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Type 97 7.7 mm tank machine gun
Type 97 tank machine gun.jpg
A Type 97 tank machine gun, shown with telescopic sight, magazine and jacket guard.
Type Light machine gun
Place of origin  Empire of Japan
Service history
In service 1937–1945
Used by Imperial Japanese Army
Wars Second Sino-Japanese War, Soviet-Japanese Border Wars, World War II, Chinese Civil War, Korean War
Production history
Designed 1937
Produced 1937–1945
Number built 18,000
Weight 12.4 kg (27.34 lb)
Length 1,145 mm (45.1 in)
Barrel length 700 mm (27.6 in)

Cartridge 7.7x58mm Arisaka
Action Gas-operated
Rate of fire 500 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity 724 m/s (2,375 ft/s)
Effective range 540 m
Maximum range 3,420 m
Feed system 20-round detachable box magazine
Sights Blade front sight and aperture rear sight

The Type 97 tank heavy machine gun (九七式車載重機関銃 Kyū-nana-shiki shasai jū-kikanjū?) was the standard machine gun used in tanks and armored vehicles of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, a light machine gun by infantry forces,[1] This weapon was not related to the Type 97 aircraft machine gun used in several Japanese Navy aircraft including the A6M Zero.


Initially, the Type 11 Light Machine Gun was modified by the Army Technical Bureau for use in tanks and other armored vehicles, and was produced for this application under the designation “Type 92 Mobile Machine Gun”. However, the basic design issues with the Type 11 remained, including its tendency to jam because of the slightest amount of grit or dirt, and the low lethality and lack of stopping power of its 6.5x50mm Arisaka cartridges.

During the early stages of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japanese forces captured a number of Czech ZB vz/26 light machine guns from China’s National Revolutionary Army; its numerous design advantages led to the development of the Type 97. This was used in a modified form for armored vehicles until 1940, when the Japanese Army switched to a rimless 7.7 mm cartridge.


The Type 97 was mechanically similar to the Czech ZB vz. 26, with a different stock and pistol grip. It had a straight, vertical, 20-round box magazine and used the same 7.7 mm cartridges used in the Type 99 rifle. The light gun barrel could easily overheat, which meant the gunner had to fire in bursts, or the barrel would be shot out.[2]

When fitted in a tank, a fixed focus 1.5x telescopic sight with a 30° field of view was used. To prevent injury to the gunner, a rubber eye pad was attached to the rear of the sight.

When used as an infantry weapon, a bipod was employed. Without the bipod, it weighed 11.25 kg (24.8 lb).[3]


The Type 97 came into service in 1937, and was used on all Japanese tanks and other armored vehicles until the end of the war. It was much less common as a stand-alone infantry gun due to its weight.[4] The Imperial Japanese Navy also used the weapon in their combat vehicles such as the Type 92 Jyu-Sokosha Heavy Armored Car (tankette).[5]


  • 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. 


  1. Bishop, The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II
  2. [1] TM-E 30-480 (1945)
  3. Data card at the Sinbudai Old Weapon Museum, Camp Asaka, Japan
  4. Morse, Japanese Small Arms of WW2; Light Machine Guns Models 11, 96, 99, 97 & 92
  5. [2]

External links

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