A bayonet (from French baïonnette) is a knife- or dagger-shaped weapon. It is designed to be attached to a rifle barrel or similar weapon. This will turn the gun into a spear. It is a close-combat or last-resort weapon.
18th and 19th century military tactics included the use of a bayonet fixed on the infantryman's musket. These were used with massed troop formations. One of the more notable of these was the bayonet charge. This was an attack by a formation of infantrymen with fixed bayonets, usually over short distances. It was to overrun enemy strong points, capture artillery batteries, or break up enemy troop formations.
With the use of the bayonet, the pike was no longer used because infantry could now defend themselves from cavalry without sacrificing firepower per man. The Russian Army used the bayonet frequently during the Napoleonic wars. A Russian saying coined by Russian General Alexander Suvorov was "The bullet is foolish, the bayonet wise". Given Russia's often poorly trained armies and inaccurate smoothbore muskets, Russian officers preferred to use the bayonet charge instead of musket volley fire where possible.
- Cold Steel - The History of the Bayonet, BBC News, 18 November 2002, retrieved 29 July 2011
- Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart, The Soviet Army (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1957), p. 18