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 emperorfs 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 Hirohitofs 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
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
If your pistol has the mark shown below in front of its serial number, scroll down to the section on gTokyo/Kokura Arsenal Productionh (a fair ways down).
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, Nagoyafs 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 Productionh 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
The most prolific manufacturer of Type 14 pistols was the Toriimatsu Branch of Nagoya Arsenal. It made two gseriesh 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 circleh). The second symbol is the series marker, which is a Japanese katakana (phonetic) symbol in a circle. The Japanese didnft 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 gih (their first letter) and the next time groh (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 galphabeth and more.
The first photo below shows the gFirst Seriesh marker (this used to be less accurately called gSeries Ah, 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 yh is a Japanese gih, pronounced geeh as in gfeeth, the first gletterh of the Japanese galphabeth in the old, traditional order.
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 Hirohitofs
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
To see more photos of Toriimatsu First Series Pistols, please click on one of these pages:
Nambu World: Showa 18.6 Toriimatsu First Series Type 14 Pistol (A) (I have two from that month)
Here are the markings that come in front of the serial number on Second Series pistols (formerly called gSeries Bh).
letfs look at the full right side markings on a typical Toriimatsu Second
Series pistol. As noted above, it has the
To see examples of some of the different variations of Second Series Toriimatsu pistols, please click on one of these links:
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
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 companyfs logo
was a stylized version of the character
company made two series of pistols. Their initial production was an goriginal
seriesh without any series marker, just the
are the typical markings in an goriginal seriesh pistol made by the Kokubunji
factory of Nambu/Chuo Kogyo under the supervision of the
To see some of the different variations of Kokubunji original series pistols, please click on the links below:
Nambu World: Showa 12.10 Kokubunji Type 14 Pistol (A) (I have two from that month)
When the companyfs goriginal seriesh production reached serial number 99999, it began its gFirst Seriesh production and added the First Series symbol, the first letter of the Japanese katakana galphabeth. 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 Seriesh 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 oneh. 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).
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 Hirohitofs 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
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
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 Hirohitofs 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:
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 Hirohitofs 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:
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-datesh. 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 Emperorfs reign it was. From 4,10-4,12 onwards, however, the character Sho was added to designate the reign of the Showa Emperor (Hirohito).
symbol was first used by Tokyo Arsenal (also called Koishikawa due to the area
To see more photos of Tokyo guns, please click on one of the following: Nambu World: Showa 4.2 Tokyo Arsenal Type 14 Pistol
letfs 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
To see more photos of a Kokura pistol, please click here:
Nambu World: Showa 8.11
Kokura Type 14 Pistol
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 markingsh. 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 markingsh.
First letfs 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-typeh, 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 Arsenalfs 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 gfireh, and the rear one (right of the photo) is an, meaning safe (literally, gpeacefulf). 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.