Nambu World: Showa 5.2 Tokyo Type 14 Pistol

    I got this pistol in a trade with a friend. It is nothing special in terms of external condition, with pitting on both sides and the grip, but nonetheless, like most old guns it has some interesting features.

    In this left side view you can see some major pitting in the safety area (the lever just above the trigger). The character at the left of the arrow above the safety lever means "fire" and the one at the right, "safe". The four large characters at the rear of the frame are ju-yo-nen-shiki, "Type 14". The two smaller ones below that are barely visible here but will be discussed in detail and shown in close-up later. Note that like many Type 14s this one has had an arc inscribed on the grip from the safety being rotated too far clockwise. There is nothing in the design to prevent this so most pistols have this mark. They usually also have a mark in the metal at the top of the trigger guard from the lever being rotated too far counter-clockwise, but that mark is very short so most people don't notice it.

    Here is a close-up of the markings on the right side, which are the most important ones in identifying a Type 14. The top row starts off with the logo of the Tokyo arsenal, four stacked cannonballs viewed from above (the same logo was later used by Kokura Arsenal, causing no end of confusion among collectors). The digits 10152 are the serial number. Below that, the 5.2 is the date of production. It is short for Showa 5, second month, or February, 1930 according to the Western calendar. Note that this one was made before they started putting the kanji sho in front of the digits to indicate it was the reign of Emperor Hirohito (the Showa Emperor) that they were referring to. That character was added sometime around October-November of 1930 (5.10-5.11). The small character to the right of the date is the final inspection mark. It is the kanji sada, also pronounced jo or tei. It means "righteousness", but is probably derived from the surname of the inspector. This area is called the A position for inspection marks (see below re B and C positions).

    The other marks that are key to understanding this pistol are on the left side behind the grip (referred to as the "B" and "C" positions). You can see two marks, one at the very back of the frame (far right of photo=C position) and one just behind the grip (at the left of the photo=B-position). Each of these marks is explained with close-ups below.

    All Tokyo and Kokura Type 14s have an inspection mark here in the C position, unlike those assembled by other makers. This same mark should be found on the magazine, according to a recent Banzai article by Dan Larkin. There were several different kanji used by Tokyo, while all Kokura-assembled pistols have the katakana se in this position (see my 8.11 Kokura Type 14, for example). This yoshi mark should therefore be found on this pistol's magazine near the serial number (see below).

    The other mark (B position) is this one, a stylized version of the kanji nagai (long). Inspection marks in this area on a Type 14 usually indicate the arsenal where repairs were carried out, and so are found on only a minority of Type 14s. The exception is on early Type 14s made before 1932. These were all recalled in 1932 to be retrofitted with shorter strikers and magazine safeties. Almost all pistols made before 1932, apart from a few that were missed, have at least one mark in this area, designating the arsenal where the recall retrofit was carried out. They may have more than one mark if they were repaired for other reasons. In this case, the nagai mark is reported in the Derby & Brown book to have been used by Tokyo arsenal from 1930 to 1932. That means this pistol was retrofitted in 1932 at either Tokyo Arsenal, or perhaps in the earliest days of Kokura Arsenal when it was still under Tokyo supervision.

    Remember that yoshi mark? Here it is on the magazine, just below the serial number 152 (the last three digits of the gun's number). I was really surprised to see that this pistol had a matching magazine. It is not uncommon for the later Type 14s to have a matching mag, but it is pretty unusual for such an early pistol to have a matching mag. What makes this even more surprising is that many of the other parts do not match. The magazine safety, grips and trigger guard all have the matching 152 number, but the barrel is 010 (with kanji to inspection mark used by Tokyo 1932-34), the bolt and locking block are 839 (with uchi inspection mark, used from 1930-32), the magazine release button is 662 (no visible inspection mark) and the cocking knob is unnumbered (see below). My guess is that the pistol was damaged and had the barrel/bolt/locking black assembly replaced when the gun came in for the recall work. Note that the only common date when all the inspection marks on the various parts were used is 1932, the date the recall started and the date the nagai C-position inspection mark was used (see also the striker spring guide below). The dot above the number on this mag indicates it was the spare issued with the gun.

    The striker spring guide (also called a firing pin extension) is not numbered (it was normal for them not to be numbered at Tokyo Arsenal). But it is the correct type: short and with a round shaft. Later, Kokura introduced a flat-sided shaft to prevent freeze-up in cold weather. This one has a small, faint katakana na inspection mark, used by Tokyo only  in 1932. This striker is longer than the ones originally installed with the very long strikers when the gun was made. The original guns came with 86mm strikers and 35mm guides. These were replaced during the recall with 73mm strikers and 47mm guides (like this one).

    The cocking knob has no number, indicating it was probably a later replacement done at a field depot (these were equipped with a wide variety of unnumbered parts for replacement of damaged units). Cocking knobs are one of the most commonly mismatched parts since they can be easily removed and are round-ish and spring-loaded, making them very easy to lose.

    The inspection marks on this knob are a bit of a mystery to me as they do not correspond to any of the component inspection marks listed in the Derby & Brown book for Type 14s. However, the one on the left looks like the kanji nan/nam. This literally means "south" but was also the first character in the name Nambu. Lt. Gen. Kijiro Nambu was the designer of the Type 14 (and most other Japanese weapons) and later founded a company which bore his name until it merged in late 1936. That firm did make Type 14s. This mark was also used by that maker on Type 94s in 1944-45. The new Allan & Macy book on Type 38s also indicates that the kanji nan/nam was used as an inspection mark by Mukden Arsenal in Japanese-controlled Manchuria, but they did not make Type 14s, so I am guessing the mark is probably somehow related to the Nambu company (later Chuo Kogyo). The mark on the right is also a bit mysterious as it does not look like anything I have seen before. At first I thought it might have been a poorly struck katakana to in a circle, a mark that was used on many T14 components, but that would have required an extra line and the area of the mark where that line would be is actually quite well struck yet shows no sign of the missing line. So for now maybe I should call it the "Pac-man" mark!

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Last updated: May 15, 2008. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.

 

 

 

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