The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

In 1911, H. N. Platts, was able to draw on his extensive friendships and family connections in the cutlery world to start Western States Cutlery and Manufacturing of Boulder Colorado. At first only a jobbing business, by 1920 construction and machinery purchases were underway to begin manufacture of knives. Through name changes--to Western States Cutlery Co. in 1953, then Western Cutlery Co. in 1956--and moves first across town and later to Longmont Colorado, the company stayed under the leadership of the Platt family until 1984. In that year, the company was sold to Coleman, becoming Coleman-Western. Eventually purchased by Camillus in 1991, Western continued until Camillus expired in 2007.
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The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:42 am

NOTE: This thread is initially started without pictures. Pictures will be added to my posts over time as quickly as I can get my act together. Edits will be made for picture additions and, if necessary, for factual corrections as errors or updated information is located/verified.

This method is to ensure that the right pictures get put in the right posts. Also, some of the knives are "temporarily misplaced", hiding in the wrong tubs. ::dang::


One of my favorite knives of all time is the Western W49 Bowie Knife and its variations.

This thread is started as an information repository for folks trying to identify/verify/date their Western Bowie knife. It will only contain information on THIS Western knife “family”. Other Western knife models that have been called “Bowie knives” are not included in this thread.

I have identified multiple variations of the W49 with the earliest dating back to WW2. I am certain that there are variations that I have not even encountered yet. I have tried to get the postings in the order of the knives’ manufacture, but as with any endeavor, what I don’t know is bound to jump up and bite me. Any dates I have assigned to a variant are based on the best information I have at this time, as gleaned from books, advertisements, anecdotal evidence (stories) and SWAGs.

If the date looks wishy-washy because of a “?” or “/”, it’s because it is wishy-washy. Due to the manner in which Western catalogs were promulgated, exact dates for some versions have been elusively difficult to nail down. In the case of a dual year designation, e.g., 73/74, what is known is that different info sources will list different dates. Obviously, the year code versions are a piece of cake. Other versions have initial/final dates that overlap. Examples of this are “Versions 2, 3, and 4”.

Many times, dates are based on when someone says they bought Version X. The problem with using purchase records for dating is that a particular piece could have sat on a shelf for a while, becoming “NOS”. A reported date of purchase (along with a receipt) can be used to move the initial use date of a stamp backwards in time, but such evidence can never definitively indicate when the use of a particular stamp ended. “Stock on hand” will extend “sales dates” by months or even years. Western never came out (that I have found, that is :D) with an announcement in the press saying “We just changed our stamp on the W49”. What really happens is that some user or collector happens to notice that a change has occurred. Just remember, some of the info I have is set in concrete, while other info is set in Jello. :D

If anyone spots an error in what I have here, please let me know (along with the source of your information) and I will correct it. If is a matter of differences in opinion, please post what your different opinion is and we see if someone can set us all on the right path. :D

Across various knife forums and websites, I have seen the variations referred to as being a “Type X”, a “Generation X” or a “Version X” where the “X” is some single digit integer, generally between 1 and 6, depending on who made the reference based on whatever information they had at the time.

In compiling this information, however, I have broken the knives into significantly more version designations, based on manufacturer’s stamps, construction, dates of construction, etc.

My abbreviations for references used are:

TKMWWW refers to “The Knife Maker Who Went West” by Harvey Platts, 1977

COLE refers to “US Military Knives, Bowies and Machetes” Books 1, 2, 3 or 4 by M.H. Cole


So, here is MY list of the Western Bowie/W49 version descriptions as of 12/14/2017 -

WW2 version
Version 1 – WW2 Bx-54 Bushman (mistakenly called a V44 by many folks) 1943 - 1944

Viet Nam Era versions
Version 2 – Western Bowie (two sided tang stamp) 1964? – 1965/66
Version 3 – Western Bowie (single sided tang stamp) 1965/66 - 1967
Version 4 – Western Bowie (Guard Stamped – both sides) 1967 – 1968
Version 5 – Western Bowie Stainless Steel (Guard Stamped – both sides) 1967
Version 6 – Western W49 (Guard Stamped – both sides) 1968 – 1973
Version 7 – Western S-649 Stainless Steel (Guard Stamped – both sides) 1968 – ????

Post-Viet Nam ERA versions
Version 8 – Western W49 (Guard Stamped – both sides) 1973 - 1976
Version 9 – Western W49 Year Code Stamped (Western Produced) 1977 - 1984
Version 10 – Western W49 Year Code Stamped (Coleman-Western Produced) 1985 - 1991
Version 11a (High Carbon) and 11b (Stainless) – Western W49s Camillus Era 1992 – 2006
Versions 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and Other – “Specialty” Variations

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:42 am

Western Bowie #1 – WW2 Navy/Army Air Corps M592 Survival Kit Machete - Bx-54 Bushman

***** Put BX54 picture here *****

In 1926, the Collins Company began making the #18 Machete Pequeno, or Little Machete.
***** Put Collins #18 Green Horn Version Here *****

In 1934, the Department of War chose the #18 to be the machete to be included in the M592 Seat Pad Survival Kit.
***** Put Picture of Seat Pad Kit Here *****

In 1938, the M592 Kit was enlarged and had nomenclature change from “Seat Pad” to “Back Pad”, indicating a modification as to where the kit was stored in aircraft.
***** Put Picture of Back Pad Kit Here *****
At some point in time, black Bakelite began replacing the green horn
***** Put Picture of Collins #18 Bakelite Handle here *****

When WW2 began, plane construction obviously increase dramatically. Every plane required from 1 to 9 Back Pad Kits, depending on the plane model. Collins was unable to keep up with the demand, as they were also busy making all types of machetes and clearing tools. Inter-company cooperation was much friendlier during that time. Military Contract copies were authorized for Case and Western manufacture clones of the #18. Case’s version was identical to the #18. Western’s version, on the other hand, was the same with respect to the handle and blade, but Western’s guard was a simple steel oval rather than a heavy brass double-quillon guard. The contracts for the #18/clones were somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 pieces.

Western’s name for its clone was - Bx54 Bushman. The handle material is black Bakelite. The guard is a stamped steel oval, unlike the large brass guard with quillions found on the original bailout machete, the Legitimus Collins #18 and the Case copy of the #18. The blade is stamped with just the single word “WESTERN” in all capital letters parallel to the spine on the left side of the blade. There are two small fuller grooves on each side.

***** Put Picture of BX54 Stamp *****


Nothing to do with the Western Bowies, but included for posterity since people keep calling the Bushman a “V44”–

These knives (the #18 and clones) are incorrectly called the V44 Marine Raider Bowie knife. In his books, Cole called them the V44 Types 1,2,3,4 (Collins, CaseXX, Western, Kinfolks) and the type 5, the CaseXX Fixed blade V44. I'm not certain if Cole decided to name them (V44) that or if he was just following along with the prevailing nomenclature.

The Type 5 Case Fixed Blade Machete version is the ONLY knife called designated as a V44 during WW2. V44 was a Case in-house designation of the fixed blade machete. Both the V44 designation and the Marine Raider Bowie designation are fodder for a separate discussion threads.

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:43 am

The next 3 versions of the Western Bowie are identical in material and construction. The ONLY differences between versions #2, #3 and #4 are in stamp location(s).

Western Bowie #2 – Western Bowie, version 1 - Time frame -- 1964? to 1965

***** Put Picture of Inverted Bowie here *****

The first post-WW2 “W49” Bowie knife version was simply designated as the Western Bowie knife in advertising. W49 was only used in-house as a stock number. The ricasso stamps are

WESTERN
over
Boulder Colo USA

on the mark (left) side and

BOWIE

(inverted) on the pile (right) side.

Mark Side
***** Put Picture of Mark Side here *****

Pile Side
***** Put Picture of Pile Side Here *****
The 3 brass handle rivets are small, approximately 3/16 inch in diameter.
***** Put Picture of Small Rivets here *****

The blade is made of high carbon Chrome Vanadium steel, probably 1095CV or the equivalent. The handle materials are rosewood and the butt is smoothly rounded.

The sheaths for these first Western Bowies were dangler-less.
***** Put Picture of Dangler-less Sheath ******

The first mystery also comes with the first W49 version. Generally, the initial date for the Western Bowie is taken as gospel to be 1964. This is usually based on an 1964 advertisement showing an Army Sargent holding one. The discrepancy stems from a presentation plaque I saw with a Western Bowie mounted on it with an engraved plate stating “10th Anniversary” over “1962”. And No, I was NOT smart enough to snitch a copy of the plaque pic from fleabay.

Possible explanations are:

1 – Someone back-dated a presentation plaque when it was finally made some time after 1964.
2 – The plate was mis-dated and not fixed.
3 – Someone replaced whatever knife was originally mounted on the plaque with a Bowie, after they came out.
4 – The plaque was legitimately made in 1962 with a Western Bowie on it from the git-go.

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:43 am

Western Bowie #3 – Western Bowie, version 2 - Time frame 1965 – 1967

The second “W49” version was also designated as the Western Bowie knife. The ricasso stamps are

WESTERN

over

BOWIE

over

U.S.A. on the mark (left) side.

***** Put Picture of Bowie 2 stamp here *****

The sheaths for these first Western Bowies were also dangler-less.

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:43 am

Western Bowie #4 – Western Bowie, version 3 Time Frame -- 1966 – 1968 (early)

The third “W49” version was also designated as the Western Bowie knife. There are no ricasso stamps. The stamps are on either side of the guard instead.

WESTERN

over

Boulder, Colo. USA

is on the mark (left) side of the guard

***** Put Picture of Mark Side stamp here *****
and

BOWIE

on the pile (right) side.
***** Put Picture of Pile Side stamp here *****



Most of these knives came with a dangler-less sheath. BUT….. during the summer of 1968, Western specifically started advertising that the W49 Bowie (Name and Model now the same) had the new “Swing sheath”, featuring the dangler.

The early sheaths for this version did not have a dangler, but anecdotal testimony via Sactroop where 3 individuals known to Sactroop indicate that the knives they purchased in early 1967 came with the dangler sheath. This is probably an indication of advertising lagging reality.

The early dangler sheaths may be identified by looking at the pair of rivets on the back of the sheath. Early sheaths have solid rivets.

At some point, someone at Western determined that the thigh strap grommet would work in place of the rivets just as well and Western would only have to maintain 1 item in stock.

***** Put Picture of Early Dangler Sheath Back Here *****

***** Put Picture of Later Dangler Sheath Back Here *****

My speculation is that Western probably decided sometime in 1967 that they were going to shift to a dangler style sheath for the Western Bowie and so ordered all new future Bowie sheaths be of the dangler style. When they ran out of dangler-less sheaths prior to actually shipping Western Bowie #5/6 (next two down), dangler sheaths would have shipped with the last of these knives.

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:44 am

Western Bowie #5 – Western BOWIE -- Stainless Steel version #1 -- Time Frame -- 1967 to 1968

This is a guard marked Western Bowie in stainless steel, probably 440A or 440C. There are 3 differences between the guard marked BOWIE (version 4) and the stainless steel guard marked BOWIE (version 5).

The blade is 440A/C stainless steel, and the pile side guard mark has the words “STAINLESS STEEL” over the word BOWIE and a Delrin stag handle instead of the standard laminated rosewood.

***** Put Picture of Stainless Bowie Here *****

***** Put Picture of Mark Side Stainless Here *****

***** Put Picture of Pile Side Stainless Here *****

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:44 am

Western Bowie #6 – Western Bowie, Model W49 - Time Frame -- 1968 to 1973

This version is the first with the model number, W49, on the knife. It is marked similarly to the third BOWIE version, with

WESTERN

over

Boulder, Colo. USA

on the mark (left) side of the guard and

W49

on the pile (right) side of the guard where it replaced the word BOWIE.

Beginning with this version, the three rivets are the large ones used by Western, Coleman and Camillus. The steel is Western’s version of 1095CV.

***** Put Overall Knife Picture with sheath Here *****

Starting with this version, the only sheath shipped was the swing sheath dangler.

***** Put Picture of Mark Side guard W49 Here *****

***** Put Picture of Pile Side guard W49 Here *****

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:45 am

Western Bowie #7 – Western S-649 – Stainless Steel version #2 -- Time Frame 1968 to ????

This Western also has a Delrin “stag” handle, and has a 440A/440C stainless steel blade. It is guard marked, with S649 replacing the word BOWIE on the pile side of the guard.

***** Put Picture of Stainless W49 S-649 Here *****

***** Put Picture of Mark Side Stainless W49 S-649 Here *****

***** Put Picture of Pile Side Stainless W49 S-649 Here *****

The S-649 was first advertised as being “New for 1968” I have a personally owned specimen that is NIB with a Gander Mountain receipt dated August 1972. It is unknown how long the S-649 was actually made. The date on my 1972 S-649 just means that they were still available for sale in 1972 NIB. My suspicion is that there was only 1 run of the S-649 in 1968 and it was such a slow seller that they were still available on shelves in 1972.

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:45 am

Western Bowie #8 – Western Bowie, Model W49 - Time Frame -- 1973/74 to 1976

The only difference between this version and the version #6 is a change to the stamp on the mark side of the guard.
At some point during 1973, Western dropped referencing Boulder, Colorado on their knife stamps.

The mark side stamp changed to

WESTERN

over

USA

on the mark (left) side of the guard and

W49

Remained on the pile (right) side of the guard.

Construction details of this knife are identical to #6 above.

***** Put Overall Knife Picture with sheath Here *****

***** Put Picture of Mark Side guard W49 Here *****

***** Put Picture of Pile Side guard W49 Here *****

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:45 am

Western Bowies #9 and #10 – Western Bowie, Model W49, year coded versions (1977 through 1989 for sure, maybe through 1991)

I have arbitrarily divided this, the largest “family” of W49s, into two versions simply for collector knowledge.

From a collector’s stand-point, this is the easiest, and best, way to identify the year of manufacture for a particular Western knife.
Construction-wise, there are no changes to the knife from version 8 to versions 9/10. Only the markings changed, first with the stamps shifting from the guard back to the mark side of the ricasso and the addition of a year code to the stamp.

Western began including a year code letter to indicate the year of manufacture for a particular Western knife in 1977, starting with the letter “A” to indicate 1977, with “B” indicating 1978, and so on through to the letter “O”, for 1991.

Starting in 1978 (“B” code), Western started putting the impression WESTERN between the paired lines at the top of the sheath face. This is not carved in stone because Western had a ton of sheaths without the WESTERN name on them in stock and in the pipeline when the change went into effect and people got whatever sheath was in stock when the knives shipped.

I have never seen a WESTERN stamped sheath that actually came with an “A” coded knife. I HAVE seen a sheath stamped “COLEMAN/WESTERN” with an “A” code knife, but this was an obvious pairing of mismatched items.

The ricasso stamp consists of 3 lines, centered on the mark (left) side of the blade --

WESTERN
U.S.A. W49
“year code letter”
.

The “A” knives, 1977, and MAYBE some of the early “B” knives, were manufactured at the original manufacturing facility in Boulder, Colorado. Western opened their new, modern, state-of-the-art facility in Longmont Colorado in 1978. When the Coleman Company bought Western from the Platts family in 1984, Coleman continued the year code use and maintained manufacturing in the Longmont, Colorado facility.

The knives I designate as being Western Bowie #9 were produced while Western was still owned by the Platts family. These knives have the year codes “A” though “H”. (1977 – 1984)

Western Bowie #10 knives were produced after The Coleman Company purchased the company from the Platts family. These knives have the year codes “I” through “O”. (1985 – 1991)

I have never SEEN a W49 year coded with an “L” (1988), an “N” (1990) or an “O” (1991). 1990 and 1991 was a period of extreme transition. During this time period, Coleman sold the Western brand and facility to a group of five Boulder businessmen in 1990, who then sold the brand to Camillus Knife Company of Camillus NY.

This does NOT mean that a 1990 or 1991 W49 was never made. It just means I haven’t seen one. I have seen a very few other model numbers with these year codes, just never a W49. If anyone has an “N” or an “O” W49, please post a pic of it. Pretty please? :D

Collector’s Note – I have 3 “C” W49s. One was bought as a “C”. Both of the other “C” W49s were advertised as “O” versions. Despite asking both sellers to please verify that the year code was really an “O” and being assured by both that they were really “O” stamped, when I received the knives, they were “C” stamped.

The “C” on both knives was very worn compared to the other 2 stamps in the line. I have always figured that these 2 “C” knives were made near the end of the 1979 manufacturing year and Western just milked the stamp as long as they could.

As the knives for both “versions” were all produced using the same blank stamping machinery, materials and construction methods during the entire period, there is no physical difference between the two versions except for the year code letter in the stamp.

Some other notes about scarcity. I have seen less than a half-dozen “G” (1982) coded W49s. There seem to be a number of “H” knives of various models and more W49 “Hs” than “G” but not a ton of any of model. I have also seen VERY few (3 total) Western knives of any model with an “L” date code (1988). 1982/1983 (G/H) and 1988 (L) were downturn/difficult years for Western just prior transfers of ownership.

***** Put Overall Knife Picture with sheath Here *****

***** Put Picture of year code W49 Here *****

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:46 am

Western Bowies #11a and #11b – Camillus produced Western W49 Bowie knives -- Time Frame -- 1992 to 2006.

Camillus Cutlery purchased the Western name from a group of Boulder business men in 1991, who had in turn purchase the company from Coleman in 1990.

Camillus moved production of Western knives to Camillus, New York and sold off the facilities and excess inventory in Longmont, Colorado. Camillus dropped the year codes from the ricasso stamp.

Camillus kept the Western/Western-Coleman model number format on the knives (W for wood, L for leather, R for Rubber, H/6 for Delrin Fake Horn, but for internal tracking added an additional W to the model numbers. Hence, the W49 became the WW49 in Camillus’ record keeping system. This WW49 designator was printed on the labels stuck onto the boxes for shipping/stocking on a vendor’s shelves, but the model number on the knives themselves remained simply W49.

Aside – Camillus dropped the double tang construction on all other Western fixed blade knife models that they chose to produce. If you see a Western fixed blade with a single pommel pin, it’s a Camillus-made Western.

Version #11a –
The early Camillus W49s were made using a high carbon, using either left-over W49 blanks that Coleman-Western had on hand when Camillus purchased the company OR, most likely, the high-carbon steel Camillus was already using (017-6C).

Version #11b –
Sometime around 1994 or 1995, Camillus shifted the WW49 to 420HC SS. This version was made all the way up to the end of Camillus, as the W49 does appear in the 2006 Camillus catalog.

The specifications of the “standard” Camillus produced W49 (post-1994ish) were

Camillus model number: WW49
Model name: Bowie
MSRP: $122.50
Blade: 420HC high carbon stainless steel, 57-58 Rc
OAL: 14-7/8” Blade Length:8-7/8”
Laminated Rosewood handle, brass guard and rivets

The two line ricasso stamp, on the mark (left) side of the blade, is

WESTERN
W49 U.S.A.


***** The Camillus knife with the Camillus sheath. *****

As you can see, the retaining strap changed from being “around the handle” to “over the guard”.
***** Picture OF Stamp *****

***** Picture of Sheath strap and stamp *****

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:46 am

Western Bowie / Western W49 Sheaths

As a review, here are the 5 Bowie / W49 sheath versions.

Bx54 Bushman Sheath

1964 to 1967 Sheath

1967 to 1977 Sheath

1978 to 1991 Sheath

1992 to 2006 Sheath

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:46 am

There is another subset of the W49 knives – what I term “Oddballs and Commemorative and Special Event Versions

Here is the first of the oddballs....


Western Bowie #12 – Specialty Western – Brass Stag Guard BOWIE Time Frame – Unknown, current assumption 1966-1967.

This Western Bowie knife has a “stag” handle made of Delrin and a unique guard, lobed in a manner to suggest a stag-horn pattern. I have arbitrarily assumed that the production dates to coincide with that of the guard marked BOWIE as they are guard marked in a similar manner. (See Version #5, Western Bowie #3 above)

Put Pic of guard here

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:47 am

Version #13 – Specialty Western – Custom Shop W49

This Western W49 has a curved Delrin “stag” handle, with the standard high carbon chromium-vanadium blade. This particular example has an “H” year code stamp, indicating it was made in 1984, the last year of Platt family ownership.

Put Pic Here

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Re: The Western Bowie / W49 Identification Thread

Post by zzyzzogeton » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:47 am

Version #14 – Specialty Coleman Western – Texas Sesquicentennial Version

This Western W49 Bowie was made in 1986 as a marketing commemoration of the Texas Sesquicentennial (150 years) celebration in 1986. It has a variety of Texas icons engraved on the blade. The knife was sold in an “appropriate for wall hanging” display case. The ricasso stamp on the mark side is Western over Boulder, Colorado over year code “J”. Also engraved on the pile side parallel to the spine is “1 OF 15000”, indicating a planned run of 15,000 copies. The number actually produced is unknown, but was reported to have been “significantly less than” the etched maximum.

Coleman did not sequentially number each knife. When I acquired my example at a pawn shop in San Antonio back in 1991, I thought I had scored “Knife #1 OF 15000”. ::ds::

Since the advent of the internet and my discovery of eBay, I have seen five other examples of this knife on eBay with the same “1 OF 15000” on them. They simply put “1 OF 15000” on every knife. Bummer. ::tear::

Four of the knives have been in presentation boxes and one was in a BLACK sheath with a difficult to see/interpret design stamped into the face of the sheath.

Put Pic Here

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