Type 44 Carbine

            I got this Type 44 carbine from a collector in the Maritimes in November, 2005. Many of my American collector friends had told me they liked their Type 44 carbines the best of all their Japanese rifles. When I bought a Type 38 carbine and saw how handy it was, the idea of getting a Type 44 started to grow on me. Shortly thereafter I was contacted by someone who had one for sale and I jumped at the chance. The most obvious distinguishing feature is the folding bayonet. It reminded me of a Russian Mosin-Nagant Model 1944 carbine I used to have. However, the 44 in Type 44 refers to the Japanese year Meiji 44, which was 1911, so the Japanese did this long before the Russians. The Type 44 fires the standard 6.5 X 50 Japanese Arisaka round.

 

            The left side shows the sling that came with the gun. The sling swivels are angled for carryng across the back. The dust cover came with the gun. The stock is very nice.  The previous owner said it had been varnished, but not refinished. 

 

Here it is with the bayonet extended.

 

            The serial number and arsenal marking are on the left side of the receiver. The serial number of 27559 is followed by the “four cannonballs” mark, which looks like a cloverleaf, indicating 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. Kokura did make Type 44s, too, but they had the later types of bayonet fixtures (see below). Chiigusa Factory of Nagoya Arsenal also made Type 44s. There are two inspection marks to the right of the arsenal mark, only one of which is visible in this photo.

 

            One really nice feature of this carbine is that the “mum” is intact. Almost all Japanese rifles (but not handguns) were marked with the Imperial Chrysanthemum, which collectors refer to as the “mum”. On most rifles it was either ground off or defaced. There are two, mutually compatible stories about why this happened. Some say Japanese soldiers wanted to do this to avoid the Imperial symbol from falling into the hands of the “barbarians”. Others say MacArthur insisted on this, either to cater to Japanese sensibilities (as above) or to end the reverence of this ancient symbol. The two holes below the mum are vent holes for gases to escape in the event of a case head failure. The Japanese characters are yon-yon-shiki, or “Type 44”. These marks are on top of the gun, where the barrel screws into the action.

           

            On the left side of the gun are the proof marks. The Honeycutt and Anthony book says that the B was used until around serial 30000, although S was also used starting from around 24000. This one is from the overlap period.

 

            There are three main variations of Type 44s, differing primarily in the size and shape of the bayonet fixture. This is the first variation, which is relatively small and is fitted to the barrel. The later two variations are bigger in order to provide greater strength to the bayonet mount, and do not touch the barrel. Vibration from the bayonet fixture tended to negatively affect accuracy in this early type.

 

            The hook that projects from the right is for stacking the carbines teepee-style. You can turn the hook fairly easily, but apparently the “flat-pointing-forward” position is the norm.

 

            The button which operates the bayonet can be seen in this photo. It is the checkered button directly below the sight. You have to keep it pushed in the whole time until the bayonet is locked in the forward position.

 

            Another interesting feature of the Type 44 is this knob on the upper right rear edge of the butt. It operates the door to a compartment in the butplate for the cleaning rod. Here it is in the closed position. To open it you rotate it counter clockwise. This one is fairly stiff, so I use a penny in the slot to turn it.

 

            Behind the hole in the buttplate are two holes drilled side-by-side for two cleaning rod segments. The jag was carried in the ammunition pouch. Later version had a single, larger hole in the butt that accommodated both the cleaning rod segments and the jag.

 

            Here is the sight. I always find sights that go up to 2000 metres or more mildly amusing. I think it is hard enough to see anything that far away, let alone hit it with iron sights. Maybe soldiers had better eyesight back then.

 

            This radial checkering design on the back of the safety is like the one on the bolt lock/striker spring guide on Papa Nambu pistols and other early Japanese rifles. As a purely decorative image it seems somewhat extravagant for a military rifle.

 

            Proper slings for the Type 44 are supposed to be either leather or rubberized canvas according to the Honeycutt & Anthony book. The canvas sling on this one doesn’t look like the Japanese slings I have seen in reference books. It has these characters printed on it. Initially I thought they were Japanese. The first three on the left are san-pachi-shiki, or “Type 38” in Japanese. The fourth one is ho, meaning “walking”, or, in this case, probably “infantry”. The fifth one I could not find in any of my Japanese dictionaries. The last two would be read hai-tai, “back strap”, although this is not the usual term for sling in Japanese (oikawa). I decided to check that fifth character in my Chinese-English dictionary (Oxford Concise Chinese-English English-Chinese Dictionary, Second Edition, p. 49), and sure enough, it is a simplified character which exists in Chinese but not Japanese. The character is qiang, meaning gun. The character that is pronounced ho in Japanese is bu in Chinese. In both it means the same thing. Buqiang (“infantry-gun”) together means rifle. Based on this linguistic evidence, my theory is that the sling is Chinese, perhaps from the Korean War period, when the Chinese pressed many surrendered Japanese weapons into service. The character qiang is a simplified version of a rare character that is used in Japanese, but means “spear”, or “lance” in that language (Nelson’s Japanese-English Character Dictionary, Second Revised Edition, p. 509, character 2342.)

 

Here is a close-up of the sling where it attaches to the rear of the stock.

 

Here is the other side of the same spot, showing the cords used to tie the sling on.

 

There is a repair to the lower forestock that seems to have been well done.

 

The upper forestock has a small crack that may need attention.

 

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Last updated: December 6, 2005. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.