Written by Craig Wharton.
During this 30 odd year period, the cavalry of Imperial Japan had carried the Type 30, 38 and 44 cavalry carbines in 6.5x50 Japanese calibre. These carbines were also issued to Transport and Artillery troops. The designation, Type 44, was the year of adoption, 1911, which was the 44th year in the reign of the Emperor Meiji. Likewise the Type 30 translates to the year 1897 and the Type 38 to 1905, the 30th and 38th year respectively of the Emperor Meiji's reign. Production of the Type 44 started in 1912, a year after its adoption.
A different type of rifle
The Type 30 bayonets had arsenal markings stamped onto the ricasso. The Type 44 had a 1-3 digit assembly number. This is found on the underside of the bayonet housing assembly between the stacking hook and the rear bayonet lock in-lug. This example has a Japanese kanji character (not identified by me) and the assembly number 484. The rear barrel band was inletted as was the wood between the special barrel band and the magazine housing to accept the folding bayonet.
The cleaning rod previously stored in the forearm on the T-30 and T-38, a la Mauser, was on the T-44 now stored in the butt. The opening latch for this storage area is found on the right hand side of the butt. Rotating this slotted latch upward cams open a slot in the butt plate revealing two holes drilled in the butt-stock for the two piece rod. The jag was carried separately in the soldier's kit. This is another indication that this particular firearm was made in the Tokyo Arsenal as later variants held the jag as well.
Type 44 carbines were manufactured by Tokyo Artillery Arsenal, Kokura Army Arsenal, Nagoya Army Arsenal and the Mukden Arsenal in Japanese-occupied Manchuria. Production figures for Japanese cavalry carbines run to just over 40,000 Type 30's in 8 years. Just under 44,000 Type 38's in six years and just under 100,500 Type 44's were assembled in the above four arsenals over 29 years. The T-44 was extremely well made, especially the Tokyo and Kokura examples.
In common with all Japanese small arms markings, starting back in 1897 with the Type 30, the serial number and arsenal symbol are found on the left hand side of the receiver. This Type 44 carbine's serial number is 37140 and bears the four-connected circle symbol of the Tokyo Artillery Arsenal. On the top of the receiver is the Kiku-mon, the 16-petaled Chrysanthemum of the Emperor and Imperial Family. Below this are three Japanese characters, Yon Yon Shiki, which translates to “four four type.”
- caliber 6.5x50 Japanese
- overall length 38" (966mm)
- barrel length 19.2" (485mm)
- bayonet length 15 1/4" (388mm)
- Feed Device 5rd clip stripped into a Mauser type non-detachable magazine
- Front sight is an inverted V
- Rear sight is of the leaf type
- Weight 7.3lb (3.3kg)
- Muzzle Velocity 2,300 fps
Tokyo Artillery Arsenal was partially destroyed, crippling its production. By this date, 1 Sep. 1923, Tokyo Arsenal had produced over 55,000 Type 44's. Given the serial number of this carbine is 37140 this would put this T-44 as in existence sometime during World War I.
This example is not the most aesthetically pleasing of its type. Some collectors prefer to get their hands on the best quality of firearm that they can possibly acquire, which is all well and good. I, on the other hand, whilst I do try and find the best example of sporting and antique firearms for the collection tend not to be so fussy with military firearms. After all they have often been through a world war before being released onto the collector market. Looking at this Type 44, I'm guessing that it seen two world wars in the service of the Emperor. It has heard the Banzai! once or twice. That is what makes this battleworn example all the more attractive, it has been there and done it.
The fact that the Imperial Chrysanthemum is still intact and not disfigured in any way as surrendered guns were required to be, would indicate that this Type 44 may indeed have been a battlefield pick-up. Perhaps it did come home in some Digger's kit bag, a symbol of victor over vanquished, when the sun set on the Empire of the Rising Sun.