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Nambu World: Type 30 Arisaka Rifle

    The Type 30 rifle was adopted in Meiji 30 (1897) and was the primary weapon used in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. It is a five-shot bolt action rifle that fires the 6.5X50SR Arisaka round. I got this one in 2008 through the assistance of an advanced collector friend in the USA. The stock has been repaired and refinished and there is one small mechanical fault, but it is still a much better than average example. Most of these rifles either got sold off to other countries, where they passed through many hands, or were used for drill in schools. As a result, most are very battered. The Type 30 is sometimes known as the "hook safety" rifle due to the shape of this part, which will be shown later. Japan supplied a large number of rifles to Britain and Russia in World War One, including both Type 30s and Type 38s. These rifles later ended up all over Europe and even further afield, so it is not unusual to find these rifles with non-Japanese markings. A variant was also made for China, and China also made copies of this design.

    Here is the left side. Can you spot the stock repair in either of these shots? Probably only if you are really eagle-eyed. It is not what you might be thinking at first (that line where the colour of the wood in the butt changes is the seam of the two-piece stock, not a repair). I will show the repair in a detailed photo below, though. The general shape of this rifle is very similar to its replacement, the Type 38, but there are major mechanical differences. The barrel is 794 mm (31.15 inches) long according to the data the Canadian government uses for registration purposes. The Honeycutt book cited below gives the barrel length as 31-1/4". The actual measurement I got off this one (using the "Canadian way" required for registration, i.e. a rod down the barrel with the action closed) was 788mm, or 31", giving a total length of 1275mm, or 50-1/4". It weighs about eight pounds according to my primitive scale.

    Here are the markings on the top of the receiver. The chrysanthemum at the top of the photo is the symbol of the Imperial family and served as a reminder to the soldier that the weapon had been entrusted to him directly by the Emperor. At the war's end, the "mum" (as it is usually called) was either ground off or defaced to avoid the disgrace of surrendering the Imperial symbol to the victors. In this case, an X was simply struck over the symbol. This type of "cancellation" is often called a "staked" mum. Below that is a string of characters that designate the model: san-ju-nen-shiki, "30th year type", or as we usually say, "Type 30". You can also see two holes. These are for venting gases upward and away from the face of the user in the event the brass cartridge case splits or separates. This very sensible safety precaution was a feature of all the Arisaka rifles (later Type 99 rifles had a single hole).

    Here are the other main markings, which are found on the left side of the receiver. On the left is the serial number, 521120. The Japanese made about 554,000 Type 30 rifles and around 45,000 carbines, so this one is a relatively late production piece, probably made around 1903-05. The symbol to the right of the serial number that resembles a cloverleaf is the logo of the Tokyo Arsenal, also called Koishikawa, after the part of Tokyo where it was located. The small marks at the far right of the photo are inspection marks. They are stamped sideways: to view them correctly the gun should be pointed muzzle up. The one on top is the kanji ko as in Koishikawa, and the one below that appears to be the kanji suga.

Here is a close-up of the right side of the action.

The left side (note the position of the serial number and other markings shown above).

The bottom, showing the magazine floorplate.

    The top of the action. Note the two key identifying features of this rifle: the hook shaped safety (left of photo) and the round end of the bolt handle has a ball-shape (later Arisakas have a plum shape or, on very late specimens, a sort of cylindrical shape). You can also see the notch at the back of the ejection port (front of the bridge) where the five-round stripper clips used in this and all subsequent Arisakas could be inserted to load the magazine. The clip does not go into the magazine; it is just to hold the cartridges so you can push them in five at a time instead of one by one.

    Here is the rear sight. Note the small notch in the top (above the 20, i.e. the 2,000 yard mark). This sight was calibrated for the original Type 30 6.5mm ammunition, which was round-nosed. Later cartridges had a pointed bullet and other modifications. Some Type 30s had their rear sights replaced with one calibrated to the new ammunition. The replacement rear sight did not have this little notch in the top.

In this close-up you can see those two features, the hook safety and the ball-shaped end on the bolt handle. This is the uncocked position.

Here is the cocked position.

    Here it is with the safety on. To engage the safety you pull the hook back and turn it clockwise 90 degrees so that the hook is straight up. Because this safety also served to cock the gun if pulled straight back and not turned, it allowed the firer to take a second or even third (4th, 5th...) attempt to fire a cartridge if it did not go off the first time.

Here is an angle view of the uncocked postion.

Angle view of the "safe" position (remember: never rely on mechanical safeties; treat every gun as if it is loaded and ready to fire).

    The little grooved thing inside the front of the trigger guard is the catch for the magazine floorplate. Some Type 30s were sold to the Russians in World War One. They often have some kind of modification in this area to prevent the catch from being accidentally released when a thickly-gloved finger is inserted into this relatively small hole, which would dump the cartridges all over the ground. They either put a clip around it to hold it in place or even ground it flush with the inside of the trigger guard.

Here is the magazine follower, spring and floorplate. The spring is a wire coil instead of the flat leaf-type spring used in later models.

    Note that the line you see in the butt of the stock about half way up in the other photos and more visible here is not a crack or repair: the stocks were made in two pieces, and that is the seam between the two. From this model onwards Japanese rifles were pretty much all made with two-piece stocks, which the uninitiated often think are cracked. The repair is further down, right on the toe of the stock.

    Here is a closer view from the other side, where you can see the difference in the grain of the wood fairly clearly. This is an area that is commonly damaged on rifles that have seen a lot of service. The repair and refinishing were quite skillfully done. The main giveaway is that the finish is a modern type of clear coat that is considerably thicker than the light lacquer that was originally used.

There is also a small gouge in the top of the right side of the butt that has been filled with a material like plastic wood or something similar.

    Fortunately the stock refinishing was done subtly enough that the stock marking was preserved. This is on the bottom of the butt stock just ahead of the rear sling swivel. It is believed to be a stylized version of the kanji nishi, meaning "west". Early Japanese inspection marks were often either part of the name of the arsenal or, as is probably in this case, part of the surname of the inspector.

    Now let's skip to the other end of the gun. Here's a shot of the muzzle showing the front sight, which has no "ears" to protect it, and the bayonet lug.

       Here is a shot showing how the bayonet fits on. This bayonet looks pretty well worn, but it has good reason to: it is #44381, one of first ones of this pattern, probably made over 100 years ago. It is shown again below under bayonets. Note the Tokyo Arsenal mark on the ricasso (the flat part of the blade just ahead of the crossguard).

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Here we see that the bolt holds open on the follower when the magazine is empty. Although somewhat annoying to collectors today, because it means you have to press the follower down to close the bolt every time you check to make sure the gun is unloaded, it served the useful purpose in combat of clearly signaling to the user that the gun was unloaded, so he did not close the bolt on an empty gun and then get just a "click" when he was expecting a "bang".

The bolt release is different from the subsequent Type 38 and 99 models. On this one you push in on the back, whereas on the Types 38 and 99 you pull out on the front.

Here it is in action.

Here is the bolt.

The other side.

The bolt head is a separate unit that screws off the front of the bolt with a quarter turn. Here you can see the ejector on the top and the extractor on the bottom.

Disassembling the bolt requires a tool that can be easily fabricated from a piece of tube or, in the case of this one my husband made for me, by drilling a hole into the top of a brass rod.

    The purpose of the hole is to provide protection for the tip of the firing pin when you are pushing down on the bolt as part of the disassembly process. Disassembling the Type 30 bolt is a real pain in the neck. Besides the tool, having four hands would also be helpful. If you are brave enough to attempt this process, check out the instructions at Disassembly of the Model 30 rifle or carbine bolt. Make sure you read the instructions through a couple of times and be careful. You will be compressing a powerful spring during the process and if it releases in an uncontrolled manner, not only will you end up with parts all over the place, you may suffer injury (wear eye protection!). The instructions also specify the dimensions needed to fabricate the tool.

This is the back of the bolt. It looks like the last digit in the serial number was mis-struck, with a "5" upside down and then another digit (a 2?) struck over that. Now, do you see the tiny mechanical flaw I referred to above?

    Here (below) is a detail shot showing half of the split screw from this rifle and the same part from one that is intact (the one on my Type 30 blank-firing trainer). Note that that the tip of the catch is broken off. You can see this in the photo above if you look at the notch at the bottom of the screw: the catch should extend out a bit so you can press it in and rotate the split screw. Having the tip broken off does not affect the functioning of the rifle in any way, but it does make it even more difficult to take the bolt apart and get it back together. However, this is not that big a deal: as you might have guessed, taking Type 30 bolts apart is something I avoid at all costs anyway.

    However, I did do it once on this rifle so I could inspect all the innards and take this photo. The bolt of the Type 30 was notoriously complicated, so much so that one of the key tasks of the famed arms designer Lt. Gen. Kijiro Nambu early in his career was to figure out how to simplify it. The beautifully simple bolts in all subsequent Type 38 and Type 99 rifles are a testament to his success in this endeavour. Besides the bolt body (top), along the left of the photo are the two halves of the split screw and the front and rear halves of the bolt sleeve. Along the left are the extractor, ejector and bolt head. At the bottom are the firing pin and its spring.

In this close-up of the ejector you can see the inspection mark and the serial number 870. As on most surviving Type 30s, the part numbers do not match anymore.

    Remember I said the key identifying features of the Type 30 were the hook safety and, less importantly, the ball-shaped bolt handle end? Well, look closely at this photo again and then go to the next one, which is an angle shot of that area.

An angle shot f the back of the action.

    Now let's see how these features, especially that hook safety, can be used to identify the rifle in period photos. First, here is a posed shot from my own personal photo collection (please see copyright notice at the bottom of the page). The hook is very easily visible. The white blurs are, I think, a result of the shiny parts of the rifle having been rotated during a long, slow exposure. The soldier is in typical Meiji-era uniform. Note the two 30-round front ammo pouches. This basic design continued right up until 1945. I am guessing the man beside him in civilian clothes was probably his younger brother. Unfortunately there is no notation on the photo, which measures 59mm X 87mm (2-5/16" X 3-7/16"). I bought it with a couple of other loose Meiji era photos at a flea market in Tokyo.

    This photo is from page 15 of a period book entitled A Photographic Record of the Russo-Japanese War by James H. Hare, published by P.F. Collier & Son, New York, 1905. It is entitled "Changing guard at the Oyama barracks in Tokio [sic]". This book was kindly donated to my collection by a benevolent Texan, Mr. Joe de Vicq. Since the book was published over 100 years ago, I imagine the copyright has expired.

Here is a close-up of the two soldiers on the far left of the photo. See the shape of the bolt handle end and the hook? The hook is especially visible on the rifle carried by the soldier in the light-coloured uniform.

Here is a detail from another photo from the same book. This one is on page 23 and is entitled "Troops marching to station through the streets of Tokio [sic]".  See the shape of the bolt handle and hook?

OK, how about now? This is a close-up of the relevant area of the above shot.

    You can also see the hook on the rifle of this happy looking soldier, in a detail from a photo from page 119 the same book. The photo is entitled "General Okasaki, who defeated the Russians at Motienling". Note that he is wearing havelocks (that is what they call those cloths you attach to a cap to protect your neck from the sun). These later became a standard item for Japanese troops serving in hot climates.

Here is an extreme close-up of the action of his rifle showing the hook.

    Now let's get a little racy. This photo is from page 129 of the book cited above and is entitled "Soldiers making themselves comfortable on a hot, wet day". Both barefoot soldiers are shown in their underwear. It appears that they are wearing traditional loincloth-style underwear called fundoshi.

Here is an extreme close-up of the rear of the action of the rifle carried by the soldier on the right.

    This is an often-reproduced shot showing the field-expedient solution to one of the problems the Japanese encountered during the Russo-Japanese War, which was fought mostly in dry, dusty north-eastern China. The complicated action of the Type 30 could easily become clogged with dust, so soldiers wrapped the actions of their rifles in rags. Later Arisaka models incorporated a sliding metal dust cover to prevent this problem. This is a detail from a photo entitled "Japanese infantry creeping though a cornfield toward the Russian position near Hoozan" on page 224 of the above-cited book. On the soldier in the foreground you can see the sixty-round rear ammo pouch, and if you strain your eyes enough you can also see the chamber cleaning tool fitted diagonally across it. If you can't see this at first, scroll down to the manual illustration of the pouch set and see where it is supposed to be and what it is supposed to look like and then return to this photo for another look.

References on the Type 30 Rifle

    By far the most comprehensive reference on the Type 30 is The Early Arisakas: A Study of the Japanese Type 30 Rifles and Carbines, Naval Type 35 Rifles, Substitute Type 02/45 Rifles and Their Variations, Banzai Special Project #9, by Francis C. Allan, Doss H. White and Dr. Stanley Zielinski, edited by Joseph P. Koss, Jr., published by AK Enterprises, 2006, ISBN 0-9614814-5-5, Library of Congress Catalog Control Number 2006934503. To order this book, please contact Frank Allan directly at mailto:FCALLAN4647@yahoo.com

        The classic reference book on all Japanese rifles, Fred L. Honeycutt and F. Patt Anthony's Military Rifles of Japan, 5th Edition. It covers the Type 30 rifle on pages 28-31 (carbine on pages 32-33). It was published by Julin Books, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.  My copy is the 2001 seventh printing. ISBN 0-9623208-7-0. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 96-077531.

    The Shigeo Sugawa book Japanese Military Small Arms and Equipment covers the Type 30 on pages 23-27. This book is in Japanese, but has very nice colour photos with English captions. It was published by Kokusho Kankokai, Tokyo, 1995. ISBN 4-336-03729-9. The Japanese title is Nippon no gunyoju to sogu (the English title appears on the back cover as I have given it here).

    Shoju-kenju-kikanju nyumon [Introduction to Rifles, Handguns and Machine Guns] by Jiro Sayama, Tokyo,2000, Kojinsha, pages 68-75. This book is entirely in Japanese but has many interesting photos and reproductions of line drawings from period manuals. It is very cheap if you buy it in Japan (1000 yen, around $10). ISBN 4-7698-2284-7.

    British Secondary Small Arms: Part 1, Arisaka Rifles & Carbines by A.O. Edwards, Solo Publications, Canterbury, Kent, UK, 2004. This book covers the use of the Type 30 by the British military during the First World War, particularly on pages 8-10. ISBN 0-9532952-9-X.

Links on the Type 30 Rifle

Here is a link to additional information on the Type 30 rifle. It was created by people from Banzai (the Japanese militaria collectors' group) who know what they are talking about:

General Information on the Type 30 Rifle

This next one is in Japanese, but has good photos of one of the Type 30s sold to Thailand. These did not see service so they are in exceptional condition, as you can see in the photos.

ŽO\”NŽ®¬e‚P (click on the numbers at the bottom of this page to go to each of the five pages on the T30).

I found a few other sites that had maybe one or two pictures and a paragraph, but not much more. One of the better of these summary sites is one by Shigeo Sugawa, the author of the above-cited book. It has short bits on all the Japanese rifles at

Rifles [Shou-Jyu]

If you know of another good site on this topic, please let me know.

Manuals for the Type 30 Rifle

    Incredibly, given the scarcity of the rifles, I have ended up with four different versions of the Type 30 rifle manual. The white one in the upper right is the oldest.  Sanju-nen-shiki hoheiju oyobi kiju hozonho soan, "Draft Instructions for the Maintenance of the Type 30 Infantry Rifle and Carbine". It is 94mm X 127mm (3-11/16" X 5"). The cover indicates it was issued by the Tokyo Military Education Association (Tokyo gunji kyoiku kai) and it is identified on the inside title page as rikutatsu (Army Instructions) #150. It has 53 pages of text and several fold-out illustrations. The inside back page indicates it was printed on August 21, Meiji 33 (1900) and issued on the 24th of that month. The name on the back is Kyusaku Kawasaki (family name Kawasaki). There is a bit of worm damage to the back cover, but I think the unit listed is 11th Company (chutai). Next came the pink one in the upper left. Its title is Sanju-nen-shiki hoheiju shiyoho soan, "Draft Instructions for the Type 30 Infantry Rifle". It is 75mm X 110mm (2-7/16" X 4-5/16") and has 18 pages of text (plus the unnumbered publication data at the back), with no illustrations. There is a bit of worm damage on the back and front covers, but it has not affected the text part. The inside front cover indicates it is rikutatsu (Army Instructions) #151. The publishing data in the back indicates it was printed on December 5, Meiji 34 (1901) and issued on the 10th of that month. It originally cost 2 sen (2/100 of a yen). There is a handwritten name on the back cover: Ryoji Yajima (family name Yajima). He was a first year volunteer soldier in the infantry (rikugun hohei ichinen shihanhei). (continued below photo)

    The bottom two manuals in the photo above are very similar, but not the same. They are both the same size (75mm X 110mm, or 2-15/16" X 4-5/16"). The covers of both were originally black, although the one on the left has faded quite a bit. It also has some worm damage on both the back and front covers, while the one in the lower right is pristine. Both have the same title, which is the same as the white one. The weathered-looking one is identified on the inside front page as rikutatsu (Army Instructions) #150, dated December 21, Meiji 32 (1899). The info in the back indicates it was printed February 4, Meiji 35 (1902) and issued on the 8th of that month. On the inside back cover is the name Ryoji Yajima, a first year shiganhei (volunteer). It says he belonged to the 5th Company of the 8th Infantry Regiment. That regiment was based in Osaka. The pristine one is identified on the inside front page as rikutatsu (Army Instructions) #66, a thoroughly revised edition of rikutatsu #150 dated June 29, Meiji 36 (1903). The info in the back indicates it was first printed June 3, Meiji 39; this is the third printing, issued January 25, Meiji 45 (1912, i.e. well after the introduction of the Type 38 rifle that replaced the Type 30). There is no name in this one. The earlier edition has 49 pages of text plus fold-out diagrams; the revised one has 54 pages plus what seem to be the same fold-out illustrations. When I get around to translating these manuals maybe I will figure out where the extra five pages come from.

    Below is part of one of the diagrams from the black manuals. It shows the seam in the two-piece stock and how the two pieces are held together several ways (dovetailing, the buttplate, one of the screws in the rear sling swivel and the tangs. If you look carefully you will also notice that the cartridges in the magazine are the early round-nosed type.

Bayonets for the Type 30 Rifle

    The Type 30 bayonet, introduced to accompany the Type 30 rifle, changed relatively little until the late 1930s. Then it underwent rapid simplification to increase production for the war. The proper bayonet to match a Type 30 rifle is one of the earliest major type, with bright, fullered blade, contoured bird's-head pommel, hooked quillon and a ball-tip scabbard. If that bayonet jargon has you bewildered, just look at the photo below. The fuller is the "blood groove" along the blade. To see the bird's head shape of the pommel, imagine it rotated clockwise 90 degrees. You can see the hook and figure out from that what the quillon is (the lower part of the crossguard). The scabbard has a little ball on its tip (far right of photo).

    If you really want to be authentic, you should probably get one with no series marker and a serial number up to around 600,000 (they made around 550,000 of the rifles and 45,000 carbines, though some very early carbines did not have bayonet lugs). For an early Type 30 rifle you might want to find one of the early Type 30 bayonets that had the serial number on the tang (see photo).

Some of these were later reworked and have the (same) serial number on both the tang and the end of the pommel (compare right and left photos).

    You can read more about these early bayonets on pages 96-97 of the fantastic new book Bayonets of Japan: A Comprehensive Reference on Japanese Bayonets by Raymond C. LaBar (Raymar Inc., Tunnel Hill, Georgia, 2008). The book labels these as LB-73 (serial number on tang only) and LB-74 (serial number on both the tang and pommel; blade may have been reblued during the rework). The tang-marked bayonets seem to end somewhere before number 230,000.

Ammunition for the Type 30 Rifle

    Most Type 30s are probably a bit decrepit for shooting, but if you have it checked out by a gunsmith and it's OK, any 6.5mm Arisaka ammo will do (Norma and Hornady make it; the latter is considered to be better). However, the Type 30 rifle was intended to be used with the original 6.5mm Arisaka ammo, and that's what the sights are graduated for. Here is a shot showing a five-round brass stripper clip and three Type 30 rounds: a round-nosed ball round, a dummy round and a gallery round loaded with a lead ball. The gallery round is missing the powder. The ball round is probably British, made by Royal Laboratories--like the Japanese rounds, that maker's ammo had no headstamp.

Here is a diagram from one of the manuals shown below that illustrates the round-nosed rounds in a stripper clip and also shows a cross-section of such a cartridge.

    These early Type 30 6.5mm rounds are covered on pages 35-36 of the "bible" on Japanese ammo, Japanese Ammunition 1880-1945, Part 1: Pistol, rifle and machine gun ammunition up to 20mm by Ken Elks, 2007, Solo Publications, Canterbury, Kent, UK. ISBN 0-9551862-2-6.

    Another useful source is Early Made Japanese Military Small Arms Ammunition by Teruaki Isomura, pages 11-18, photos on page 24. The copy I have indicates a 1984 copyright date, but no ISBN. It was reprinted by Richard King.

    The British-manufactured round-nosed ammo is also covered in great detail in the Edwards book cited above: British Secondary Small Arms: Part 1, Arisaka Rifles & Carbines by A.O. Edwards, Solo Publications, Canterbury, Kent, UK, 2004. ISBN 0-9532952-9-X.

Accessories for the Type 30 Rifle

    This little gadget was another gift from my benevolent Texan friend, Mr. Joe de Vicq. At first I was not sure what weapon it was for, and it has no markings that I can find. However, I spotted it on page 125 of the Sugawa book Japanese Military Small Arms and Equipment (full citation above). Item 7 on the page is explained as "The M-30 rifles were equipped with tube prism mirrors for the cartridge spaces" [sic]. In other words, this is a chamber inspection tool. Here it is shown all folded up. I am still not100% certain this attribution is correct, however. None of the diagrams in the manuals I have for this rifle show a tool like this, though they include numerous other accessories, as shown below.

    Here it is in the open position, ready for insertion into the chamber. You can see a bit of the mirror in the notch in the part that is horizontal in this photo. I have seen a similar gadget that had Canadian C-broad arrow markings, but that one did not have the handle (vertical piece in the photo). Maybe the Japanese copied this from the British, or even bought it from them? (Canada used British pattern firearms up until it adopted the C-7 M-16 clone in 1984).

        Now let's look at some diagrams of accessories from the well-worn black manual shown above. Across the top, starting in the upper left, is a folding screwdriver, a chamber cleaning tool, the tip for the cleaning rod and a muzzle cap. The bottom shows a belt and ammo pouch set consisting of two 30-round front pouches, a frog for the bayonet and a 60-round rear ammo pouch. Note that the chamber cleaning tool fit diagonally across the back of the rear pouch. On the right side of the rear pouch you can see an oiler as well. In the lower far right you can just see one of the round-nosed cartridges in a stripper clip. That part of the fold-out is shown above under "Ammunition".

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If I am able to add any other Type 30 accessories to my collection, I will post them here. Among the most likely finds is the brass L-shaped tool used to clean the chamber. Hopefully I will also find an original cleaning rod one day, too.

  Last updated: June 27, 2008. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.

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