A double-edged spear point isn’t the best blade shape for a general-purpose knife, unless your idea of ‘general-purpose’ includes stabbing, spearing, skewering, impaling, and maybe a second helping of stabbing. And basically nothing else.

That needle-sharp tip was ground into the blade by whatever machine shop cut the sawteeth. They ground the edge pretty sharp (even the reverse edge) but they didn’t get it very well centered. It’s sharp enough to dig splinters with, but the 6.75″ blade is way too long for such precision tasks.

Image courtesy Chris Dumm

The reverse edge is sharpened for the first 2.5″ from the tip, and then serrated with these aggressive-looking sawteeth along the rest of the spine. When it comes to saws, however, aggressive is as aggressive does…

Image: Chris Dumm

And this beast turned out to be a Bambi when it came to cutting lumber. This unimpressive groove is the result of about three minutes of diligent sawing. These sawteeth might actually keep you warm in a survival situation, but it would only be from the incredible exertion of trying to saw up some firewood. When your arm went limp and your hand cramped up, you’d freeze.

Image: Chris Dumm

Instead of wasting my strength on sawing this dry old lumber, I got much better results by simply chopping at it. The M7 doesn’t have the kind of thick, heavy blade that you’d really want in a chopping knife, but it chopped this far through fairly soft wood in about 45 seconds. Even if time isn’t of the essence, the M7 won’t be chopping up logs for your survival cabin: it barely made a dent in a green fir bough.

Image: Chris Dumm

This M7 isn’t a great hatchet, but it’s a terrible saw. It performed fairly well as a kindling splitter when I used another big stick as a hammer, but I could only pound on the toothed section of the spine because I didn’t want to snap off the sharpened tip.

I also cut up some food with the M7, and it’s not very good at that either. Chopping vegetables is difficult because you can’t press too hard on the spine of the blade, and you don’t want to reach down into the peanut butter jar because you’ll puncture the bottom before you know it. And cleaning sticky stuff out of those serrations absolutely sucks.

All in all, it’s safe to conclude that these serrations don’t add anything to this knife’s usefulness. They might look pretty neat, but they actually make this knife less capable for the one thing it does really well: stabbing. If (God forbid) you had to stab something living, these sawteeth would get caught in its fur or clothing as you withdrew the blade, and this could make follow-up strikes more difficult.

Image: Chris Dumm

If you’ve got an M7 bayonet sitting around, you’ve got a sturdy blade that does one thing very well: it pokes deep, deadly holes in things after your AR-15 jams or runs out of ammo. Keep it for your most dire TEOTWAWKI scenario, but don’t over-sharpen the tip and please don’t cut sawteeth into the spine.

I picked up this Imperial M7, on a whim, for about $25. Knowing what I know now, I would have spend a few more bucks for an unmodified M7. For a much more useful bayonet/utility knife, I’ve got the newer M9 and OKC-3S on my wish list.



  1. Matt in FL says:

    I wouldn’t be in a real hurry to give my money to anyone that ground the tip that off-center.

  2. Sam L. says:

    Maybe if the saw teeth had been made like real saw teeth…

    1. Reed Renfro says:

      the saw isn’t built for wood. its a air force survival knife, the saw is for cutting through aluminum in planes.
      The Ontario air force survival knives have a aluminum saw also.

  3. jwm says:

    IMHO saw teeth on a knife are gimmicks and indicate the knife is not intended for real world use. And a bayonet is a specialised weapon, not a knife. With or without the saw blades it’s something for military memorebelia collectors, not general field use by us citizens.

    1. Augur says:

      Yeah, I went out and trimmed some trees in front of my door and down the sidewalk that hadn’t been tended to by the lazy landscapers for a month or so too long. I tried sawing down a limb that was roughly 3/4″ in diameter, and it took a good two minutes with my Rothco adventurer knife I got for my birthday. Definitely looking into something else better suited for camping.

      On that note, could we get a comparison between the Cold Steel Kukri Machete and the Ka-bar Kukri Machete? Both look very good, but I’ve heard the Ka-Bar has a better, more shock-resistant grip. And I wouldn’t have to sharpen it out of the box, either.

      1. 2hotel9 says:

        See, now if they used rosewood, like the Gurkha’s do, that shock resist would be sweet. Gots to love Mother Nature when it comes to implements of destruction.

  4. the last Marine out says:

    All the saw back knives / bayonets are a waste of time (Hollywood time) not real world don’t work , get a good ax/saw , there is a WW1 German Mauser long saw back bayonet but was never remade . I don’t think it did well ? and the saw back will keep the blade from being pulled out of someone etc.

  5. Duncan Idaho says:

    I figure that if a stabbing blade has a saw built in, for the saw to be effective, the stabbing potential would be essentially negated, as any “real” fine-toothed saw blade would get lodged in clothing, fur, etc, as the author mentioned. Easier to carry a small, 6” folding saw. Not to mention that effective saw blades would destroy the sheathe in one wrong draw…

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Personally, the scariest bayonet I’ve ever seen is the M1891/30 Nagant bayonet. Good for stabbing, but that’s about it. Turns your rifleman into a pikeman with a twist of the wrist.

    1. Chris Dumm says:

      It’s a pretty good tent stake, too. Maybe a little too heavy, though.

      1. jwm says:

        The socket type bayonet makes a useable candle holder as well. I’ve known a few civil war re enactors in my time.

  6. scubamatt says:

    I was never terribly impressed with any of the bayonets we were issued, but the M7 was the best of the bunch. It was simple and sturdy. The M9s when they first came out were really brittle (manufacturing error) We had something like seventy of them break in our brigade, when the troops banged them against vehicle hatches or used them to open oil cans (they punch a hole then pry to make a triangular opening *snap*). They did a recall and we had to collect them all up and return them for a second issue later. I cannot remember the name of the company that made them, but it started with a P. (Been a long time, my memory isn’t what it used to be.)

    The scariest bayonet I ever saw was a (no longer issued) shotgun bayonet for the Winchester pump shotgun the Army was phasing out. It had a blade about 18 inches long and was about a quarter of an inch thick. It was more like a short sword than a knife.

    1. the last Marine out says:

      that was the M1/Springfield bayonet that was used on the shotgun also.

    2. foggy says:

      Phrobis was the original maker of the M9. They lost the contract, I believe due to the issues that you mentioned, to Buck and a few others.

  7. Aharon says:

    I went through the Army combined basic/infantry course during the summer of 1980. We were never trained with the bayonet or even shown one.

    1. 2hotel9 says:

      Damn, I went through basic as a 13b10 in ’79 and we were taught bayonet. Ft. Sill.

  8. Lucas D. says:

    The teeth do look pretty snazzy on an M7, but sawback blades aren’t good for much apart from intimidation. The hollow-gripped survival knife I just got from Cold Steel doesn’t even have the teeth. Apart from looking a little “off” for a survival blade, I find I don’t miss them much.

  9. Jon says:

    The saw on the knife itself I would think would be useful in a stabbing situation. When penetrating human flesh wouldn’t you twist the blade and the rip the blade out causing more internal damage with the saw portition than just a plain blade ?

    1. Duncan Idaho says:

      You run too much of a risk of getting it lodged in the guy. And if he’s hopped up on something, or not alone, you’re gonna have a bad time.

    2. scubamatt says:

      Duncan is right, if you are stabbing/slicing a bad guy, you absolutely do not want the weapon to get hung on bone or anything else. It’s already pretty easy to have this happen, adding non-functional saw teeth to make the situation worse is a Bad Idea. A sharp knife will do all the damage you need, without pseudo saw teeth added.

  10. 2hotel9 says:

    Sawback bayonets were originally adopted for use by sapper/engineer/pioneer troops not line troops, I believe as far back as the 1850s by the European armies such as Prussia and Austria and Russia. Brits and French I don’t think were ever big on them.

    I have had quite a few WW1 era sawback bayonets in my hands, and actually used 2 different types to cut some. They worked ok, for what they were. The teeth were set so the cut was on the pull stroke instead of the push and you could cut threw posts and beams and planking without killing yourself. Wouldn’t be pleasant, but hell, you embrace the suck an keep on humpin’.

  11. 2hotel9 says:

    If the teeth on that,,,,abomination, had been angled correctly it would probably cut branches and 2x4s and such ok.

  12. 2hotel9 says:

    Oh, and Chris? In my Garand tacbag there is 14 3/4 inches of 60-6 KS bayonet, hung on the righthand side of the clip belt, ready to rock and not just on the end of a rifle. Full 10 inches of razor sharp blade and a fat, solid hilt cap you could knock a mule out with. And it is an excellent cooking skewer! Ain’t a bayonet till you have used it to cook a few times.

  13. 2hotel9 says:

    One last point!!!!

    Looks like they parkerized that pretty good. After they butchered it up.

    1. Chris Dumm says:

      Yeah, it’s almost a pity. If they’d done a crappy job sharpening and parkerizing it, I wouldn’t have bought it and I’d be a slightly richer, happier man today.

  14. obsidian says:

    The saw back daggers, and bowie were made for hunting Boar and Deer.
    Yes, folks hunted Hogs with saw back knives.
    The idea was, stick the knife in a hog and the saw back (actually retention hooks) stuck in the hog and could not be dislodged, stick more hook back knives in and ya got more wounds that bleed out and leave a blood trail to follow.
    So, Some are made to be rasps or saws but most are just hunting knives that won’t fall out after you stab the game.
    Check out histories Boar hunting knives and spears they all have the Saw back.

    1. 2hotel9 says:

      Actually, barbed blades for hunting, and there are quite a few examples from the past, are different from what Chris was posting about. The current(Last 40 years or so) iteration of “sawback” knives are fairly well useless. Like the one he posted about, some knucklehead just ruined an otherwise useful knife. Had they cut those teeth properly it would have been able to cut wood, to a degree. Still fairly useless.

      The USAF issued survival knife had small, very closely spaced sawteeth that are set in an upright orientation, more like a hacksaw blade than wood cutting teeth. They cut, if you REALLY work at it.

  15. Mike says:

    Its a Schrade M7S survival knife blade with standard M7 bayonet guard and pommel. This was never a factory offering to my knowledge.

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Sawback M7 Bayonet: Is This A Survival Knife?

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