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Type 38 Rifle
Arisaka Type 38 rifle.JPG
Type 38 Rifle
Type Service/Bolt-action rifle
Place of origin Empire of Japan
Service history
In service 1906-1945
Used by See Users
Wars Russo-Japanese War,
Russian Civil War,
World War I,
Second Sino-Japanese War,
World War II,
Chinese Civil War,
Indonesian National Revolution
Korean War
Production history
Designed 1905
Number built 3,400,000
Variants Carbine & Cavalry rifle
Weight 3.95 kg (8.7 pounds)
Length 1,280 millimeters (50.4 in)
Barrel length 800 mm (31.5 inches)

Cartridge 6.5×50mm Arisaka
Action Bolt action
Rate of fire c.30 rpm
Muzzle velocity 765 meters per second (2,510 ft/s)
Feed system 5 round magazine

The Type 38 rifle Arisaka (三八式歩兵銃 san-hachi-shiki hoheijū?) was a bolt-action rifle that was the standard infantry rifle of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1905 (the 38th year of the Meiji period, hence "Type 38") to the end of World War II.

History and development[]

The Imperial Japanese Army introduced the Type 30 rifle in 1897. However, the weapon had numerous shortcomings, which were highlighted by combat experience in the early stages of the Russo-Japanese War. These included bursting cartridges, a poorly-designed lock in which excess gunpowder tended to accumulate, burning the face of the shooter, frequent misfires, jamming, difficulty in cleaning, and cartridge extraction. Lieutenant General Arisaka Nariakira along with Kijiro Nambu undertook a redesign, which was introduced in 1906. The weapon was produced in several locations:

  • Koishikawa arsenal from 1906-1935; 2,029,000 units
  • Kokura arsenal from 1933-1940: 20,000 units
  • Nagoya arsenal from1923-1940: 200,000 units
  • Jinsen arsenal from 1939-1940: 1,700 units
  • Mukden arsenal from 1934-1940: 30,000 units

By 1940 more than three million Type 38s had been issued to the Imperial Japanese Army. However, shortcomings in the Type 38 design during the Second Sino-Japanese War led to the introduction of a further generation of rifles, designated the Type 99 rifle from 1939. This new rifle used the more powerful 7.7×58mm Arisaka cartridge already in use with the Type 92 heavy machine gun and the Type 97 light machine gun. However, not all units received the new weapon, and the mixture of types with incompatible cartridges led to considerable logistics issues during World War II.

Description and variant types[]

The Type 38 rifle used the 6.5×50mm Arisaka cartridge. This cartridge produces little recoil when fired. However, while on par with the Norwegian and Italian 6.5mm military cartridges of the time, the 6.5×50mm was not as powerful as several others in use by other nations. The Type 38 at 1,280 millimeters (50.4 in) was the longest rifle of the war, due to the emphasis on bayonet training for the Japanese soldier of the era, whose average height was 160 centimeters (5 ft 3 in).[1] The rifle was even longer when the 400 mm (15.75 inches) Type 30 bayonet was fixed. The Type 38 was fairly heavy, at about 4.25 kg.

Post-war inspection of the Type 38 by the U.S. military and the National Rifle Association found that the Type 38's receiver was the strongest bolt action of any nation[2] and capable of handling more powerful cartridges.

Type 38 carbine[]

Intended for use by cavalry, engineers, quartermasters and other non-frontline troops, the Type 38 carbine was introduced into service at the same time as the standard Type 38. Its barrel was 487 millimeters (19.2 in), overall length 966 millimeters (38.0 in), and weight 3.3 kilograms (7.3 lb). The rifle lacked a bayonet. It was produced in a number of locations:

  • Koishikawa arsenal from 1906-1935; 212,000 units
  • Kokura arsenal from 1933-1940: 80,000 units
  • Nagoya arsenal from 1923-1940: 101,000 units
  • Mukden arsenal from 1934-1940: 7,000 units

Type 44 carbine[]

Similar to the Type 38 Carbine, but with a backwards-folding bayonet, introduced in 1911.

Type 97 Sniper Rifle[]

As with the standard Type 38, but with a rifle scope with 2.5x magnification, introduced in 1937. Some 14,000 were produced.

Type I Rifle[]

The Japanese Imperial Navy purchased a number of rifles from Italy at the beginning of World War II for use by special forces and paratroops. The Italian-built rifles were chambered for the same 6.5×50mm cartridge as the Type 38 rifle, but had a folding stock. The Type I Rifle was similar in appearance and length to the Type 38 rifle, but was based on the Italian Carcano action.


During World War I, Japan sold 640,000 units to the Allied nations, starting with a purchase of 150,000 units by France.

  • Flag of the National Revolutionary Army National Revolutionary Army, Captured from and used against Japanese forces during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
  • PLA People's Liberation Army, Captured from and used against Japanese forces.
  •  France: Purchased during World War I
  •  Empire of Japan
  •  Indonesia: Captured Japanese weapons after Japan's World War II surrender and used them in the Indonesian Independence War.[3]
  •  Manchukuo
  •  Mexico: The Mexican government ordered 40,000 rifles chambered for the 7×57mm Mauser cartridge in 1910, but less than 5,000 were delivered before the overthrow of president Porfirio Diaz in 1911 canceled the order.[3]
  •  Burma; captured and abandoned weapons used by the Burmese against the Japanese and the British
  •  Poland: Ex-Russian stock
  •  Thailand: purchased from Japan before World War II
  •  Russian Empire: During World War I, bought the remaining 35,400 rifles originally intended for Mexico, and also received 128,000 Type 30 and 38 rifles from Britain in 1916.[3] This in addition to about 600,000 in 6.5 mm ordered directly from Japan.[4]
  •  United Kingdom: Bought a mixed batch of 150,000 Type 30 and Type 38 rifles from Japan at the start of World War I. Most were used by training battalions and the rifles were declared obsolete in 1921.[5] According to another source, Japanese exports of this model were much greater: 500,000 to Great Britain and 620,000 to Russia.[6]
  •  Vietnam; captured rifles seized from the troops of Japanese occupation troops in Indochina, the soldiers used by the Viet Minh during the war in Indochina.



  1. "Battle of the Pacific: How Japs Fight". Time magazine, February 15, 1943. Accessed June 24, 2009.
  2. Hatcher, p. 206, 210
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Walter, John (2006). Rifles of the World (3rd ed.). Iola, WI: Krause Publications. p. 34. ISBN 0-89689-241-7. 
  4. John Walter (2006). The Rifle Story: An Illustrated History from 1756 to the Present Day. MBI Publishing Company. p. 185. ISBN 978-1-85367-690-1. 
  5. Walter, John (2006). Rifles of the World (3rd ed.). Iola, WI: Krause Publications. p. 33. ISBN 0-89689-241-7. 
  6. Rotem Kowner (2009). The A to Z of the Russo-Japanese War. Scarecrow Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-8108-7007-9. 
  • Daugherty III, Leo J. Fighting Techniques of a Japanese Infantryman 1941–1945: Training, Techniques and Weapons. Staplehurst: Spellmount, 2002. ISBN 1-86227-162-3.
  • Hatcher, Julian S. General. Hatcher's Notebook. (1966) The Stackpole Company, Harrisburg, PA.

External links[]

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