Nambu World: A Brief Overview of Type 14 Markings

Right Side Markings

            The most useful markings for identifying a Type 14 pistol are usually those on the ride side towards the rear of the pistol, i.e. the area shown in this photo. The top line usually has the arsenal indicator and sometimes a series indicator or company logo (or both) in front of the serial number, while the lower line has the date, using a numerical system based on the year of the emperorfs reign, followed by a decimal and then a number for the month of production. On early guns there is no symbol in front of the date (as shown below), but later guns have a character to designate Emperor Hirohitofs reign. There is usually also a small final inspection marking to the right of the date. This page covers the markings on over 99% of Type 14 pistols, basically all of them except for prototypes, guns reserved for factory training, the first few guns from various production runs before marking procedures were standardized, and similar oddities. Note that production changes were frequent, so there are often many variations in physical characteristics like knob and grip styles among pistols from the same maker and series. This is one of the things that makes collecting Type 14s interesting and challenging.

            The markings in the above photo and most of those in this section have been highlighted in white to make them easier to see. This is something collectors do for display purposes; Japanese guns did not have such highlighting when they were issued or in service use. I use a white grease pencil (sometimes called a china marker) softened in mineral spirits (paint thinner). I rub it across the markings until they are full of the white grease, then wipe off the excess with my thumb. Some people use talc or chalk, but these materials are abrasive and I recommend against them.

 

            This page is intended only as an introduction to this topic. For more details, I recommend the book Japanese Military Cartridge Handguns 1893-1945 by Harry Derby & James Brown (see the section on Books on the home page for details on ordering). Much of the information on this page is drawn from that source, which itself draws on the long-term research of Mr. Dan Larkin into serial numbers and production dates.

 

            The first step is identifying which of the five manufacturers that produced Type 14s made your gun. There were three manufacturers that used the Nagoya arsenal mark and two that used the Tokyo/Kokura Arsenal mark.

                                                                                                      

            First, here is the Nagoya Arsenal mark, which should appear in front of the serial number (or in a few rare cases, in front of the date). If your pistol has this mark, scroll down to the section on gNagoya Arsenal Affiliated Productionh (begins right after the next photo).

 

            If your pistol has the mark shown below in front of its serial number, scroll down to the section on gTokyo/Kokura Arsenal Productionh (a fair ways down).

 

Nagoya Arsenal-Affiliated Production

            There were three places that made Type 14s bearing the Nagoya Arsenal mark, which looks sort of like a top-heavy eight in a circle. It actually is supposed to represent the shachi (figures of mythical protective dolphins) that adorn the roof of Nagoya Castle, Nagoyafs most famous landmark (the horn-shaped parts on the left and right curving up from the small circle at the bottom look like fish with their tails in the air, if you use a little imagination). The three manufacturers classified here as gNagoya Arsenal-Affiliated Productionh are the Chigusa Factory (or branch) of Nagoya Arsenal; the Toriimatsu Factory (or Branch) of Nagoya Arsenal; and a private company, the Nambu Rifle Manufacturing Company (later called Chuo Kogyo) that made pistols at Kokubunji, a suburb of Tokyo, under Nagoya Arsenal supervision.

 

Toriimatsu Branch of Nagoya Arsenal

            The most prolific manufacturer of Type 14 pistols was the Toriimatsu Branch of Nagoya Arsenal. It made two gseriesh of pistols, each with different markings in front of the serial number. In both cases the first symbol is the Nagoya Arsenal marking explained above (the gtop heavy eight in a circleh). The second symbol is the series marker, which is a Japanese katakana (phonetic) symbol in a circle. The Japanese didnft like to use more than five digits in their serial numbers, so once a block of 99,999 had been allocated, a symbol was placed in front of the serial number to indicate they were going to start over again with a new series. The first time they did this they used gih (their first letter) and the next time groh (their second letter). With pistols they never went beyond the second series of re-using the serial numbers. With rifles they went way beyond this, using the whole galphabeth and more.

            The first photo below shows the gFirst Seriesh marker (this used to be less accurately called gSeries Ah, a designation that is no longer commonly used but still sometimes encountered). This one looks like an upside down letter y in a circle. The gupside-down yh is a Japanese gih, pronounced geeh as in gfeeth, the first gletterh of the Japanese galphabeth in the old, traditional order.

 

            Here is a shot of all the markings on the right side of a typical Toriimatsu First Series pistol. The top row has the markings shown above and the serial number. Serial numbers on this series run from 50000 to 99999. The second row has a kanji character followed by numbers. The character is Sho, short for Showa, the name of the era during which Emperor Hirohito reigned. The numbers 18.6 signify the date of production. The ones before the period are the year of Hirohitofs reign. To convert to a Western-style date, add 1925. In other words, this gun was made in 1943 (1925 + 18). The number after the period is the month, so the six designates the sixth month, or June. Dates on First Series pistols run from Showa 16.12 to Showa 18.11 (December, 1941 to November, 1943). Just below the six in the date there is a small and poorly struck character. It is the character na, as in Nagoya, and is a final inspection mark.

 

            To see more photos of Toriimatsu First Series Pistols, please click on one of these pages:

Nambu World: Showa 17.9 Toriimatsu First Series Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 18.6 Toriimatsu First Series Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 18.6 Toriimatsu First Series Type 14 Pistol (A) (I have two from that month)

Nambu World: Showa 18.9 Toriimatsu First Series Type 14 Pistol

 

            Here are the markings that come in front of the serial number on Second Series pistols (formerly called gSeries Bh).

 

 

            Now letfs look at the full right side markings on a typical Toriimatsu Second Series pistol. As noted above, it has the Nagoya arsenal symbol, followed by the series marker (a small square inside a circle), followed by the serial number. The little square in the series marker is the Japanese katakana (phonetic) symbol ro (pronounced as in grow your boath); it is the second gletterh in the traditional order of the Japanese galphabeth. Serial numbers in the Second Series run from 1 to around 73000, with a handful of very late guns bearing out-of-sequence numbers in the 75000 and 76000 range. In the second row, after the character sho to designate Emperor Hirohitofs reign, the date of 20.5 translates to May (fifth month) of 1945 (20th year of Hirohitofs reign). Dates on Second Series pistols ran from Showa 18.11 to Showa 20.7 (November, 1943 to August, 1945). As in the photo of the First Series pistol shown earlier, down to the right and slightly below the date there is a small, poorly struck character na (as in Nagoya) that was used as a final inspection mark.

            To see examples of some of the different variations of Second Series Toriimatsu pistols, please click on one of these links:

Nambu World: Showa 18.12 Toriimatsu Second Series Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 19.1 Toriimatsu Second Series Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 19.5 Toriimatsu Second Series Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 19.9 Toriimatsu Second Series Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 19.11 Toriimatsu Second Series Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 20.5 Toriimatsu Second Series Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 20.7 Toriimatsu Second Series Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 20.7 Toriimatsu Second Series Type 14 Pistol (A) (I have two from that month.)

 

Nambu Rifle Manufacturing Company/Chuo Kogyo Production at Kokubunji  under Nagoya Arsenal Supervision

            The second most prolific manufacturer of Type 14 pistols was a private company operating under the supervision of Nagoya Arsenal. Until December 1, 1936 it was called the Nambu Rifle Manufacturing Company (Nambu Ju Seizosho). It then merged with two other companies and became Chuo Kogyo. The companyfs logo was a stylized version of the character Nam (or Nan), which was the first character in Nambu (Lt. Gen Kijiro Nambu, the famed Japanese arms designer, was one of the founders of the company). By itself the character means south. Pistols made by this company almost all have the Nagoya Arsenal mark and the company logo. This photo shows the most common arrangement, with the Nagoya logo first. There were also a very few early pistols in which the order was reversed, or the two symbols were arranged vertically (one on top of the other) instead of side by side. Pistols from this maker are often called gNagoya Nambush (due to the order of the markings) or gKokubunji pistolsh (Kokubunji, a suburb of Tokyo, was the location of the companyfs main factory). For simplicity I will refer to them as Kokubunji pistols from now on.

            The company made two series of pistols. Their initial production was an goriginal seriesh without any series marker, just the Nagoya logo and the Nambu logo, as shown in this photo. When serial numbers reached 99999 they followed standard Japanese practice and added a series marker, shown further down the page.

 

            Here are the typical markings in an goriginal seriesh pistol made by the Kokubunji factory of Nambu/Chuo Kogyo under the supervision of the Nagoya arsenal. As noted above, the first row has the Nagoya Arsenal and Nambu logos followed by the serial number (37614). Serial numbers on this run of guns go from around 7800 to 99999. The lower row has the character Sho to designate the reign of the Showa Emperor (Hirohito) and the date 12.10, indicating the twelfth year, tenth month of Hirohitofs reign (October, 1937). The dates on this type of gun run from Showa 8.12 (December, 1933) to Showa 16.10 (October, 1941). Below the second one in the date is a small kanji character. It is the To in Tokyo, used as a final inspection mark.

           

            To see some of the different variations of Kokubunji original series pistols, please click on the links below:

Nambu World: Showa 11.1 Kokubunji Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 12.3 Kokubunji Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 12.7 Kokubunji Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 12.10 Kokubunji Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 12.10 Kokubunji Type 14 Pistol (A) (I have two from that month)

Nambu World: Showa 14.10 Kokubunji Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 14.11 Kokubunji Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 15.6 Kokubunji Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 15.11 Kokubunji Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 15.12 Kokubunji Type 14 Pistol

Nambu World: Showa 16.7 Kokubunji Type 14 Pistol

 

            When the companyfs goriginal seriesh production reached serial number 99999, it began its gFirst Seriesh production and added the First Series symbol, the first letter of the Japanese katakana galphabeth. This is the same symbol used for the First Series Toriimatsu guns described in an earlier section. The mark looks like an upside down letter y in a circle. These were the only Type 14s with three symbols in front of the serial number: the Nagoya Arsenal logo, the Nambu company logo and the First Series marker. Yes, it seems odd to us to call it the gFirst Seriesh when they had a run of serial numbers before that, but think of first as meaning gthe first series that needed a series designation because we had used all the permissible serial numbers without oneh. This photo is a bit rough because the symbols were poorly struck on a very crudely machined, uneven surface (attention to finishing was already breaking down by the time this gun was made).

 

            Here is the full set of markings on the right side of a Kokubunji First Series pistol. Note that there are three symbols in front of the serial number: the Nagoya Arsenal logo, the company logo, and the First Series marker. Serial numbers on this variation run from 1 to just over 20000. The date below has the Showa symbol and the number 19.6, meaning the sixth month of the 19th year of Hirohitofs reign, i.e. June, 1944. This series was produced with dates from Showa 16.10 (October, 1941) to Showa 19.8 (August, 1944). They only made about 200 guns after the one shown here. The surface roughness you see here resulted from production on a damaged machine tool. It is not wear or damage from use. The small character below the six in the date is the To in Tokyo, used as a final inspection mark.

 

            To see more photos of a Kokubunji First Series Pistol, please click here: Nambu World: Showa 19.6 Kokubunji First Series Type 14 Pistol

 

Chigusa Branch of Nagoya Arsenal

            Of the three Nagoya Arsenal-affiliated producers of Type 14 pistols, the one with the smallest production total was the very first manufacturer of Type 14 pistols, the Chigusa Branch of Nagoya Arsenal, which made only about 7,800 pistols. It used the Nagoya Arsenal symbol alone (see photo below). At first it was placed in front of the date, and later it was moved in front of the serial number in the manner used by all subsequent producers of Type 14s.

 

            I have two Chigusa pistols in my collection, one of each of these styles of markings. Here is the first style, used on the first 4,900-5,000 or so Chigusa pistols until about Showa 4,10 or 4,12 (October-December, 1929). Note that the arsenal mark shown above is not in front of the serial number on the upper part of the frame (1918 in this case), but rather in front of the date on the lower part of the frame (the 3,2). They used a couple of different sizes of the Nagoya Arsenal mark; the earliest one were very, very small. Note also that the year and month are separated by a comma on Chigusa pistols (3,2 instead of 3.2; the date 3,2 means 2nd month, 3rd year of Hirohitofs reign, i.e. February, 1928). Only Chigusa pistols used a comma rather than a period. The other two marks in the lower right of the photo are final inspection marks.

            To see more photos of an early-style Chigusa pistol, please click here:

Nambu World: Showa 3,2 Chigusa Type 14 Photos

 

            Starting around Showa 4,10-4,12, the arsenal mark was moved up to the upper frame in front of the serial number (7243 in this case). This was done to accommodate the addition of the kanji character sho in front of the date. This character is short for Showa and indicates production took place during the reign of the Showa Emperor, i.e. Hirohito. This was implicit before; the addition of the sho character just made this explicit. The use of the comma to separate the year and month was continued. The date 7,3 means the 3rd month of the 7th year of Hirohitofs reign, i.e. July, 1932. The marks off in the lower right of the photo are the final inspection marks.

            To see more photos of a late-style Chigusa Type 14 pistol, please click here:

Nambu World: Showa 7,3 Chigusa Type 14 Photos     

 

            The serial numbers on Chigusa pistols are the easy part: they run from 1 to about 7800 (the lowest known surviving number is in the 40s). The dates are more complicated. First, unlike all other makers of Type 14s, Chigusa used commas rather than decimals in the dates, as noted and pictured above. Second, Chigusa made Type 14s from November, 1926 to November, 1932. This introduces a complication, because production spanned the reigns of two Emperors. The year 1926 was referred to as Taisho 15 until the Taisho Emperor died in early December; the rest of the year then became known as Showa 1 (called gannen in Japanese) for the last few days of the year. Thus the earliest pistols have Taisho dates 15,11 and 15,12 and one- to low-three digit serial numbers. These pistols have no reign name kanji in front of them, and so are easily distinguished from the pistols made in Showa 15.11 and 15.12 at the Kokubunji factory (the latter have the sho, short for Showa character, five-digit serial number, and a period rather than a comma in the date). No pistols have yet been found with Showa gannen dates, since there were only a few days at the end of 1926 when guns could have been made with such dates. Current thinking is that probably none were made during that brief period due to mourning for the late Taisho Emperor. That means that the dates jump from Taisho 15,12 (December, 1926) to Showa 2,1 (January, 1927), skipping gone-datesh. The dates then run normally until Chigusa Type 14 production ended in Showa 7,11 (November, 1932). Until around Showa 4,10 or 4,12 there was no character in front of the date to designate which Emperorfs reign it was. From 4,10-4,12 onwards, however, the character Sho was added to designate the reign of the Showa Emperor (Hirohito).

 

Tokyo and Kokura Arsenal Production

            The Tokyo and Kokura Arsenals both used the same symbol, which has been a frequent cause of confusion among collectors. People often refer to everything with the mark shown below as gKokurah, but the truth is much more complicated. The symbol they both used is shown below. It is supposed to represent a stack of four cannonballs viewed from above. It is also rather similar to the German company Kruppfs logo, which has just the three circles without the extra one superimposed in the centre.

 

            This symbol was first used by Tokyo Arsenal (also called Koishikawa due to the area of Tokyo it was located in). They made Type 14s starting in Showa 3.5 (May, 1928) and started with serial number 1. After a period of joint operation, Kokura Arsenal took over production and continued it until Showa 11.6 (June, 1936), ending around serial number 35400. First letfs look at an example of a Tokyo Arsenal pistolfs markings, then we can try to sort out how to tell a Tokyo gun from a Kokura one. The pistol in this photo has the Tokyo Arsenal logo followed by the serial number in the upper row. The lower row has the date 4.2, i.e. the second month of the fourth year of Emperor Hirohitofs reign, February, 1929. There is a small, poorly struck final inspection mark to the right of the two in the date. Note that there is no character sho in front of the date to designate the reign of Emperor Hirohito. This character was added on Tokyo guns around Showa 5.10 or 5.11 (October or November, 1930).

 

            To see more photos of Tokyo guns, please click on one of the following: Nambu World: Showa 4.2 Tokyo Arsenal Type 14 Pistol

                                                                                                                            Nambu World: Showa 5.2 Tokyo Type 14 Pistol

 

            Now letfs get to the complicated part. In Showa 7.8 (August, 1932), Kokura Arsenal began assembling pistols using frames made by Tokyo Arsenal. Thus, the guns made prior to that date are gpure Tokyoh pistols. There was then a transition period until about Showa 10.3 (March, 1935). Guns made from Showa 10.4 to Showa 11.6 (April, 1935 to June, 1936) are considered Kokura pistols and bear serial numbers between around 31900 and 35400. Guns from the transitional period as well as those considered true Kokura guns can be distinguished by a small katakana character se on the left side of the gun on the flat panel behind the grips. This area, with the little character se in white, is shown in the photo below. If there is a mark in this spot that is not this se, then the pistol was assembled in Tokyo. There is a further complicating factor, though. If this se mark is found on the left rear grip frame, under the grips, then the frame was made at Kokura. So some of the "transitional" guns from the period noted above are in fact made on Kokura frames, and thus should also be considered "pure" Kokura guns, even though they were assembled under the supervision of Tokyo Arsenal. As of May, 2008, only two such guns had been identified; I have one of them. You can see it by clicking on the link below.

             To see more photos of a Kokura pistol, please click here: Nambu World: Showa 8.11 Kokura Type 14 Pistol

Left Side Markings

            The left side markings are the same on virtually all Type 14s, so I will just review them quickly. Although the markings are all the same, the fonts used by different factories are different, so sometimes you can identify the factory where a pistol was made from the left side if you can make out the font used in the markings. First, here is an orientation photo of the left side markings. Just above the trigger guard on the left side of the gun is the safety lever (left side of this photo). There are two characters here, which I will refer to as the gsafety lever markingsh. At the back of the gun on the left side, just ahead of the cocking knob, is another set of markings comprised of four characters (right side of photo). I will refer to these as the gmodel designation markingsh.

 

            First letfs look at the model designation markings. These are more interesting because the difference in fonts is more noticeable in this area and hence it is easier to use these markings to identify the factory of production if you can only see the left side of a pistol. In all cases the characters and their meaning is the same. The four characters from left to right are ju-yon-nen-shiki, or gten-four-year-typeh, i.e. Type 14. 

            As noted earlier, the Toriimatsu branch of Nagoya Arsenal was the most prolific producer of Type 14s. They used a very square font. Note in particular how square the second character from the left is (the four in kanji). The corners are all quite sharp.

 

            Contrast this with the same markings on a Kokubunji gun made by Nambu/Chuo Kogyo under Nagoya Arsenal supervision. Note how rounded the corners of that second character are.

 

            Tokyo Arsenalfs characters were sort of in-between: not as square as the Toriimatsu ones, but less rounded than the Kokubunji ones. Again, this is most easily seen by focusing on the second character from the left.

 

            Here is a close-up of the safety lever markings on a Toriimatsu pistol. There is one character at each end of the arc through which the safety lever swings. The front one (left of the photo) is ka, meaning gfireh, and the rear one (right of the photo) is an, meaning safe (literally, gpeacefulf). All makers used the same markings, which differed only in the style of font used. It is normal for the safety lever to inscribe an arc on the frame as it swings through the 180 degrees of travel required to move it between the safe and fire positions. Although the differences in fonts are not as marked on these characters, they are still noticeable. Note that the two little tick marks in the upper left and right of the character on the left are at roughly 45 degree angles to the vertical line in the middle, while on the Kokubunji and Tokyo pistols further down these ticks are nearly vertical. Also if you look at the character on the right you will notice small differences in the upper part that looks sort of like a hat.

 

Here is the same spot on a Kokubunji pistol.

 

And the same spot on a Tokyo Arsenal pistol.

 

                                   

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Last updated: May 25, 2008. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.