Japanese Rifles of World War II

Japanese Rifles of World War II
Gun Collecting
By Peter Peter Suciu

Japanese Arisaka Rifles
Japanese Arisaka Rifles

Michigan –-(Ammoland.com)- Japanese rifles often get a bad rap, at least when compared to the rifles of the other major combatant powers of World War II.

Even collectors of militaria view the Japanese rifles as being of a lower quality, but this isn’t quite true.

One reason for this misconception is that much of what survived, and is now in collections is actually from the later war years, thus not up to the highest quality.

“The fit, finish & overall quality of manufacture on early Japanese weapons equals if not surpasses weapons made by other participants of World War II,” explains advanced Japanese militaria collector Jareth Holub. “It wasn’t until the very last two years, due to U.S. air strikes, that factories started producing subpar products.”

The result is that many of the small arms encountered – notably the famous rifles – are actually late war items. This has resulted in the misconception that Japanese small arms were always somewhat inferior. It is true however that the two main combat rifles, the Arisaka Type 38 and the Type 99 rifles were essentially based on technology used a generation earlier – but it should be remembered that the same held true for most of the other powers at the start of World War II as well. Even the United States was still in the process of rearming with the M1 rifle, and thus large numbers of 1903 Springfield rifles were used in the early stages of the war.

Likewise, Germany and Russian were using their respective bolt action rifles at war’s end, as were the British. The Japanese actually faced greater resource problems than the other powers, but they also had cultural issues – essentially a “want not, need not” mentality. Additionally, another issue complicated matters for the Japanese military, namely the acknowledged rivalry and simmering hatred between the Japanese army and navy.

“This led to the navy having to struggle to procure arms and equipment from the government & eventually led up to the navy establishing its own arsenal systems,” emphasizes Holub. “This backbiting and infighting hindered the cooperation between the branches of service and greatly affected the outcome of the war. The Japanese were a very frugal people who didn’t believe in wasting anything including bullets. This was one of the reasons why their submachine gun production was limited. Had they increased production and distribution it might have changed their combat tactics.”

The two main rifles used by the Japanese in World War II are both often called the “Arisaka.” These were named after Colonel Nariake Ariska, who was responsible for creating the commission to find a new rifle. The first pattern was known as the Type 30 rifle (the 30 comes from the 1897 A.D., which was the 30th year of the Emperor Meiji), and this was updated following the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. The new model thus became the Type 38, and it saw service during the First World War – and would remain in service well into World War II and beyond. It was chambered in the 6.5x50SR and more than three million of these were made. The gun clearly was influenced by the German K98 and other Mauser designs. A number of variants existed, including a Type 44 Cavalry Rifle and a Type 97 Sniper Rifle.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, which began in 1931, it was apparent that a larger cartridge was needed and the Japanese adopted the 7.7x58mm round, based on the British .303 (7.7x57R). To confuse collectors and military historians for decades, this rifle was designated the Type 99 – which in this case refers to the Japanese year 2099, which was believed to be the date of the creation of the world.

It was originally the intention of the Imperial Japanese Army to replace the aging Type 38 with the Type 99, but this was not possible, and with limited resources the two firearms were used side-by-side. Thus the moniker of “Arisaka” is used for both rifles. Because many of the later war rifles were of lower quality, and often called “last ditch” there is a common misconception that all Type 99s were last ditch, but this is far from the case.

Some three and a half million of the Type 99 rifles were made, not counting variations, including the regular short rifle as well as Type 99 Long Rifle, and the Sniper Rifle Type 99. Another version of the rifle, the Type 44 Carbine, was designed primarily for use as a cavalry rifle – although this shouldn’t be confused with the Type 38 Cavalry rifle, a slightly shorter version of the Type 38. The most interesting version is by far the Type 2 Paratroop Rifle, which could broken down into two parts. A final variation are those Type 99 Short Rifles (some 133,000) that were rechambered by the Republic of Korea Army to fire the American .03-06 Springfield cartridge.

Today, the more valuable Type 99s are those with the imperial chrysanthemum intact. Often these were defaced, reportedly by surrendering Japanese soldiers to “preserve the Emperor’s honor,” while another story is that it was a V for Victory and was done by the US Military. Either way, an intact stamp is the more desirable version.

Peter Suciu is executive editor of FirearmsTruth.com, a website that tracks and monitors media bias against guns and our Second Amendment rights. Visit: FirearmsTruth.com

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ive got what I believe to be an Arisaka rifle it has the chrysanthemum logo on it but no japenese writing near the logo like ive seen on most others the only other numbers on it are 40697 just curious what model it is and what caliber it is thank you for the response when you can

Jerry Stenstrom

I own a Japanese sniper rifle inherited from my dad. Seems to be unique in that it comes apart in the center, I assume for ease of carrying in pack or climbing trees. It is still functional have fired the weapon in the past. Just trying to identify it’s origin of manufacture. Seems to have the Kokura stamp by the serial number 7731.


If it has a take down D-ring that releases the lug holding the barrel half, it is an Arisaka Type 2 Paratrooper. It was in production in 1942/43. About 22,000 were made. Does it have a Chrysanthemum “mum” flower on the top or was it ground off? The “mum” was the Japanese Emperor’s mark. Most were ground off by the soldiers so that they would not insult the Emperor if captured. The two halves should have a matching assembly stamp different from the serial number. Depending on condition, nay be worth between $1,500 to $3,000.

Julia Daniels

Received a gun just like the 2nd one from the bottom. Cannot read the Japanese but Serial # 67313 a Flower design and three Japanese Letters on the metal action area. I need to put a value on it before parting with it. Any suggestions?

Doug Taylor

That would be a type 99 “short” rifle. Value would depend on the manufacturer – condition – whether or not the numbers match the serial or asssembly numbers – whether or not a “monopod” and aircraft sights are present – and whether or not it has a complete “mum”. As a rule, Japanese rifles were made in series lots of up to a hundred thousand units. The “series” number will be located near the serial number but it will be a Japanese character. The manufacture code will also be located there as well – ie Nagoya, Tokyo, Kokura, Jinsen, Mukden….… Read more »

Russel R Davies

My father was in Pacific Theater in WWII. I inherited his war prise, an Arisaka Type 99, manufactured in Toyo Kogyo Arsenal. It is a series 33, Serial number 33747. Do you have any idea of it’s value?


I have a WWII Japanese Rifle and would like to know its worth. It was sold to me many years ago by an amazing collector. Thanks, Ron


What is the bottom (7th) rifle in the picture? I’ve inherited one that looks identical with the chrysanthemum symbol intact. It also has the Nagoya Arsenal stamp.

Jerry C. Clayton

Where can I find pics of all the jap symbols/emblems? I have an Arisaka Type 38 with all the symbols/emblems i great condition. Serial Number also. Wanting to find out if its WW1 or WW2?

Ed Nita

I have a 1937 Type 99 7.7mm (.30 Cal) that is capable of unreal groups. I inherited it from a close friend who couldn’t take it to Germany when his job called for a move. I just consider myself a marksman, not a rifleman and can get 100 yard one inch groups on a good day with Hornady .312″ 150gr SP bullets. “Jerry the riflesmith” in Churubusco, IN ( http://www.theriflesmith.com ) mounted a fixed 6X scope, reshaped the bolt handle and tuned the military trigger from about 20 pounds of pull to a beautiful 4 or 5 pounds of trigger… Read more »

John Shrewsberry

How did you decrease the trigger pull?

Randall Metz

I have a ww2Japanese arisaka type 99, 6.5mm rifle with folding bayonet never been fired and still in the cosmoline. What is it’s value?

Ken Mcd

If its all matching parts and intact mum around $1000

Bruce Lamberto

The rifle you describe is a Type 44 in 6.5mm as is the rifle shown in the photo fourth from the top. These are mostly pre-war manufactured rifles where quality was at its best. I’m not sure of the value but log onto Gunbroker.com and type in type 44 japanese rifle and compare what ou have with whats for sale. As for its true value, look at the prices of guns acrually purchased rather than guns advertised for sale.

Jeffrey strunk

What are these Japanese rifles worth? I have one



Kent Plumley

Some additional observations: Recovered Japanese rifles generally suffered harsh treatment in humid climates. All later model weapons (mid-1943 and after) were manufactured with recycled materials donated from the public. As our submarine campaign kicked in, material became scarce. As Curtis Lemay's Air campaign kicked in, manufacturing quality declined.


For a lone time I too thought the Jap rifles were junk but in reality they are very strong rifles. They are made with something similar to 1060 carbon and can be very hard.

They just don’t have the polish of US and German guns.

Now there were some rifles made for Japan by Italy that might be made from questionable steel.

I know the little Carcano is made from cold rolled Steel (1018) and may not even be safe to shoot unless hand loaded.


Minor nit: it was the year 2599, not 2099. Minor trivia: the Zero airplane was from the year 2600, thus Type 0.