So, Does the Military Still Use Bayonets?

The president's comments on old-style military weaponry prompted an outpouring of fact-checking on the Internet.

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Civil War. Young Soldiers From The Union Army.

Wow, who knew that bayonets were such a touchy subject? Conservative commentators and edged-weapon enthusiasts have leaped to the defence of every rifleman’s favorite sharp pointy thing after President Obama suggested during the presidential debate that there are fewer of them now than during the Civil War days.

During President Obama and Mitt Romney’s final presidential debate, Mr. Obama laid into the trusty weapon:

“We also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

The official Republican National Committee research department replied to the President by tweeting a link to a page on — which notes that every Marine receives bayonet training in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) — accompanied by a photo of a soldier stabbing a pile of tires.

Dan Riker, owner of the Georgia-based military surplus outlet Bayonet, Inc., told TMZ that bayonets  “are still distributed to the military all the time” and that the President’s comment was “ignorant.”

So does the military actually still use bayonets? Some Marines were quick to defend the weapon on Twitter. But as the Wall Street Journal notes, “few Marines or soldiers ever use a bayonet and service members on patrol do not equip their rifles with bayonets.” According to the Washington Post, the U.S. Army discontinued bayonet instruction during basic training in 2010.

Indeed, hand-to-hand combat situations are fairly rare in today’s conflicts — and when they do happen they seldom involve a bayonet. Sgt. Cliff Woolridge, who received the Navy Cross earlier this year for killing a Taliban militant in hand-to-hand combat, did so, as the Journal noted, not with a bayonet but with the stock of an AK-47 assault rifle. And in 2010, a Nepalese Gurkha soldier fought off more than a dozen Afghan insurgents simultaneously, brandishing his machine gun tripod after running out of ammunition.

NewsFeed’s question is, who will speak for the horses?

MORE: How Obama Won The Foreign Policy Debate