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How to tell if a 1918 trench knife is real

1918 trench knife

This platform enriches the knowledge base with a specialized focus on different types of knives, including WWI trench knives, providing exclusive content, comprehensive reviews, and practical advice. The article invites users to explore the extensive universe of knives, delving into the historical and technical aspects of World War I trench knives.

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WW1 trench knife

 

WW1 trench knife

The WW1 trench knife is a weapon that was designed to help in close-range trench fights. Since trenches were still widespread during World War 1, this knife allowed soldiers to attack enemy trenches while maintaining stealth. This knife holds great value for collectors and enthusiasts due to its historical significance. 

While many adaptations and replicas of the iconic trench knife are available today, finding an authentic 1918 trench knife is challenging. Many enthusiasts still look for a legitimate example of the classic trench knife to add to their collection. One issue anyone looking to buy a 1918 trench knife runs into is confirming the knife’s authenticity. 

If you can’t tell if a trench blade is legit, we suggest you keep reading because this article will explain some simple yet effective methods to distinguish between real and fake 1918 trench knives. 

What makes a WW1 trench knife so unique?

Trench knives were not just in use by the US military during WW1. These knives were also used by the German, French, and British forces to raid trenches and silently kill enemy soldiers. The design of the MK 1 trench knife of the 1917-1918 era was based on French trench knives.

These trench knives are unique because of their distinct finger loops and double-edge design. Soldiers could use this weapon to stab enemy soldiers with lethal efficiency. Some versions of the trench knife didn’t have finger loops but instead had a metal guard to protect the fingers. The 1918 trench knife is almost identical to the 1917 version; however, the 1918 version had improved features such as a better hand guard and an improved blade profile. 

The late 1918 models of trench knife models were developed too late to be used in the trench warfare of 1918 and were used years later during WW II. Since the 1918 version of the trench knife is considered the improved version, it has increased significantly. So naturally, the 1918 version is the one that is being faked the most, and you should pay close attention when buying it. 

original 1918 trench knife

Exploring the Design of the M1918 Trench Knife

The M1918 Trench Knife is unique for several reasons. Firstly, unlike many traditional military knives, it was not a multi-purpose tool but was primarily designed as a weapon. It featured several distinctive design elements:

Triangular Stiletto Blade: The M1918 Trench Knife has a unique blade design. Unlike conventional straight blades, it features a triangular stiletto blade. This design was meant to inflict deep and serious wounds that were difficult to treat, providing a significant advantage in the life-or-death situations common in trench warfare.

Knuckle Duster Handle: The handle of the M1918 Trench Knife incorporates a knuckle duster. This hardened portion of the handle could be used to deliver a powerful punch, providing another combat option in close-quarters engagements.

Skull Crusher Pommel: At the base of the handle is a ‘skull crusher’ pommel. This rounded metal cap could be used as a blunt force weapon when necessary.

Due to these design elements, the 1918 Trench Knife was a formidable weapon in the harsh conditions of trench warfare.

handmade custom knivesWays of telling whether a 1918 trench knife is real

A 1918 trench knife’s replicas can be surprisingly convincing as most counterfeit experts artificially age them to look like the real thing. However, there are ways you can tell if a trench knife is real or not by carefully looking at some of the markings, fonts, and external indicators. Without further ado, here are some tricks to get an idea about the authenticity of a 1918 trench knife:

Pay close attention to fonts: An authentic ww1 trench knife made in 1918 will have the text “US 1918” carved into it. This text is carved in the handle region of the knife in almost the same spot for each example. Since this mark of identification is present on every trench knife, it is an excellent way to gauge the authenticity of a knife. 

If a knife doesn’t have this text on its blade, it should be an instant red flag. However, if the font is carved into the knife’s handle, then you should look at the finishing of the font. An authentic knife will have a well-finished, smooth font carved into it. On the other hand, a knockoff will have rough and uneven carvings that indicate that it wasn’t made to military standards. 

Lastly, the font carved on a real knife will also be worn out to some extent due to the age of the item. However, the worn-out font shouldn’t be confused with a fake rough font. Age affects the shine and depth of the carving, but a real knife will retain the font’s smoothness. 

 

1918 trench knife

Look at the trademark of the knife: The 1918 trench knife usually came in two variants one was called the Au Lion, and the second one was the L. F & C variant. These variants have their trademarks stamped at different locations on the knife. 

While the Au Lion had the trademark at the blade’s ricasso, the L. F & C had it on the handle below the “US 1918” font. The Au Lion trademark is supposed to be lighter than the surrounding color on the blade. However, the LF & C trademark is darker than the surrounding color on the handle. 

Another thing to notice about the trademark placement is that original knives have the trademarks in the center of the ricasso and the handle. Whether it is the L. F & C. mark or the Au Lion one, it will be aligned in the middle in the case of an authentic knife. 

1918 trench knives

Signs of wear: An authentic 1918 trench knife will likely have seen at least some action on the battlefield. Therefore, an original example will likely have signs of wear, such as scratches, chips, and grooves along the blade or the handle. However, a replica recently made to mimic the real knife will be pristine. The natural oxidation process will cause an original knife to develop at least some dark spots. On the other hand, a replica will likely look polished and shiny, indicating that it was made recently. 

Material of the blade: WW trench knives were known for their strength and rigidity. These knives owe their durability to their carbon steel construction, which makes them resistant to damage. The high-strength carbon steel requires expertise and time to forge. Therefore, you should always ensure that a 1918 trench knife is made of high-carbon steel when evaluating its authenticity. 

Unlike modern steel alloys, high carbon steel has a slightly dull finish that can turn matt after the knife is worn out. So if you see a trench knife made out of any steel other than carbon steel, you should steer clear of it. Most replicas with shiny, smooth metal finishes are made of modern steel, making them easy to spot. 

High price tags: One straightforward method of determining whether a trench knife is real is by looking at its price tag. A ww1 trench knife is rare; therefore, you won’t find an authentic example listed for anything less than $1000. Considering their collectability and rich history, it wouldn’t be surprising to find these knives listed for even more. 

On the other hand, a cheap replica of the trench knife can go for as low as $30, and if you find a knife listed for such low prices, it is a fake. 

The 1917 trench knives are less sought after than the 1918 version, and even they are listed for thousands of dollars. So if a trench knife deal seems too good to be true, it is likely fake. 

 

Get expert help: Sometimes, a fake can be difficult to spot, and the only solution is to turn to the experts for a definitive answer. Luckily, you can post the images and other details of a 1918 trench knife in online forums dedicated to antique knives. The knife experts on these forums can help you identify whether the knife you are dealing with is fake or real. US Militaria Forum is one reputed forum that can offer help regarding a 1918 trench knife. 

In addition to online forums, you can contact knife experts to help identify a fake trench knife. 

authentic 1918 trench knife

FAQs

What is a 1918 trench knife worth?

The value of a World War 1 trench knife varies significantly, typically ranging from $100 to over $2,000. Factors influencing its worth include the model, condition, authenticity, and historical significance. Rare models, such as the U.S. Model 1918 Mark I, in excellent condition with original markings, command higher prices. Provenance and historical documentation can also increase value. Collectors should consult experts or recent auction sales for accurate appraisals.

Why are trench knives illegal?

The WWI trench knife, particularly the U.S. Model 1918 Mark I, was banned due to its design, which was considered excessively brutal for warfare. International humanitarian laws, primarily the 1929 Geneva Convention, aimed to limit unnecessary suffering in armed conflicts. The trench knife’s knuckle-duster grip, designed to inflict severe injuries, violated these evolving standards of warfare conduct. The ban reflects a broader effort to make war less inhumane.

Who made the 1918 trench knife?

The WW1 trench knife, specifically the Mark I trench knife, was manufactured by several American companies under military contract. Prominent makers included Landers, Frary & Clark; Henry Disston & Sons; and the American Cutlery Company. These companies produced the knives to meet military specifications for use in World War I. The design originated from the American Expeditionary Force’s requirements for close combat weaponry.

Conclusion

A 1918 trench knife is not only a valuable addition to any knife collection but also a significant artifact from WW1. The historical and practical importance of the WW1 trench knife has elevated it to a sought-after collector’s item. However, its popularity has also led to an increase in replicas, making the ability to discern an authentic WW1 trench knife from a counterfeit an essential skill for collectors. The tips provided in this article are designed to guide enthusiasts in identifying genuine 1918 trench blades, ensuring the preservation of this iconic piece of WW1 history.

Author: Aleks Nemtcev | Connect with me on LinkedIn

References:

Military affairs: journal of the American Military Institute, American Military History Foundation, American Military Institute, Kansas State University, Dept. of History (1937) Vol. I, p. 153

US Model 1918 Mk 1 Trench Knife/ National Museum of American History

The evolution of trench knife sofrep.com

Crowell, Benedict (1919), America’s Munitions 1917-1918, Report of Benedict Crowell, Assistant Secretary of War (Director of Munitions) U.S. War Department, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, pp. 88, 228

 

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  • Rubin Bland

    My Uncle got it in ww2

  • Rubin Bland

    I have a US 1918 au lion in excellent condition what’s it worth

  • Jegou

    Hello I am looking to sell a US 1918 knife which belonged to my father or can I sell it please.

  • Mick Mags

    I have my Dad’s LF&C 1918 knife in a leather sheath that he carried in the Solomon Islands & New Guinea during WW2. I’ll never part with it. Great Info. Thanks

  • Cassie k

    I found a trench knife but with out its blade attached too.. US 1918

  • Michael Hodge

    perfect article!!

  • Patrick McAssey

    How do you sell an original, 1918 trench knife with the knuckle duster if they are technically illegal? Also, is it legal if you are just a collector and have no intentions to carry it?
    Thank you

    Noblie

    When considering the sale of an original 1918 trench knife with a knuckle duster, it’s crucial to navigate legal regulations carefully due to the varied weapons laws in different regions. To legally sell such an item, you should:

    Research Local Laws: Understand the specific laws in your area regarding antique weapons.
    Understand Collector and Historical Item Exemptions: Some regions have exemptions for collectors or historical items, but these don’t automatically apply to all transactions.
    Use Appropriate Selling Platforms: Choose platforms that legally allow the sale of such items.
    Maintain Proper Documentation and Provenance: Have all necessary paperwork to prove the item’s authenticity and legal status.
    Communicate Clearly with Buyers: Ensure potential buyers are aware of the item’s nature and their legal responsibilities.
    Adhere to Shipping Regulations: Follow specific rules for shipping weapons, even antiques.
    Even if you’re a collector with no intent to use the knife, laws regarding possession, sale, and transportation must be strictly followed to ensure compliance and safety.

  • Daniel Clark

    I have a trench knife i believe is fake but trying to get an opinion from an expert

  • Jordan Reyes, New York city

    Is 1918 trench knife illegal in New York?

    Noblie

    The legality of specific knives, including the 1918 trench knife, can be complex and is subject to change over time. The 1918 trench knife, also known as the Mark I trench knife, is notable for its knuckle-duster grip and its spike pommel.

    Historically, New York State has had laws against metal knuckle weapons, which could potentially categorize the 1918 trench knife’s distinctive brass knuckles grip as illegal. New York’s penal law, under § 265.01, lists “metal knuckle knife” as a prohibited weapon.

    Furthermore, local ordinances in cities, such as New York City, may have their own specific restrictions that go beyond or differ from state laws.
    If you are considering owning, purchasing, selling, or carrying a 1918 trench knife or any other weapon in New York, it’s crucial to:
    Check the most current state and local laws and regulations.

    Consult with an attorney or legal expert familiar with New York weapons laws to ensure you fully understand any potential legal implications.
    Remember, laws can change, and interpretations of those laws can vary based on circumstances and specific legal definitions.

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