Nambu World: Murata Type 13 Rifle

    The Murata Type 13 rifle was Japan's first domestically designed and produced modern military rifle. It gets its designation from the fact it was designed by Tsuneyoshi Murata (later made a major-general and a baron) and adopted in Meiji 13 (the 13th year of the reign of the Meiji Emperor, Hirohito's grandfather), i.e. 1880. It is a bolt action, single shot rifle that fired an 11mm black powder cartridge that was similar to others of the period like the 11mm Mauser, but not interchangeable with them. I obtained this one with the kind assistance of an advanced collector in the USA. It is well-worn, but the mere fact it survived complete and intact is incredible when you think that it is over 120 years old. It was not a first-line weapon in any major conflict, but I think it would have seen a fair bit of second-line use in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 and some sources indicate the single-shot Muratas were in second-line service as late as the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. After being retired from service, most either served as training rifles in Japan's schools or ended up on the civilian market where many were converted to shotguns in 32, 30 or 28 gauge. Because it meets the Canadian legal definition of an antique firearm, it is exempt from registration in Canada, though there is one registered in the firearms registry database anyway. This may therefore be one of only two in Canada. Below is a shot of the left side. Note also that the stock is one piece, in contrast to the two-piece stocks used in the later Arisaka rifles. According to my crude scale, the weight of this rifle seems to be about 8.5 to 9 pounds. Using the method of measurement approved for registration purposes in Canada (i.e. close the bolt and drop a rod down the barrel), the barrel of 819mm (32-1/4 inches) gives an overall length of 1295mm (50-7/8 inches).

 

    This shot of the top of the action. Here you can also see the placement of the mum and other markings explained below, as well as the two gas vent holes added as a safety feature. In the event of a case rupture, the gases could vent up through these holes rather than into the fact of the firer. This feature became standard on later models of Japanese rifles.

    Here is a closer shot of the markings on the top of the gun, which could be seen in less detail in the photo above. The chrysanthemum, the symbol of the Imperial family, is at the left of the photo. Collectors usually call this simply the "mum". This mark symbolized that the weapon was entrusted by the Emperor to the soldier to whom it was issued--a kind of constant reminder of the responsibility the nation had placed in him. Most military rifles had the mums ground off or defaced when they were surrendered in order to avoid the disgrace of surrendering the Emperor's symbol, but this one may have avoided this fate since it had probably not been in military service for several decades by the time the war ended. Perhaps the circle around the mum was also intended as some sort of cancellation. To the right of the mum is a rather faint, larger marking. This is the kanji character hai (an obsolete version of the character listed as #1526 in the Nelson kanji dictionary). Literally this character means "obsolete", or "discarded". In this case it can be interpreted as "withdrawn from service". At the far right is a curly-looking mark. It is the Murata family monogram (kaki-han). Murata was lucky he got his name on the rifles he designed; none of the later Arisaka rifles had that name on them.

    In this photo of the right side of the action you can see where that mark is positioned. Note the large screw in the end of the bolt handle. The bolt handle itself is also very thick. This is because the firing pin spring is a leaf spring that fits inside this bolt handle, not a coil spring as in almost all other designs. I have read that this feature was copied from the Dutch Beaumont rifle. It was not a good idea: the leaf spring did not generate enough power to drive the firing pin hard enough to ensure reliable ignition. Note the markings just behind the bolt handle; these are explained in the next photo.

    On the right side of the receiver just behind the bolt handle are these marks. One of the strokes in the "3" is too faint to make out, but it says Mei-ji-10-3-nen, Meiji 13 (the year 1880 by the Western calendar). This was the year the design was adopted, not the year this particular specimen was made. In other words, it is akin to a "model number".

Here is the left side of the action. Note the markings, which are explained next.

Here is a close-up of the serial number, 21278. The Japanese made around 60,000-70,000 Type 13 rifles, then seem to have continued the same serial range when they shifted production to the Type 18.

    On the left side of the receiver, just below and to the right of the serial number there are two long inscriptions. Here is the first one. It is actually sideways in the photo as it was intended to be read from top to bottom, with the muzzle of the rifle held upwards. This part says: dai-nip-pon-tei-koku-mura-ta-ju, "Empire of Greater Japan, Murata rifle".

The second string is to-kyo-ho-hei-ko-sho-sho-ju-sei-zo-sho, "Made by Tokyo Artillery Arsenal, Rifle Factory".

Here is the underside of the receiver. The only marks here are serial numbers.

Here is a view from the rear. That is not a safety knob. This model has no safety.

Here is a side view in the uncocked position.

The cocked position.

    The rear sight is graduated out to 1500 metres. Obviously no one was expecting to hit a specific target at that range. The idea was that a volley of fire by a platoon or even a company firing at the same time could make things rather uncomfortable for the enemy at that range (imagine it raining lead, which is what it would have been like given the trajectory).

Here is the rear sight in the "up" position.

This top view of the front sight also shows the bayonet lug, which is on the side, not underneath as we tend to expect nowadays. Lower down the page I will show how the bayonet fits on this lug.

The butt has two very faint markings applied with white paint. they are the kanji characters for 43. This would have been a rack number used to keep track of inventory wherever the gun was being used.

    You might have noticed in the above photo that the rear sling swivel has no bluing. It was taken from another gun and so the numbers don't match. The number is 7847, and both screws also have this  number stamped on them, starting in the lower left (when the numbers are right side up) and going clockwise. The complete lack of finish on this part may be due to bead blasting or some other rust removal process.

Here is the bolt in its rearward position. You can see the small part held on by a screw at the front of the bolt. This is the bolt stop and prevents the bolt from coming out of the gun at the rear unless it is removed.

Here is a close-up of the bolt stop doing its job.

    Here is a top view of the bolt. It is in the cocked position as it normally is when first withdrawn from the gun. The bolt strop and its retaining screw are shown in the upper left. The extractor is shown below the body of the bolt. It just sits in place, so when you withdraw the bolt it falls out. For that reason, many of these guns are missing the extractor.

Here is the bottom view.

Left side.

Right side. The thing hanging down on the right is the extractor, which I used to prop the bolt in this position so I could take the photo.

The main (front) part of the bolt is number 11644.

    The rear part is number 20713. The mark below that, the one that looks like a tic-tac-toe board, is the kanji character i (pronounced "ee", as in "beet"). Literally it means "well", as in where you get water, but in this case it is just an inspection mark.

Here is a close-up of the spot where the bolt stop fits in. You have to unscrew the bolt stop to get the bolt out of the gun.

    Here is a shot of the receiver with the bolt out. Without any magazine or other complications, it looks pretty plain. The bore is actually amazingly good on this rifle, when you consider its age and the use of corrosive black powder. The rifling is still nice and crisp.

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References on the Type 13 Murata Rifle:

    Information on the Murata series of rifles is much harder to come by than on the later Arisakas. A book is currently being written specifically on the Muratas by a leading specialist, but in the meantime, here are the best published sources I have found:

Military Rifles of Japan, Fifth Revised Edition, by Fred L. Honeycutt, Jr. and F. Patt Anthony (Julin Books, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, 1996), pp. 18-19).

Japanese Military Small Arms and Equipment by Shigeo Sugawa (Kokusho Kanko: Tokyo, 1995), pp. 13-17 (bayonet p. 22). Japanese text, but photos have English captions

"Murata Types 13 and 18: They founded an arsenal system, part of the beginnings of empire", by Charles S. Small. Gun Digest, 1983, pp. 196-199. Has instructions on disassembly of bolt.

"Murata: The Japanese Gun", Sports Gun Guidebook 2005, pp. 039-041 (entirely in Japanese except for the titles of the publication and article)

Links on the Type 13 Murata Rifle:

Here are a few links to other sites with photos of the Type 13 Murata:

Japanese Murata 13

Japanese Rifles

Bayonets for the Type 13 Murata:

    I was fortunate enough to get one of these rare bayonets in late 2008. Here I will just show a basic shot and how it is attached to the rifle. For more details I have created a separate page on this bayonet with a link below. First, here is the bayonet and its scabbard and frog by themselves. I suspect all or part of the scabbard may actually be British. The main reference book on Murata bayonets notes that they are usually found with British Enfield frogs and an expert who viewed photos of the scabbard thought the tip of the scabbard looked suspiciously rounded like the Enfield scabbard's tip. The bayonet itself is undoubtedly for a Type 13 Murata. It is an extremely long and thick bayonet, more like a sword, really.

    Of course, we also have to see it on the gun. It fits on the right side, rather than underneath the barrel (the same goes for the later Type 18). The combined rifle and bayonet are an intimidating 1.85 metres (72-7/8 inches) long!

This close-up shows how the bayonet fits on the gun.

    To see more photos of the Type 13 Murata bayonet, please click here: Nambu World: Murata Type 13 Rifle Bayonet

    The Type 13 Murata bayonets are covered on pages 33-44 (Chapter 4) of the great new (2008) book on Japanese bayonets by Raymond LaBar, Bayonets of Japan: A Comprehensive Reference on Japanese Bayonets. It refers to my variation as the LB-37 (p. 36). The earlier (1988) book by Larry Johnson, Japanese Bayonets: The Definitive Work on Japanese Bayonets 1870 to the Present, covers the Type 13 bayonet on pages 26-27 and labels this one as the JB-4.

Manual for the Type 13 Rifle

    I do not have an original manual, but I was fortunate enough to obtain a photocopy of one from a library in Japan. The writing that starts in the upper left corner says mura-ta-ju-tori-atsukai-ho [space] zen, i.e. "Murata rifle instruction manual, complete". There is also a little name stamp above the last character. I think it is the name "Sakai". The inside cover of the manual indicates it was published by the War Ministry (literally, the "Army" Ministry) and it is dated November, Meiji 15 (1882).

Murata 11mm Ammunition (for Type 13 and Type 18 rifles):

    Both the Type 13 and Type 18 Murata rifles fired the 11mm Murata round, technically known as 11X60mm Murata.

    For details on this cartridge, please see the latter part of my page on the Type 18 rifle. Please click here: Nambu World: Murata Type 18 Rifle

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    Last updated: February 27, 2009. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.

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