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Socket Bayonet Repairs Part 2


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Socket Bayonet Repairs Part 2

As socket bayonets developed they went from the early patterns that lacked locking rings through ingenious spring catches to the locking ring styles of the last patterns of socket bayonets. While countries held onto the musket style rifles they tended to retain the familiar long triangular bladed musket-style bayonets. We see several countries that are using the “pig sticker” style even today, however, for the most part countries evolved bayonet design toward the bladed combination bayonet/fighting knife styles commonly known as sword bayonets. This is a much generalized statement and to be more specific, and perhaps more accurate, is material for another post on bayonets and their design better suited to the appropriate section of the forum.

The later designs of the socket bayonet with the locking rings are, for the most part, found with much thicker and therefore stronger sockets and not as prone to being deformed out of round as the earlier models. When we find these later styles with the sockets deformed it is almost impossible to correct the defect. When these are encountered on the dealer’s table we must consider them as “leaverites”, that is, “leave her right” where it is (there on the dealer’s table).

The most common defect I’ve found, with the exception of a bent blade, is that the locking ring will not turn all the way to the right when locking the bayonet onto the rifle. At times this actually blocks the view of the front sight. The ring is “ramped” on the side facing the bayonet’s tip which allows it to tighten against the front sight and thereby securing the bayonet to the rifle. Most, I find, don’t actually fit to the point where the locking ring contacts the stop that is on the socket’s side. This is not a big problem as the front sight is not obscured and I don’t bother to adjust the ring on these.

The problem arises as the ramp on the ring encounters the sight “block” too soon and cannot precede enough to encounter the stop on the side of the socket. I have found that is often caused by a “burr” from an impact against the edge of the ring on the socket that the locking ring rests against. This “bump” causes the ring to advance a little in the open state and when you tighten it the ramp closes on the sight block too soon and binds. The other defect, in my opinion, is that the sight blocks are not consistent in length and therefore are actually too large to allow the locking ring to work properly. On the other hand I suppose the locking ring could also have been manufactured a little big, too wide, resulting in the same problem. I am going to go out on a limb and blame the differences in the sizes of the above noted parts on the British Ordnance System of Manufacture. This system meant that individual parts were manufactured by different contractors and then all of these components assembled by other contractors under the control of the Board of Ordnance located in the famous Tower of London. Many people think that any musket marked “TOWER” was manufactured by the Tower Armoury, which is a misconception as the TOWER mark is simply a regulatory body that assured the quality was consistent with the specifications set out for the contractors and sub-contractors. For the most part this system was a vast improvement over any system, in the world, at the time.

Regardless of the reasons for the bayonet not fitting the one “given”, in my opinion, is that we are not about to start to modify the musket to make the bayonet work properly. Value alone would dictate this and as far as an important artifact I believe the firearm trumps the bayonet on almost any day. Since the problem we are discussing is that the locking ring is not advancing far enough we need to remove the ring to inspect the socket for any evidence of why we are having the problem. First remove the attachment screw, and then gently spread the two threaded protrusions apart to allow the ring to be removed by clearing the base ring of the socket. Don’t worry, the ring is made of soft steel and will bend easily, just don’t approach this like you are trying to open the jaws of a saltwater crocodile as you will only run the chance of deforming the ring beyond repair. Slow and steady pressure is the watch word of the day. Keep in mind, if you damage the ring or bayonet you are on your own as I accept no responsibility for unforeseen problems or a Rambo approach to task.

Once the ring is off set it aside and inspect the ring that is part of the socket, the ledge on which the ring was sitting. If there is a bump caused by some impact in the past then you need to remove this. This can be as simple task or a destructive and frustrating undertaking depending on your approach. As mentioned earlier, slow and steady is the way to approach this; along with a light touch. No need to murder a 150+ year old artifact because the “game” is about to start on the television in 10 minutes. Using a very fine file remove the bump with care not to file the side of the socket. The finer the file the longer it will take however the finer the finish. Once the bump is removed, if necessary, use a fine emery cloth, wrapped around the file, to polish the area filed; then replace the ring to check the fit. Many times this will be all that is necessary.

If the ring will still not work correctly, or the socket ledge had no bump, then you will have to modify the ring. Don’t attempt to remove any metal from the ramped side of the ring as this will leave a shinny surface showing and you don’t want that, also it takes a lot more care and expertise to accomplish than removing a little metal from the straight side which rests against the socket ledge. This can be done several ways, using a file, a piece of emery cloth held onto a flat surface or a fine grinding wheel. I find trying to use a file on this small a part very difficult so I would suggest a course piece of emery cloth held down on a work bench and then work the ring, flat side down, back and forth to remove the required amount of steel. Once you think you have removed enough material use a piece of fine emery cloth wrapped around your finger to remove any filing burrs that may be along the edge of the ring, otherwise this will impede the movement of the ring once it is back on the socket. Now fit the ring back on the socket, install the bayonet back on the musket and see how it fits. If you feel that the ring will fit then use fine emery cloth to finish the bottom of the ring before you fit it in the bayonet. I like to check it first as I almost always take too little off yet I think I’ve taken more. The third way, the one I like, is to use the power grinder. A word of caution; most grinders are used to grind metal away quickly and these wheels are too course to do such fine work as we are expecting to do here. I don’t use my grinder to “grind” but rather to sharpen so the wheels are quite fine. In fact I hardly ever use the grinder as I keep my tools sharp with Japanese water stones and a felt wheel with jeweler’s rouge so they never, or hardly ever, get to the point of needing the grinder. For this step always wear gloves. Even the finest of power grinders or belt sanders can remove flesh from the finger in less time that it takes to blink your eyes. Hold the ring against the flat side of the grinder’s wheel as this should produce a flat surface. Remove a small amount of steel and check the fit, remember to remove the burrs that will be left. Repeat as necessary.

The first bayonet that needed adjustment required only the bump on the socket ledge to be removed and I figured it was too minor to bother sharing here but then the second bayonet was the “problem child” and was more involved therefore this post. On the first bayonet the adjustment allowed the locking ring to pass from in front of the rifle sight and I felt this was good enough. Since the second one required more attention I removed enough, but just enough, material to allow the locking ring to make contact with the ring stop and still bind tightly against the sight block.

As always I hope this will encourage you to take on some restorations of your own.

Good luck.

Regards

Brian

P.S. Don’t forget to scroll down for the photos.

The first two photos show the locking ring before the adjustment and how it would interfere with the sight.

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The next two photos show the locking ring off the bayonet. You'll notice the gap that would normally be almost closed, while on the bayonet, has been widened to enable the removal. Being a soft metal without a "memory" (not spring-like) the gap remains open.

The first photo shows the ring with the ramp upwards while the second shows the "bottom" where the metal has been removed.

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This is what the bayonet should look like with the ring removed. I show this because I have seen socket bayonets being offered for sale looking exactly like this, that is to say, incomplete, without the locking ring. This is something to watch for when shopping for a socket bayonet and if it should have a locking ring and it is absent then walk away and leave it with the seller. It should be noted that not all socket bayonets have locking rings, especially some of the very early ones. These are easy to tell apart from the ones with the ring missing as they lack the little ledge that the rings rides against and there is no "stop block" where the ring rests when in locked position.

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The last photo shows the bayonet I have worked on with the ring against the locking stop block and the rifle on the right shows one that could still use some work. The rifle on the right would function well the way it is as no part of the ring is blocking the view through the sights. These are 1853 Enfield Rifles, that is, black powder firearms that are rifled as opposed to the earlier "Brown Bess" smooth bore muskets, but that is a story for another time.

As always I hope you enjoyed this post and it will encourage you to get into a bit of restoration work yourself.

Regards

Brian

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I wonder Brian , just how many of our Members could attempt such a repair ? Perhaps more then we would think - however, you take the

trouble to explain. I think Nick should give you the additional duties of being our "Technical Officer". Mervyn

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