|Rifles are the key weapons of
infantry troops and they should be developed in consideration
of every aspect of warfare which may decide a nation's future.
One of the characteristics of Japanese rifles is ammunition
which is not compatible with that of other countries. Although
Murata rifles show many mechanical features common to those
of other countries, the Model 38 rifle became the most durable
rifle in the world and it was mostly an original Japanese weapon.
It is said by several American weapons researchers that the
M-38 probably is the most durable bolt action rifle in the world
and, of course, the M-99 7.7mm rifle is just a scaled-up version
of the 6.5mm M-38.
Since the Meiji Restoration (1868)
the chrysanthemum crest was inscribed on the receivers of all
army rifles. Before this time the army belonged to various lords
and even a Shogun did not control all troops. After the Restoration
the Japanese Army came under the direct control of the Emperor
and so its rifles had on them the Emperor's crest, the chrysanthemum.
This marking was started to enforce the concept of one national
army. Just before the Restoration the Shogun government and
lords imported several hundred thousand rifles of nearly fifty
different kinds from Europe and the U.S., and finally the Meiji
government settled on the Snider Enfield in 14.5mm modified
to a breech loader as a standard. Some of these rifles used
in Japan may have the chrysanthemum crest.
M-13 Rifle (1880)
It was single shot and it used
an 11mm black powder brass cartridge. This rifle has a lock
with a V-shaped spring, it has an overall length of 129cm,
a barrel length of 82cm, and its weight is 3.9kg. Its total
production was about
60,000. In its early days Tokyo Arsenal hired many European
technical people to guide the manufacture of rifles and Colonel
Murata encouraged this practice, for he was a marksman who
had won many shooting trophies in Europe. His M-13 rifle was
fitted for a long bayonet.
M-18 Rifle (1885, 11mm)
It was almost the same as the M-13,
but with some simplified parts. About 80,000 of these rifles
were made, and an additional 10,000 carbines of this model were
produced. These weapons were used in the Japan-China War of
1889. The bayonet used was shorter than that of the M-13.
M-22 Rifle (1889)
It had a seven-shot tubular magazine
and its barrel had 4 land, 4 groove Metford style rifling. Its
8mm cartridge was rimmed and was loaded with smokeless powder.
Its overall length was 122cm, its barrel length was 75cm, and
it weighed 4.1kg. There were two types of this rifle, in early
and late production runs; total production of the infantry rifle
was about 130,000 and about 20,000 for the carbine. These rifles
were used in the North China Incident at the turn of the century,
and as back-up in the Russo-Japanese War. The M-22 Murata has
a very short bayonet.
6.5mm Infantry Rifle (1897)
It was a bolt action which used
a five-round clip, and it was developed by General Arisaka;
a carbine M-30 was made also. The rifle's overall length was
128cm, its barrel length was 80cm, and the rifle weighed 4.0kg.
The carbine's overall length was 96cm, its barrel length was
48cm, and it weighted 3.3kg.
These weapons were the mainstay of the Japanese during the Russo-Japanese
War of 1904-1905; total production of the rifle was 600,000
and 40,000 of the carbine. These weapons suffered from the dust,
debris, and water on the North East China fields. The bayonet
and ammunition pouches adopted with the M-30 Rifle were used
in the same styles until 1945. "Arisaka" is the name
commonly given to Japanese rifles, but General Arisaka developed
only the M-30 rifles. It is said the during the Russo-Japanese
War, Tokyo Arsenal had difficulty getting good wood for rifle
6.5mm Rifle (1902)
It was Kijiro Nambu's first rifle
and it was made for the Navy. It has a dust cover on the action
and has physical characteristics which clearly show the mechanical
transition from the M-30 to the M-38 rifles. Only 36,000 were
manufactured at Tokyo Arsenal, and some were exported to Siam
(Thailand). This rifle is similar in size to the M-30 Rifle.
6.5mm Infantry Rifle (1905)
It was designed by Kijiro Nambu
and it is a classic among original Japanese small arms. About
3.4 million, 3 million of infantry rifles and 400,000 of cavalry
rifles, were manufactured over a 35-year period, and some
tests showed the M-38 to have been the most durable and accurate
bolt action rifle in the world. Early production rifles had
6-groove rifling and later production rifles had 4-groove
rifling. An M-38 cavalry rifle was made. The infantry rifle's
overall length was 128cm, its barrel length was 79cm, and
it weighed 4kg; the cavalry rifle's overall length was 97cm,
its barrel length was 48cm, and its weighed 3.3kg.
In 1927 Nagoya Arsenal imported seventy machines from Pratt
& Whitney Company in Hartford, CT to start their production
of the rifles after Tokyo Arsenal moved to Kokura, Kyushu.
6.5mm Cavalry Carbine (1911)
It was almost the same size as
the M-38 Cavalry Rifle, but it was made with an integral bayonet,
so its weight was heavier at 3.9kg.
About 100,000 of these carbines were made and there are three
major styles, distinguished by the shape of the bayonet fixture,
and later styles had larger fixtures.
| The M-99
7.7mm Infantry Rifle (1939)
was a scaled-up version of the M-38, and its length was shortened
after the initial production of long rifles of almost the same
length as the M-38. The M-38's 6.5mm cartridge was not powerful
enough to use effectively against the vehicles and aircraft
which appeared during the 1930's. A total of 2.3 million M-99
rifles were made in a five-year period, and during this short
period the quality of the M-99 rifles changed dramatically.
Because the bores of the M-99 rifles were plated with chromium,
nearly all M-99 rifles in any condition today have shiny and
near perfect bores. About 30 percent of total M-99 production
was made by Toyo-Kogyo, which today is the Ford Company's Matsuda.
From observing M-99 rifles it is clear that Japanese rifle production
changed dramatically in September of 1944. The M-99 short rifle's
overall length was 112cm, its barrel length was 66cm, and it
M-30 bayonets were used also with the M-99 rifles. In 1943 Toyo-Kogyo
probably was the largest rifle manufacturing plant in the world.
Take-down Rifle in 7.7mm
It was made in the spring of 1943
at Nagoya Arsenal for Army parachute troops and it was based
upon the M-99 short rifle; about 19,000 were made. The size
of this rifle is nearly the same as that of the M-99 but, because
of the iron fixture which joins the barrel assembly to the receiver
and stock, the rifle's weight was 4kg. M-1bayonet, shorter than
the standard M-30 bayonet, was made by Toyota for these guns.
The take-down mechanism uses a combination of wedge and screw
to secure the barrel tightly and firmly to the receiver.
There were basically two models
of Japanese sniper rifles, the M-97 in 6.5mm which was based
on the M-38 rifle, and the M-99 in 7.7mm which was based on
the standard M-99 rifle.
Sniper Rifle (1937)
was developed from the needs of the Sino-Japanese War and it
mounted a 2.5 power scope. The dimensions of this rifle were
nearly the same as for the M-38 rifle, and the scope was mounted
on the left side of the receiver. In the period 1937 - 1939
about 8000 M-97 sniper rifles were made at Kokura Arsenal, and
about 14,500 of these rifles were made at Nagoya Arsenal. The
total number of M-97 sniper rifles made was 22,500 rifles. Some
of the rifles made at Kokura have mono pods; the bolt handle
of the M-97 is longer than that of the M-38, and it is curved
|The M-99 Sniper Rifle in 7.7mm
It was also made both at Kokura
and at Nagoya Arsenals, but Nagoya was the principal manufacturer.
Only 1000 M-99 sniper rifles were made at Kokura, and they
ware mounted with 2.5 power scopes. Nagoya Arsenal made about
9000 M-99 sniper rifles; about 2000 of these rifles mounted
2.5 power scopes and the remaining 7000 had 4 power scopes.
M-99 sniper rifles were distributed principally in mainland
| The production
of optical sights and rifle scopes was a headache for the Japanese
arsenals; besides the Tokyo dai-ichi Omiya Arsenal, which was
engaged in this production, about ten private commercial companies
joined in making these sights.
The 6.5mm ammunition was improved
in the mid-1930's with respect to both its powder loading and
its bullet, and the new ammunition created less smoke when it
With the new 6.5mm ammunition the M-97 sniper rifles were feared
greatly in Pacific battles where this weapon was used.
Most of the Japanese sniper rifles
seen in the U.S. today have scopes with serial numbers which
do not match the serial numbers of the rifles to which they
are fitted. The reason for this likely is that when the Japanese
disarmed themselves they surrendered the rifles and scopes separately
and those who took sniper rifles as souvenirs probably acquired
the scopes from different stores and could not match up the
Japanese sniper scopes did not
have any adjustment knobs outside. They were adjusted to the
rifles beforehand and shipped to the battle fields.