Excellent US M3 Trench Knife by Robeson with M6 Scabbard
- Product Code: EWSK-1441-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
When the United States entered World War II in December of 1941, the Army had one of the most advanced battle rifles in the world, the .30 caliber M-1 “Garand” semi-automatic rifle. While the rifle was far superior to those of our Axis enemies, the Army found itself woefully unprepared to issued fighting knives to the men in the field. The only knife that was still officially in the US “arsenal of democracy” was the US M-1918 Mk1 trench knife, a brass knuckle fighting knife left over from the First World War. The Army issued these heavy knives to those soldiers that needed a fighting knife, like the 82nd Airborne Division, but many of the soldiers were forced to rely about hunting knives from home, privately purchased knives and knives made in theater to put a blade on their belt during 1942. The army recognized the need and started a development program to design a fighting and utility knife to issue to troops in the field, and by the end of 1942 had settled on the newly designed M3 Trench Knife. The M3 was to be issued to all combat soldiers who were not issued a bayonet. The knives were issued to those who carried M-1 carbines, Thompson sub-machine guns, BARs, light and heavy machine gun crews, etc. The knives were also issued to the airborne troops, glider troops, rangers and practically anyone who was in a combat zone and had need for a fighting or utility knife. The M3 knife was only manufactured for 17 months, from March of 1943 to July of 1944. However, during that time some 9 different cutlers produced some 2.5 million knives, with at least 40 minor variations that have been noted by collectors. Aerial, Boker, Camillus, Case, Imperial, Kinfolks, PAL, Robeson and Utica produced the knives on contract for the US Army. Initially the knives were marked on their blades “US M3”, along with the name of the maker, and in many instances with the year of production, 1943. Rather quickly the date was dropped from the blades of the makers who used that marking (for example Aerial and Boker never dated their blades), and not long afterwards the stamping of names on the blades was also discontinued. As with the USN Mk2 and the USMC fighting/utility knives, it was believed that stamping the blades weakened them. All subsequent fighting knives were marked on the front of their hand guards. These marking systems have resulted in the collector terms “blade marked” and “guard marked” when discussing many US made WWII fighting knives. The M3 was initially issued with the M6 leather scabbard, which were produced by six different companies. The manufacturers were MILSCO (Milwaukee Saddlery Company), Barwood, Moose Co. (Moose River Shoe Company). L&C (Lyon & Coulson), SBL (Service Boot & Leggings) and Viner Brothers. These scabbards did not hold up well in the elements or under combat conditions, and within about 6 months of their adoption they were replaced by the composite plastic M8 scabbard manufactured by Beckwith with a Victory Plastics body. Only 300,701 leather M6 scabbards were procured by the US government. According to the contract records, MILSCO made nearly half of them (140,494), with the remaining manufacturers producing between 28,000 and 40,000 each. Leather M6 scabbards were only delivered with the early “blade marked” knives, and only represent 12% of the total World War II production of scabbards for M3 Trench Knives. When their low production numbers and high rate of issue (with a low rate of field survival) are considered, it is obvious why M6 scabbards are extremely rare today in any condition.
As originally designed, the M3 Trench Knife had a nominally 6 ““ long dagger style blade, with a simple metal crossguard and a hilt with compressed leather washer grips. The blades were either blued or parkerized depending on the maker, and sometimes the period of production. Some makers started out delivering blued knives and switched to Parkerizing during the production run to save time and money. The official Ordnance Department specifications called for the pommel cap to be secured by transverse pins, but few of manufactures ever used pins and those that did often transitioned to peening or compressing the pommel (staking) to simplify and speed production. The number of grooves in the leather washer hilt varied from manufacturer to manufacturer, and sometimes varied during a manufacturer’s production run. The knives were inspected and marked with a “Flaming Ordnance Bomb”, either on the top or edge of the pommel cap, or with Robeson knives, the marking of the crossed cannons “Ordnance Wheel” on the guard. With the adoption of the M4 bayonet for the M-1 carbine, the M3 Knife was relegated to secondary status and over the next two decades saw less use with the US military and more service among foreign militaries who were sold, loaned or given the knives for their use.
This US M3 Trench Knife is in EXCELLENT condition, overall and is accompanied by an EXCELLENT condition M6 leather scabbard. The knife is a blade marked Robeson, and the scabbard was produced by L&C(Lyon & Coulson). The Robeson Cutlery Company only produced 36,575 M3 knives during their production run, or about 1.4% of the total production of the knives. Robeson made knives are the second rarest of the M3 trench knife contractors. Only H. Boker & Company produced fewer M3s, with a total production of 31,300. By contrast, the largest producer of M3 knives was Imperial, who produced 854,000 M3s, or about 1/3 of the total production. Like most of the M3 producers, even the limited run of knives from Robeson has known variations. The two primary types of Robeson M3s are the earliest production with blades that are marked and dated, and the subsequent production, which only have marked blades, but no dates. Robeson stopped production of M3 knives prior to the adoption of the guard marking practice. A number of minor variations have been noted in the way in which the tangs of Robeson knives are peened to the pommel caps. Many show multiple small peen or impact marks, sometimes these are randomly struck and appear quite messy, and some are very neatly staked with variations in the number of strikes noted regularly. All authentic and unaltered examples of Robeson M3 knives have 8-groove leather washer grips, and have blued blades and pommel caps. Both of the major variations of Robeson M3 knives were delivered with leather, M6 scabbards.
This Blade Marked Robeson M3 Trench Knife is in EXCELLENT condition, as is the Lyon & Coulson M6 Scabbard that accompanies it. The obverse of the blade is clearly marked in a single line, forward of the guard and above the median ridge of the blade: U.S. M3 R.C.CO. The reverse of the upper guard is crisply marked with the cross cannons “Ordnance Wheel” inspection mark. The blade retains about 90%+ of its original blued finish. The finish loss is primarily from scuffing along the high edges and contact points, that took place when the blade was inserted and removed from the scabbard. The reinforcing staples at the scabbard throat are probably most responsible for this finish loss. The knife has seen little, if any use, and retains its original factory edge with no signs of sharpening. The blade measures 6 3/4” in length and is full length. The hilt measures 4 3/4” and the overall length of the knife is 11 9/16”. The blade is entirely smooth, with absolutely no pitting or even light pinpricking. There are some minor surface blemishes in the finish, and there is some very minor oxidized freckling scattered throughout the blue, but these are extremely minor, barely noticeable condition issues on a truly wonderful blade. The original Robeson cross-grain polishing and machine marks remain clearly visible through the original dull blued finish, features that are typical of original Robeson M3 knives. The cross guard retains about 90% of its original blued finish as well, with the loss mostly along the high edges and contact points, as it is with the blade. The pommel cap retains about 85% of its original blue, with the same wear and loss patterns encountered on the guard and blade. There is slightly more freckled surface oxidation and some minor surface roughness mixed with the blued finish on the pommel cap. The tang of the knife is very neatly peened to the pommel cap, with at least a dozen individual staking strikes visible on the bright steel of the tang. As is often the case, these strikes are all slightly off center, but they are much more neatly applied than on some Robeson made M3s. The blade and hilt juncture remain extremely tight, with no noticeable wobble in the blade, grip or crossguard. The compressed leather washer handle is in about VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT condition as well. The hilt is the correct “8-groove” pattern found on Robeson M3 Trench Knives. The leather washers remain mostly crisp with sharp edges; little wear and practically no staining form handling, dirt or oil. The only hilt issue worth mentioning is some minor leather loss and flaking of the last leather washer that butts up against the pommel cap. This loss is on the bottom edge of the leather washer and is about 5/8” long and about 1/8” wide. Other than this minor area of leather loss, the grip is really in fantastic condition. The knife is contained in an EXCELLENT M6 leather scabbard by Lyon & Coulson. Lyon & Coulson were a sporting goods retailer in New York, and are best known for their very high-end (and very collectible) fishing rods from the 1920s-1940s. The scabbard is clearly marked at the throat in 4 lines: U.S. M6 / L&C / 1943 / FJA. The “FJA” is the mark of Ordnance Department inspector Frank J. Atwood, who also inspected Remington produced M-1903A3 rifles and Remington-Rand made M-1911A1 pistols. The scabbard is really in fantastic condition and is practically unused. The scabbard is completely original and correct with crisp markings. All of the stitching and rivets remains in place and the scabbard is extremely tight throughout. The original hilt-retaining strap is in place, complete with its original snap. The strap functions correctly and shows little use or wear. The scabbard is actually in such “new” condition that it remains very tight and the knife does not easily seat deep enough for the strap to close around the smaller portion of the hilt, where it should. The strap has seen so little use that it has not stretched, like most hilt straps did when they saw service. The original web belt hanger wire is in place at the top of the scabbard, and retains about 90% of its original blackened finish. All 8 of the original throat reinforcing staples are in place as well. These staples were from the manufacture and joining of leather machinery and conveyer belts. The staples show some light surface oxidation, minor surface roughness and some scattered areas of discoloration. The original steel reinforcement plates are present on the front and rear of the scabbard, secured by their original rivets. The plates have a dell pewter patina. The plates show only some minor surface oxidation and discoloration, mostly on the rear plate. The scabbard shows only some minor scuffs and mars from handling, light use and storage. The leather retains its very light “Latigo” tan color and has not darkened from dirt, oils and use. Other than the minor surface scuffs and a little bit of surface dirt, this scabbard is about as close to new as you are likely to get.
Overall this is a really outstanding example of a blade marked Robeson M3 Trench Knife. The knife and scabbard are both really excellent examples and are in a fantastic state of preservation. Both the knife and scabbard are 100% complete, correct and original in every way and would be very difficult to upgrade, unless you could find a “new in box” example. Robeson made M3 trench knives are extremely rare and very difficult to find in any condition. Due to the fact that their production ended so early, nearly all of the knives were issued and saw field service, making high condition examples quite scarce. The M6 scabbard is equally wonderful and is extremely hard to find this condition. This is knife and scabbard combination worthy of being in one of the most advanced edged weapons collections and will surely be a centerpiece in any fighting knife collection. For most M3 collectors, finding a Robeson or Boker in this kind of condition with a scabbard this great is a dream. Here is your chance to turn your M3 collecting dream into reality.SOLD