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US Navy Ames M1860 Naval Cutlass used during the Civil War, Span-Am War, Boxer Rebellion, WWI and Beyond
Photographs, History, Identification, Technical Information, Pricing and Availability

With well over 25,000 produced the US Navys Model M1860 was by far the most famous US Navy Cutlass ever made and was used for well over 80 Years, produced by the Ames Manufacturing Company, Chicopee, Massachusetts.

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model m1860 naval cutlass separate from leather scabbard with frog

It is the intention of this web page to provide a thorough examination of the US Navy's Model M1860 Cutlass, Scabbard and Attaching Frog as produced by the Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Massachusets.

Towards that end we will provide detailed photographic illustrations of the history of the M1860 cutlass and it was assembled, its pieces, measurements, and the specific manufacturer's marks used by Ames on the model M1860 cutlass, and where they should be found.

In learning about the US Navy's M1860 cutlass we should first learn of its origin and pedigree, where it came from. The U.S. Navy M1860 cutlass was originally designed from the French Model 1833 naval cutlass which itself was designed from an earlier French 1803 model cutlass. The French M1833 was a hallmark cutlass. Simple in design, without any frills, yet beautifully designed and a very effective fighting weapon which was duplicated by most of the navies of the world, including the United States Navy. The US Navy's M1860 cutlass differed slightly in design; the blade was significantly less wider and a bit shorter thus making it alot less lighter than the French M1833.

Here below is an example of the French Model M1833 Naval cutlass that the US M1860 cutlass was modelled after:

french m1833 naval cutlass boarding sword
french m1833 naval cutlass boarding sword

The above French model M1833 Cutlass looks very similar to the US Navy's M1860 Cutlass having the sweeping upturned blade (called a falchion), a single fuller (a fuller is the long groove found on some sword blades, it is there for balance and not as some think for exiting blood), and the distinctive closed cup hilt which was made of iron. This French cutlass has that traditional "piratey" look and feel of a true boarding cutlass seen in all of the movies and artwork of the time.

The French model M1833 Cutlass with the iron hilt had its entire hilt (grip, guard, closed cage and pommel) coated in a heavy black japanning to protect the metal from rusting. Sometimes collectors thought this was black paint which was added on post-production, but it was part of the manufacturing process. We here at The Pirate's Lair have a French M1833 Cutlass which has the black japanning on the inside guard and closed cup, but it was removed sometime in the past from the exterior of the cup.

Note the anchor engraved on the blade near the ricasso, or the point of the unsharpened blade closest to the guard or hilt. On the French M1833 cutlass this anchor was engraved on both sides of the blade making no mistake that it was of naval provenance. The M1833 also had a relatively wide and thick blade and was a number of inches longer than the M1860, making it a substantial weapon - but perhaps just a bit too bit and heavy for the close-in fighting found on the deck of a ship.

Click Here For Price, Availability and Information on the most copied French Naval Cutlass models AN IX M1801 and M1833.

Now that we know of the origins of the most produced US Navy M1860 Naval Cutlass, let's proceed to reviewing that distinctive cutlass. Yes, the US Navy again plaguerized the French in designing its latest naval cutlass, this time for the civil war!

m1860 naval cutlass in leather scabbard with frog

Photo above shows a complete US Navy M1860 Cutlass with Scabbard, Frog Stud, and Attaching Frog. The only defect on this particular cutlass is the missing brass wire wrapping around the black dyed leather grip made of sharkskin or rayskin which is also known as "shagreen". This shagreen is typically used on swords, daggers and cutlasses where slipperiness is a disadvantage; shagreen has a non-slippery rough surface. See a photo below which illustrates what a complete grip would look like.

Note the 43 copper rivets and washers going down the back seam of the scabbard with a larger one at the end. There will always be this many rivets on the scabbard of an M1860 cutlass, always on the reverse side. Anything different is a reproduction and every cutlass shipped by Ames came with a scabbard. Don't listen to any of those stories about the M1860 naval cutlass being shipped without a scabbard because the navy didn't used them because all of their scabbards were not worn but put into ready racks. This is nonsense.

Additional Information
Overall Cutlass Length (point tip to pommel):
Additional Information
Blade Length (point tip to quillon):
Somewhat shorter than the French M1833
Blade Width (at ricasso):
1 3/16"
Less robust than the French M1833
Blade Thickness (at spine):
sometimes measured at 5/16"
Blade Fuller Width:
Provides for its strength and balance
Blade Fuller Length:
Again, for the balance
Brass Hilt (from outer edge of quillon to tip of pommel:
5 3/4"
Nice Half Cup to Protect the Hand and Knuckles
Brass Hilt Rivets, (attach knuckle bow to closed cup):
Elegant Naval Cutlass, Well Balanced
Brass Hilt Rivets, Size of Heads:
The lower rivet is susceptible to damage and breaking
Grip Length (top):
3 7/16"
from quillion to start of pommel
Grip Length (bottom):
4 3/16"
from quillion to end of knuckle guard
Grip, # of Brass Wire Turns:
Authentic M1860 Cutlasses had the wired taken off when put into service
Scabbard (length):
only made of leather and copper rivets. there is no securing brass at the throat or tip
Scabbard, (small copper rivets):
note that each rivet also has a copper retaining washer securing the inside scabbard seam
Scabbard, (large copper rivet):
found at the tip and is thru-and-thru
Scabbard Frog Stud, Brass
from the end of the throat to dead on center of the stud
Weight (in Scabbard):
2 lbs, 6 oz
A very handsome cutlass, not many scabbards survived
Weight (cutlass only):
2 lbs
Much lighter than the French M1860 but well balanced
m1860 naval cutlass in leather scabbard with frog m1860 naval cutlass separate from leather scabbard with frog

Note the similarities between the US Navy M1860 and the French M1833: Closed hilt cup, slightly curved quillion, and sweeping falchion blade with single wide fuller. Both beautiful, elegant designs in their simplicity. And remember, these were not ceremonial, parade or personal officer's swords! These were produced for the enlisted crew to be used during battle.

The outside or front of the scabbard is being shown in these two photographs - the rear of the scabbard where it is riveted go against the body or leg while the plain leather side faces away.

m1860 naval cutlass scabbard rivets closeup m1860 naval cutlass and scabbard reverse

Again, note how the copper rivets appear. There are many fakes and reproductions but they do not have rivets and securing washers which look like these. Also, there is always one large thru-and-thru rivet at the very tip of the scabbard. This is the the only rivet you will see on the front side of the scabbard. Many scabbards have lost this large rivet and washer used in terminating and securing the stitching.

m1860 naval cutlass and scabbard tip m1860 naval cutlass separate from leather scabbard with frog

Again, photos showing how the rivets go up the back seam of the scabbard and in alignment with the blade. Note the large thru-and-thru rivet at the tip of the scabbard.

m1860 naval cutlass in leather scabbard with frog m1860 naval cutlass closeup of brass closed hilt

There are 10 brass rivets which secure the closed hilt cup to the hilt guard. If the hilt is missing these rivets, or does not have a closed cup then either it is a reproduction or the cup was removed at some point in time. We have seen this where the cup of the hilt has been removed leaving only the knuckle bow.

m1860 naval cutlass brass hilt and guard, leather scabbard and frog m1860 naval cutlass brass hilt and guard, leather scabbard and frog reverse

Just different views of the M1850 cutlass scabbard, frog stud with attached frog, the brass cutlass hilt, cup, leather grip and pommel.

m1860 naval cutlass brass hilt, leather grip with wrapped wire m1860 naval cutlass pommel, grip, inside guard and cup

The grip shown here is absolutely 100% perfect in all ways which consists of a wooden grip over the tang of the blade. The wooden grip has been machine detailed to provide 20 grooves in which a layer of shagreen leather has been put over and then wrapped in 3 stranded brass wire that snugly fits into the grooves securing leather and wood together. It is assumed that the wire wrap on the grip has been re-worked, or this naval cutlass was never issued for sea service use or the wire wrapping would have been removed.

m1860 naval cutlass inspector initials on pommel of grip m1860 naval cutlass serial number on inside guard of the hilt

Each M1860 Naval Cutlass has a serial number stamped on the inside quillion! At the written request of the US Navy the Ames Company stamped a serial number on each and every cutlass. This serial number will always be found on the inside of the quillion (or guard) as shown. This serial number consists of 2 digits and an M on the first line and 3 digits on the line below. The top number represents thousands and the bottom number represents hundreds.

In the above example to the left the serial number of this particular cutlass would be 13,400 while the cutlass to the left has a serial number of 19,752. We have only seen one M1860 cutlass which did not have a serial number on the inside quillion/guard. The highest serial number found to date is well over 25,000. While there is some supposed documentation that shows Ames produced a total of 22,300 of the M1860 for the Navy and an additional 300 for the Army we have irefutable evidence that these serial numbers went past 25,000.
(the letter M always represents a 1000 within a numerical context while the letter K represents 100's)

m1860 naval cutlass inspector initials on pommel of grip m1860 naval cutlass no visible inspector initials on pommel of grip

The pommel cap on this naval cutlass is sometimes referred to as a Phrygian-helmet design type of cap because it resembles a Phrygian helmet.

The US military had inspectors at each of the manufacturing plants that produced parts for the war effort. It is well documented who these inspectors were, their names, how long they were employed by the government, their tenure at each manufacturing facility, and the specific types of equipment they were charged to inspect and approve.

At the Ames Manufacturing Company there was an individual named Daniel Reynolds (initials DR) which was responsible for inspecting a substantial amount (if not all) of the model M1860 cutlasses produced. And his initials are typically sometimes found on the pommel and most always on the ricasso of the M1860 cutlass. Sometimes it appears that the initials "DH" also appear as an inspection mark on the pommel but we think it really is a mistamped "DR".

In the photo on the left you can clearly see the initials "DR". While the pommel shown on the right does not show any inspection marks. Again, most of the M1860 cutlasses will have the "DR" inspection while some do not. If your M1860 does not have these initials on the pommel you should not be too worried.

m1860 naval cutlass inspector initials, usn, date, P and anchor

This is the most important area in identifying the provenance of the M1860 Naval Cutlass, on the blade's ricasso. In general one should see any and all of the identifying marks shown in the left photograph on one side of the blade, and directly on the obverse side would be the identifying maker's mark of the Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts.

WARNING! As we have tried to illustrate the M1860 naval cutlass consists of two distinct parts: the steel blade and the brass hilt. This and most swords and cutlasses were made in such a manner that the major components could be removed and replaced in the event of damage, which sometimes was often in battle (or pissing off your neighbor). Over the years on many of these cutlasses the steel blade has rusted and deteriorated to the point of it not being marketable. So the savvy and sometimes not-so-ethical seller will remove the brass hilt (which does not rust) from the rusted out blade and replace it with a different non-M1860 blade, and attempt to sell it as an authentic M1860 naval cutlass. So beware! If the blade does NOT have at least some of the markings and characterstics shown on this page then you should be asking some hard questions or just walk away from the sale.

The left photograph. This illustrates the most identifying marks that you will ever find on a model M1860, you may find less but you will never find more, and they will all be found in the hierarchical order as shown. Example: you would never see the initials "USN" below the inspector's initials "DR", you would never find any marks below the date.

At the top would be the "anchor" as seen which is self-explanatory.
Below that would sometimes be a capital "P", which no one seems to know the significance. If someone knows we would love to learn.
Next would be the initials "U.S.N." which again is self explanatory, with periods separating the letters.
Next would be the military inspector's initials, in all cases we have found them to be "D.R." with the letters separated by periods.
Lastly, closest to the quintillion or guard would be the year of manufacture. In this case 1862 which we believe was when a significant number of this model cutlass was made. The latest production date found was 1865.

While we have seen some authentic M1860's without either that large P or the anchor, at the barest minimum you should at least see in some recognizable form the initials USN, the initials DR and the Date. If none of this is found, even faintly, then you have to be asking the seller some serious questions. m1860 naval cutlass ames mfg co, chicopee, mass in scripted box

On the obverse side of the blade at the ricasso you will find the manufacture's maker mark, and in this case it will always be Made By, AMES MFg Co , CHICOPEE , MASS in scripted text within a scroll box as shown to the left. This maker mark was not stamped deeply into the blade and in many, many cases it will only be faintly or partially recognizable. But while some of the other marks may/may not have been stamped, this maker mark was always stamped.

In all cases the US Navy Cutlass Model M1860 will show in scripted text in a scroll block:

Made By

This brings us to the conclusion of our technical dissertation on the U.S. Navy Model M1860 Naval Cutlass. We hope that you found it both interesting and factual, and a help in finding that special cutlass for your collection. Below you will find naval cutlasses, boarding axes and boarding pikes offered by The Pirate's Lair.

19thC Single Stick Training Cutlass #1 and #2
VERY RARE! US Navy authentic antique oak and leather training cutlasses used during practice drill known as "Single Stick". These wooden training cutlasses were made to simulate the M1860 cutlass. Formalized cutlass training typically took place aboard ship between the 1860s to 1890s only to those seamen designated to use them during boarding situations or to repel boarders. Simply yet handsomely made of handcrafted 35" oak sticks simulating both blade and grip with thick leather cups and guards to protect the hand and fingers during the practice drill. All of these "single sticks" were manufactured essentially the same with the leather cup being secured to the rear of the pommel with a screw and washer with the front of the leather secured with a spinter of wood pushed thru the leather and oak stick - made easy to repair. Not many survived due to the very nature of their use!
Antique civil war us navy practice cutlass of oak and leather
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M1860 Naval Cutlass s/n 10M802 #1
One of a kind!! Serial number 10M802. Dated 1862 with USN and DR initials clearly seen on ricasso with maker mark visible on the obverse. Remnants of scabbard. Of note are small battle nicks on the blade and three "kill notches" on the knuckle guard which makes this cutlass one-of-a-kind.
Antique civil war naval cutlass m1860
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M1860 Naval Cutlass s/n 23M807 #2
Great Cutlass! Serial number 23M807. Dated 1862 with USN, DR initials, and date clearly seen on ricasso with maker mark visible on the obverse. The inspection mark DR is also visible on the pommel. The serial number on the guard is plainly visible. No scabbard. The handle is in great shape but the wire wrapping is gone as can be expected. Some slight pitting on the blade. But all in all this is a nice, polished cutlass and displays well.
Antique civil war naval cutlass m1860
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M1860 Naval Cutlass s/n 2M603 #3
Great Early Production Naval Cutlass! Serial number 2M603 Dated 1861 which can be clearly seen. The Ames Corporation maker mark is still faintly visible on the obverse ricasso. The serial number on the guard is plainly visible. No scabbard. The handle is still in great shape but the wire wrapping is gone as can be expected. Some VERY slight very old pitting on the blade, again as should be expected and extremely displays well.
Antique civil war naval cutlass m1860
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M1860 Naval Cutlass s/n 24M891 #4Excellent condition Civil War U.S. Navy Model M1860 naval cutlass. This cutlass has it all: clearly defined serial number 24M891 on the inside guard, initials DR on the pommel, clearly stamped "Anchor, USN, DR, and 1862" on the ricasso of the blade. The Ames maker mark is lightly stamped on the obverse ricasso as it should be. Blade has some minimal pitting as can be seen and expected. The brass hilt, guard and pommel have no damage. Wire strand around the grip is missing as should be. The grip has the original shagreen leather intact and good-excellent condition but with a slight seam split.
'Antique civil war naval cutlass m1860 24M891
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M1860 Naval Cutlass s/n 25M877 #5Very Good condition Civil War U.S. Navy Model M1860 naval cutlass. Clearly defined serial number 25M877 on the inside guard, inspector initials DR clearly visible on the pommel, clearly stamped "USN, DR, and 1864" on the ricasso of the blade. The Ames maker mark is lightly stamped on the obverse ricasso as it should be. Blade is in excellent condition and has some very light pitting as can be seen and expected. The brass hilt has a very old 1" crack along the edge, but does not detract. Both guard and pommel are excellent with a great patina. The grip is in excellent condition. Wire strand around the grip is missing as should be. The original shagreen leather is weathered, missing from age, but the wooden grip is in excellent condition.
'Antique civil war naval cutlass m1860 25M877
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A Study in FAKE and REPRODUCTION US Navy M1860 Naval Cutlass - Warning! Beware of Fakes!
Fake Reproduction civil war naval cutlass m1860
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Photographic examples and written text will illustrate and compare both the fakes to the antique originals.
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Custom Wooden Wall Brackets for the Naval Cutlass
Elegant in Their Simplicity! Custom Crafted Wooden Wall Brackets Specifically for a Cutlass Display or Sword Display for a Secure, Beautiful and Professional Presentation.

These Handcrafted Wooden Wall Brackets or Wall Mounts Are Made for the Wide and Large Hilts Normally Found on Cutlasses and Some Swords and Prevent the Hilt or Cup From Touching the Wall. The TPL Wall Brackets Come Complete with 2 Brackets and 2 Mounting Screws, and are Available in 3 Sizes with a Choice of Oak or Walnut Woods!
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2.25" 2.75" 3.75"

specify length and either Oak or Walnut when calling.
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Click HERE for WWII US Navy Anchor China

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Music Credits: Donald Where's Your Trousers/Drunken Sailor medley by The Bards

The m1860 naval cutlass made by ames co was also sometimes known as a navy sword or naval short sword as the blade was sometimes significantly shorter than some of the 30" plus blades found on infantry and calvary swords.

moreover the sweeping blade of the cutlass was called in french m1833 the "falchion" which distiguishes it from the straigher sword blades.