Nambu World: Showa 18.12 Type 14 Photos

            I bought this pistol from a lady in Arkansas who had inherited it from her grandfather and after months of paperwork finally received it in March, 2007. I was interested in a pistol like this made by the Toriimatsu factory of Nagoya Arsenal and dated Showa 18.11 or 18.12 because it represents a combination that was only made for about two months: Second Series markings with the early-style grooved cocking knob that was used on the First Series.


            Here is the left side. It is a very nice looking pistol. The seller gave me the following information on its history: “My grandfather's name was Robert Harris and he served in the Pacific Theatre as a tail gunner on a B-29. His plane was shot down over Japan a few months before the end of the war and he spent the last days of the war as a POW. in Japan. When the prisoners were set free, he took this pistol from an officer at the camp.”


            Here is a close-up of the markings on the right side. The top line begins with the Nagoya Arsenal logo, which looks like a top-heavy 8 in a circle. The second symbol indicates the pistol is from the second series. This symbol is made up of the Japanese katakana phonetic symbol ro in a circle. It looks like a small square in a circle. It is the second “letter” in the traditional arrangement of the Japanese phonetic “alphabet”. After that comes the serial number, 3994. The lower line of markings begins with the Japanese kanji character sho, short for Showa, which indicates it was produced during the reign of the Showa Emperor (i.e. Hirohito). The 18.12 indicates more precisely that it was made during the 12th month of the 18th year of his reign, i.e. December, 1943. The last mark is a poorly struck kanji symbol na (as in Nagoya). This was a final inspection mark used by Nagoya Arsenal.


            Here is a close-up of that  early, grooved-style cocking knob. Starting the next month they switched to a round, knurled knob (see my 19.1 and later Toriimatsu pistols to see the difference). About 8,000 pistols were made during 18.11 and 18.12 with the combination of this knob and Second Series markings. The first pistols made in 18.11 had this knob and First Series markings, with serial numbers in the 97200 to 99999 range. The First Series mark looks like a small upside-down y in a circle. The series marks were used to avoid going into six-digit serial numbers. Instead they simply used a “letter” to indicate a new series and started again at serial number 1. There are some overlaps in the use of knobs in the months around this switch-over as the Japanese dumped parts into a bin and then just drew old or new parts as needed. Transitions thus often dragged out for some time until the bin got completely empty before being replenished. The Kokubunji factory of Chuo Kogyo was also making Type 14s at this time and kept using the grooved knob until they ended Type 14 production in 19.8 (August, 1944). Thus, there are three different varieties of Type 14 pistols dated 18.11: Toriimatsu First Series, Toriimatsu Second Series, and Kokubunji First Series.


            Here is the rear sight, showing the undercut sight picture typical of Toriimatsu Type 14s until about 19.1 (all other earlier makers of Type 14 pistols also used this style of sight). From 19.1 on (more or less), the rear sight notch on Toriimatsu pistols became a simpler square notch. Again, there is some overlap, with this type of undercut notch appearing on some 19.1 pistols.


            The magazine is the only part that doesn’t match. All others bear the last three digits of the gun’s serial number, except the grips, which have all four (see below). The dot above the 1 in the serial number 415 on this mag indicate it was the spare for the gun with which it was issued. Below the 1 are two overlapping marks, the kanji to as in Tokyo and the katakana ri as in Toriimatsu. Below the 5 in the lower right corner of the photo are another two overlapping symbols, an M-like mark (I think it is actually supposed to represent mountains) and a kanji na as in Nagoya. All of these are inspection marks. The to was normally used by the Kokubunji factory of Chuo Kogyo, not the Toriimatsu factory of Nagoya Arsenal. The other marks are normal Toriimatsu ones. Some magazines, like this one, have marks from both factories. It is believed they were supplied by Kokubunji to Toriimatsu on some kind of subcontractual arrangement.


As noted above, the grips are marked on the inside with all four digits of the gun’s serial number.


            Here are the striker (firing pin; top) and the striker spring guide (firing pin extension; bottom). Both are serial numbered to the gun. Earlier Toriimatsu strikers had the serial number along the side of the main body of the part; beginning around 18.11 it was moved to the tail (it is hard to see in this photo, so there is a close-up below). By the time this gun was made, striker spring guides were not always serialized.


Here is that close-up of the serial number on the striker’s tail.


            Producing a Type 14 involved a lot of complicated machining. Some parts were very thin. This shot was taken through the grip frame from the left, with the left grip panel removed. You can see that there was a part on the right side of the pistol that was so thin in one spot that it was accidentally penetrated by the machinist during manufacture.


            The finish on the pistol is very good, and the lack of internal wear indicates it was used little, if at all. There is some light pitting/rust on the base of the grip frame. This may have been due to sweat from the user’s hands. This kind of light rust or pitting is also sometimes due to poor storage conditions over the years, especially fluctuations in temperature and humidity that can cause condensation.


            There is also light “freckling” on the back strap and front strap of the grip frame. This is sort of the precursor to pitting. It is often found on grip frames due to the salt in sweat on one’s hands. When found all over a gun it is often due to poor storage conditions as above. Basement storage is notorious for causing this in climates where there are wide swings in temperature.


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Last updated: April 24, 2007. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.