Thursday, June 21, 2012

All You Didn't Care To Know About The Japanese Type 94 Nambu

by Mishaco (June 14th, 2012)

Now that I have rounded out the Type 94 section of my WWII Japanese collection, I thought I would do a relatively detailed write-up on the design and its history. Its rather difficult to uncover accurate and reliable information on the Type 94 and much of what you read is based on second hand information or hearsay. Most of what is in this thread is from my own personal observations or is information I have varified with at least a few sources. I have an acquaintance who is a long time and highly advanced Japanese collector. This gentleman has over 400 Type 94s alone and i would love to examine what he has, but unfortunately like many collectors on his level, most of his collection is not readily accessable at the moment. Perhaps one day I will be fortunate enough to handle a few hundred of his pieces and can add to my knowledge of this design and how it changed over the course of its production. Then i could add to this thread more detailed information, but for now I will discuss what I know to date. For whatever reason, i find this Nambu to be particularly interesting. I have a few Type 14s and even a Type 04 M1902 Modified 'Papa', but there is just something about the usually overlooked and often ridiculed Type 94 that really intrigues me.

(Generic pictures from Max's site)
Military Designation: kyu-yon-shiki
Designer: Kijiro Nambu
Development: 2594 (i.e. 1934)
Production: 1935-1945
Numbers Produced: Approximately 71,000-72,000

Weight: 720g (25.4 oz) (unloaded without magazine)
Length: 180mm (7.1 inches)
Barrel length: 95mm (3.74 inches)

Cartridge: 8x22mm Nambu (standard high pressure variant developed for the Type 14)
Action: recoil operated, locked breech with floating block
Muzzle velocity: 290m/s (950 ft/s)
Feed system: 6 round detachable box magazine
Sights: Fixed Iron front blade, rear notch

In the mid 1920s, famous Japanese arms designer Kijiro Nambu retired from active military service at the rank of Lieutenant General. In 1927, General Nambu along with his partners organized the Nambu Ju Seizosho or Nambu Rifle Manufacturing Company, to produce the Type 14 automatic pistol, which had recently been accepted into military service as the standard issue sidearm. The Type 14 was Nambu's most successful handgun and was a highly improved replacement for his older Model 1902 Type 04 'Papa Nambu' pistol. The Type 14 was stronger than previous models, less expensive and time consuming to produce, and fired a more powerfully loaded version of the 8x22mm cartridge. It was a notable step forward for Japanese handgun design, but it was still rather long and had a relatively brittle firing pin. Type 14 production would continue until Japan's surrender at the end of World War II, however even before the war many in the military felt a more compact design was called for.

In 1934, former colleagues and friends in the Japanese military approached General Nambu and requested that he design a new service pistol, not to replace the Type 14 but to suppliment it. It was desired that the new design would be smaller and lighter than the Type 14, as well as having a stronger, more reliable firing system. It was also hoped that the new weapon could be produced in less time and would require fewer resources. Mr. Nambu wasted little time in preparing schematics for the new weapon, and by the end of 1934, the prototype model was ready. The military quickly adopted the new design as the kyu-yon-shiki or Year Type 94 pistol.

During the first half of 1935, the Type 94 production line was established and the first pistols came off the assembly line with the date code of 10.6. This date refers to the 6th month of the 10th year of the Showa era; the name for the reighn of Emperor Hirohito. In December of the following year, the Nambu Ju Seizosho factory merged with another firm to form the Chuo Kogyo company at Kokubunji. In turn Chuo Kogyo's manufacturing was supervised by the Nagoya Arsenal who would later contract out with workers from the Tokyo Arsenal to perform final inspection and approval of Type 94 pistols. As a result, stamps from all three institutions can be found on these pistols. In the beginning, production numbers were quite low. My own early pistol for example, has a date code of 12.11 or November of 1937, and its serial is just shy of 4,100. It wasn't until roughly 1940, that the assembly line really started to turn out quantity. Production was once again increased at the beginning of 1942, after Japan declared war on the United States. Type 94 output would remain high until the final year of the war. The last pistols to be manufactured would have the date code of 20.6 or June of 1945. This means that the Type 94 pistol was in production for exactly 10 years. In one decade, between 71,000 and 72,000 examples were constructed. Exact numbers are unknown as many of the records were lost during or after the war. All pistols were produced in the same series and all were built under the supervision of the Nagoya Arsenal. Most came from the Chuo Kogyo factory, though some were worked on at other locations during the war.

The Type 94 is a locked breech pistol, firing the standard bottlenecked 8mm Nambu service round. It is mechanically quite interesting and unique. After the cartridge is ignited the barrel, slide, and bolt recoil together for a short time. At the end of this travel, a locking block under the barrel falls and moves rearward a short distance and stops the barrel's motion. The slide moves back enough to open the ejection port and then is haulted by the frame. The bolt continues to move back, extracting the spent round, ejecting it upwards, and on its return to battery; strips a fresh cartridge from the magazine and slides it into the chamber. At which point the barrel and slide again move forward and the pistol is ready to fire again. The return spring is housed around the barrel and there is a small roller in the back of the frame to insure smooth movement of the bolt.

To pull back the Type 94's bolt, one places a finger on each side of the ridged knob located at the top-rear of the weapon and simply pulls back. The pistol is fired by a hammer which is released by a long sear when the trigger is pulled. It is a Single Action Only design with concealed hammer. The firing pin has a return spring surrounding it to prevent slam fires. This Nambu has two safety systems. The first is a manual safety located on the rear left side, Browning style. This safety physically blocks the sear when engaged. The other safety is a magazine disconnect, which does not allow the trigger to be pulled if there is no magazine in the grip. The magazine release is a button located midway down the grip on the left side, again very similar to a Browning design. The magazines themselves are of an angled style, somewhat similar to that of the Luger magazine. Each magazine holds 6 rounds and has a follower on the right side to aid in loading. The Type 94 does not have an internal bolt-hold-open device. Rather, the bolt is held back on an empty magazine by a tab on the magazine follower itself. This means once the empty magazine is removed, the bolt will slam closed under its own force. Both the front blade sight and rear notch are metal and fixed. There is a relatively large lanyard ring located on the back, just above the grip. The grip panels are made of two separate pieces. Disassembly of the Type 94 is very different from other military pistols. There are several guides online, including some on youtube, that show one how to do it. It does become easier with practice. To begin the process one pulls the bolt back with an empty magazine in the gun. There is a small tab located in the middle of the bolt. The firing pin must be pressed in all the way and at the same time this tab must be driven out. The tab should come out with light pressure, do not force it or use anything stronger than a wooden rod or soft bullet tip. I like to use a q-tip cut in half myself. The tab moves right-to-left only. This detail is very important. You start from the right side, the side opposite the safety, and you gently press leftwards. Remember to keep the firing pin pressed in with your finger during the process. Once this pin is removed, a light tap on the bolt will cause the whole gun to self-disassemble, so be prepared. Reassembly can be tricky at first, but a person can get good at it with practice. I find it easiest to assemble the frame, barrel, spring, and slide and then press back on the slide until the ejection port is open. I put a finger wrapped in a cloth (usually the one I have been using to whipe down the parts with oil) inside the port. This holds the slide back and makes inserting the bolt from the rear much easier. Once the bolt is back in place, put the tab back in the hole, pinning the bolt and slide together again. Remember to have the firing pin pressed in when reinstalling the tab.

(The beginning of disassembly, with the tab removed. I have the end of the q-tip in the hole to keep the pistol from auto-disassembling..)

(The pistol fully field stripped. As you can see, there are several parts; some rather small, but only 1 large spring to deal with at least.)

The Type 94 was designed with tank crews and aircraft pilots in mind. It was from the outset intended for use in the Japanese military, though some sources claim it was first destined for export sales to South America. All of the hard evidence and logic prooves this assertion simply wrong. As has been written, why would Japan try to export an unremarkable handgun in an odd caliber to South America? Especially during a time of war (in China) when Japanese industry could barely manufacture enough weapons for the nation's military as it was.

Originally, in the Imperial Japanese military, officers were authorised and expected to purchase their own sidearms at officers' unions. The Type 94 was added to the approved list of pistols in 1935, and officers had the option of purchasing a foreign built pistol, or of taking a domestic design. It seems that both the Type 14 and the Type 94 were subsidised by the government to promote the use of Japanese weapons. Both were either free or sold at a reduced price, it is unclear. On the otherhand, both the 'Papa' and the 'Baby' Type A/Model 1902 Nambus were not. This is because they were not officially accepted into military service like the T14 and T94. Comparatively few Type 94s were produced in the 1930s, thus not all that many went into combat. Many of the early pistols were used in mainland Asia, in China and Korea.

As has previously been mentioned, in 1940 there was a production increase. So Showa 16th year pistols are relatively common. After December of 1941, even more Type 94 pistols were being turned out, and it became quite a common Imperial sidearm in the war with the United States in the Pacific.
Though it was initially designed for soldiers operating in cramped vehicles, by WWII the T94 could be found in the hands of just about anyone. Because it was a subsidised pistol, the T94 was more often carried by low ranking officers and NCOs. Many higher ranking and/or wealthy officers still preferred imported sidearms such as the FN M1910/22. Despite this slight preceived stigma, the T94 was very popular with the troops for several reasons. First of all, it was cheaper to purchase than most of the other pistols offered at the time. Second, its small grip and overall size was a good fit to the average Japanese of the day. Third, any soldier can appreciate a pistol that is more reliable and durable. It was well suited to the close-in warfare of the island campeigns.

In 1943, after the tides of war had begun to turn against the Japanese, pistols became a military issued rather than privately purchased item. This was due to the fact that the supply of foreign built pistols had been cutoff by the allies. Thus most soldiers lost the choice of which sidearm they would carry and Type 94s were handed out as fast as they could be shipped to the frontlines. 1943 and 1944 were still high production years, but it was during this time that quality control and fit and finish began to seriously decline. Most examples manufactured in 1945 did not even leave the Home Islands as Japan was fighting a purely defensive war at that point.

Soldiers generally speaking liked the T94, but it should be kept in mind that the role of the pistol in the Japanese military was as a self-defense or secondary weapon. It was usually carried, but seldom fired. When one was fired, it was normally at a close range target. It was often little more than a badge of office and many still preferred to use the sword in hand to hand combat. Thus a pistol was mostly valued for its lightweight and small size.

During the long war in Asia, many of these pistols were captured by enemy combatents and reissued to be used against those who originally made them. Type 94s could be found in military and police arsenals as late as 1960, in China, Korea, and Thailand. The Japanese themselves officially retired it in 1945 with the end of hostilities. It was never a prolific firearm and its design had little to no influence on future handguns.

Design Changes:
Many small design changes were made to the Type 94 during its production run. Most all were aimed at time and cost savings. The most well known alteration to the design was the switch from bakelite grips to walnut near the end of the war, but there were others as well. Here is a timeline of changes, given in Showa dates. The first two digits represent the year starting with 10 = 1935 and ending with 20 = 1945. The second number(s) after the dot indicate the month: 1- 12 = January through December.
10.6 - serial production began.
11.12 - Nambu Ju Seizosho became Chuo Kogyo at Kokubunji, manufacturer's markings changed accordingly.
12.7 - Magazines received a reinforcing ridge stamped into the bottum of their floorplates to add strength.
12.11 - The checkering on the bakelite grips was changed. Originally, the checkering consisted of many small diamonds in a fine pattern. The pattern was changed to one with quite large diamonds in a coarse pattern, to make a better gripping surface and to strengthen the panels themselves.
14.4 - Sometime during the early to mid part of the 14th year, the checkering's pattern was again changed to something in between the fine and coarse styles. this pattern would remain the standard for the bakelite grips.
15.xx - First Type 94 production increase in preparation for possible war with more nations.
15.4 - First round of major changes to the design. The front of the frame and front lower part of the slide ceased to be machined round and thin. The portion of the frame under the barrel went from 15mm wide to 18mm. This change eliminated several milling steps, saving time and labor. It in no way impacted the pistol's performance as the machined undersection was only a cosmetic feature.
15.4 - At roughly the same time, the rear portion of the searbar was changed. The original design had a raised triangular section on the end, which was flush with the raised part of the frame in the back. After this time, the raised area on the sear would disappear. It is not known exactly why this change took place, but most likely to save on machining time again.
16.xx - In a nationalistic gesture, the government declared that no longer would Latin (i.e. English) characters be allowed on military firearms. Only Japanese Kanji was to be used from that point onward.
17.xx - The second Type 94 production increase went into effect after open war with the United States began.
17.1 - The finish used on magazines was changed. Up until this point, all were nickled and after it, all were blued.
18.10 - This is a highly estimated date, as there was no exact time when the change went into effect, but by the end of the 18th year, the small parts such as trigger, safety, and magazine release were being blued. Previously, these parts were a golden straw colour from the heat treating process. This was really only a cosmetic change, but again did save a bit of time during the manufacturing process.
19.7 - This is the change that is most commonly known about the Type 94. Around this time, the checkered bakelite grip panels were replaced by simple plain slab-sided wooden ones made from lightly lackered walnut.
19.8 - The lanyard ring was made slightly larger. It is uncertain why this change was implemented.
19.8 - The follower on the side of the magazine used to assist in loading was changed from a ridged rectangle with a slot at the bottum, to a simple round checkered button.
20.1 - Towards the end of the month, the 'squareback' cocking knob was introduced. Basically this was a bolt that did not have the rounded and indented part of it's rear fully machined. Instead, it was left square and with simple vertical ridges on the sides.
20.2 - The rear sight was simplified going from a pair of L shaped raised sections facing each other, to two simple squares.
20.4 - Starting around this time, some pistols were produced with 'short grips.' The grip screw was moved higher on the frame to allow for smaller pieces of wood to be used as grip panels. The actual length of the grip frame and magazine well did not change.
20.6 - Type 94s produced during this month were assembled from previously rejected and random leftover parts. These pistols are commonly referred to today as 'last-ditch' models.
20.6 - All Type 94 production ended, as Japan no longer had enough resources to continue building them.
20.8 - Type 14 production did continue until the very end of the war.

(Please note that most all of these dates are estimates and from observations. Since production records were lost, it is impossible to know for sure when certain changes went into effect.)

(2nd variation coarse checkered grip)

(Medium coarse/fine checkering found on bakelite grips until mid 1944)

(Standard 'slab' walnut grip with very light lacker from the factory)

(Original style searbar with rear raised section)

(Standard sear found on all pistols after mid 1940, is straight from end to end with no raised portion at the rear)

(Late style square cocking knob found on the last 5,000-6,000 pistols)

(Original rear sight style found on all pistols built before 1945)

(Simplified rear sights found on the final pistols made in 1945)

(Original thin frame with rounded slide found on pistols before 1940)

(Standard square bottum front end with wide frame and non-rounded slide)

(Three variations of magazines, from left to right: later nickled, early blued, late blued)

Some other changes to the design did not happen at once or even over a short period of time. For example, early T94s had rich deep rust bluing, and by the end a thin uneven salt bluing was being used. The quality of bluing seems to have slowly degraded from the middle of the 18th year through the 19th.

Though I have covered major and note worthy changes in how the parts were machined, many small machining shortcuts began to be taken starting in the 18th year. One can especially view this in the trigger guard and grip strap areas. Also as the war progressed, less time was taken polishing surfaces and removing tool marks.

Before the switch to wooden grips, one can also observe poorer molding of the bakelite grips.
Not surprisingly fit also began to suffer, with later made pistols having more rattle and parts that do not exactly lineup with each other. The safety in particular became quite loose in some late war Type 94s.

Magazine bodies too began to look cruder with uneven surfaces and hastier bluing, though the reinforcing ridge on the baseplate would remain until the end.
It should be acknowledged, that no matter how rough some of these pistols made during the last year might look, the internal surfaces were still polished and properly heat treated. The Type 94 never became truely dangerous to fire due to manufacturing shortcuts and material shortages.
Finally, it should be kept in mind, that the decline of fit and finish was not a steady downhill slope. Different factories and workers had different standards. For instance I have handled many examples produced in late and even mid 1944, that actually have rougher finishes and more tool marks, than ones from early 1945. I have whitnessed this enough that I wonder if perhaps there was a concerted effort to improve quality after the end of 1944, if only a small bit and for a brief time?
Mechanically, the Type 94 was not altered from the first to the last pistols produced.

Pros & Cons or "Is it really the worst military pistol ever?"
If one searches for information regarding the Type 94, the accusation that it was the worst pistol issued by any military during WWII or even ever, will quickly be found. The pistol was definitely not without its flaws and shortcomings, but most who claim it is the 'worst' ever made are simply viewing it from a biast American point of view. It should be taken in context with when and where it was made. Now, the pistols' strengths and weaknesses will be highlighted.

1) For the time in which it was adopted, the pistol was very small, compact, and lightweight; for a sidearm firing its nation's standard service cartridge.
2) It did fire the standard service round, not a reduced power version of the 8x22mm round. As a result logistics were not further complicated when it was issued.
3) For a pistol with such a short barrel, it was surprisingly accurate.
4) The small grip was well suited to its intended users.
5) The pistol had 2 safety systems; 3 if you also count the spring loaded firing pin.
6) The controls are laid out in a user friendly manner.

1) The 8mm cartridge, while more powerful than 7.65mm (.32) was still not as hard hitting as 9mm Parabellum.
2) The pistol only held 6 rounds, where as most of the service pistols of the day held 8. Still, it should be remembered that many nations still issued revolvers during WWII, such as Britain and Russia.
3) The pistol's disassembly and reassembly procedures can not be considered anything but Cons.
4) The last-round hold open follower in the magazine caused magazine changes to be unnecessarily slow. The bolt would hold back and exert pressure on the magazine, which made it more difficult to remove. Once the magazine was worked free, the bolt would snap forward, forcing the operator to retract it again once a fresh magazine was inserted, in order to chamber a new round.
5) Not really the design's fault, but pistols made in the last 2 years of the war can have many specific/individual issues.

The Type 14 vs. The Type 94;
1) The T94 required fewer resources and man hours to build than did the T14.
2) The T94 is significantly shorter than the T14, which could be a valuable asset to some. On the other hand, due to its longer barrel, the t14 was capable of better mechanical accuracy.
3) The T14 held 8 rounds in the magazine, compared to the T94's 6, so a clear advantage to the T14.
4) Although, the T94 magazine requires less force to load fully than does the T14 magazine.
5) The T14 had a very crisp trigger for a military sidearm. It wasn't match-grade but wasn't that far off from it either. The T94 on the other hand had a mushy trigger pull even early on, and late war examples could be truly awful.
6) On the other hand, the T94's safety was placed in a location where the shooter's thumb could manipulate it easily, while the T14's was located far forward on the frame and basically required the shooter to use his off-hand to toggle it on or off.
7) The T94's hammer firing system was more reliable than the T14's striker system.
8) The T94 was less likely to break its firing pin than the T14.
9) Both pistols had fixed sights, but because of its intended role, the T94's sights were smaller and simpler than the T14's.
10) When comparing late war T14s and T94s from the same year & month of production, normally the T14 will have a bit better fit and finish...normally.
11) The T94 is much rarer than the T14. For every 1 T94 produced, 4 T14s were built.
12) The T94 has spawned more colorful stories than the T14.

...And finally, the infamous exposed sear bar;
By this point, perhaps you thought I would not even bring this part up? Honestly, I would rather not as its been done to death. Yes, the Type 94 has a long exposed sear bar running much of the length of the left side. If the front tip is pressed, the pistol will fire without having the trigger pulled. However, one can only press in on this bar if the manual safety is disengaged. Also of course, the pistol would need to be cocked and have a live round in the chamber, in order for anything to happen. Then one must wonder why someone is pressing around on the side of a loaded firearm, with the safety off? The sear bar is not protected, but at the same time, it is flush with the frame and must be pressed inward a goodly bit to release the hammer. This means just laying the pistol down on its side could not make it go off and again, why would someone lay a loaded gun down with the safety off?
The sear bar was not a design oversight or mistake. General Nambu knew what he was doing and chose to use such a system in order to keep the pistol compact and maintain a reasonably low production cost. Japanese soldiers of the day were to carry their pistols with a loaded magazine in the grip, but uncocked and without a round in the chamber. Today's tactical operators scoff at such a notion, but it should be remembered, that American soldiers were also instructed to carry their M1911A1s in the same manner during WWII.

The Type 94 was a reasonably safe firearm when properly maintained, and when handled by a trained operator. It was primarily carried by soldiers who only needed a pistol infrequently, such as pilots, tank crews, armored transport drivers, radio operators, and military staff officers. In those situations, and when carried either without a round in the chamber or with the safety firmly engaged, the Type 94 fulfilled its purpose and did so without endangering its owner. Honestly, Mr. Nambu who

was accustom to trained shooters, probably could not even conceive of someone so ignorant or careless, who could actually make an exposed sear bar a liability, using one of his firearms. Keep in mind, this was a military pistol carried in a full flap holster as a backup weapon; not a civilian CCW piece carried in a quick-draw holster or pocket. In other words, the Japanese soldiers who used the Type 94 actually did have more than a half dozen functioning brain cells, and cases of negligent discharge were very uncommon. In fact, more cases of unintended firing of, and even injuries from, the M1911A1 in the hands of Americans were reported in WWII, than cases of such misuse of the Type 94 by Japanese soldiers. Of course, we have records today from the US military and very few from that of the Imperial Japanese, but nevertheless, no evidence has ever surfaced to illustrate that the sear bar was ever responsible for the death or injury of a Japanese soldier.

As to stories about sneaky Japanese using the sear bar to trick and kill American soldiers, or to commit suicide while pretending to surrender; pure and complete fiction. These stories were probably dreamed up by American soldiers 20 years after their time in the Pacific to entertain their children or grandkids. They do sound like the kinds of stories a long winded grandfather or uncle would bestow upon young and impressionable minds, eager for stories of glory and adventure. Pulling out a bring back Type 94 and saying, "I took this off the body of a dead Jap," as we all know, all bring back stories start with the weapon in question being removed from a corpse during the heat of battle, "but before I did that, you know what that sneaky yellow slant tried to do? He tried to pretend to surrender to me with this here pistol out in his hand with no fingers near the trigger. He was gonna press it right here and and shoot me dead. I was too smart for him though and dropped him right between the eyes with my good ol' American Colt .45!" Definitely makes for a better story than, "After the war, there were boxes of Japanese guns from the factories and we were supposed to dump them into the ocean, but we all stole one because Captain Johnson said that'd be just fine."

Usually the guys who liked to spread those outlandish stories about their time in the army, actually spent most of it as a mess cook or secretary. Anyway, the stories you can sometimes find about the Type 94 as a 'suicide' pistol are just that..stories. Not a single one has ever been documented or verified as true.

After weighing of the pros and cons of the design, the Type 94, comes up as adequate in my judgment. It had both benefits and shortcomings, but it did what General Nambu and the military intended for it to do. No major design changes were required during its production, so one may conclude that it performed acceptably in the eyes of the Japanese. It would definitely not be allowed in the current safety driven atmosphere of the United States today, but back 70 years ago in Japan, it was assumed that anyone who picked up a firearm would have a modicum of common sense and caution when handling it.

As to the small size of the Type 94 and relatively low power of the 8mm round, these are cases of the weapon fitting its intended user. Americans might find this pistol uncomfortable and weak, but one can imagine that a Japanese from 1940, might find the 1911 unnecessarily long and heavy, and the .45 ACP round laughably overkill and difficult to get on target. Actually, looking at military issued firearms around the world, the Nambu and the 8mm round were more in keeping with most of the others; more so than the Colt 1911A1 and .45 cartridge would have been during WWII. Many nations still issued pistols in 9mm Kurz (.380) and even 7.65mm (.32 Auto) at that time. 8mm Nambu was just a hair more powerful than .380 and had more force than Japan's previous standard service round: 9mm rimmed. The old 9mm round was used in the Type 26 revolver and was about as powerful as .38S&W, which Britain still issued as .38/200 in WWII. My point? the round and even the pistol were really no better or worse than others of the day. So that is why in the end, i feel the Type 94 was simply adequate for its intended role.

My Type 94s:
My goal in picking up these pistols for my collection was to try and map the changes introduced to the design over its 10 year run. Of course, a person could have 20 of these pistols and still not have every minor variation and configuration. For example, i do not have a late war 'short grip' and have never seen one for sale at a price i could afford. Still, I feel the 4 I do have do a reasonably good job of illustrating the Type 94.

Early 12.11 Date;

This is one i recently picked up. It is the earliest Type 94 I have found for sale. It is also actually one of the better condition ones. There are a few mint examples out there, but many have most of their finish missing and 1 or more broken or replaced parts. This one has honest wear, but is mechanically sound and still very tight. It is all matching, including the proper nickled magazine. Its serial is just shy of 4100, which tells one that in nearly 2 and a half years of production, not many Type 94s had been built.

Pre War 16.7 Date;

This is probably my nicest T94 and is also all matching, including the nickled magazine. It was built just a few months before Japan attacked the United States and war brokeout. It has very nice bluing still and straw coloured parts. It has only a few of the early manufacturing shortcuts and has the medium sized checkered grips. Its quite tight, though maybe not as much so as the 12.11.

Late-Mid War 19.5 Date;

This is my most recent T94. After chasing down an early and a late war model, i realised something, i didn't have just a common midwar one. So i started looking for a pistol made sometime between mid 1943 and mid 1944. I wanted one after the strawing was done away with and that had some of the rough machining. At the same time i wanted something made before the switch to wooden grips. This 19.5 kind of fell into my lap and i took it as the price was right. Its mechanically sound, with just normal holster wear. It has pretty crude machining, but is still perfectly functional. It is all matching, except the magazine. The mag is a proper mid-war blued type though. The safety is very loose on this one; a very common thing for some late guns. This one will be my 'shooter' if i ever decide to take a T94 out for a spin.

Late War 20.2 Date;

This one i was very excited to get. Not only is it in good shape and all correct, the price was very fair and it came with 2 late war magazines. It is all matching, again except for the magazine which is a proper late war style. It has the square cocking knob, wooden grips, and simplified rear sights found on pistols made after the middle of January, 1945. This one was made in February of that year and has a serial of over 67000, which means it was one of the last 4,000 or so Type 94s ever produced. The only late feature it does not have is the 'short grips.' Surprisingly, this pistol has a better trigger and smoother metal finish than does my 19.5. I've had a 19.9 at one time, and it too seemed rougher than this 20.2 even though the 19.9 had the standard cocking knob and rear sights.

So there you have it, my attempt to set at least some of the record straight on the Type 94 and to view it from the perspective of the Japanese who designed and fielded it. Probably a lot above that you might find a bit dull or overly detailed, but as i said in the beginning, i find this design strangely intriguing. At any rate this is the Type 94 pistol.

20th Century US Military Sidearms

by Mishaco (June 11th 2012)

I was going to do a post this weekend on the Japanese Type 94 Nambu pistol, but a few things didn't happen on time so i had to push that one back til next week. Instead, i thought i'd use some old notes from last year from an aborted thread on US service weapons and do a little write-up on American service handguns, to showcase a couple new additions to my own collection. I know i know, you could have had a long, overly detailed thread on a foreign pistol you probably don't give a flip about anyway, but instead you are getting a pretty short one about some made in the USA pistols. Life's unfair like that i guess. I am not an expert when it comes to American milsurp. I have some and i like it but many many others know so much more than I do. Still, why not show off what I have and open up a general discussion on Am-Surp and really anything American military from WWI through Desert Storm.
Colt Model 1911 & 1911A1 Automatic Pistols
service: 1912-1985 as standard issue, reserve/specialist issue til present day,
Number in US Military Service: 2,700,000
weight: 2 lb 7 oz
length: 8.25"
barrel: 5"
Operating System: Single Action, Automatic pistol,
Cartridge: .45 ACP
Capacity: 7 rounds

(my Colt M1911 built in mid-1918, with original features)

As we all know, the Colt Model 1911 pistol was the brainchild of John M. Browning, which could trace back its roots to the dawn of the 20th century. The pistol underwent extensive trials, testing, and modification; before finally being officially adopted as America's first automatic/self loading service sidearm.

The design was first entered into military trials in 1899 and was pitted against other early autos such as the Mannlicher Steyr M1894 and Mauser C96. Later in 1903, the DWM Luger was also evaluated by the United States military and tested along side Browning's 1900 design.

General William Crozier was an early strong supporter of the notion of an automatic pistol to replace the revolver and he motivated further efforts when things got a bit bogged down with redtape. It seems he was particularly impressed with JMB's prototypes. In 1904, Colonel John T. Thompson proposed that the new handgun should be chambered for a.45 caliber bullet, rather than a .38 caliber. Seems he really liked 'stopping power' or maybe he just had a bunch of kids hopped up on PCP living in his neighborhood? Regardless, his idea would be well received and shape all future trials held to select the new service weapon.

In 1906, another rround of trials was held, with all entries chambered for a .45 caliber round. Browning/Colt's design was entered of course, along with one from Savage. DWM also entered a Luger variant, but it was quickly washed out. Many claim this was due to favourtism shown towards the two American designs, but I think the military boards just realised that having both American and German soldiers armed with Lugers would just be too confusing for Hollywood a century later. Throughout the period between 1907 and 1910, both the Colt and Savage designs continued to be tested and improved; but finally in late 1910, the Colt was selected. It was felt that it was more reliable than the Savage pistol. So one would go on to be the most successful automatic handgun in the USA, and the other as a relatively unknown historical footnote.

In March of 1911, the US Army adopted the extensively tested design as the Model 1911 Automatic Pistol. Both the Navy and Marine Corps would follow suit in 1913. Thus it would be the standard issue sidearm of US forces during the First World War.

During that war, three manufacturers produced M1911s: Colt, Remington UMC, and Springfield Arsenal. Early models had quite nice bluing, but in 1918 in order to speedup the production process, Colt switched to an oxide type finish, which was actually more black than blue. Thus the 'Black Army' 1911 came to be. Even with this shortcut and some others, and even with other factories also contracted to build 1911 pistols; the US military still did not have enough 1911s during WWI. As a result, other pistols such as the quickly emplemented M1917 revolver were introduced.
America's new automatic pistol prooved quite reliable and durable during the war. It was better suited for trench warfare than the German's P.08 Luger and had distinct advantages over older revolver designs such as the British Webley Mk VI or the French Mle 1892. The .45 cartridge also prooved to be plenty powerful enough and popular with the troops. Probably the biggest complaint leveled against the pistol had to do with its sights. They were made small and fixed so as not to snag in a holster or on equipment, and to allow them to be durable. Unfortunately, these features also meant they were small and difficult for many to properly aim with. Another complaint about the pistol was called 'hammer bite,' meaning the hammer and grip safety would pinch the webbing of a shooter's hand. Otherwise though, the 1911 showed itself to be quite adequate. Its also worth noting, that many pistols went into Russia with the Allied Expeditionary Force in 1919. There it was demonstrated that the Colt could still perform in a chilly climate.

(my Remington Rand M1911A1 built in late 1943, or perhaps early 1944)

Reacting to feedback from soldiers in the field and from lessons learned during WWI; in 1924, the Model 1911A1 was adopted and replaced the original M1911. The A1 used the same operating system as the 1911 and even many of the parts interchanged. Most of its modifications were cosmetic, aimed at making the pistol easier to operate and handle. For example, the trigger was made shorter with the A1, was given a pattern on its edge for better traction, and schallips were added behind it on the frame to adjust for the shorter trigger. The mainspring housing or backstrap was changed from a smooth straight style with small lanyard ring, to an arched style with checkering or ribbing and a somewhat larger lanyard ring. The shape of the front sight was changed from a rounded shaped blade, to a semi-triangular one, but the rear sights were left alone. The hammer lost most of its 'spur' and was made smaller; while the grip safety was given a longer tang to help prevent 'hammer bite.' Finally and probably most noticibly, the majority of M1911A1 pistols were built with bakelite grips rather than the M1911's double diamond pattern wood ones. Most A1s were parkerized rather than blued, though early examples were still blued. Of course, later in their service lives, most 1911s and 1911A1s were arsenal referbished and parkerized anyway. Both models remained in service concurrently; older 1911s were not retired and there was not any formal program to update them to the A1 standard. During the 1930s, 1911A1 production numbers were quite low, but of course when the United States entered the Second World War, things quickly changed.

From 1942 through 1945 three manufacturers were responsible for A1 production. Remington Rand was the largest with 900,000 pistols to its credit, followed by Colt and Ithaca, both with 400,000 pistols built each. A mear 500 pistols were built by Singer Soing Machine factory during the war as well. Though the military did have some revolvers, the 1911A1 was the standard issue sidearm in the Army and was widely used by both the Navy and Marines. Navy fliers often packed the S&W Victory revolver, but Army Aircorpsmen were issued the 1911A1. The pistol became quite an important tool for soldiers fighting on and in jungle islands in the Pacific and was also quite useful in certain urban combat situations in Europe. While most of the other nations in both WWI and WWII more or less viewed the handgun as a badge of office or a weapon of absolute last resort; the US military actually considered it a fighting weapon-- at least some of the time. As a result, there was more of an effort to put pistols in the hands of more soldiers and give basic instruction in their proper usage. The last 1911A1 pistols ever delivered to the military arrived in late 1945, but their service would continue for decades.

During the Korean War, WWII era pistols were pressed into service. The 1911A1's reliability was a great asset in the cold and mud of that war. After Korea, many pistols were recalled and sent in for an arsenal referbishment. Broken or wornout parts were replaced and most pistols were also refinished with the standard matt grey milspec parkerization of the day. After having fought in two or even three wars the pistols surely needed some TLC one could imagine. Savage was contracted with by the government to manufacture replacement 1911A1 slides and many of these can be found on pistols today, but the company never built actual frames. New magazines were also ordered as older ones woreout or were lost. These came from a number of Colt subcontracters mostly.

With America's involvement in Vietnam, the old Browning pistol once again went to war, but this time its reputation would suffer some. Many soldiers from that war reported that the pistol was inaccurate, rattly, and even unreliable. These problems were due in large part of course, to the fact that the youngest 1911s in service were 20 years old and some had been in service as long as 50 years. Even with yearly inspections and periodic referbishments, the pistols were simply beginning to breakdown. As a result, revolvers such as the S&W Model 10, became increasingly popular with US soldiers in Vietnam. After the war, it was becoming clear that the military would either have to purchase brand new 1911A1s from Colt or someone else, or would have to consider the adoption of a new standard issue sidearm. AFterall, by the 1970s, the design was beginning to appear rather outdated with its single action only trigger and small 7+1 capacity. A report from the late 1970s stated that the military had roughly 417,000 1911 pistols in inventory, and of those, approximately 100,000 were no longer servicible.

Colt & S&W Model 1917 Revolvers
Service: 1917-1920 as substitute standard issue, until 1945 as reserve or special issue,
Number in US Military: 300,000
weight: 2 lb 8 oz for colt model
2 lb 4 oz for S&W model
length: 10.8"
barrel: 5.5"
Operating System: Double/Single Action revolver, fed from moonclips,
Cartridge: .45 ACP
Capacity: 6 rounds

(my S&W M1917, made as part of the 1937 Brazilian contract)

The Model 1917, was not a planned service sidearm for the US military. Rather, when it went to war in 1917, it found itself with a shortage of...well really of just about everything including pistols. Though the Colt M1911 was the standard issue at that time, the military did not have enough in inventory to arm everyone who needed a sidearm and Colt did not have the capacity to produce enough, fast enough. Thus, it was decided to contact both Colt and Smith & Wesson and request each to rechamber their commercial large frame double action revolvers for the military's standard service cartridge: .45 ACP. Colt based its design on its .45 Long Colt caliber1909 Model, and S&W based its own on the .44 caliber Hand Ejector model. So actually, there are two separate and different revolvers with the same designation of M1917, both chambered for the same round and both using moonclips. The moonclips were needed to eject the spent rounds after firing. Its worth noting that the S&W M1917's cylinder had a shoulder machined inside each chamber to allow the .45 cartridge to headspace properly, but early Colt revolvers did not. Both did have a lanyard ring at the base of the grip and came with wooden grip panels.

The M1917 series was only in frontline service with the American military for the duration of WWI and for a very short time afterwards. It was a solid reliable design, but the moonclips could complicate matters. It was a short term solution, to a legistical problem faced bya military not prepaired for war. Most revolvers were sold off as surplus or given away to allies during the 1920s and 1930s. An interesting footnote to the M1917's history occurred in 1937, when the Brazilian Army ordered 25,000 revolvers from S&W. This was the model's last major production run. A few would also pop-up here and there during WWII, but all in all the 1917 revolver's day was quite short.

S&W Victory & Other M&P Revolvers
Service: 1942-1945 as substitute standard issue, widely used along with variants until 1990,
Number in US Military: 352,000 (Specifically Victory model only)
weight: 2 lbs 2 oz
Length: 8.5"
Barrel: 4" standard, but in other lengths as well
Operating System: Double/Single Action Revolver,
Cartridge: .38 Special
Capacity: 6 rounds

(my S&W Victory model, produced before the improved firing pin safety)

The Victory Model revolver was a wartime version of the Smith & Wesson Military & Police (M&P) Hand Ejector, based on the medium sized K frame and chambered for a .38 caliber round. Victory production actually began before America entered into WWII in 1941, when S&W began manufacturing revolvers for Britan and other Common Wealth nations. These revolvers had a 'V' prefix added to their serial numbers, as in 'V' for Victory.' They were chambered for the standard British service cartridge of .38/200, which was virtually the same as .38 S&W. These early Victory models had checkered wood grips. They were sandblasted and finished in a military style blue and had lanyard rings.

After the US did join the war, S&W ramped up Victory revolver production. To speed things along, revolvers made after January of 1942, had smooth plane wood grips and later examples were parkerized rather than blued. During the war, an improved passive firing pin safety was introduced into the design. Revolvers with the safety had a VS prefix and ones with it added later had an S manually added infront of the serial's digits. Victory production would continue until 1945, with both the United States and Britan receiving orders.

The Victory revolver was standard issue for Navy pilots and aircrews, and was a common sidearm of US Marines too. Many were also carried by security guards protecting military installations and manufacturing facilities on the Home Front. Overall the Victory was a better design than the old 1917 revolver. It was not complicated with the need for moonclips and was shorter and lighter.
After WWII, the revolvers were kept in military arsenals and saw service in both Korea and Vietnam. Victories were referbished and refinished as required, the same as 1911s during the same time period. When the Army needed more revolvers during Vietnam, it purchased some commercial S&W Model 10s, usually with 4" barrels. Though some were bought with 2" barrels, for use by helicopter crews. One can read of many accounts of both old Victories and newer Model 10s being encountered in that war. The Model 10 was virtually identical to older M&Ps, just built with more modern methods and with a commercial finish.

(my S&W Model 15-2 commercial, identical to what the USAF purchased in the early '60s)

The Air Force officially adopted the S&W Model 15 in the early 1960s as the M15. These guns were off-the-shelf commercial revolvers in .38 Special with factory blued finishes and standard checkered wooden grips. They had an USAF property and ordnance mark added, but no lanyard ring was installed. Basically the Model 15 was a Model 10 with adjustable sights. The USAF bought mostly the 15-2 and 15-3 variants from 1962 through roughly 1968. Though all started off as blued, some can be found today with arsenal applied parkerized finishes. The M15 was popular with soldiers, though the milspec .38 ball ammunition often issued with it was not. Most were pulled from active service around 1990, but a few continued to be found in armories throughout the 1990s. The Air Force hates to throw anything of any use away.

Beretta M9 & M9A1 Automatic Pistols
Service: 1985-1990 limited service for evaluation and improvement, 1990-On going as standard issue
Number in US Military: 1,000,000 (projected approximate number by 2015)
weight: 2 lb 2 oz
length: 8.5"
barrel: 5"
Operating System Double/Single Action, Automatic Pistol,
Cartridge: 9mm NATO
Capacity: 15 rounds

(my Beretta M9 marked pistol, purchased in 2005)

And finally, the famous or infamous Beretta M9 pistol. Some like it, some hate it, and most just like to hate it, but will actually admit its not bad if forced to do so. As with the M1911 nearly 75 years before, the Beretta underwent years of testing and product improvement before it was officially adopted into the United States Armed Forces as the Model 9 service pistol. It is still very much the current standard issue sidearm today.

The story of the M9 goes back to the formation of the Joint Services Small Arms Planning Commission in the late 1970s. This was the group that decided that America's military should transition away from the .45 ACP cartridge, and adopt the 9x19mm round in order to have a common handgun cartridge with other NATO member nations. Thus in 1979, trials for a new handgun were announced and it was to be chambered for a slightly modernized version of the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge, later known as 9mm NATO. Ironically nearly the same cartridge had been tested by the US military in 1903, when it first looked at the Luger. This decision had the unintended side effect of making many marines' heads explode.

In 1980, Beretta's entry for the first rounds of trials conducted by the Air Force wonout over others submitted by such companies as Colt, Smith & Wesson, FNH, and H&K. Naturally, feeling that a bunch of flyboys couldn't know much about firearms, the Army contested the results of the trial. Keep in mind, it was also the Air Force that spearheaded the adoption of the M16. A rifle system so terrible , that it only has lasted over 50 years in military service. So in 1981, the Army announced a new round of testing to be named the XM9 trials, which concluded after several delays in 1984.
Colt, S&W, FNH, H&K, SIG Sauer, Steyr, Walther, and Beretta all submitted pistols for the finalized XM9 project. Most of the designs were disqualified early on and in the end, it was between the Beretta 92F and the SIG Sauer P226. The two ran neck and neck for a time, with the beancounters even getting involved to see which pistol package would be less expensive, even down to literally a few cents. Naturally, the Beretta 92F pistol won again, and naturally many still continued to protest. Nevertheless, in January of 1985, it was officially adopted into US military service as the Model 9 automatic pistol. The Army, Air Force, and Navy all agreed to the new design; but the Marines resisted and the Coast Guard did not have the funds for large scale purchasing at the time.
Shortly after adoption, two problems were noticed. First off, cracking was observed in the frame, behind the grip. A military study concluded this issue did not pose as a danger to the shooter and was only cosmetically displeasing. Nevertheless, Beretta was ordered to fix the problem if it wanted to retain its nice fat government contract. So by 1988, a retrofit was developed for the frame which successfully prevented further cracks from appearing. The other issue was more serious and had to do with M9 slides. In 1987, it seems some slides were breaking and flying back to hit the shooters. These run-away slides killed over 500 US serviceman and Beretta never even said 'sorry.'
No not really, only 3 slides actually separated from their frames in the field and no one was seriously harmed, much less killed. During testing, the military was able to reproduce the malfunction 11 times, most occurring after 10,000 rounds and some after over 30,000 shots. Still this was not acceptable and the problem was eventually traced back to soft slides produced in Italy. Some also claim the malfunctions were due inpart to over pressure ammunition having been used, though this doesn't seem to have been the case. In 1988, the metalergy was improved and M9s began to be 100% made in the USA at Beretta's US factory. A slide retention disc was also added to the improved 92FS/M9 design, which even if the slide did break; would not allow it to separate from the frame.
As a result of M9 problems, the XM10 trials were held in 1988 and again Beretta won, with the product improved 92FS, which became milspec for the M9. By 1990, the new pistol began to see widespread use throughout all branches of the military, replacing old 1911s and revolvers, of which many dated back to WWII and even WWI.

Despite all of the negativity surrounding it and a bit of a rocky start, the M9 has actually prooven to be a decent service sidearm. It replaced a single action only design with a7 round magazine, whose safety could only be engaged once the hammer was back afterall. The M9 has a smooth trigger in double action, and an acceptably short and crisp single action pull. It is lighter than the old Colt, but retains a 5" barrel, and its sights are easier to acquire. It holds 15+1 rounds, and the safety is both ambidextrous and can be engaged with the hammer down. The M9 is reliable and durable, and not highly succeptible to harsh climates. It is easier to field strip and clean than the M1911 as well. So have I sold you yet? Of course the Beretta isn't perfect and has its downsides too, but its not the worst thing ever and the 9mm cartridge can be just as leathal as a .45. The top three complaints that soldiers express about this pistol are: its caliber, its weight, and its grip size. On the other hand, many like its large capacity and its low felt recoil.

The M9 began its service in the first Gulf War, and has since seen action all around the globe. There was discussion in the early 2000s of replacing the Beretta with a different design; which many were hoping would return to the .45 ACP cartridge. However, in 2006, further funding for research and testing of possible M9 replacements under the Joint Combat Handgun Program was drastically cut. At the same time, the M9A1 was accepted into service.

The M9A1 is a modernized Beretta M9 with the addition of a Picatinny rail under the barrel. The grip was also redesigned with checkered front and back straps, as well as having a beveled magazine well. At sometime after the turn of the millenium, the M9's trigger and guide rod were changed from metal to milspec polymer to save on weight. The military also decided to move away from Beretta contracted magazines built by Mec-Gar, and instead to go with ones manufactured by CheckMate. The idea was to improve the pistol's reliability in the deserts of Iraq and dirt of Afghanistan, but actually the result was the opposite. More recently, Airtronic has been contracted with to supply M9 magazines to the military. Currently, Beretta US has contracts for both M9 and M9A1 pistols with the government, with on going deliveries scheduled. So it seems unlikely that the platform will be retired anytime soon.

(same M9 pistol with the Bianchi M12 GI holster and lanyard)