Knives have been with us for as long as when the first caveman had that eureka moment and thought of sharpening stones and animal bones to kill wild animals. From then on, countless designs and ideas sprung up designed for different purposes. They were no longer just used for killing animals but also for close-combat purposes, whenever needed— like during WWI.

Combatting in the trenches was undoubtfully difficult. The attack, counterattack, and defense were all made on foxholes dug into the ground. What’s more, opposing trenches were usually close to one another. Fighting in the trenches of WWI involved a lot of storming the enemy’s positions brutally close combat. Weapons like long bayonets fixed to rifles proved unwieldy in the narrow trench lines.

What would be the best weapon for close combat in a confined area? Knuckle bar? Knife? How about both? That’s what Henry Disston & Sons, a civilian company making tools and saws, thought when they designed the M1917 trench knife. Inspired by the French Nail knives, it has a long, triangular blade and a knuckle guard on its handle. Henry Disston & Sons were not traditional knife-makers, so the M1917 turned out to be rather flimsy, and since the blade was triangular, it could only stab but not cut.

World War I trench knife, model 1917 “knuckle-duster.”

Shortly after, these deficiencies were addressed with the improved M1918 trench knife. This version has a brass knuckle-duster grip and a double-edged blade. It could be used both for stabbing and slashing.