How to Tell If a 1918 Trench Knife Is Real

The 1918 trench knife was designed for close-quarter combat during World War 1 and is highly sought-after by collectors and enthusiasts. Despite the availability of variations and reproductions, it can be challenging to find a genuine 1918 trench knife. Those passionate about military blades often seek or acquire antique blades, such as the 1918 trench knife.

How to Tell If a 1918 Trench Knife Is Real? Identifying a genuine 1918 trench knife is essential to avoid misleading buyers about the cost or providing inaccurate details. However, dishonest collectors and producers often sell knockoff knives at exorbitant prices. To distinguish between genuine and replica 1918 trench knives, it is essential to be familiar with the various forms produced, as not all versions were used in war.

This article provides easy ways to determine the difference between a genuine and a replica 1918 trench knife, helping those struggling to determine the authenticity of a trench blade.

What makes a trench knife so unique?

The United States was not alone in its usage of trench knives during World War 1. The German, French, and British armies all utilized these knives to sneak into opposing lines and murder them in silence. The MK 1 trench knife was used in World War I between 1917 and 1918, and it was modeled after French trench knives of the time.

These trench knives stand out from the crowd because of their innovative finger loops and double-sided blades. Soldiers may use this weapon to effectively stab their enemies. The finger loops on certain models of the trench knife were replaced with a metal guard. Almost indistinguishable from its 1917 predecessor, the 1918 trench knife had a more robust hand guard and a more refined blade design. 

Trench knife versions produced too late to be employed in the 1918 trench combat were used years later during World War II. The demand for the upgraded 1918 model of the trench knife has led to a dramatic rise in prices. As a result, you should exercise extreme caution while purchasing the 1918 edition, since it is the one most often counterfeited.

If you are primarily interested in the standard-issue trench knife from 1918, then bear the following in mind:

  • The HD&S is a new take on the classic 1918 trench knife. Unfortunately, this model failed its field test and never made it into battle. Due to the variant’s requirement for enhancements, it was not given for use in battle. Therefore, you should worry about different versions if you desire the genuinely provided knife.
  • Both the grooved and ungrooved AU Lion-type trench knives are authentic and were supplied to soldiers.
  • The standard-issue American trench knife is a Landers Frary & Clark model.

Exploring the Design of the M1918 Trench Knife

For several reasons, the M1918 trench knife stands out from the crowd. To begin, it was intended mainly as a weapon rather than a multi-purpose instrument like many conventional military knives. It had several unique features, including:

Triangular Stiletto Blade: The blade of the M1918 Trench Knife is distinctive in that it is triangular and stiletto-shaped. A triangular stiletto blade replaces or sharpens the usual straight edge. Because of the high-stakes nature of trench combat, this design was created to inflict life-threatening wounds that would be difficult to cure.

Knuckle Duster Handle: The M1918 Trench Knife has a knuckle duster built into the grip. This reinforced section of the handle might be utilized to land a devastating blow, giving you more options in close quarters.

Skull Crusher Pommel: The skull crusher pommel is located at the end of the handle and is meant to crush the skull. The metal cap’s rounded shape makes it suitable for use as a blunt instrument.

These features made the 1918 trench knife an effective weapon in the muddy, cold, and wet conditions of the trenches.

How to Tell If a 1918 Trench Knife Is Real

Most counterfeit specialists intentionally age reproductions of 1918 trench knives to make them seem like the original item, making them quite convincing. There are exterior clues that might help you determine whether or not a trench knife is authentic. Without further ado, here are several methods for determining whether or not a 1918 trench knife is genuine:

1. Pay close attention to fonts

The words “US 1918” will be etched onto the blade of a genuine 1918 trench knife. Each knife has this inscription in the same general location on its handle. This identifying feature is standard on every trench knife and serves as a reliable indicator of its genuineness. 

The absence of this inscription on a knife’s blade is cause for immediate suspicion. You should inspect the font’s finishing if it is carved into the knife’s handle. A genuine blade will have a polished typeface engraved into it. Contrarily, carvings on a fake would be uneven and rough, giving away the fact that it wasn’t produced to military specifications. 

Finally, as a result of the knife’s age, the carved typeface will show signs of wear and tear. The worn typeface is not to be mistaken with a phony rough typeface. The carving may lose its luster and depth with time, but a genuine knife will keep its text in pristine condition. 

2. Look at the trademark of the knife

There were two common varieties of the 1918 trench knife: the Au Lion and the L. F & C. The brands are imprinted in a variety of places on the blades of these versions. 

The Au Lion’s brand was located at the ricasso of the blade, while the L. F & C trademark was located on the handle below the “US 1918” typeface. The Au Lion logo on the blade should stand out from the background color. The LF & C logo stands out on the otherwise uniform black handle. 

It’s also worth noting that authentic knives include markings centered on the ricasso and the handle. In the event of a genuine knife, the stamp—whether it be L. F. & C. or Au Lion—will be centered on the blade.

3. Signs of wear

In all likelihood, a genuine 1918 trench knife will have seen some combat. Thus, a genuine specimen will exhibit imperfections like scratches, chips, and grooves along the blade or the handle from normal use.

A duplicate produced lately to look like the original knife, on the other hand, will be as good as new. An authentic knife will acquire some black spots due to the natural oxidation process. A newly created duplicate, on the other hand, would have a polished and sparkling appearance. 

4. Material of the blade:

The trench knives of 1918 were renowned for their durability and sturdiness. The carbon steel used in their making is what gives these knives their resilience. Expertise and patience are needed to forge the high-strength carbon steel. To determine whether or not a 1918 trench knife is genuine, you should check its material. 

High carbon steel, unlike current steel alloys, has a somewhat dull sheen that might become matt after the knife has been used for a while. If you come across a trench knife that isn’t composed of carbon steel, you should avoid using it. Replicas are easily detected because of their contemporary steel construction and bright, polished metal surfaces. 

5. High price tags

The price tag might be a good indicator of the trench knife’s authenticity. Because genuine 1918 trench knives are so uncommon, you won’t find one for sale for less than $1,000. It’s not unexpected to see these knives advertised for more than they’re worth due to their collectability and lengthy history. 

However, a duplicate trench knife can be purchased for as little as $30, so any weapon advertised for that much is likely to be a knockoff. 

Although the 1918 trench knife is more in demand, thousands of dollars may still be paid for a 1917 model. If a purchase of a trench knife is advertised at an incredibly low price, it is probably not real.

6. Get expert help

The only way to know for sure whether something is phony is to have it examined by professionals. Thankfully, there are internet communities where you may share photos and information about a 1918 trench knife.

You may ask the knife experts on these message boards for advice on telling the difference between a genuine and a fake knife. If you need advice on where to get a 1918 trench knife, one reputable resource is the US Militaria Forum. 

If you need assistance spotting a phony trench knife, you may always consult with knife specialists or consult internet forums.

The History Of Trench Knives

During World War I, when fighting took place mostly in trenches, knuckle knives, or “trench knives,” were developed for use at close quarters. 

They were crucial to a new strategy of trench warfare that aimed to break through the enemy’s defenses. During World War II, both Allied and Axis troops kept using them and made improvements to the original design, just as we have done ever since.

Original trench knives were made either by troops or by ordnance blacksmiths. In most cases, they were little more than shorter bayonets. A French lieutenant colonel is credited with developing the first trench knife to get official military approval. 

After seeing the success of the French model, the United States quickly created its version. During World War II, the Army Rangers, Marine Raiders, and airborne battalions were all given the Mark I Trench Knife. 

A cast bronze “knuckle duster” guard was included, not as a weapon but rather as finger protection. The pommel, on the other hand, was made to smash an adversary’s skull.

Trench Knife-Carrying Soldier On the cover of Life, a soldier brandishes his trench knife.
The trench knife’s versatility and ease of use in confined quarters made it a vital weapon in the struggle between the trenches.

 And unlike gunfire, they wouldn’t alert the guards to your presence if you used one to eliminate the sentries. The Mark I has benefits and weaknesses as both a trench weapon and a utility knife. The blade proved unsuitable for opening ammunition and ration boxes, as discovered by the troops. 

They were never meant to serve any practical purpose. The Mark I trench knife provided by the United States military was reportedly not well received by the troops.

Cast bronze made the grip heavy and awkward to use, and prying with it often resulted in the blade breaking. The “knuckle duster” handle was also difficult to manufacture, and better alternatives for fighting knives emerged at this time.

The military eventually phased out the trench knives in favor of the Ka-Bar, a multi-function weapon and tool. They are available in a wide range and have endured the test of time. My preferred models are shown here.

United Cutlery Sentry Serrated Tanto Point Knife:

This trench knife is one of my favorites since it looks so sleek and up-to-date. The modern soldier may use the shoulder harness sheath included with this item. 

The blade is coated with a non-reflective material, making it ideal for stealth operations; it is also serrated and ends in a tanto tip. It’s a fantastic blade overall, and its cast-metal guard means business if necessary.

WWI 1918 Replica Trench Knife:

You need to go no further for a replica of the trench knives that were given to soldiers in World War I.

 Let me tell you, this is a wonderful artifact from the past that you may have for yourself. The “U.S. 1918” engraving on the knuckle buster handle is a dead ringer. The AUS-6 stainless steel blade is double-edged.

Eagle Flag Assisted Opening Folding Trench Knife:

This trench knife is a wonderful homage to the United States of America, and I am a sucker for anything patriotic. The fact that it’s a folding knife with a spring-assisted opener is a nice bonus. 

As a result, the trench knife is small, lightweight, and convenient to carry thanks to its pocket clip. The blade is anodized stainless steel.

FAQ on How to Tell If a 1918 Trench Knife Is Real

Q: What is a 1918 trench knife worth?

Ans: The value of vintage items, particularly those from the period of the war, may skyrocket. There is a wide price range for imitation trench knives, from $25 to $120. Original 1918 trench knives, fetch significantly greater premiums. The retail price of an authentic, rare variation may range from $900 to $1200.

Q: Why are trench knives illegal?

Ans: For a variety of reasons, trench knives are classified as dangerous weapons in several jurisdictions across the world. The double-edged blades are the emphasis of the prohibition in certain jurisdictions, while the knuckle dusters and overall length of the weapon are the focus in others.

Q: How Expensive are The Trench Knives? 

Ans: Trench knives command a high price since they are a collectible relic from the war. A genuine trench knife will set you back at least $900. In such a case, you have the copies.

Q: Who manufactured the trench knife in 1918?

Ans: Since the Mark I trench knife had an unusually large knuckleduster grip handle, it came with a custom metal scabbard designed specifically for it. Captain Rupert Hughes of the United States Army filed a patent application for the Hughes Trench Knife, an automatic-opening trench knife, in 1918.

Q: Where Can You Find a Real Trench Knife?

Ans: Genuine trench knives are available for purchase in reputable online knife communities. I’m thinking specifically about collecting-minded message boards.

Q: What was a trench knife used for?

Ans: A trench knife is a type of fighting knife made to kill or hurt an enemy up close, like in a ditch or other small space. During the First World War, it was made to help troops strike enemy bunkers from close range.


Due to its historical relevance, a 1918 trench knife is an excellent addition to any knife collection. Because of its high value, the trench knife has been widely copied. The advice in this article should help you identify a genuine 1918 trench blade if you find yourself in possession of a counterfeit.

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