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Type 11 light machine gun
Japanese Type 11 LMG from 1933 book.jpg
Type 11 Light Machine Gun
Type Light machine gun
Place of origin  Empire of Japan
Service history
In service 1922–1945
Used by Japan Imperial Japan,
Flag of the National Revolutionary Army National Revolutionary Army
PLA Chinese Red Army
Wars Second Sino-Japanese War, Soviet-Japanese Border Wars, World War II, Chinese Civil War
Production history
Designer Kijiro Nambu
Designed 1922
Produced 1922–1941
Number built 29,000
Weight 10.2 kg (22.49 lb)
Length 1,100 mm (43.3 in)
Barrel length 443 mm (17.4 in)

Cartridge 6.5×50mm Arisaka
Action Gas-operated
Rate of fire 400-450 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity 730 m/s (2,395 ft/s)
Feed system 30-round, hopper system

The Type 11 light machine gun (十一年式軽機関銃 Jyūichinen-shiki Kei-kikanjū?) was a light machine gun used by the Imperial Japanese Army in the interwar period and during World War II.[1]


Combat experience in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 had convinced the Japanese of the utility of machine guns to provide covering fire for advancing infantry.[2] This was reinforced by the first-hand observations of European combat tactics by Japanese military attachés during the First World War, and the Army Technical Bureau was tasked with the development of a lightweight machine gun, which could be easily transportable by the infantry squad. The resultant “Type 11 light machine gun” (named after the 11th year of the reign of Emperor Taishō, or 1922) was the first light machine gun to be mass-produced in Japan [3] and the oldest Japanese light machine gun design to see service in the Pacific War. It was superseded by the Type 96 Light Machine Gun in 1936.

Design details

Imperial Japanese Army soldiers with the Type 11 LMG in 1924.

The Type 11 Light Machine Gun was a design by famed arms designer Kijirō Nambu, based on a modification of the French Hotchkiss machine gun. It was an air-cooled, gas-operated design, using the same 6.5×50mm Arisaka cartridges as the Type 38 infantry rifle.[4]

A remarkable feature of the Type 11 machine gun is its detachable hopper magazine; it can be refilled while attached and does not require removal during operation. Instead of a belt or box magazine, the Type 11 was designed to hold up to six of the same cartridge clips used on the Type 38 rifle. The five-round clips were stacked lying flat above the receiver, secured by a spring arm, and the rounds were stripped from the lowest clip one at a time, with the empty clip thrown clear and the next clip automatically falling into place as the gun was fired. The system had the advantage that any squad member could supply ammunition and that the hopper could be replenished at any time, but later the Japanese had to design a less powerful round because the original round was causing reliability problems, thus eliminating the advantage of compatibility. This new round was called the 6.5×50mm Arisaka genso round.

The inherent disadvantage of the hopper was that the open feeder box allowed dust and grit to enter the gun, which was liable to jam in muddy or dirty conditions due to issues with poor dimensional tolerances, which gave the weapon a bad reputation with Japanese troops.[5] Another issue was that the weight of the rifle cartridges in the side-mounted magazine unbalanced the weapon when fully loaded. Reloading the weapon during an assault charge proved impossible due to the clip feeding system.

The Type 11 was also available with a special mounting for anti-aircraft use, and as a rear-defense aerial gun; it was one of two (or three) different weapons known as the Type 89 machine gun. It consisted of two Type 11 machine guns mounted sideways on common, flexible mounting, with a larger "quadrant" shaped magazine for each gun, holding five-round clips. Some of these Type 11 weapons were also mounted singly, with a normal orientation and fed with a pan-type magazine. It's unclear whether this retained the "Type 89" designation, was known as the Type 11 (not being a twin-mounted gun), or had a different title all of its own.[4]

Combat record

The Type 11 came into active service in 1922, and some 29,000 were produced by the time production stopped in 1941. It was the primary Japanese light machine gun through the Manchurian Incident and in the early stages of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Although superseded by the Type 96 light machine gun in production in 1936, it remained in service with front-line combat through the end of World War II.


  1. Bishop, The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II
  2. Meyer, The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan. pg.53
  3. Taki’s Imperial Japanese Army page
  4. 4.0 4.1 TM-E 30-480 (1945)
  5. Meyer, The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan. pg.55


  • Bishop, Chris (eds) (1998). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II. Barnes & Nobel. ISBN 0-7607-1022-8. 
  • Mayer, S.L. (1984). The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan. The Military Press. ISBN 0-517-42313-8. 
  • Morse, D.R. (1996). Japanese Small Arms of WW2; Light Machine Guns Models 11, 96, 99 97 & 92. Firing Pin Enterprizes. ASIN: B000KFVGSU. 
  • Popenker, Maxim (2008). Machine Gun: The Development of the Machine Gun from the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day. Crowood. ISBN 1-84797-030-3. 
  • Rottman, Gordon L. (2005). Japanese Infantryman 1937-1945. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-818-9. 
  • US Department of War (1994 reprint). Handbook on Japanese Military Forces, TM-E 30-480 (1945). Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-2013-8. 

External links

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