What Are The Best M9 Bayonet Models? Here’s The Answer!

Bayonets are highly collectible items. This is because of their historical significance in addition to later styles being multi-functional tools. There is a certain class and mystique that surrounds bayonets and as older styles become rarer newer models take their place.

This is the case of the M9 bayonet. The M9 bayonet is a relatively new U.S. issued bayonet, having been issued in 1987 to the present day, but it still captures the imagination of many with its now iconic design.

Since its inception the M9 has passed through several manufactures and was provided to both Military and civilian markets. Additionally many companies have produced unlicensed copies of the design that mimic the style of the M9 but are not part of the actual lineage of the bayonet itself.

This still leaves us the question. Which of these models is the best?

What is the Best Model of M9 Bayonet?

The Ontario Knife Company makes the best modern production M9 while earlier production models hold more collector value.

The Best M9 Bayonet

Ontario Knife Company, M9 Bayonet and Scabbard, Black, Overall Length: 12.25"

The Ontario Knife Company M9 Bayonet is the best M9 Bayonet currently in production. The manufacturer, Ontario Knife Company, is the last licensed contractor to produce a legitimate M9 Bayonet.

This is because Ontario is one of the latest licensed contractors for the M9 bayonet. There are other companies that do make knives that are similar to the M9 bayonet but are merely visually similar. They are knives and are not made to the technical requirements for this particular bayonet.

For those of you who are more into collecting here is a brief list of the main licensed manufacturers.

  • Phrobus III, Phrobus Ltd./Int’l
  • Buck
  • LanCay/Lan-Cay
  • Ontario Knife Company
  • Tri-Technologies

But you may be asking, “What makes a real M9 bayonet? Why do non-licensed models not count?” Well let’s answer these questions with a little history of the M9 and its manufacturers.

What Makes an M9 Bayonet?

This story spans several decades but we will break it down into three major parts: Function and Early History, Manufacturers, and Collectability. We first need to know why the M9 bayonet was developed and who eventually made it.

Function and Early History

The M9 bayonet is the latest attempt to combine multiple tools of the infantry into one item. The predecessor of the M9 was the M7, an altogether better bayonet and fighting knife. However the thin 1095 carbon steel blade had a number of drawbacks.

Since it was carbon steel it could rust very easily despite being ideally shaped for piercing and bayonet usage. On top of this it added no benefits outside of that bayonet role. This was in contrast to the AKM knife bayonets it was facing. Those bayonets not only functioned as a bayonet but also as a type of field or utility knife.

The U.S. wanted something similar. This is where Charles A. Finn and the Qual-A-Tec R&D company came in. Originally Finn wanted to develop products for use by the U.S Special Forces however Qual-A-Tec was mostly Research and Development and had to partner with Buck to take on the actual mass production.

This early development combined with influences from movies like the Rambo series resulted in some of the early Buckmaster knives, specifically ranging from the Buckmaster 184 to the 188. The 188 would eventually be adopted as the M9 after significant testing.

This culminated in the M9 we know today. The M9 features a 7” stainless steel blade, a type of clip point blade, and a saw blade section on the spine. There is also a small whole in the blade for using it with its scabbard as a wire cutter.

(A Demonstration of the M9’s wire cutting ability during Operation Cobra Gold by U.S. Army Sgt 1st Class Burnham to a Royal Thai Army Soldier)

Because of its goal to be multiple tools at once while being in the care of the average soldier the M9 is generally considered to be mediocre on all fronts. The blade is not made of great steel but it will resist rust and it can be sharpened easily. It has a piercing tip but the edge is too wide to cut or slice very effectively.

It has a sawback but the saw will get stuck if the material is as wide as the blade. It’s heavier than the M7 it replaced despite one of the parameters being that the new bayonet be lighter than the M7. Despite all of this the M9 passed the trials.

There are rumors of the tips breaking under hard use but this is mostly from wire cutting and bayonet training. Anything will break under the right circumstances and the M9 seems to have broken multiple times in its 30 years plus of service.

The M9 did what it was designed to do, perform multiple tasks adequately that more specialized tools could do better. Most first hand accounts describe its performance as lackluster or nothing exciting.

This brings us to who made the M9 bayonet.


There are only five primary makers of the M9 bayonet. The first were Phrobis and Buck. This is because Phrobis III/Phrobis Ltd. subcontracted Buck to make the bayonets. Some early batches were divided by number with the even numbers being manufactured by Phrobis and the odd numbers being manufactured by Buck.

In 1989 Phrobis and Buck would separate and Finn would change Phrobis III to Phrobis Int’l. Phrobis Int’l would have the manufacturing firm Marto in Spain manufacture the new Phrobis Int’l blades. Marto was licensed to manufacture a commercial version of the M9 but it was restricted to Europe.

Buck would continue to manufacture M9s for both military and civilian sale until 1997. At this point they would stop manufacturing as the tooling required to make the M9 had worn out. This eventuality was mitigated by the U.S. military in the early 1990s with the contracting of LanCay/Lan-Cay.

LanCay received  their first contract for the M9 in 1992 and used General Cutlery as a subcontractor to fulfill the order. This went on until 1999.

In 1999 new requests for the M9 would be split between LanCay and the Ontario Knife Company. At this point Ontario would be the primary manufacturer of M9s. This would continue on until Tri-Technologies was awarded a contract to manufacture the M9 in 2012.

Throughout each of these contracts the markings changed in addition to the markings on civilian models. These different marks play into the next aspect: collectability.


While modern manufacture of the M9 continues and is likely to continue for a while, there is still a larger aftermarket for previously issued or early manufactured M9 bayonets. This is because there are multiple different variations with verifiable documentation in regards to what is and what is not an officially made M9 bayonet.

Additionally the U.S. was not the only one to issue the M9 as a bayonet with Australia being a prime example. This adds another layer to the collectors’ side with the differing M9 batches and the differing issuing governments.

Let’s go over some of the major manufacturer marks so you know what to look for to determine if it is a military issued bayonet or a commercially sold bayonet.

First off, the ricasso or the flat area of the blade just above the handguard is where most of the identifying marks are. The military issued models only have markings on the left hand ricasso. If you have an M9 with a Buck name and model number on the right hand ricasso this is one of the early commercial models. If it has a number on the right it is a presentation model from the first generation of Phrobis bayonets.

Early models are marked Phrobis III and come in four “generations”. The earliest Phrobis III models have a flat topped “M” and are found on the first two generations.The first generation has a chevron after the USA mark and are only found on the first 1200 M9s made. The second generation is missing the chevron but retains the flat topped “M” marking.

The later generations would modify the marks even further. But as a rule most will put some form of M9,the manufacturer’s name, USA, and sometimes the blade’s country of origin.

Going over each iteration of makers’ marks is extremely boring, so here’s a quick overview of that to look for.

ManufacturerMakers marks
Phrobis Ltd/BuckM9 Phrobis III U.S.A. > (w/Flattoped M)
M9 Phrobis III U.S.A. (w/Flattoped M)
M9 Phrobis III U.S.A.
M9 Phrobis III U.S.A. Pat. Pend
BuckM9 Buck U.S.A.M9-USMC Buck/ USA
Phrobis Int’lM9 Phrobis INT’L Spain
M9 LanCay USA
M9 Lan-Cay USA
Ontario Knife CompanyM-9 ONTARIO KNIFE CO USA

(If you want to do a deep dive into the history and markings of the various models of M9 you should check out https://m9bayonet.com/ and http://www.old-smithy.info/bayonets/HTNL%20DOCUMNETS/m9_bayonet_and_variations.htm as they have many helpful pictures and information on this subject)


The M9 is often copied by many other companies, but just because those knives are visually similar does not mean they are legitimate M9 bayonets. During and after its development the M9 has gone through numerous changes and refinements ultimately resulting in the Ontario model of today.

This makes the Ontario model the best modern manufactured M9 available to the general public. The other models are no longer made and have become the next part of US bayonet history. This gives them a certain value based on their scarcity.

These blades are generally durable but not amazingly usable blades outside of the role of a bayonet. While they try and achieve multiple different roles they fail at most of them due to the general dimensions of the blade, the edge geometry, and the lower grade steel.

They are not heat treated for hardness but durability under stress. This means many of the blades are softer than many modern bushcraft knives or other purpose built designs. However this means the bayonet can withstand prying and twisting due to the lower rigidity of the steel.

The M9 is now an iconic part of U.S. military history and is a fantastic collector’s item but in practical purposes there are significantly better options.


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Trent Gander

Trent Gander has been in the firearms sphere for almost a decade, learning and growing with the changing times. He has been writing professionally on the subject for almost six years.

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