Nambu World: Showa 8.11 Kokura Type 14 Pistol

    I received this pistol from a friend in the USA for whom I had done a few small favours. It is a quite rare variation, so I was very thankful for his kind gift. It is rare on three counts. First, according to the production data compiled by Mr. Dan Larkin (posted elsewhere on this site), Kokura Arsenal made less than 1100 pistols in Showa 8 (1933), so 8-dated pistols are quite scarce (the Nambu company also made about 200 in Kokubunji in that year). Second, this pistol is from the start-up period at Kokura Arsenal when the guns were assembled in Kokura but under Tokyo Arsenal supervision. According to the Derby & Brown book, only about 10,400 pistols were assembled at Kokura, and of those, 4,700 were made there under Tokyo arsenal supervision (more on this below in the detailed discussion of the markings). Third, and most important, it is one of only two so far identified that were built on a Kokura-manufactured frame (most Kokura T14s were made on frames made by Tokyo Arsenal). There is more on how to identify such pistols near the bottom of the page (second-last photo).

    The left side shows the usual markings along the top of the receiver: "fire-safe" at the two ends of the arrow above the safety lever (above the trigger), and four characters denoting the model designation (Type 14) at the rear of the receiver (right side of photo). The pistol is in good shape overall, though it shows some minor pitting and some retouching with cold blue. Note also the small mark below the model designation, right by the lanyard loop at the rear of the frame. This important mark will be shown in close-up and discussed in detail below (all external markings have been "whited  in" with white grease pencil to make them show up more clearly).

        The key info on any Type 14 is on the right side at the rear of the receiver. Here we see two rows of marks. The top row with the serial number 26709 starts with the "stacked cannonball" logo used first by Tokyo Arsenal and then later by Kokura Arsenal. The fact that only Kokura was using this mark at the end of the war led collectors for many years to refer to all weapons bearing this mark as "Kokura" production. However, this is incorrect, and in fact in the case of Type 14s, far more should be called Tokyo production than Kokura production (about 25,000 to 10,000, even with a very liberal definition of "Kokura" production). However, where to draw the line between the two is a matter that can be debated, as most of the Kokura production was carried out under varying degrees of control by Tokyo Arsenal, as detailed study of inspection marks has shown. Only about 3,900 pistols made from about Showa 10.4 to 11.6 meet the strictest definition of "all Kokura independent production". This pistol is part of the transitional production when Kokura did the assembly, but under Tokyo Arsenal control. How can we tell? Well, look at the second row. It starts with the character sho (short for Showa, the name of the reign of Emperor Hirohito), and then 8.11. The numbers indicate that it was made in the 11th month of the 8th year of the reign of Emperor Hirohito, i.e. November, 1933. Then look at that small mark in the lower right (this is called the "A" position). It is the kanji to as in Tokyo. This indicates the pistol was made when Tokyo Arsenal inspectors still controlled production. Later, when Kokura became independent it used the kanji ko as in Kokura (or, briefly, the kanji hata during a short changeover period).

    Here is a close-up of that small left side marking referred to above. It is the katakana se, and indicates that the gun was assembled at Kokura. All Tokyo and Kokura Type 14s have a mark in this spot (called the "C position"). Magazines for Tokyo and Kokura pistols should always have the same inspection mark as the one in this C position, according to a recent article by Dan Larkin in Banzai.

    Fortunately, before receiving this pistol I had acquired a magazine with the proper se mark, shown below. So even though this magazine's number (700) does not match the number on the gun (it should have the last three digits, i.e. 709 in this case), at least it is a magazine from the same arsenal.

Kokura magazines also have a unique appearance, with seven cast ridges (eight grooves) and a noticeable ring-like appearance around the edge of the finger grip on the base.

    The striker spring guide (also called a firing pin extension) has flat sides, a Kokura innovation according to the Derby & Brown book. By reducing the contact area with the inside of the striker (firing pin), this helped to reduce misfires due to ice formation in cold weather. The small inspection mark visible in the middle of the flat looks a bit like a droopy version of the kanji dai, but that is not a known mark for Kokura parts like this.

    All the other parts that have inspection marks have the expected katakana se, as shown here on the inside of the left grip. The right grip also has this mark but it is very faint. Tokyo/Kokura grips were not always serialized, and this set does not appear to have any serial number, just the inspection mark.

Here it is again on the rear top of the bolt (upper right corner of photo). All the numbered parts on this pistol match except the magazine.

    The se mark is stamped on the left rear grip strap three times. The top one is easy to see, near the top of the photo. The second one is where the circular machining marks are. The third is barely visible at the bottom of the photo. There are no other inspection marks on the grip strap. These se marks indicate that the receiver (frame) was made at Kokura. There is only one other such complete pistol known with a Kokura-marked frame, an 8.9 date in the hands of an American collector. Its serial number is quite close to this one. Probably others exist but have not yet been identified.

A few parts have both the Kokura se mark and the Tokyo to mark, as shown in this photo of the bottom of the barrel. The se mark is in the upper right and the to mark is in the lower left.

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Last updated: May 16, 2008. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.