Darwin war history
Written by Craig Wharton.
Following the Russo- Japanese war of 1904-05, Japanese cavalry units saw an expansion in numbers and an elevation to the status of elite troops. This continued through the campaigns in China and up to the start of the war in the Pacific.
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 44 differed from its predecessors in that it had a cruciform bayonet permanently attached beneath the barrel whereas the other carbines (T-30 & T-38) had used the Type 30 bayonet. Between 1897 and 1945 the Type 30 bayonet in all its variations reached a production run of nearly 8,000,000!
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 folding bayonet concept has been used by other countries. The Italians on their Mannlicher- Carcarno M-91 and M-38 carbines, and the Russian-designed Mosin-Nagant M-44 and SKS carbines and the ubiquitous AK-47 and their Communist bloc clones are the most familiar to firearms collectors. The bayonet hinges on the shank of the stacking hook. The bayonet housing assembly came in three variants of which this example is the early first type made by Tokyo Arsenal. The bayonet is held secure under the barrel by a hooked lug. Depressing the knurled button on the left hand side releases the bayonet which when rotated through 180 degrees engages a similar opposing hooked lug. The bayonet is now "fixed" and ready for pig stabbing!
These early bayonet housing assemblies caused some problems with the accuracy of the Type 44. This was rectified after much testing in 1937 with the 2nd variant housing. The stacking hook, not found on the earlier T-30 and T-38 Japanese cavalry carbines, remained as part of the bayonet housing assembly in all three variants of the Type-44.
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.
The sling swivels, in common with most cavalry carbines, are on the left hand side. The rear sight is graduated to 2,000 meters, which would be rather optimistic considering the barrel length. But this is in common with all cavalry carbines produced by any country during the early 20th century. A lot of these T-44 carbines were retro-fitted with the later bayonet housing assemblies but this example seems to have escaped this process, retaining the first type.
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.
Considering the T-44 made up only 2% of Japanese long arm production (excluding 7.7 types), they are still reasonably available on the collectors’ market. Even though production ceased at the end of 1941, the Type 44 carbine saw wide spread usage right up to the bitter end of the Pacific war. The Type 44 was superseded in cavalry units by the Type 99 short rifle in 7.7mm. Due to the short length of the cavalry carbine I would say quite a few found their way to Australia as war souvenirs in returning Digger's kit bags, as did a lot of swords and Nambu pistols, not to mention the Japanese hand grenades I have encountered over the years!
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.”
On the left hand side of the barrel knox is a triangle within a circle symbol followed by a capital S. The triangle in the circle tells us that this carbine was made at the Tokyo Arsenal. The S indicates over load proof testing. Some collectors believe the S proof mark stands for barrels contracted from the Sumitomo Conglomerate of Japan. The triangle within the circle symbol also appears on the top of the action behind the charger clip guide slot. It also retains the dust cover which is sometimes missing from some Japanese small arms. They make a lot of noise during the cycling of the bolt and for that reason it was discarded by some Japanese soldiers.
Type 44 specifications:
How old is this carbine? On the first of September 1923 an earthquake of biblical proportions (well 9.0 magnitude anyway) hit Japan. The earthquake itself only took out a small percentage of the housing in Tokyo but the resulting firestorm caused by sparks from thousands of cooking fires in combustible houses took out a lot more. Thousands died and more than 2,000,000 fled Tokyo as a result of the firestorm.
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.
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