Nambu World: Murata Type 22 Rifle

    The Type 22 Murata gets its name from the fact it was designed by Tsuneyoshi Murata and adopted in the 22nd year of the reign of the Meiji Emperor (Hirohito's grandfather), i.e. 1889. It is a bolt action rifle with an eight-shot tubular magazine under the barrel and fired Japan's first smokeless powder military cartridge, the 8X53R Murata round, unique to this gun (more on the cartridges below). I got this one in 2008 through the kind assistance of a very established collector in the United States. There was only one registered in Canada prior to the importation of this one, so I probably would never have found one without his help, at least not one as nice as this. It is in exceptional condition. It is hard to believe this gun is well over a hundred years old and survived two world wars as well as numerous other conflicts. Starting at the left of the photo, note the following features, each of which will be explained in detail below: the cartouche in the stock; the little lever just behind the bolt handle; the checkered area of the stock; the short handguard atop the stock just in front of the rear sight; and the tubular magazine, visible just below the muzzle end of the barrel. Below is a view of the left side.

    Let's start with a quick tour of the markings on this rifle. Below we see the top and left side of the receiver. On top the flower design is the Imperial chrysanthemum ("mum", for short), stamped on Japanese military rifles as a reminder that they had been entrusted to the troops by the Emperor himself. The two characters on either side of the mum are sideways in the photo: to orient them properly for reading they should be rotated clockwise a quarter-turn (equivalent to placing the rifle muzzle up). They are the kanji characters hai-ju. Ju means gun; hai (an obsolete version of the character listed as #1526 in the Nelson kanji dictionary) means "obsolete", or "discarded". In this case the combination can be interpreted as "gun withdrawn from service". Below that in the photo (i.e. on the left side of the gun), is the serial number, 145428. The Honeycutt and Anthony book indicates that serial numbers started at 1 and known specimens ended around 150,000 in October, 1899. That means this one was made towards the end of the production run, probably in the mid-1890s. About half-way through the Type 22's production run they began to make a much shorter carbine with a 19-1/2" barrel sharing the same serial number sequence. It has no way to attach a bayonet and the highest known number is in the 152,000 range. 

    The second main group of markings are written sideways along the left edge of the receiver just above the stock. Here they have been oriented right side up for ease of reading (equivalent to pointing the gun muzzle up). The first grouping reads To-kyo ho-hei ko-sho sho-ju sei-zo-sho, "Tokyo Artillery Arsenal Rifle Manufacturing Factory".

    The third main group of markings are on the right side of the receiver just behind the bolt handle (see notes above re orienting them properly). These read Mei-ji ni-ju-ni-nen sei-tei, "Adopted in Meiji 22" (i.e. 1889). Sei-tei, which I have translated here as "adopted", literally means "enacted", "established", or "created". The last character, separated slightly from the others at the bottom of the photo, appears to be an inspection mark.    

    The last major set of markings is on the right side of the buttstock. The outer rim reads the same as the markings along the left side, starting between 3 and 4 o'clock: To-kyo ho-hei ko-sho sho-ju sei-zo-sho, "Tokyo Artillery Arsenal Rifle Manufacturing Factory". Inside the inner circle, around the sun-like badge, is Mei-ji ni-ju-ni-nen, Meiji 22 (1889), again starting between the 3 and 4 o'clock positions. This relates to the model, not the year this specific specimen was produced.

    This close-up of the right side of the action shows several interesting features. The bolt handle does not have a screw in it like the earlier Type 18, reflecting the switch from a V-shaped flat spring to a coil spring to drive the firing pin. You can also see the little lever just behind and below the bolt handle and the screw in the right side of the bolt, both of which will be explained in more detail below, and of course the large checkered hand grip area, unique to this model.

The bottom of the action, which on this rifle rather inexplicably remains in the white (i.e. unblued).

Close-up of the checkering. Note also the finger groove just above the checkered area.

Here you can see that it extends uninterrupted from down one side, across the bottom and up the other side.

    The Type 22 continues the very useful practice of adding vent holes to direct gases up and away from the firer's face in the event of a case rupture. You can also see a couple of small inspection marks on the right side of the gun (bottom of photo).

    This short upper handguard is very often missing on Type 22s.

Here's why: it is just held on by a couple of clips. You can see them on the underside of the handguard when it is removed. Note also the wear areas on the barrel where the clips attach.

The rear sight is graduated from 700 to 2000 meters. Obviously the 2,000 meter range is for large group volley fire, as one cannot expect to hit human-sized targets at that range.

    As on the Type 18, the graduations for the shorter distances are on the left side (3=200 meters, 4=400 meters, etc.). As you move the slide up, the notch in the rear sight (see photo above) rises to provide proper sighting for these distances.

    This shot of the muzzle shows the key identifying feature that is useful when examining period photos and trying to figure out whether the rifle being carried is a Type 22 or not: the tube magazine. This gives its muzzle a distinctive profile unlike all other Japanese military rifles, which, if anything, had a slender cleaning rod under the barrel (or a folding bayonet, in the case of the Type 44). You can also see the front sight and the bayonet mount. Note that this includes a stabilizing ridge on the right side of the tubular magazine as well as the lug underneath.   

    Unfortunately there don't seem to be many photos of the Japanese troops during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 or the Boxer Rebellion Expedition to Peking in 1900, when the Type 22 was in its prime, but fortunately there are quite a lot of photos of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, and some show the Type 22 in second-line use. One of the most widely published is this photo, which is actually a detail from a much larger shot showing a huge quantity of artillery shells. Usually the photo is unattributed, but it is from p. 221 of A Photographic Record of the Russo-Japanese War, published by P.F. Collier & Son, New York, 1905, a copy of which was donated to my collection through the generosity of Mr. Joe de Vicq. (I think the copyright has expired after over 100 years...). The caption on the photo is "Five hundred pound shells waiting to be hurled into Port Arthur". Look carefully at the muzzle of the soldier's rifle. Can you make out the give-away tube magazine?

Here to help you out is an extreme close-up of the key spot. See it now?

    The next photo is not nearly as clear, but you can also make out the tube magazine at the muzzle of this sailor's rifle. This photo is from Japan: Her Strength and Her Beauty, also published by P.F. Collier & Son, New York, 1904. the page is unnumbered, but the caption is "Blue jackets drilling on terra firma". This book was also a gift of Mr. Joe de Vicq.

    Enough suspense: so what is that little lever under the bolt handle for? No, it is not a safety; none of the Murata rifles have safeties.(the wiggly line extending up from the middle of the lever is not a scratch, just a stray fibre from the burlap I used as a background.)

    It is a magazine cut-off. When the lever is in the up position (horizontal), the loading platform goes up and down when you cycle the action, thereby bringing a round up from the tubular magazine level with the barrel.

    When you put the lever in the down position, the loading platform snaps up and locks into place, as shown in the photo below. That way you can load single rounds instead of taking them from the magazine. Why would you want to do that? Well, if the pace of firing is slow, you can keep all the rounds in the magazine in reserve in case things heat up, then you always have a full magazine for those occasions when there is no time for loading rounds one at a time.

    Here is a close-up showing the chamber end of the barrel (on top) and the rear of the tubular magazine (below).

Here is the back of the bolt in uncocked position.

    Here it is cocked. One of the nice features of both the Type 22 and its predecessor, the Type 18, is that you can close the bolt without cocking the gun by simply keeping the trigger depressed as you close the bolt. The later Arisaka rifles do not do this, so you either have to dry fore them or leave them cocked if you close them on an empty chamber.

    Remember that screw in the side of the bolt? The Type 22 has a two-piece bolt. The head is a separate assembly and is held onto the main body of the bolt by a connector that is held in place by that screw. To remove the bolt, you have to remove this screw. The connector comes off, and then the main body of the bolt can be withdrawn out the back and the head removed from the front. Similarly, you put the bolt body in from behind, the head in from the front, and then join them with the connector and screw.

Here is the bolt removed from the gun but with the head re-attached. Note the cut-out in front of the bolt handle (to the right of it in the photo). This cut-out was added after around 80,000 were made.

Rotated from the previous photo.

Side view.

Close-up of that connector and screw.

This is where that connector fits into the bolt body.

Partially disassembled view of bolt. One of these days I may get up the courage to take the whole thing apart, but not until I know what I am doing.

The bolt head.

Front end of bolt body with head removed, showing firing pin.

    Every once in a while life delivers a nice surprise. After posting the original version of this page, I remembered that I had noticed that the Type 22 has a cleaning rod compartment in the buttstock and I had not opened it to see what it looked like, so I dug the gun out of the safe again to take a look. Here is that compartment in the close position.  

    It was fairly stiff to open so I used a brass rod to do the pushing to avoid breaking my fingernail. Here is the compartment in the open position.

    To my amazement and pleasure, the compartment held what I believe is an original Murata Type 22 cleaning rod segment! Because the area under the barrel is used for the tubular magazine, there was no room for a full-length cleaning rod. Each rifle came with a segment that the Honeycutt book indicates should be 9-7/8" long (p.194). This one measure 9-13/16" (close enough for the difference to be rounding error) and matches the illustration in the book.

    Here are close-ups. The one on the left is the female threaded end. The one on the right looks like some kind of marking that is poorly applied (most markings on cleaning rods are poorly struck due to the difficulty of imprinting them on a round surface). Needless to say, unexpectedly finding this cleaning rod in the compartment made my day!


References on the Type 22 Murata Rifle

    There is not nearly as much written on the Muratas as the later Arisaka series of rifles, but here are the best references 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. 16-17, 24-25 (carbine 26-27).

Japanese Military Small Arms and Equipment by Shigeo Sugawa (Kokusho Kanko: Tokyo, 1995), pp. 18-22. (text in Japanese but with English captions on photos).

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

    There is a book being written on the Murata rifles by a leading specialist. As soon as it is available I will list it here.

Links on the Type 22 Murata Rifle

Here are a few links to sites with photos of the Type 22 Murata rifle:

Japanese Murata 22

Japanese Rifles

22”NŽฎ‘บ“ce (in Japanese)

Bayonets for the Type 22 Murata Rifle

   I am fortunate to have both the First and Second Variation bayonets for the Type 22 Murata. I have separate pages on both these bayonets, to which there are links below, so here I will just give a quick overview.

    First, here are the two bayonets. The First Variation (top) has a very short grip area, most of it covered in wood. The Second Variation (bottom) has a slightly longer grip area, most of it metal.

Here is the left side of these bayonets.

  Here is a close-up of the grips so you can see how they differ.

Here's how the First Variation fits on my Type 22 rifle (my Second Variation won't fit on this particular gun). You won't often see a Type 22 rifle and a bayonet for it in the same place! 

Here I have zoomed in so you can see the stabilizer slot on the right side of the magazine tube better.

    You can also see a tiny diagram of the bayonet below where I show the user's manual for this rifle.

    To see more photos of the First Variation bayonet, please click here: Nambu World: Murata Type 22 Rifle Bayonet (First Variation)

    To see more photos of the Second Variation bayonet, please click here: Nambu World: Murata Type 22 Rifle Bayonet (Second Variation)

You can also get far more details in the following two books on Japanese bayonets:

Bayonets of Japan: A Comprehensive Reference on Japanese Bayonets, by Raymond C. LaBar (Raymar Inc., Tunnel Hill, Georgia, 2007), pp. 60-70. See also pp. 71-78. (this is the newer of the two books. Itis both easier to get and much more comprehensive)

Japanese Bayonets: The Definitive Work on Japanese Bayonets 1870 to the Present, by Larry Johnson (Cedar Ridge Publications, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma: 1988). pp. 30-38. (out of print for many years and very hard to find, but many people still refer to it if they have one since the LaBar book is so new some people don't even know it is out yet).

Here is a link to a website with photos of a Type 22 bayonet:

‘บ“c“๑\“๑”NŽฎeŒ• Murata Type 22 Bayonet (the text is in Japanese and English)

Other Type 22 Murata Accessories

    I was fortunate enough to obtain an original user's manual for the Type 22 Murata. The caption on the cover reads Mura-ta ren-patsu-ju shi-yo-ho, "Manual for the Murata Repeating Rifle". The manual measures 130mm by 92mm (5-1/8" by 3-5/8"). It has 30 pages and one loose-leaf fold-out diagram.

    Here is the fold-out, showing the parts. The caption in the upper right reads Mura-ta ren-patsu-ju bun-kai no zu, "Diagram of Murata Repeating Rifle Disassembly". The diagram is 198mm X 135mm (7-3/4" X5-5/16") and is made of very thin paper.

This shot of the inside back cover shows that it is bound with string. You can also see the name of the Japanese soldier who had this manual, Nishioka Kiyohei (family name is Nishioka).

    In an incredible stroke of luck, the manual was accompanied by the soldier's service record book (gun-tai te-cho). The faint red writing in the lower right corner of the cover is his name. The writing in the upper left corner just says it is his service record book. The book is 128mm X 88mm (5" X 3-7/16").

    These record books are quite thick, with a lot of the bulk consisting of the Emperor's pronouncements that soldiers were expected to learn and so on. Let's skip that and go to the two most interesting pages. First, here are his personal data: He belonged to the Imperial Guards, Third Infantry Regiment, Reserve Battalion, 4th Company. He was from Kurozawa village in Okayama Prefecture, born January 3, Meiji 5 (1872). Instead of a photo, the page contains a description of him: height 5 shaku, 3 sun, 3 bu (about 161.5cm, or 5'3-1/3"), small eyes, wide, rounded jaw, large but rounded face, small, pointed nose, thick (dense) hair, tall forehead, somewhat small mouth and long eyebrows.

    What really floored me when I started reading it, though, was his actual record of service: he was part of the Japanese contingent sent to relieve the siege of Peking (now Beijing) in 1900 in what is often referred to as the Boxer Rebellion (immortalized in the movie "55 Days at Peking" with Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner and David Niven"). The Japanese supplied the largest number of troops (9,000) in a multilateral relief force that included all the major powers of the day, including the USA. Still, anything to do with this conflict is extremely rare, so I was almost trembling with excitement when I realized where he had served and checked out the details, which all match the recorded progress of the relief force. The part in red is the "good stuff" about his movements after landing, culminating in arriving in Peking in miid-August. I have a Boxer Rebellion service medal and commemorative sake cup as well.

    Also bearing the name of the same soldier is this boarding pass dated November, Meiji 28 (1895) covering his passage from Yokohama to Kobe. It is 182mm X 122mm (7-1/8" X 4-13/16") and printed on paper about the thickness of ordinary bond paper.

Here's the back of the pass.

Ammunition for the 8mm Type 22 Murata

    The Type 22 Murata used the 8 X 53R Murata cartridge designed exclusively for it (though I think it was also used in some Japanese Gatling guns). An American collector friend, Don Schlickman,  generously donated this deactivated round for the Type 22 to my collection. This was a great favour, as the 8mm Murata round is even rarer than the 11mm. I also acquired some images from the International Ammunition Association, so all in all you should be able to get a good idea of what this round is like here.

    First, here is my round. There is no powder in it and the primer has been spent, so it is completely inert. Its overall length is 74.5mm, or just under three inches. The case itself was 52.8mm (2.075") long and weighed 182.6 grains, including the spent primer.

    Here is the base. Like most Japanese military rounds it has no headstamp, although as you will see later some 8mm rounds had the katakana ro, which looks like a 3, stamped on them. The rim is 14mm (0.553") in diameter).

There is a slight split in the neck of the case, so I was able to take the bullet out to photograph and measure it. It is 31.17mm (1.225") long, 8.09mm (0.318") in diameter, and weighs 240grains.

    As with most rounds used in guns with tubular magazines, the bullet has a flat tip to prevent accidental discharges due to recoil or dropping the gun (if the tip were sharp, the fear is it could set of the primer of the round ahead of it in the magazine). The flat area is a bit hard to measure but seems to be about 4.11mm (0.162") in diameter.

The base shows it is of standard composition: a copper jacket over a lead core.

    You can find details on this cartridge in the following reference books:

Japanese Ammunition 1880-1945, Part 1: Pistol, Rifle and Machine Gun Ammunition up to 20mm, by Ken Elks (Solo Publications, Canterbury, UK, 2007). 8mm: pp. 23-26.

Early Made Japanese Military Small Arms Ammunition by Teruaki Isomura (Tokyo, 1984; US reprint). 8mm on pp. 7-11, 17-19, 22-23.

Cartridges of the World, 5th Edition, by Frank C. Barnes, edited by Ken Warner, has an entry for 8X53R Murata on page 224, It indicates a muzzle velocity of 1,850 fps for a muzzle energy of 1,810 foot-pounds.

The Handloader's Manual of Cartridge Conversions by John J. Donnelly has an entry for 8X53R Murata on page 877 and indicates brass can be formed from 7.62 X54R Russian (Mosin-Nagant ammo). I ordered some brass and a set of 4D dies from Buffalo Arms in Ponderay, Idaho so I can make up some dummy rounds. The brass, as shown below, is made by re-forming .45-70 brass, but as of June, 2008. The shellholder is an RCBS #13 (normally used for the 7.62X54R Russian round.

    The editor of the newsletter of the International Ammunition Association (IAA) kindly provided me with these images, which are used here with the permission of the IAA. If you are into cartridges, you should join the IAA (I did).

    This first photo shows an original military sectioned round with no headstamp and a linen wad. The bullet weight is listed as 240.1 grains and the powder charge as 34.6 grains (NOTE: DO NOT USE THIS CHARGE WEIGHT AS LOADING DATA--IT IS PRESENTED FOR HISTORICAL PURPOSES ONLY!!) Note that the bullet has a flat nose to prevent accidental firing in the tubular magazine. Most rifles that use tubular magazines (for example, .30-30 Winchester Model 1894s), use flat nosed bullets because a pointed nose on a bullet could possibly set off the round ahead of it when that round moves back under recoil as the gun is fired. Murata rounds also generally had "protected" (i.e. recessed) primers as an additional protection against this possible danger. If you look at the base of the cartridge at the far left of the photo, you can see that not only does it lack a headstamp, but the centre of the primer is recessed for this reason. (Photo courtesy of the IAA).


    This is a similar round except that it has a Japanese hiragana symbol ro as a headstamp (looks like a 3). It is not known what this signifies. Data on the back of the photo are the same as the above. (Photo courtesy of the IAA.)   

This one also has the same bullet and powder charge data, but note that it does not have the ro headstamp and also does not have the wad. (Photo courtesy of the IAA.)


    According to the data recorded on the back, this photo sows a dummy round on the left what is half brass and half wood, with a punch mark on the base (these marks were often added when a spent shell was recycled into a blank or dummy round). The round on the right is listed as a "Blank, wood bullet, brass case and non-crimped brass primer." (Photo courtesy of the IAA.)


    Finally, here are two post-war 8mm Murata rounds. The one on the left is listed as "Soft point bullet, brass case and non-crimped nickel primer. Nippon Kinzoku Kogyo 1956 manufacture". The one on the right is listed as "Soft point bullet, brass case and non-crimped brass primer. Unknown Japanese manufacture." Bullet and powder weights are not recorded for either round. (Photo courtesy of the IAA.)

    I don't have any Murata ammo boxes but through the generosity of an American collector friend, I am able to bring you these four photos. First, here is an overall view of an original Japanese 15 round box of 8mm Murata ammunition for the Type 22.

    Now let's zoom in on that label on top. The writing reads in columns, top to bottom, starting on the right and working towards the left. The first column says mei-ji niju hachi nen ju-ichi-gatsu sei, meaning "Made in November, Meiji 28", which would be 1895. The middle row says Mura-ta ren-patsu-ju jip-po ju-go-hatsu, or "Murata repeating rifle ball cartridges, 15 rounds". The third column from the right says rai-kan mei-ji niju hachi nen ju-ichi-gatsu sei, or "Primers made in November, Meiji 28" [again, 1895]. The far right column says To-kyo ho-hei ko-sho ju-ho sei-zo-sho. This is the location of production, "Tokyo Artillery Arsenal Rifle Factory".

Here is a side view.

And a peak inside. Thanks again to S.H. for sharing these rare photos!


  Last updated: May 18, 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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