JAPANESE TRAINING RIFLES
Starting in the 1920’s, the Japanese government required all junior and senior high school boys to have two hours a week of military training. Several companies started producing the necessary training rifles for this purpose. Unfortunately most training rifles did not bear markings that identified their origin. These training rifles had no standard design and were often made from older models of military rifles or parts from these rifles. Therefore you will find many variations of the same model. There are known models that used 1888 Mauser, type 99, type 30, and type 38 rifle parts. These training rifles continued to be produced until the late 1930’s. Some of these rifles could not be fired while others would fire wooden bullet blank ammunition. Many of the blank firing rifles were made with smooth bore barrels. Rarely would any of these rifles fire the standard service round. Nearly all of these training rifles could carry bayonets.
Type 38 Arisaka Training Rifle
The type 38 rifle was introduced in 1905 and production continued until the end of WWII. The change from 6.5 mm to 7.7mm ammunition began in 1939. During the 1920’s and 1930’s a number of the Type 38 rifles were converted into training rifles. Some of the Type 38 training rifles were designed to fire a 6.5mm wooden bullet blank cartridge. Others have no chamber in the barrel and were not designed to fire although they have the necessary parts to do so. They have cast iron metal parts and would never withstand the pressure of the service round. All of the training rifles have a smooth bore barrel and a solid tang on the receiver.
The Type 38 type training rifle shown below has a barrel that is loosely threaded into an extension on the front of the cast iron receiver. The barrel is held in alignment by the rear sight base and the smooth bore barrel has no chamber. The firing pin tip is too short to reach the face of the bolt. It is obvious that it was never intended to fire even the blank rounds. Although the parts are well finished they are rather coarse castings, being generally oversize. None of the metal parts have been hardened and there is considerable upsetting on mating parts. There is little evidence of heavy use so the parts must be very soft.
On the right side of the butt stock there is a small metal plate with Japanese writing and it has the number 39 stamped into the surface of the plate. The receiver has no markings other than the number 67 which is stamped into the left side of the receiver just above the wood surface. Overall, this training rifle is in good original condition. I would assume that this rifle saw very little use.
Type 38 Variation
This is an unusual training rifle variation. It has a cast iron receiver with a steel dust cover. I suspect that this specimen was made in the early 1930’s when materials were still plentiful. It is chambered for the 6.5 mm wooden bullet blank and has a smooth bore barrel. It was brought back by a GI following WWII, complete with sling and bayonet.
Japanese training rifle bayonets are basically the same shape as the standard service bayonet. However, they are not heat treated and can be easily bent. They are generally not sharpened and have some rounded edges. Often the grips are held on with wood screws. Then scabbards are nearly service quality but somewhat thinner.
1888 Mauser Training Rifle
This training rifle was based upon an obsolete model 1888 Mauser that had been a military rifle for the Japanese prior to 1900. It has had considerable modification. The barrel sleeve was removed, the magazine cut off and some action parts replaced with crude copies. This Japanese training rifle is made entirely out of wood and is 56 inches long. This is considerable longer than the standard military arm. It is approximately the same length as the Type 99 with a bayonet mounted. Because of this I suspect that this was made late in WWII when steel was very scarce. It has Japanese four characters on the right side of the butt stock. It is said to have been brought home by a US soldier following the WWII.
From the paper, Non-Firing Drill and Training Rifles, by By Malcolm MacPherson
The next installment: Current Production