Overview of kS98

The Seitengewehr für Maschinengewehr-Schützen was introduced by the Prussian military on the 30th April 1901 as a distinctive sidearm for the newly-raised Independent Machine Gun Units (Maschinengewehr-Abteilungen). Befitting their elite status, the bayonet took inspiration from the earlier Hirschfänger model bayonets issued to Jäger and Schützen that had incorporated a simulated eagle’s head and beak into the pommel. Perhaps heralding intentions for this bayonet to be issued more widely, it was re-named as the Kurzes (short) Seitengewehr (k.S.98) on the 23rd February 1905 [Decree A.V.Bl 1905, No.5, S.37] distinguishing it from the regular long-bladed S98 arming the infantry.

The kS98 with riveted leather grips was manufactured solely by the Prussian state arsenal Erfurt from 1901 to 1912. A new system of using two bolts to attach wood or composition grips to the tang was trialed in 1912 and resulted in Erfurt transitioning to make composition-gripped kS98 for the colonies until 1914 and wood-gripped bayonets for troops based in Germany until late in 1915. Production of the kS98 was expanded in 1913 to include the Bavarian state arsenal Amberg, that assembled leather- and then wood-gripped kS98 until 1914. In addition, the kS98 was manufactured at the Suhl-based private companies of Haenel and Schilling, as well as Hörster in Solingen. Operating as a consortium, Haenel and Schilling produced leather- and then wood-gripped kS98 in 1913 and 1914 for the Prussians, Bavarians and Saxons. In contrast, Hörster primarily manufactured wood-gripped kS98 for colonial troops in 1913. A detailed account of kS98 manufacture by each of these arsenals and companies is provided in the Manufacturers Sections.

Following the introduction of the Kar 98AZ to Verkehrstruppen (communication troops) in 1909, the kS98 was issued to air balloon and airship (Luftschiffer) troops and then the aviation (Flieger) and telegraph (Telegraphen) battalions. At the same time, the kS98 was being supplied to Schutztruppen and Polizeitruppen in the German Colonies. Although official records do not exist, it is apparent that pioneer searchlight (Scheinwerferzug), colonial naval detachments and war-time ski battalions (Schneeschuhbataillonen) were also issued with kS98. Although initially designed for the Maschinengewehr-Abteilungen, the kS98 was not issued to the regular Infantry Maschinengewehr-Kompanien but did make a reappearance in the 1916 machine gun marksman detachments (Maschinengewehr-Scharfschützen-Abteilungen). Short histories of these units and their kS98 can be found in the Issue of kS98 Section and Colonial Section. With the need for short fighting knives and bayonets in the trenches, the kS98 soon became widely dispersed amongst German army and period photographs can be found with the kS98 in the hands of a wide variety of front-line troops.

Although the design of the kS98 did not change substantially over its 14 years of production, it is evident that the Prussians considered different versions for military use.  The rare kS98 varieties trialed for the Cavalry in 1908 and 1909, but never put into production, are detailed in the Cavalry Trials Section. Following the war, soldiers modified their service-issue kS98 as they felt appropriate and the Post-war Section touches upon some of these variations.

It is estimated that a total of approximately 32,000 kS98 were produced with the Saxons and Bavarians having 1,500-2,000 each, and the Prussians with 12,000 in the colonies and 16,000 issued at home. This makes the kS98 an uncommon Imperial bayonet with different unit markings and production years making some examples very rare. A guide to Production Years and Rarity for the kS98 is provided at the end of the book.