Nambu World: Murata Shotguns

    Technically Murata shotguns are not military weapons, but since they often pop up and confuse people, I thought I would create this page. Some Muratas were converted from military rifles to shotguns, but some were also purpose-made for sporting use. This page shows information on the sporting use Murata shotguns from a 1930 catalogue No. 19 of Kawaguchiya Firearms Company (KFC), a Japanese gun dealer with a long history. KFC still exists and has a head office building across from the Nihombashi branch of Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo, Japan. The caption across the top of the page reads Mura-ta-shiki ryo-ju (hei-ten toku-sei), or "Murata shotguns (specially made by our humble shop)." Note that the gun shown has a bolt stop screwed onto the right side of the bolt, meaning it is built like a Type 13. Below is the rest of the text, translated to provide some basic data on these guns. I don't have one of these shotguns; in fact, I have never seen one except in pictures.

    The paragraph just below the gun begins with the bracketed suggestion (tem-pu no sei-ka-hyo go-san-sho ko-u="please refer to the appended price list"). I show the prices from this list below. After that the note reads hon-ju wa tsu-sho mura-ta-ju to tsua-i jitsu-yo-ju to shi-te wa ip-pan ni juku-chi se-ra-ru ki-bu no ko-zo kan-tan ni shi-te ken-ro to atai no ken naru koto-nashi-kurabe-nareba sho-shin-sha mo yo-i ni e-toku su-be-shi. Fu-tsu (ha-ne cho) o su. O nozomi-ni yo-ri shin-shiki (ra-se-n cho) mo sei-saku su (ju-shin sun-zo wa ai-to ryo-kin o cho-dai ita-shi-ma-su). This translates roughly as "This gun is commonly known as the 'Murata gun'. As a gun for practical use it is widely known for its simple mechanism made up of thoroughly understood parts. If you compare even a beginner can easily appreciate the value of its durability and safety. We normally make it with the leaf spring. If you wish we can also make the 'new style' (with a coil spring). (We would be pleased to make you a longer barrel upon payment of an appropriate fee)." [the first part is a hugely long sentence so I have broken it up into three sentences.]

    The table in the lower left has the specifications of the variations available. It is shown below. The first column has the gauge of the shotgun (the term used is ko-kei, the same word used for calibre of a rifled weapon). They were available from 8 gauge (huge) to 40 gauge and even 7.6mm (around .30 calibre). Note that many of these gauges are not now and never were common in North America. In particular, 24, 30, 36 and 40 gauge and 7.6mm are basically unknown here. The middle column is headed shi-yo, or "specifications". The first line says kurumi mata kaede dai jushin 35 sun ko-to. The first part means the stock is available in walnut or maple with a 35 sun barrel (a sun was an old Japanese unit of measurement equal to 3.03cm or 1.2 inches, so 35 sun=106.05cm or 42 inches). I can't find ko-to in any of my dictionaries, but ko means constrict and to means tube, so I think it refers to the choke. The 10 gauge model is listed as also having a 35 sun choked barrel. The 12, 16 and 20 gauge have 29-30 sun choked barrels (87.87cm to 90.9cm, or 34.8 to 36 inches). The 24, 28 and 30 gauge have the same length barrel, with no indication as to choke. The 36 and 40 gauge have 38 sun barrels (115..14cm or 45.6 inches), and the 7.6mm has a 22 sun barrel. (66.66cm or 26.4 inches). The last column is for the prices (sei-ka), but they are left blank here.

    The column in the lower right shown below has the overall weight (so-ryo) of the different variations. The 8 gauge is listed at 1,500 momme. A momme was an old Japanese unit of measurement  equal to 3.75 grams or 0.1325 ounces, so 1,500 momme is about 5.625 kilos or 198.75 ounces=12 pounds, 6.75 ounces. The 10 gauge is 1,000 momme (3.75 kilos or 8 pounds, 4.5 ounces). The 12, 16 and 20 gauge are 750 momme (2.813 kilos, or 6 pounds, 3.25 ounces. The 24, 28, 30 and 36 gauge are 650 momme (2.438 kilos, or 5 pounds, 6.13 ounces), while the 40 gauge and 7.6mm variations are 550 momme (2.063 kilos, or 4 pounds, 8.88 ounces). The bit at the bottom says cho-koku so-shoku nado go-ki-bo ni o-ji cho-sei su tada-shi so-to wari-mashi-kin o yo-su, meaning "we can manufacture according to your wishes with decorative engraving, etc., but this will require a corresponding increase in price".

    Finally, the last line at the bottom of the page, shown below, lists the prizes they have won. In the first set of brackets, oite tairei ki-nen koku-san shin-ko haku-ran-kai sai-ko koku-san-sho ju-ryo="received the top prize at the Enthronement Commemoration Exposition for the Promotion of the Expansion of Domestic Production". In the second pair of brackets it says oite hei-wa ki-nen to-kyo haku-ran-kai gim-pai ju-ryo="received the silver medal at the Tokyo Exhibition to Commemorate Peace". In the third and final pair of brackets it boasts oite-chu-o kan-gyo haku-ran-kai kim-pai ju-ryo="received the gold medal at the Central Industrial Exhibition".

    How much did they cost? There was a small separate pink booklet that had some of the prices in it that were not printed in the main catalogue. The Murata prices are in a small table at the bottom of the first page of this price list. The caption is the same, Murata shotguns. The first column lists the page number in the main catalogue, the second column lists the gauges and the middle column lists the various specifications as in the table translated above. The 8 gauge cost 60 yen; the 10 gauge cost 35 yen; the 12, 16 and 20 gauges 23 yen; the 24 gauge 21 yen; the 28 and 30 gauges 19 yen; the 36 and 40 gauges 18 yen; and the 7.6mm just 22 yen. The bottom line indicates that you can get a longer barrel for 1.5 yen per sun (3.03cm=1.2 inches) for the 8 and 10 gauge and 0.8 yen per sun for the others. For comparison, their own KFC 12 gauge break-action single shot shotgun was 38 yen, a Holland and Holland double barrel shotgun imported from England was 1,650 yen, and an imported American Colt .32 semi-auto pistol was 55 yen. An average worker's wage was around 40-60 yen a month. A private started at 6 yen a month and a general made 550 yen a month.

    In case you are wondering, did these obscure shotgun gauges actually exist? Well, apparently, yes. Here is an ad for shotshell cases from the Japanese company T.Y.K., which stands for Teikoku yakkyo kabushikigaisha. The diagrams on the left side show all the sizes and the table lists the prices. The gauges are in the left column, the length in millimeters of the short and long variations of each gauge in the middle column and the prices per ten pieces in the right column.

    Another page even shows loading data for a particular powder in momme, with the amount of shot in momme in the right column in the table on the left side of the page. THIS TABLE IS REPRODUCED FOR HISTORICAL STUDY ONLY--DO NOT USE THESE LOADS IN ANY GUN!!! DO NOT ENDANGER YOURSELF, YOUR GUN AND OTHERS AROUND YOU!! IMPROPER LOADS CAN KILL!!

    Page 135 of the catalogue lists some parts. Interestingly the ones listed for the Murata are the V-shaped leaf springs that drove the firing pin and the extractor. The firing pin springs are a weakness of the design and the extractors are just laid in place and so are easily lost.

            Here is the cover of the catalogue.

Here is the cover of the price list.



    Last updated: May 18, 2009. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.

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