Showa 4.2 Type 14 Photos (Tokyo Arsenal; “Kokura”)


            This 4.2 dated pistol is one I imported from the USA. I bought it in late December, 2004 and finally picked it up at the border in March, 2005.  I was quite excited to get it because it was my first Tokyo T14 and also by far the earliest one in my collection at the time. However, my excitement was somewhat tempered by the fact the seller had severely overgraded it. It was supposed to be 95-98%, but as you will see below it is nowhere near that condition. Unfortunately once I received it I could not send it back without lengthy and costly export/import procedures, so I ended up keeping it. It’s not that bad, it’s just not what I paid for.


            As you can see here, the left side is rather worse than the right. This is pretty common as the left side is the one that is up against the holster and the body, so sweat can keep the leather damp and cause corrosion.


            The cloverleaf-like mark in the top row identifies the pistol as a product of the Tokyo Arsenal. It represents a stack of four cannonballs viewed from the top. The same symbol was used by the Kokura Arsenal because it was supposed to take over from Tokyo, however the two production periods overlapped and many guns are joint products of the two arsenals. Because of this, many early sources, including the Leithe and Van Lund books, refer to all T14s with this mark as “Kokura” guns, a practice now known to be inaccurate. I’ll show below how to sort out some of the confusion. The number 4.2 represents the second month of the fourth year of the reign of the Showa emperor (Hirohito), which translates to February, 1929. Note that unlike the later guns shown on this site, there is no character sho in front of the date. This began to be added in October, 1930 (Showa 5.10).  The character to the right of the 2 in the date is an inspection marking. The serial number and date are not normally white. I applied the colour with a grease pencil to make the markings show up better when the gun is displayed.


            The character sho referred to above is this character. It is the first part of Showa, the name of Emperor Hirohito’s reign. If you look at any of the later guns on this site you will see it in front of the date, but it is not on this gun.



            The inspection mark to the right of the 2 above is hard to make out because there is some pitting around it. Here is a drawing of what it should look like.



            That symbol seems to be a stylized kanji. I am not sure which one, but my guess is it is probably me, meaning “eye”. Here is what the standard printed version of that character looks like.



                        A big part of the answer to the “Tokyo vs. Kokura” question is here on the left rear side of the frame. Note the two characters here, one on the left and one on the far right near the rear edge. The one on the left is in what the Derby & Brown book calls the “B” position, while the one on the right is in the so-called “C” position.


            Let’s look at the C position first. This is key to where the gun was assembled. All Kokura-assembled guns have the katakana symbol se in this position; Tokyo-assembled guns have a variety of other symbols (mostly stylized kanji) depending on the year (katakana are Japanese phonetic symbols; kanji are the often more complicated Chinese characters). In this case the symbol is a stylized kanji yoshi, indicating Tokyo assembly. The character used on Tokyo guns varied from year to year. Note the pitting on the edge: not what one expects on a so-called 95%+ gun!


            This is what the normal version of the character yoshi looks like. In the stylized version on the gun they have just used an oval on the bottom rather than a rectangle.


            The katakana se used in the C position on Kokura guns looks like this (in other words, a Kokura gun would have this mark instead of the yoshi):


            The character ko as in Kokura appears on the right side of many of the Kokura guns to the right of the date (at least one other character was also used). It would be where the stylized kanji me is on this gun, and looks like this:    


            Here is the character on the left, the one in the B position. It is the character higashi, meaning “east”. It is also pronounced to as in Tokyo. Markings in this position usually indicate where a gun was repaired. As explained at the very bottom of this section, there was a big recall in 1932 to retrofit shorter strikers and add a magazine safety. This mark probably indicates this gun had its recall work done at the Tokyo Arsenal.


            Here is the printed version of the character higashi/to.


            This is the model marking on the left rear of the frame: ju-yon-nen-shiki, or “Year 14 Type”. This is a reference to the year the design was finalized (Taisho 14, or 1925; production didn’t begin until late 1926). Note that the markings are more lightly stamped than on later guns. Comparing the fonts across arsenals also shows slightly different styles of characters. For example, the second character from the left is yon, meaning “four”. The one on Toriimatsu guns has corners that are much squared off rather than rounded.


            This is the bottom of the tip of the barrel. It is a common place for pitting to occur on Type 14s, as was certainly the case here. The reason is simple: there are two leather blocks inside the holster to separate the gun from the spare magazine.  One is at the bottom of the holster, where the lower edge of the last inch or so of the barrel rests on it. The other block is part way up the barrel. When the holster gets wet, these leather blocks hold the dampness against the barrel and voila, pitting!


Here you can see the mid-barrel spot where the same thing happened. Again, this is not what you expect to find when you buy a gun that is supposed to be 95%+!


            Here is a close-up of the left side. 95%???!!! The lever is the safety. Forward (left in the photo) is fire, rearward (right in photo) is safe. The safety always scribes an arc in the bluing. The two characters are literally “fire” (left) and “safe” (right).


            The trigger still shows some strawing (golden colour from heat treating). You can see that it also bears the last three digits of the gun’s serial number. Although exact practices varied slightly across arsenals and over time, most parts in a Type 14 are numbered. Interchangeability is not always perfect.


Here you can see that the sear bar (upside-down L-shaped piece on the left) is also unblued on Tokyo guns. This photo shows the gun from behind, looking up.


            The magazine’s serial number, found at the bottom of the back edge, does not match the gun (the number should be the same as the last three digits of the serial number). The symbol below it is an inspection marking. It is a stylized version of the character uchi, meaning within (also pronounced nai). It is thought that this was probably the first syllable of the inspector’s family name.


This is what the standard printed version of the character uchi looks like:



            The magazine base is aluminum. Note what a clean, silver colour it is. The later magazines had pot metal bases and have a much greyer appearance.


            The left side of the grip frame also has inspection markings. The forward left side has this symbol, the kanji for three (san, also pronounced mi).


The same symbol is on the left rear edge of the grip frame (both these marks would normally be covered by the grips).


This is the standard printed version of that character.



The right grip number, 942,  doesn’t match the gun.


However, to the left of the number you can see the inspection mark yoshi ever so faintly, so it is from a Tokyo Arsenal gun.


The left grip panel has the correct number, 685, marked in pencil and also stamped into the wood. Normally one or the other method was used, not both.


This close-up shows the yoshi inspection mark somewhat more clearly. It is located to the upper left of the digit 6.


            The recall I mentioned above involved fitting a shorter striker in an attempt to reduce misfires (the spring would move the shorter, lighter striker faster). In order to fit the shorter striker, they needed to lengthen the slot in the bottom of the bolt in which the tail of the striker travels in order to allow the striker tip to go through the hole in the bolt face and reach the primer. The slot I am referring starts at the right of this photo. The striker tail is the little downward-pointing piece on the right end of the striker. Both bolt and striker are shown with the rear towards the right.


            The other main thing that was done was to retrofit a magazine safety. This is the piece shown with the tail sticking out towards the left. The little round thing on the right is a plunger, which has a compressed spring behind it. If you ever remove the magazine safety, be careful! That little plunger is under extreme spring pressure. If it hit you in the eye it could cause serious injury. Even if it misses you, the tiny little plunger has a way of shooting off into the nearest black hole and disappearing. Many guns are missing this part. Apparently the Japanese troops to whom the early pistols were issued couldn’t understand that removing the magazine did not fully unload the gun if there was round in the chamber and there were mishaps when cleaning them. Hence the recall.

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Last updated: May 18, 2005. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.