Japanese Rifles – Key Weapons

Antique firearm is the term used in describing a firearm that was designed and manufactured in the early part of the 20th century. Although countries have different descriptions of what an antique firearm are. Japanese rifles were collected because of their historical relevance. Some collect and resell these. Japan was known for producing training weapons between the late 1920s through the early part of the 1940s.  

These were used in schools for the military and those who are into martial arts. During that period Japan was enthusiastically training with these weapons like their enthusiasm when studying the use of computers or English class. A lot of these training weapons do not bear the maker’s mark which makes it hard to identify or give credit to certain Japanese rifles. Military training is referred to as Kyouren which required each student to study at least two hours per week from junior high school and above. These schools were governed by Army instructors. Two classes per weapons were given and these include the use of Japanese rifles. Japanese also export Japanese rifles to other countries that include those send to Siam. From 1925 to 1928, Japan exported Model 66 and Model 38 rifles to Siam.

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Kinds of Japanese Rifles

  • Type 38 Rifle. This was also known as San-Hachi-Shiki Hoheiju. Japanese rifles like these were produce to supplement Type 99 Japanese standard infantry rifle. The design for this weapon was adopted by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1905. This was used until the end of 1945
  • Murata M-13 Rifle. This was first created in 1880. It has a single shot using black powder on its brass cartridge. This rifle has V-shaped spring. These are Japanese Rifles that was fitted with long bayonet
  • Murata M-18. This was almost identical to M-13 but, has simplified parts. These were weapons used in the Japan China War of 1889.  The bayonet was shorter as well
  • Murata M-22. This has a seven shot tubular magazine. There were two types of this rifle that were produce during the early and part of production runs for this rifle. This has a short bayonet
  • M-30 (1897). This has bolt action and used five round clip developed by General Arisaka. During the same period M-30 carbine were also developed. These were used by Japan during the Russo Japanese War from 1904 to 1905.  Arisaka was the name given for Japanese rifles not knowing that Colonel Arisaka was only credited with developing the M-30 rifles
  • M-35. This was Kijiro Nambu’s first rifle which was produce for the Japanese Navy. This has the same mechanism found on M-30 and M-38 rifles. Some of these were exported to Siam
  • M-38. This was designed by Kijiro Nambu and is considered a classic among original Japanese small arms
  • Type 38 Carbine. This was used for cavalry, engineers, quartermasters and troops. This was introduced the same time as Type 38.  This has no bayonet
  • Chinese Six/Five Infantry. These were copied by the Chinese from the Japanese Type 38. These were used from 1920s until the 1930s
  • Type 38 Cavalry rifle. From the late 1930s through 1940s. These were Type 38 which was converted to Cavalry rifles at Nagoya arsenal. Since cavalry was declining at this time these rifles were issued to second line troops. There were several inconsistencies with the serial numbers as the rifles were converted to existing stock
  • Type 44 Carbine. This has similarity to Type 38 Carbine when viewed from the middle and back. This model was introduced in 1911. Variations depend on the size of the nose cap and the screw spacing
  • Type 97.  This rifle was introduced in 1937 and has a rifle scope. These are sniper rifle
  • Type 99. This was a scaled up version of the M-38 and has the same length as M-38
  • Type 918. These were based on Type 38. These were said to be manufactured at the South Manchuria Army Arsenal. Suffice to say that these were rifles made in China for Japan. These were also made before or right after the surrender of Japanese forces. It has a bayonet similar to Type 44.
  • North China Type 19 Carbine. These were said to be manufactured for puppet troops

Since the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the receivers of these rifles have an inscribed chrysanthemum. This means that these are properties of the Japanese Emperor. Producing rifle scopes and optical sights give headache for Japanese arsenal. There are about ten private commercial companies who also made these optical sights. It was only in the mid-1930s when 6.5mm ammunition was improved. The powder loading and bullet was improved. This ammunition produced less smoke when it was fired. In the 1980s, some rifles were not exported outside of Japan especially those that were made for Japanese Self Defense Forces and Coast Guards. However, these Japanese rifles were used during Japanese war against Iraq.

Most of the Japanese sniper scopes sold in the United States have scopes with serial numbers that does not match the serial numbers of the rifles for which these were fitted. The reason for this was likely when the Japanese were disarmed they surrender the scopes and rifles separately. When these were handled by those who took them as souvenirs they acquire the scopes from different stores which made it difficult to match the serial numbers. It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Some rifles might have landed in other stores.  Cartridges were different depending on the type of rifle use. Collectors would be better off by buying from trustworthy sources to get the right match. No wonder why there are collectors who are interested to know more about the history behind each rifle before they add this to their collection. Garnering the interest of collectors means that Japan has done a great job in developing these rifles from its former version.