Japanese Arisaka – Japanese Rifles of World War II

The Arisaka type 99 rifle as most of the rifles that belong to these weapons were named after Colonel Nariakira Arisaka. He was the head of the commission and is also a baron who was in charge of developing a replacement for the Murata rifle. Arisaka was successful in producing Arisaka Type 99 rifles in the year of the current emperor’s reign. Thus naming each Japanese Arisaka rifles reveal the year when the respective emperor reign. For example Type 38 rifle was designed in the 38th year of Emperor Meiji (1905). The Type 44 was adopted in the 44th year of his reign. However, this system of naming the Japanese Arisaka changes in the later years.  It was during the reign of Emperor Hirohito when, Arisaka rifles use the last two digits from the year based on the Japanese calendar.  For example the Arisaka Type 99 was made in 1939. Using the Japanese calendar this falls on the year 2599. Type 2 paratroop Arisaka rifle for instance was made in the Japanese calendar year of 2602 or 1942.  This Japanese Arisaka carries the chrysanthemum that has 16 petals which stands for the symbol of the Japanese Emperor.  This was stamped on the receiver of the rifles of the Imperial Japanese Army.  This simply means that these rifles belong to the Emperor. A small number of Type 38 and Arisaka Type 99 have two concentric circles on the receiver instead of the chrysanthemum.  These were issued for the Kempei Tai or Japanese Secret Police. 

The common features found among all variants of these rifles include: two piece butt stock, egg shaped bot handle which is sometimes similar to that of a plum, receiver ring and 16 petals Chrysanthemum or Mum. There are some cases when this mark was marred due to the anticipation of being captured by forces under General MacArthur. The Japanese Arisaka action was said to be the most underrated firearm in the Western Hemisphere. The Arisaka Type 99 was a fine example of this. Japan was radically transformed to a colonial power that kept itself in isolation to a huge turn-around of devouring Western technologies to manufacture firearms. Japan surprise the world when it was able to conquer Russia as it tries to colonies Korea and Manchuria. Japanese influence grew across Asia during this period. This resulted to another war this time with French, British and US.  The Japanese Empire was aware that it has to face another conflict with these Western powers.  

Japanese Arisaka Marks and Serial Numbers

Modern Japanese Arisaka was produce following different kinds of configurations and calibers. Arsenals are spread throughout Japan, China and Korea from 1897 until 1945. Arsenal marks were used for each Arisaka. Symbols can either be those of the manufacturer or the arsenal that supervised its production. This includes subcontractors. The marks can be found on the left side of the Japanese Arisaka receiver at the end of the serial number. If the gun in question was produce by a subcontractor, his mark will be on the gun.  All Japanese Arisaka have serial numbers except in some rare cases when it comes to prototypes.  These serial numbers were stamped on the left side of the receiver. This was followed by the arsenal symbol.

Japanese Arisaka Rifle Identification

·        Type 30 Arisaka. This was the very first Arisaka design and was known in Japanese as Sanju-nen-shiki hoheiju. The markings are read from top to bottom. When translated it reads: year and model. There are four characters found on the receiver along the gas vent holes. A lot of Type 30 were sold to foreign countries or made into rifles that can be used for schools.  Suffice to say that the best description that can be given to this firearm would be the standard infantry rifle used by the Imperial Japanese Army.  This was popular from 1897 until 1905

·        Type 35 Arisaka. This was a unique rifle made specifically for the Japanese navy. However, these were only produced for a short number of years. The Imperial Navy contracted the production of this with long rifle length. This replaced the obsolete Type 22 Murata rifles

·        Type 38 Arisaka. This was known as San-Hachi-Shiki Hoheiju. This piece supplemented the Arisaka Type 99.  Type 38 was said to have the strongest bolt of action that cannot be found in any countries of the word. This rifle can handle more powerful catridges. All type 38 rifles were marked red from top to bottom. This applies to long, short and carbine length rifles

·        Type 44 Carbines. These rifles were mark just the same way as Type 38.  However, rare samples feature type 38 receiver mounted into type 44 stock and fittings

·        Type 99 Arisaka. This has one gas vent hole on top of the receivers. Markings were done the same way as the previous Arisaka types

·        Type “I” Rifle. The rifle looks similar to that of Type 38 however; this is an Italian built rifle except it has no vent holes. The markings are only those of serial numbers

·        Paratroop Rifles. Types 1, 2 and 100 paratroop belongs to these classification

·        Sniper Rifles. These are Type 38 and Type 99 that have been refitted to become Type 97 and Type 99

·        Training Rifles. These were different types of rifle that have been converted for training. These are fired using blank ammunitions. Some of these training pieces were no more than elaborate cap guns

The Imperial Japanese Army did not issue unsafe rifles because all of these underwent quality control through testing. For reference purposes, the first type 99 was produce in Nagoya, Japan in August 1939. The early type 99 was built to be able to shoot at low flying aircraft. Arisaka types 38 and type 99 are both considered as modern weapons even today.

Type 99 Arisaka Overview

Since this is the most popular among the Japanese Arisaka it is important to get to know this type better. Type 99 might be a late-comer since it only came in existence in 1939 which is considered the ever of World War II. Under its exterior lies interesting designs that bears chrome finish. This weapon can handle even the most humid weather conditions because it was built that way.  Other development features made on this rifle is that it has a shorter length when compared to the equally famous Type 38.  Weapons experts compare Type 99 to German Mauser Kar 98k. In other words, Type 99 was handier than type 38. The compromise might have to do with the recoil it was too much to handle for an average Japanese soldier. This was the effect of using a shorter length and powerful cartridge. Some models of Type 99 have monobipod and anti-aircraft sight.  This rifle is also lighter than Type 38 as well making it easier for soldiers to carry it during battle. To show this rifle’s efficiency, a professional who handles this weapon can fire five times more in thirty seconds as compared to a less skilled soldier who can only dispatch two shots at a time.

Japanese Rifle Manufacturers and Period of Operations

·        From 1870 to 1935- Koishiwa Arsenal of Tokyo

·        From 1923 to 1945- Nagoya Arsenal

·        From 1931 to 1945- Mukden Arsenal from Manchuria

·        From 1935 to 1945- Kokura Arsenal

·        From 1939 to 1945- Toyo Kogyo

·        From 1940 to 1945- Tokyo Juki Kogyo

·        From 1940 to 1945- Howa Jyuko

·        From 1940 to 1945= Izawa Jyuko

The Arisaka rifles were interesting models to collect because of its role in history not just in Japan. These are still perfect specimen of the best infantry weapons that came out from World War II. This would also be a good addition to World War II collectors of weaponry. No wonder a great number of these flowed back to the United States as souvenirs after the war.  These are after all well-made weapons that are totally reliable. The clamor for export from Japan for these rifles during the war and even today proves this. Even firearms enthusiasts admit that this rifle is at par with its contemporaries and is one of the best of its kind. Simply put, these are good examples of older technology besting even new ones. Some say that when starting to collect these weapons check its production methods. Some weapons fail to make the count resulting to subclass weapons. Those who produce good weapons are spread throughout Japan. Some are produce from Korea. Although there were attempts to compare these and pitted over the German Mauser. It was a case of better engineering winning even when low quality materials were used on it. The Mauser was highly touted because a lot of countries were supplied with these. It is a matter of the Japanese rifle being made by the enemy that made some potential buyers prefer the Mauser. This was the general consensus during the war. The war is over and Japan is no longer considered an enemy. With this comes a more open approach on patronizing weapons made from this Asian country.