Type 38 Carbine

            At a gun show in September, 2005 a guy who knew I was into Japanese stuff offered me this Type 38 carbine for a good price. I had never seen one before, but loved it. It’s a really light, handy little package. The barrel length is just 480 mm, or 18.9”. The bolt had been modified into a turned-down configuration, so I replaced the bolt with another one from a junker Type 38 carbine I bought (see below) and found a dust cover for it.

            Here is the right side with the dust cover. You can see it still has the original cleaning rod. The overall condition is only so-so, but it does still have the original cleaning rod. I have read that their handy size and light recoil made these carbines popular capture weapons among US troops. It sounded a lot different than a Garand, though, so they had to be careful not to be mistaken for the enemy.


The left side with the dust cover. Note that the sling swivels are mounted on the left side, not the bottom as with Type 38 rifles.


Here’s the right side without the dust cover.


The left side without the dust cover.


All the Type 38 rifles and carbines I have seen have this notch in the right side of the stock. I have no idea why.


The carbine sights are much shorter and “only” go to 2000 metres.


            The mum has been ground off, as is usually the case, and only faint traces remain. Below are the characters san-pachi-shiki, i.e. Type 38. This is a reference to Meiji 38 (1905), the year of its adoption. The two holes are a safety feature on all Arisakas: they vent gases upwards in the event of a primer or case head rupture.


            The serial number and arsenal marking are on the left side of the receiver. The serial number of 196610 is fairly late, as the highest known for this arsenal is 211825. The “four cannonballs” mark, which looks like a cloverleaf, indicates the Koishikawa Arsenal in Tokyo. Later the same symbol was used by Kokura Arsenal, which has led to no end of confusion among North American collectors. The last two symbols on the right are inspection marks.


            In the Honeycutt & Anthony book, p. 15,  it says the triangle in a circle indicates 10% overload proof. The plain circle is listed as an indication of acceptance according to a special wartime inspection standard.


            Here is another of the triangles in a circle. The S is supposed to have the same meaning, i.e. 10% overload proof.


            This design on the back of the safety is similar to the one on the bolt lock/striker spring guide on Papa Nambus. As a purely decorative image it seems somewhat extravagant for a military rifle. This is the proper small-tang safety for this series of Type 38 carbine. Others used a larger tang or a notch.


The cleaning rod.


A close-up of the interesting end of the cleaning rod. The other end is just threaded.


            The most obvious flaw in the gun is one I didn’t even notice until I got it home: this crack in the top of the forestock, which has been rather inexpertly repaired with what looks like plastic wood.


As noted above, when I got this carbine it had the bolt turned down. This is it as I purchased it.


The left side as I got it.


            With the bolt replaced with one of the original configuration, the only external sign of the former modification is this notch in the stock to provide clearance for the old turned-down bolt.


            Inside there is one other left-over modification: the rear of the magazine follower has been rounded off so that the bolt does not lock back on it when the magazine is empty.


            I have purchased three other junker Type 38 carbines as parts guns. This photo is to remind me of what I have; it won’t be of much interest to others. The top gun has a homemade stock, the length of which is better for me than the original. The middle gun has a T38 carbine action but the stock was cut down from a T38 rifle and the butt plate is from something else, as it has a trapdoor in it. The bottom one is just the metal parts with no stock. Parts are very hard to come by up here and getting harder to import from the USA, so no, I am not interested in selling any of the parts. Please don’t ask.


The serial number from the top carbine with the home-made stock. It is another Koishikawa (Tokyo) example.


            The middle carbine has the series marker ni in a circle at the far left (ni looks like an equal sign), then the serial number, then the Nagoya Arsenal mark, which looks like a top-heavy 8 in a circle. Ni indicates the fourth series, as it is the fourth symbol in the Japanese katakana “alphabet” according to the traditional i-ro-ha poetic arrangement. These prefixes were used to keep serial numbers down to five digits. This series of carbine was made at the Chigusa factory of Nagoya Arsenal.


            Though the middle carbine has little else to recommend it, it does still have an intact mum. Since rifles surrendered to the Americans at the end of the war usually had the mum ground off, ones that still have it were usually either captured in battle before the war ended or surrendered to the Chinese and imported after the war.


            The bottom carbine action has the series marker ro (second series), the serial number, and the Kokura arsenal mark formerly used by Tokyo (Koishikawa). The small marks at the far right are inspection marks.


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Last updated: June 11, 2006. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.