Papa Nambu Photos (Tokyo Gas & Electric 2nd Variation Naval Contract)

            This gun came from an on-line auction in the US. An author friend who needed a Papa for short-term study bought it with a prior agreement to sell it to me when he was done. Overall it is in beautiful condition compared to most Papas. This side view shows several of the features that distinguish the Papa from the much more common Type 14. The Papa has a tangent rear sight, a different cocking knob, checkered (not grooved) grips, a grip safety on the front of the grip frame, a swiveling (rather than fixed) lanyard loop and the finger grip area on the magazine base is checkered rather than grooved. This one is referred to by Derby & Brown as a second variation naval-contract pistol (circa 1916-1923). You can see the naval anchor marking to the left of the serial number.


            The left side shows another differentiating feature: the Papa has a single recoil spring housed in a channel the protrudes from the left side of the frame (the bump that runs along the top of the frame). The Type 14 has two recoil springs that fit into recesses in the sides of the bolt and therefore has a symmetrical cross-section.


            The top row of the markings on the right side reads from right to left: Nam-bu-shiki, i.e. Nambu-type. Although people tend to refer to all Japanese pistols as “Nambus”, actually only Grandpas, Papas and Babys bear the Nambu-type designation. Off to the left is the naval anchor marking. This is called a Type B anchor marking, which is fairly deep and has a V-shaped bottom. The earlier, Type A marking is shallower and more rounded on the bottom. In this close-up you can see that although this is a beautiful gun in much better than average condition for a Papa, there are still a few light “freckles” here and there. These don’t really show up in full-size photos; you really need extreme close-ups to get a good handle on the condition of the finish. The markings appear white because they have been highlighted by filling them in with a white grease pencil (sometimes called a china marker). Collectors often do this when displaying guns so you can see the markings more easily. It comes off with any solvent like gun cleaner or mineral spirits (paint thinner). Some people use talc or chalk, but I would never use these due to the risk of abrasion to the finish. A grease pencil is just soft grease and so will not harm the finish. You dip it in solvent to soften it before applying, then wipe off the excess with a finger tip.


On top of the chamber is the logo of Tokyo Gas & Electric.


            This view of the top rear of the pistol with the bolt locked back shows the features that differentiate the Papa from the Type 14 a little better. Note the tangent sight graduated up to 500 metres, the asymetrical cocking knob, and the recoil spring guide rod that is housed in the bump along the left side (bottom of photo). If you look carefully, you can also see a little silver-coloured tab projecting below the bolt, about half way between the rear of the frame and the cocking knob. This is the tail of the striker, which projects from the left side of the bolt on the Papa (and Baby), rather than the bottom as on the Type 14.


            Here is another view of the bolt, this time removed from the pistol. This one shows the left side, with the tail of the striker sticking out of the slot in which it travels. The same slot is in the bottom of a Type 14 bolt. Note the notch in the bottom of the bolt. That is for the upper lug of the locking block (see below).


            The left side has only this small, two-character marking. Again, it is read from right to left: riku-shiki. That means “Army-type”, which is ironic since the Imperial Japanese Army never adopted the Papa (the Navy did, in 1909). Another, rarely used term for the Papa is the Nambu Pistol, Type A modified. In that nomenclature, the Grandpa is the Type A and the Baby is the Type B.


            This little checkered “button” on the left side is the cause of much confusion. It is not a safety, as many people assume: the only safety on a Papa is the grip safety. It is actually the head of the sear bar retainer pin. The arrow is to indicate alignment, not direction of movement (the pin does not move side to side). Misunderstanding of this point has led many people to damage pistols by trying to force the button to move in the direction of the arrow.


            One of the beautiful decorative features on Papas and Babys is the radial checkering on the back of the bolt lock and striker spring guide. Similar checkering is found on the back of the safeties on early Arisaka rifles.


            If you are thinking of buying a Papa or other Japanese pistol that looks pretty good, there are two places you should always examine carefully. One is the left side of the pistol. This usually gets more pitting because it is the side that was held close to the body, where sweat often kept the holster wet. On this pistol the worst spot on the finish is right at the front of the recoil spring housing along the left side—exactly the part that sticks out the furthest and would be in most frequent contact with the sweat-soaked holster.


            The other spot to look is the grip safety, or on guns without them (e.g. Type 14s), the grip itself. This again is an area that is often in contact with sweat. Almost all guns have some pitting in these areas, so discovering it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy the gun, but it may give you a bargaining point with the seller, especially if he hasn’t noticed it before.


            Here’s something most people don’t know about Papa Nambus. Note the flat panel behind the grip on the right side of this pistol. Compare it to the panel on one of my Tokyo Arsenal Papas in the next photo. Lanyard loops are another area where there is often pitting due to the cotton lanyard retaining moisture and holding it in contact with the metal.


            Here you can see that the Tokyo Arsenal gun has a milled recess in this panel, while my TGE gun does not. Tokyo Arsenal made one-piece Papa frames, while TGE made two-piece frames. The way you can tell which one a gun has is by looking at this little panel. If the gun has a flat panel, it has a two-piece TGE-made frame (above), while a milled recess in the panel indicates a one-piece Tokyo Arsenal-made frame (below). TGE made some of its Papa Nambus on Tokyo Arsenal, one-piece frames, so you can’t asume all TGE guns have the two-piece TGE frame.


            I knew about the two-piece TGE frames, but until I got this gun I did not know how they were constructed: were the two pieces top and bottom, left and right, or what? Here you can see the answer. With the right grip removed you can see the seam where the two halves were joined. It runs horizontally just above the magazine latch (the silver-coloured round thing on the right side of the photo).


The left side has a similar seam.


This extreme close-up shows the seam on the front half of the left side of the grip (wooden grip panel removed).


This is the left rear part of the seam.


With the gun tilted, from the right side you can see the seam crossing through the magazine well.


Almost all the parts on this Papa are serialized with the full four-digit serial number on the gun, including the insides of both grip panels.


The rear end of the striker has these tiny little numbers.


            This is the number on the bottom of the bolt to the rear of the gun. It can be viewed without disassembly just by pulling the bolt back and looking at the bottom. On the left of the photo is the notch in the bottom of the bolt into which the locking block fits when the bolt is in battery (forward position).


            The locking block is numbered on the left side. The lug on the top fits into the aforementioned notch in the bottom of the bolt. The tail on the lower left engages a spring that fits horizontally into the frame to operate the locking block.



            With the gun upside down and grip panels removed, from the right side you can see the serial number on the magazine latch even without removing it.


            The number on the cocking knob is on the front face and can be easily viewed just by pulling the bolt back. Here I rotated the knob so it would stay back for me to take the photo.


Even the tangent sight has these tiny little number underneath!


            The recoil spring guide has its number on the front end. You have to take it out to see the number. Most people are not aware that the front tip of the bolt lock/striker spring guide of Papa and Baby Nambus fits into a recess in the front of the recoil spring guide so you can push it back far enough that the cocking knob rotates freely and can be screwed off. I usually use a short piece of wooden dowelling instead to avoid any risk of scratches.


The bolt lock & striker spring guide has its number on the shaft.


The barrel assembly is numbered on the bottom just in front of the hole for the magazine well. Disassembly is required to see it.


Just to the rear of the hole for the magazine well is the ejector, which is also numbered.


            The only part on this gun that is not matching is the magazine. The person who auctioned this gun tried to make a big deal fo the fact the last three digits of the serial number on the mag matched the last three digits of the serial number of the gun. However, while this is an interesting coincidence, it is completely meaningless. In fact, Tokyo Gas and Electric never made any guns in the 6000 serial range, so this mag is from Tokyo Arsenal: not only not from the same gun, but not even the same manufacturer! I am not aware of any way to tell which of the two makers of Papa Nambus made a magazine apart from the fact that certain serial ranges were only made by one maker or the other. Most of the serial numbers were made by both makers, so not all mags can be indentified this way. Tokyo Arsenal started making Papas around serial number 2400 and went to around 7050. TGE started at 1 and went to 4999, then made some in the 8000 to 8700 range. So if a Papa mag has a number below 2400 or in the 8000 range it must be TGE. If it is in the 5000 to 7050 range it must be Tokyo Arsenal. If it is in between 2400 and 5000, it could be either. If anybody knows another way to be more definitive, please let me know. There may be differences in the fonts used in stamping the serial numbers or something.


            I was really pleased to get this beautiful gun. A Papa in this condition is a very nice addition to any collection.


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Last updated: June 6, 2006. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.