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Arisaka Rifles
File:Arisaka rifle family.jpg
The evolution of the Arisaka rifle family
Type Bolt Action Service Rifle
Place of origin  Empire of Japan
Service history
In service 1897–1945
Production history
Designer Arisaka Nariakira
Nambu Kijirō
Designed 1897
Variants Type 30
Type 30 Carbine
Type 35
Type 38
Type 38 Carbine
Type 38 Sniper Rifle
Type 44 Carbine
Type 97 Sniper Rifle
Type 99
Type 99 Sniper Rifle
Cartridge 6.5×50mmSR Type 30
6.5×50mmSR Type 38
7.7×58mm Type 92
7.7×58mm Type 97
7.7×58mm Type 99
Action Bolt Action
Feed system 5-Round Internal Magazine
(Reloaded via Stripper Clip)
Sights Rear: Ladder, Tangent (Type 35)
Front: Fixed Blade
Sniper Variants: Factory-Zeroed Scope

The Arisaka rifle (有坂銃 Arisaka-jū) is a family of Japanese military bolt action service rifles, in production and use since approximately 1897, when it replaced the Murata Rifle (村田銃 Murata-jū) family, until the end of World War II in 1945. The most common specimens include the Type 38 chambered in the 6.5×50mmSR Type 38 cartridge, and the Type 99 chambered in the 7.7×58mm Type 99 cartridge, which comparably was as powerful as a modern .308 round. Many thousands of Type 99s and other Arisaka variants were brought to the United States by soldiers as war trophies during and after World War II.


The Arisaka Rifle was designed by Colonel Arisaka Nariakira (有坂 成章; 1852–1915), who was later promoted to Lieutenant General and also received the title of Baron from Emperor Meiji, in 1907. Over the course of various wars several productions runs and variants were made, including the transition from the 6.5mm Type 38 cartridge to the larger 7.7mm Type 99, and the introduction of a paratrooper rifle that could be disassembled into two major parts for airborne operations. Tests on samples of Arisaka rifles conducted after the war showed that their bolts and receivers were constructed of carbon steel "similar to SAE steel grade No. 1085 with a carbon content of 0.80% to 0.90%, and a manganese content of 0.60% to 0.90%."[1] During destructive tests, the Arisakas were shown to be stronger than the M1903 Springfield, Lee-Enfield, and Mauser rifles.[2] Some of the early issue Type 99 rifles were fitted with a folding wire monopod intended to improve accuracy in the prone position. The rear sights also featured folding horizontal extensions to give a degree of lead suitable for firing against aircraft. Near the end of World War II, last-ditch ersatz models were being made in various cost-cutting feature variations with the goal of cheaply bolstering the Imperial Armed Forces; for example, the ovoid bulb-shaped bolt of earlier runs were replaced by a smaller and utilitarian cylindrical shape, the handguard on the barrel was omitted, and crude fixed sights were fitted.

A Type 38 with its Imperial Seal intact.

The Arisaka bolt-action service rifle was used heavily everywhere the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy fought. Prior to World War II, Arisakas were used by the British Navy and Russian Army, in Finland and Albania. The Czech Legions that fought in the Russian Revolution were almost entirely armed with Type 30s and 38s. Many captured Arisaka rifles were employed by neighboring countries both during and after World War II, in places such as China, Thailand and Cambodia. However, after the Japanese surrender in the summer of 1945, all manufacturing of rifles and ammunition stopped abruptly, and the Arisaka quickly became obsolete. Since most Imperial Japanese Armory contents were thrown into Tokyo Harbor after the signing of the surrender, spare ammunition also became rare. Additional 6.5×50mmSR ammunition was, however, produced in China for use in their captured rifles.

A Type 99 with its Imperial Seal ground.

The Imperial Ownership Seal, a 16-petal chrysanthemum known as the Chrysanthemum Flower Seal (菊花紋章 Kikkamonshō or Kikukamonshō) stamped upon the top of the receiver in all official Imperial-issue rifles, has often been defaced by filing, grinding, or stamping on surviving examples. There are conflicting claims that this was done on the orders of the Imperial Japanese Military prior to surrender, or by U.S. occupation personnel prior to approving a U.S. soldier's permit to take home a rifle as a souvenir. No documentation from either Japanese or U.S. forces has been found that required the defacing. Most of the Arisakas with surviving insignias are in Japan, though there are a few remaining on samples taken as war trophies before the surrender, and those captured by Chinese forces. Some of the captured Sino Arisakas were later exported to the United States, examples including a number of Type 38 carbines rebarrelled and rechambered for the 7.62×39mm round. Some Type 38 rifles captured by the Kuomintang forces were also converted to fire the 7.92×57mm Mauser round.

Many of the Chrysanthemum Seals were completely ground off, but some were merely defaced with a chisel, scratch or had the number "0" stamped repeatedly along the edges. The latter was usually done with rifles removed from Japanese military service (and thus no longer the Emperor's property), including rifles given to schools or sold to other nations, such as the British Royal Navy's purchase of many Type 38s in World War I to free up SMLE rifles for their land forces.

A very small run of Type 38 rifles was also manufactured for export to Mexico in 1910, with the Mexican coat of arms instead of the Imperial Chrysanthemum, though few arrived before the Mexican Revolution and the bulk remained in Japan until World War I, when they were sold to Imperial Russia.


Type 30

First rifle of the Arisaka series. Chambered in 6.5×50mmSR Type 30. 554,000 built.

Type 30 Carbine

Carbine variant of the Type 30; 300 mm shorter. 45,000 built.

Type 35

Officially designated as Type 35 Navy Rifle. Also in 6.5×50mmSR Type 30.

Design improvement based on the Type 30 for the Imperial Japanese Navy Land Forces by Major Nambu Kijirō. Changes include tangent type rear sight, separate sliding bolt cover (as opposed to simultaneously moving ones on all other types after) of the same type later used on the Type 45 Siamese Mauser, hook safety replaced with a large knob cocking piece to protect from gases in case of a blown primer, larger bolt handle knob, improved bolt head, gas port in bolt body, and improved chamber configuration for better cartridge feeding.

Type 38

Developed by Major Nambu Kijirō. Chambered in 6.5×50mmSR Type 38, Type 30 cartridge is also usable. A short variant exists for ease of handling, its length is between the basic rifle and the carbine.

One of the most produced and commonly encountered model. Designed in 1905 and simultaneously produced until 1942 with 3,400,000 built.

Type 38 Carbine

Carbine variant of the Type 38; 300 mm shorter. Also fielded by support personnel.

Type 38 Sniper Rifle

Normal Type 38s individually selected from the production lines for their accuracy and then modified to meet the Type 97's standard. Externally and performance-wise similar to Type 97s save for the receiver stamping indicating its difference.

Type 44 Carbine

Carbine derived from the Type 38 rifle. Chambered in 6.5×50mmSR Type 38, Type 30 cartridge is also usable. Distinguishing features are its folding spike bayonet and two-piece takedown cleaning rods concealed within the buttstock. Originally intended for the cavalry, also used by other support personnel.

Type 97 Sniper Rifle

One of the two main sniper rifles in Imperial Military service. Based on the Type 38 rifle. Chambered in 6.5×50mmSR Type 38, but more commonly used reduced charge cartridges associated with the Type 11 and 96 light machine guns for lighter recoil, reduced report, camouflaged muzzle flash, and overall accuracy. Uses factory-zeroed Type 97 Telescopic Sight (2.5X).

About 22,500 built.

Type 99

Successor to the Type 38 rifle. Chambered in 7.7×58mm Type 99, later rimless variants of the Type 92 and 97 cartridges also usable.

Designed in 1939, then produced and fielded from 1941 to 1945, the Type 99 was the most common Imperial Japanese service rifle of World War II and second most produced Imperial rifle with 2,500,000 built. Significant changes are the improvement of the rear sight form transitioning from a V-notch type like those on a Type 38, to an aperture, the front sight blade was renewed to a triangular shape, chrome-lined barrels were used, and on earlier productions, the rear sight was equipped with anti-aircraft calipers.

Sub-variations included a long rifle (approximately only 38,000 made), and short rifle; former being 1258 mm in total and latter being 1118 mm. The short rifle also varied in quality from initial, intermediate, to last-ditch.

Type 99 Sniper Rifle

The other sniper rifle of the Imperial Japanese Military. Built on both the long and short models with the latter being higher in number. Chambered in 7.7×58mm Type 99, later rimless variants of the Type 92 and 97 cartridges also usable. The larger, more powerful caliber allowed the ballistics to be less affected by windage at the cost of stronger recoil. Two different types of scopes were issued to the rifles: the Type 97 2.5X Telescopic Scope, or the Type 99 4X Telescopic Scope. Later productions of the Type 99 scope allowed for distance adjustment. Each scopes were issued with their respective holsters, and were often detached from the rifle and placed within them while advancing.

By doctrine, snipers of the Imperial Military were selected by his skill in marksmanship and the caliber of the rifle he was assigned to corresponded with the ammunition of the company he was under.

Production began in May 1942. Total number made is approximately 10,000.


A small series of takedown rifles produced for the Imperial Army Paratroopers and Imperial Navy Paratroopers. Only production model is the Type 2 based on the Type 99 short rifle; the rest are two proto-test types (Type 100 and Type 1). The Type 2 is chambered in 7.7×58mm Type 99, later rimless variants of the Type 92 and 97 cartridges also usable.

The Type 2 allowed for compact storage by breaking down to two pieces: the stock and action, and barrel and handguard.

About a total of 19,000 were produced from 1942 to 1944.


Type 30

Created simultaneously with the Type 30 rifle, this sword-type bayonet is compatible with all variants of the Arisaka rifle except for the Type 44 carbine. Twenty different variations exist, and is further categorized by early, mid, and late-war production phases. Also fixable on Type 96 and 99 light machine guns.

About 8,400,000 were made.

Type 44

Fixed permanently on the Type 44 carbine, this spike-type bayonet is foldable under the handguard and does not interfere with the barrel when deployed.

Type 2

With the long length of the Type 30 bayonet unfit for concealing within a paratrooper's personal equipment set, this knife-type bayonet was created to address this issue. Twenty centimeters shorter than a Type 30, its total length is 32.3 cm. Used primarily with the Type 2 TERA rifle or the Type 100 submachine gun by the Imperial Military Airborne Divisions.

About 25,000 were made.


  •  Empire of Japan: Used by Japanese Imperial Military.
  •  China: Captured or confiscated from Japanese Imperial Military.
  •  Cambodia: Captured or confiscated from Japanese Imperial Military.
  •  Indonesia: Captured or confiscated from Japanese Imperial Military.
  •  Malaysia: Captured or confiscated from Japanese Imperial Military.
  •  Philippines: Captured or confiscated from Japanese Imperial Military.
  •  Republic of China: Captured or confiscated from Japanese Imperial Military.
  •  Russia: Purchased Type 38 rifles during World War I.
  •  Thailand: Built under contract with 8 mm. Siamese Mauser ammunition (8x52 mm. R Type 66) and locally call "Type 66 Rifle".
  • Red flag.svg Finnish People's Delegation: Used various models in Finnish Civil War.
  •  United Kingdom: A mixed batch of Type 30 and Type 38 rifles were received by Britain at the start of World War I for use in training battalions, declared obsolete in 1921. The Royal Navy also used Arisakas to free up the Lee-Enfields for land forces.
  •  Estonia: Independence War, Defense League Kaitseliit (Home Guard); many were converted to fire .303 British cartridges.


As with all captured foreign firearms they may be dangerous when fired, due to both the lower quality of the "last-ditch" rifles produced during the end-half of World War II, and to modifications performed by returning U.S. servicemen on those rifles. Ammunition for the Arisaka series, which were often battlefield pick-ups, or souvenirs, were not readily available after the end of the war. Consequently, many were rebored or rechambered for readily available calibers of that time. Additionally, some were occasionally rendered inoperable prior to being shipped home, or even potentially sabotaged. The manner in which rifles may have been demilled can include permanently damaging the receiver or removal of parts.

Rear sight of a Type 99 with intact anti-aircraft calipers deployed.

Type 38s in particular were commonly rechambered to "6.5×.257 Roberts", a wildcat cartridge made using the readily available .257 Roberts cases with the neck expanded to use 6.5mm bullets specific to the already existing barrel. Likewise, the Type 99 in 7.7×58mm were known to be converted to .30-06 Springfield, which is again of similar but not identical dimensions. While the .30-06 can be fired by lengthening the chamber of the rifle slightly (from 58 to 63mm), the 7.7mm case is slightly wider than the .30-06 and uses a slightly larger-diameter bullet, meaning a .30-06 cartridge case will swell slightly to fit the over-sized chamber, and a standard .30-06 bullet with a .308 diameter will not provide a good fit to the .310-312 diameter rifling. Those seeking ammunition for their Type 99 rifles often manufacture it by modifying .30-06 cases. The German 7.92×57mm Mauser cartridge may also be used with the proper .311 diameter bullet. The widely available British .303 bullets also provide a proper fit for the firearm's rifling. Norma currently manufactures stock 7.7×58mm ammunition, as well as making new brass available for reloaders. Hornady also produces new Arisaka ammunition in both 6.5mm and 7.7mm calibers. Since the base of the 7.7mm case is slightly larger than the .30-06 (thereby causing varying amounts of bulging in the reformed brass), some owners may find it preferable to use proper brass or new factory cartridges. Bullets and powder charges of surplus .303 British ammunition may also be loaded into proper 7.7×58mm cases to produce rifle cartridges with ballistics that are similar to the original Japanese military load.

Preceded by
Imperial Japanese Army Service Rifle
Succeeded by
End of the Imperial Japanese Military


See also


  1. Hatcher p. 231
  2. Hatcher p. 206
  • Hatcher, Julian, Major General, (U.S.A. Ret). Hatcher's Notebook. Stackpole Publishing, Harrisburg, PA U.S.A.; 1962. Library of Congress Number 62-12654.

External links

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