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Japanese Items

 

This Japanese Type 14 Nambu was manufactured in April of 1942, according to the 17.4 date of inspection stamp found on the right side of the frame. It is a recoil operated, self-loading semi-automatic pistol that utilizes a locked breech design. The pistol has been chambered for the 8 x 22mm cartridge which is commonly referred to as 8 mm Nambu. The Type 14 Nambu has been designed to operate as a striker fired single action firearm. The pistol is made form steel and has a hot salt blue finish. The sights are not adjustable and include a blade front sight that is built as part of the barrel and a dovetail shaped notch rear sight that is milled as part of the receiver. The pistol is fed by a single column 8 round detachable box magazine. It incorporates a manual safety lever that is located on the left side of the frame and above the trigger that swings in a 180 degree arc. The pistol utilizes a push button magazine release that is located behind the trigger guard and inside the left grip. For the Nambu featured on this page, an empty magazine will not eject from the pistol under its own weight. This Type 14 Nambu has a 4 3/4 inch barrel and an overall length of 9.06 inches and an unloaded weight of about 30 ounces. The grip panels are made from Mahogany and contain 24 horizontal serrations on the left grip and 25 on the right. Underneath the bolt retracting knob is a lanyard loop.

The 8 x 22mm cartridge which is commonly referred to as 8 mm Nambu is a rimless, bottle-necked cartridge. It was first introduced in Japan in 1904 for use in the Type A Nambu pistol. The actual caliber of the bullet is 8.2 mm or .320 inches. On average, the 102 grain FMJ(full metal jacket) projectile leaves the muzzle at a velocity of 950 FPS(feet per second) which produces about 202 foot pounds of energy. This makes it comparable to the .380 ACP(Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge, that when fired from a pistol can travel at 980 FPS with a 95 grain projectile produces a muzzle energy of around 203 foot pounds. The 8 mm Nambu round is substantially weaker than other military sidearm cartridges that were used at the time by the major powers in WW2.

The Japanese Type A Nambu was designed by General Kijiro Nambu in 1902. Kijiro Nambu was an arms designer whom is sometimes referred to as the  "John Browning of Japan". The Type 14 Nambu gets it name due to the pistol being accepted during the 14th year of reign of the Emperor Taisho and the designers last name. The Type 14 Nambu was introduced in 1925. Initial production of the Type 14 pistol, like the one pictured on this web page began in the Chigusa factory of the Nagoya arsenal. The Chigusa factory only produced around 7,800 pistols before ceasing production of the Type 14 pistol. The lowest recorded Chigusa factory Type 14 pistol serial numbers known to exist are dated 15.11(November, 1926) and 15.12(December 1926) which is within the Taisho period that preceded the Showa period.

It should be noted that the Emperor Taisho died on December 25, 1926 and that his son, Hirohito, became the Emperor. Hirohito's era  became known as the Showa era or Enlightening Peace era which began upon his fathers death. The Showa period was the longest reign of all the Japanese emperors. The period from December 25, 1926 to December 31, 1926 is the Showa 1 period. The pistol pictured above is from the Showa 17 period which began in January of 1942. Between Showa 16.10 through Showa 19.8, Nambu production averaged about 600 pieces per month. The Type 14 pistols that were produced in the 1940's can be easily distinguished by the enlarged trigger guard which allowed the pistol to be operated with the user wearing gloves.

The Type 14 Nambu was considered the best Japanese sidearm of the World War II era. it is this authors opinion that due to its construction such as having a weak magazine spring, and a near useless safety catch as well as firing the weak 8mm Nambu round, the sidearms produced by other nations from this era were far superior to the Type 14 pistol. The Nambu Type 14 was the most common side arm of the Japanese armed forces. It was officially adopted by the Japanese military in 1927. The pistol became the standard issue sidearm for non-commissioned officers. The high ranking Japanese officers were not required to possess pistols and almost always preferred to carry a sword. These officers were expected to purchase their own pistols should they desire one and many opted to use the far superior and more reliable western sidearms. However, this in no way should detour any collector from acquiring a Nambu Type 14 for their collection. It truly is one of them "must have" pieces for any WWII era firearms collector. There were no Type 14 pistols produced with barrels shorter then 4 3/4 inches. All Type 14 pistols had a blued finish and were chambered for the 8 mm Nambu round. The Type 14 and Type 94 pistols that are some times encountered today in a different finish or are chambered in .22 caliber are all post-war gunsmith modifications.

It has been reported that even the famed firearms maker and inventor William B. Ruger acquired a Type 14 pistol from a returning WWII Marine after the war. Mr. Ruger duplicated the Nambu design in his garage but did not market the pistol. Instead, the rear cocking device as well as the silhouette of the Nambu was incorporated into one of the most popular .22 semi-automatic pistols to ever enter the US firearms market, when in 1949 the Ruger Standard and later the Mark I, II, and III pistols were sold to the U.S. public.  

The photographs on the left are of the front and back of the Type 14 Nambu, while the pictures on the right show the top and bottom of the pistol. The pistol is shown with the magazine installed in each of these photographs.

The Mahogany grip panels were finished using a lacquer type finish made from the sap of the Urushi tree. This finish was also applied to the grip panels of the Type 26 revolver and to the Type 38 and Type 99 rifle stocks. This wood finishing technique, termed Urushi is more durable then ordinary lacquer and was first introduced to Japan from China over 1000 years ago. Due to the heavy Allied bombing, the difficult process of applying the Urushi finishing to the grip panels and rifle stocks was change to a quicker ordinary lacquer finish around 1942. This new finish called for just four brush coats of lacquer for the Type 14 grip panels.

The full serial number with the Katakana character is located on the right side rear of the receiver. The last three digits of the serial number is found on the barrel housing, bolt, trigger assembly, firing pin, grip panels and some of the other smaller parts of the pistol.  

Both of these next two photographs are of the markings that are found on the right side of the pistol. In the photograph on the left, the first character stamped on the frame in the upper left indicates the Nagoya arsenal at the Toriimatsu factory. This symbol was used from 1923 until 1945 and is meant to signify the shachi, two fighting fish or protective dolphins head-to-head. This symbol was chosen because the feudal Nagoya castle is crowned with a pair of golden fighting fish. The production of Type 14 pistols began at the Nagoya arsenal of Toriimatsu factory in October of 1941.

The second character that looks like a circle with a T inside, is a Katakana character that requires an explanation. The Katakana or kana character is always placed within a circle to the left of the serial number and specific blocks of kana serial numbers were assigned to each arsenal or manufacturer. One manufacturer might use kana "i" for serial numbers 1 through 49,999, while another manufacture would get the kana "i" symbol for 50,000 through 99,999 and so on.

Initially, firearms that were made in Japanese arsenals were numbered consecutively within each Type or item designation. Once production reached 99,999, a series mark known as a kana character was added to all future firearms produced. This was instituted in order to insure that all serial numbers on pistols remained between one to five digits numbers as per the Japanese Army requirements that were set forth in 1933. The series digit or kana indicates the initial digit of the serial number. The actual order of the kana symbols is based on the poem IROHA with a total of 47 syllabary being available. For example, initial production in the range of 1 through 99,999 had no kana symbol, while the next batch of 100,001 through 199,999 used the first syllable of the poem which is "i". The following batch of pistols used the second syllable of the poem which is "ro". By November of 1943, the production of Type 14 pistols had reached 99,999 at the Nagoya arsenal of the Toriimatsu factory. At this point the second syllable of the poem IROHA "ro" was applied prior to the serial number to indicate the 200,000 range. The highest serial number known to exist of Nagoya arsenal, Toriimatsu factory produced Type 14 pistols is 73291 and has a date of Showa 20.8 or August of 1945. The Japanese never went beyond the second series of re-using the serial numbers on pistols, but with rifles they went far beyond it, using the entire 47 syllables of the IROHA poem and more.

In the picture at the left, the set of numbers after the arsenal stamp and kana symbol is the serial number of this pistol. So this top inscription indicates, Nagoya arsenal, Toriimatsu factory, series "i" which is pronounced “ee” as in feet and pistol serial number 50,498.

The picture on the right is a close up of the markings that are found on the right side of the pistol and underneath the arsenal and serial number. The first character before the number 17 is a Kanji character and means Sho which is short for Showa. The era of Emperor Hirohito became known as the Showa era or Enlightening Peace era which began on December 25, 1926 after his father, Emperor Taisho died. The number 17 indicates the year of reign for the Emperor Hirohito. The second character, the number 4, indicates the fourth month of the year. The last mark after the number 4 is the Japanese character Na which is short for Nagoya, and is the final inspection mark.

The Western calendar equivalent date of Showa 17 from the Nagoya arsenal, Toriimatsu factory of Type 14 pistols is found by adding the first number that is located to the right of the Kanji character to the year preceding the beginning of the Showa period. That year would be 1925 as the Showa era began in 1926. This would mean that the above pistol was produced in 1942 or 1925 + 17 = 1942.

This pistol was produced in April of 1942, and it is the earliest known specimen for that month that is known to exist. The last known pistol that was produced the month before in Showa 17.3(March, 1942) has a serial number of 50418. The Australian War Memorial and Museum has a Nagoya manufactured pistol with a date of Showa 17.5 or May of 1942 that was captured by Lieutenant Colonel Rickard at Papua New Guinea and served with the 2/1 Tank Attack Regiment of the Imperial Japanese Army.  

Both of these next two photographs are of the markings that are found on the left side of the pistol. The photograph on the left is of the safety lever and the markings found at each end of the arc of the safety levers range. The first mark that is located at the left in the photograph is the Japanese character ka, which stands for fire. The mark at the other end of the arrow or other setting for the safety lever is an, which means safe, but literally translated would mean “peaceful". Notice the marks or scratches left on the pistol from the use of the safety. It is normal for the safety lever to leave these marks on the pistol as it is moved in-between positions. As can be seen in the picture on the left, the wear marks are evident and the safety is in the ka or fire position.

The four characters in the picture on the right are translated from left to right as follows,  ju-yon-nen-shiki, or “ten-four-year-type”, or Type 14. The markings that are found on the left side of all of the Type 14 pistols are just about the same. The difference being mainly in the font that was used by the different manufacturers.

  

  

The white lettering in these photographs is not original to the sidearm and I added this to the pistol after it was fully cleaned and inspected. This white lettering is not permanent and is easily removed. To learn what I used for the white lettering please click HERE.

  

How to field strip the Type 14 pistol.  

1. Make sure the pistol is unloaded and not cocked. Next, grip the pistol with your right hand as if you were going to shoot it

2. Push the muzzle down onto a firm surface and allow the barrel to move back about a 1/4 of an inch.

3. While holding the barrel back, push in on the magazine release and with the left hand, pull down on the trigger guard and remove it.

4. Depress the striker spring guide button at the rear of the pistol and unscrew the knurled bolt retracting knob.

5. Pull up on the barrel assembly and remove it from the receiver.

6. The bolt can now be easily removed from the tubular barrel housing along with the recoil springs and firing pin.

  

  

Resource:

Military pistols of Japan by Fred Honeycutt

Military rifles of Japan by Fred Honeycutt &Patt Anthony

The Japanese Naval Special type 99 rifles and carbines by Francis Allan & Carl Goddard

The standard directory of proof marks by Gerhard Wirnsberger

Official guide to gunmarks by Robert Balderson  

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