Original Japanese Cartridge Boxes


8mm Nambu cartridge boxes

            Most 8mm Nambu ammo came in 15 round cardboard boxes designed so that two such boxes would fit into the ammo pouch on a Type 14 holster. The boxes were about 81mmX20mmX33mm. Generally Japanese ammunition boxes did not specify the calibre, but rather the type of gun the contents were intended for. Thus, most 8mm ammo is labeled as gType 14 ammunitionh, with a small amount labeled gType 94 ammunitionh. The two were, of course, interchangeable, though there is some evidence the loading may have been slightly different. Boxes also indicated the arsenal of production. Earlier boxes had a lot of information on the back about lot numbers, date of production, etc. This eventually was simplified to just a date stamping. I have recently purchased one original 8mm cartridge box, which is shown below. The rest of the photos are provided here through the generosity of an American friend, Mr. Dale Crabtree. Many variations exist. Here are just a few.


Type 14-Tokyo Second Arsenal

            Tokyo Second Arsenal cartridge boxes are generally older and scarcer than those from Tokyo First Arsenal. Here is a picture of the top of a box. At the far left is the arsenal symbol, which is supposed to represent a flaming bomb.

(Photo courtesy of the Dale Crabtree Collection)


            This close-up shows the writing more clearly. The large line of characters in the centre says: ju-yon-nen-shiki-ken-ju-jip-po (ju-go-hatsu), or gType 14 handgun ammunition (15 rounds)h. The small line of type at the top says Showa 10 nen 3 gatsu , meaning gShowa 10 year 3 monthh, or March, 1935. (Showa is the name for Emperor Hirohitofs reign; add 1925 to a Showa year to get the year according to the Western style calendar). The bottom line starts with the character yaku, short for kayaku, or gunpowder, indicates the year and month as Showa 9, 7th month, or July, 1934, and ends with ita (gsheth or gtrayh) number 50. My best guess is that the gtrayh is probably a reference to what we would call a batch number.

(Photo courtesy of the Dale Crabtree Collection)


           The bottom of the box is a bit more mysterious. I can read every character, but I donft know the significance of them, except that I have read that they deal with lot numbers, etc. Assuming these markings are to be read left to right (see below), the first line is 9-e. E means gfifthh, so this is ambiguous to me. All the boxes seem to have this e character, but even my Japanese housemate is mystified by it. The second line says hachi-roku-nana, geight-six-sevenh.  Then there is Western-style 8. The final line is zero-ni-hachi, or gzero-two-eighth.

(Photo courtesy of the Dale Crabtree Collection)



Type 14-Tokyo First Arsenal (early type)

            Here is the top of  a Tokyo First Arsenal box made when labelling was still very comprehensive (see below for a later box with simplified labelling). The first line of writing says: ju-yon-nen-shiki-ken-ju-jip-po, meaning gType 14 handgun ammunitionh. The second line says gju-go-hatsuh, meaning g15 roundsh. The star is the symbol of Tokyo First Arsenal.

(Photo courtesy of the Dale Crabtree Collection)

            Here is the bottom of that box. At the top there are two columns of four characters each. The right column says ju-yon-nen-shiki, meaning gType 14h. The left column says ken-ju-jip-po, meaning ghandgun ammunitionh. Then there is g13h and that mysterious character e. Below that 3-0-0-8 in Japanese characters (right to left). Then 52 (left to right) in Western style numerals, then 0-2-8 in Japanese characters and finally the date, Sho (short for Showa) 13.8, or August, 1938.

(Photo courtesy of the Dale Crabtree Collection)


Type 14-Tokyo First Arsenal (late type)

            Later boxes from the same arsenal had much less information on the labelling. This is the only original cartridge box I have in my own collection so far. The first line of writing says: ju-yon-nen-shiki-ken-ju-jip-po, meaning gType 14 handgun ammunitionh. The second line says gju-go-hatsuh, meaning g15 roundsh. The star is the Tokyo First Arsenal symbol. In other words, the top looks just the same as the earlier box shown above. The bottom, shown further below, however, is much simpler.


            The box is in very rough shape, but I was glad just to find one at all. Besides, the fact it is in broken apart in a couple of places actually allows for some interesting study of the box construction (therefs a silver lining to every cloud). Here is a side view.


Here is a shot of the one end.


            With the top removed you can see the strip that was attached to one end to tear the package open. In this case it was not used and remains intact, so one can see how it was attached.


            Here is the strip from the top. The actual cloth ends about where the first cartridge from the right in the top is primer side up. The rest is just paper that tore off the underside of the box lid (you can see this bit of paper missing from the underside of the lid).


Here is the bottom. It just says Sho 20.1, short for Showa 20.1, or January, 1945.


This is a close-up of the ammo in the box, which is the later, copper-jacketed type (earlier rounds had silver-coloured cupro-nickel jackets).

Type 94-Tokyo First Arsenal:

            The writing on the top of this box is the same as the ones above except the first two characters are kyu-yon (94) rather than the first three on the boxes above, ju-yon-nen (14 year).

(Photo courtesy of the Dale Crabtree Collection)


            Again there are two columns, with three characters on the right and four characters on the left. The right says kyu-yon-shiki, gType 94h, while the left says ken-ju-jip-po, or ghandgun ammunitionh. Below that 13-e, 3-0-2-3 (left to right), 33, 0-2-8 (left to right), and the date Sho (short for Showa) 14.1, or January, 1939. Apparently almost all boxes labeled Type 94 are dated Showa 14 (1939), although Derby & Brown indicate that at least one dated Showa 13.12, or December, 1938 is known.

(Photo courtesy of the Dale Crabtree Collection)


9mm Japanese revolver cartridge boxes

            Ammunition in 9mm Japanese revolver calibre was labeled gType 26 handgun ammunitionh. Boxes held 50 rounds and were about 100mm X 50mm X 33mm. Here is a fifty-round box from Tokyo Army Arsenal.

(Photo courtesy of the Dale Crabtree Collection)


            The close-up below shows the characters on the label a bit better. The gfour cannonballsh symbol of Tokyo Army Arsenal is in the centre. In an arc around the top of that symbol it says from right to left ni-ju-roku-nen-shiki--ken-ju, or gType 26 handgunh. The two characters below the symbol are jip-po, or ammunition. The bottom line says (right to left) go-ju-hatsu, or g50 roundsh. The top two lines are a little hard to make out, but comparing them to a photo in a book, both read from right to left. The top one says Mei-ji-sanju-kyu-nen-ju-gatsu-chosei, gmanufactured in October, Meiji 39h, or October, 1906. Below that is rai-kan-Mei-ji-sanju-kyu-nen-ju-gatsu-sei, indicating the date that the primers (raikan) were made, which was also October, 1906.

(Photo courtesy of the Dale Crabtree Collection)


7mm Nambu cartridge boxes

            Cartridges for the 7mm Baby Nambu also came in boxes of 50. They measured 90mm X 47mm X 29mm. The symbol of Tokyo First Arsenal, the star, is in the centre of the one shown below. The arc of writing above it reads from left to right and says ko-gata-ji-do-ken-ju, or gsmall size automatic handgunh (the moniker gBabyh is a product of post-war collectors; the Japanese just referred to this pistol as the gsmall sizeh. The two characters in an arc below the star say jip-po, or gammunitionh. The large characters across the bottom say go-ju-hatsu, or 50 rounds. Go-ju, or fifty, is written in a non-standard way with the characters for five and zero rather than five and ten as would be normal in Japanese.

(Photo courtesy of the Dale Crabtree Collection)

The back has a simple stamp Sho (short for Showa) 19.7, indicating production in July, 1944.

(Photo courtesy of the Dale Crabtree Collection)


***Many thanks to Dale Crabtree for providing most of the photos for this section***


.32 ACP cartridge box

            The Japanese manufactured ammunition in several gforeignh calibres. .32ACP (7.65mm ACP) seems to have been by far the most common, although today all such cartridges are rare. Even rarer is this original Japanese box for .32 ACP cartridges. A similar one in better condition is shown on page 298 of the Derby & Brown book.


The top of the box has a now-illegible red stamp, a circular label and the line go-ju-hatsu (50 rounds) at the bottom.


            That circular label has the Tokyo First Arsenal symbol in the centre. The markings read clockwise and start about 7 ofclock, after the dot: mo-shiki-chu-gata-ken-ju-dan-yaku, i.e. gMauser-Type medium-sized pistol cartridgesh. In between the dots at 5 and 7 ofclock are the two characters jip-po, i.e. glive roundsh.


The bottom of the box is also marked.


            The markings have two vertical columns of four characters each at the top. They are read right column, then left column: mo-shiki-chu-gata-ken-ju-jip-po (Mauser-Type medium-sized pistol live rounds). Then there are two horizontal rows: 03, with the three written in kanji, and then 302 in Western-style numerals. The bottom two rows appear to be the date. The single character second from the bottom is Tai as in Taisho. The bottom has eight written in Kanji and nine written in Western style. This would seem to indicate a manufacturing date of Taisho 8, ninth month, i.e. September, 1919.


            Japanese .32 ACP cartridges had no headstamp; examples can be seen at: Original & Collectible Ammo



Last updated: October 14, 2005. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.

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