Nambu World: Showa 19.6 Nationalist Chinese-Marked Type 94 Photos

            I got this pistol in May, 2007 as part of a multi-gun estate purchase. For the most part it is a pretty plain pistol, a common date/variant in nice but not mint condition. What is interesting about it is the markings that you see just above the grip on the right side. They are discussed in more detail below.


            Here is the left side. All Japanese weapons got cruder looking as the war progressed and maximizing production took precedence over cosmetic factors like exterior polishing, but the Type 94 seems to have been affected by this tendency earlier and more severely than most. This gun was made in mid-1944, whereas US bombing had relatively minor effects on Japanese industry until late 1944. The safety, which is the lever on this side just in front of the lanyard loop, is a little loose on this one. It seems to stay in the “safe position” fairly well, but can easily swing into the safe position from “fire” with a little jiggling. Note the very poor fit at the front of the exposed sear bar (the lever that starts above the trigger and runs horizontally back to a dog-leg just in front of the safety). This is the infamous spot where sufficient pressure can cause the gun to fire without pulling the trigger.


            Here is an overview shot of the markings on the right side that tell the gun’s history: the date in the lower left, the serial number in the lower right and the non-standard markings in the middle.


            The date 19.6 refers to the sixth month of the 19th year of the reign of Emperor Hirohito. The character in front of the number is the kanji character sho, short for Showa, which was the name of Hirohito’s reign. The two symbols below that are the Nagoya Arsenal logo (lower left; looks like a top-heavy 8 in a circle) and the company logo of Chuo Kogyo, the actual manufacturer. The Chuo Kogyo logo was a stylized version of the character Nan/Nam, as in Nambu. Lt. Gen. Kijiro Nambu, Japan’s most prolific small arms designer, had founded a predecessor firm that merged with others to form Chuo Kogyo and was an executive advisor to and shareholder in Chuo Kogyo. The reddish cast in this photo is due to some quirk in the photography process that Photoshop didn’t want to fix.


            The serial number is above the trigger on the right side. Serial numbers on Type 94s run up to just above 71000. Note the very crude surface of the metal in front of the serial number. It almost obscures the small inspection mark at the far left, the kanji to as in Tokyo. You can also see a small chip in the top front of the right grip panel, just below the two 5s in the serial number. This seems to be a common spot for the grips to chip. The grips on Type 94s were made of bakelite, an early plastic, until around 19.7, when they started to use wood (for a time before and after that date both were used).


            Here is that mark in the middle, turned 90 degrees so the orientation is correct (the characters are designed to be read vertically from the top down, with the muzzle held upwards). The top character means “country” or “nation/national” and the second means “army”, so together they mean “National Army”. In Japanese they would be pronounced kokugun. This is a valid term in Japanese, but it was not common (kogun, “Imperial Army”, was the preferred usage), and it was certainly not the kind of official term that would be engraved on military property. However, this was the third time I had seen this marking, so it made me think there must be some history to it rather than it being the random act of someone trying to enhance the value of their gun.


            The first time I saw this was in the spring of 2006, when I encountered this deactivated 19.1 dated Type 14 pistol in Vancouver, BC, Canada. It is now in the hands of an Edmonton, Alberta collector who has had the markings polished off. You can see them just above the grip.


            Here is a close-up rotated into proper orientation. Unfortunately I don’t have very good photos of this one as I did not recognize the significance at the time. It is undoubtedly the same characters applied in the same way, though. Another collector in the US reports having seen these markings on other Japanese pistols before, including Papa Nambus.


            Later in 2006 I was contacted by a New Zealand collector who had these markings on his Type14. He sent this photo, which is clearer than the one above. When I bought the Type 94, I decided I needed to dig into this, since the chances of three firearms of two different models appearing thousands of miles apart was unlikely unless there was originally some central source. Eventually I found on Wikipedia that the Nationalist Chinese army from 1925-1949 had an official name that was often abbreviated to these two characters (see National Revolutionary Army - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). Although I am not trained in Chinese, I believe the Chinese pronunciation of the two characters would be gu\-jăn. Although I am not totally comfortable with the reliability of Wikipedia as a source, this seemed like the only confirmation I could get. Since the markings on all three guns appeared to have been made with an electric pencil, I also tried to determine when this device was invented, to see whether it matched the time period. I was not able to get a definitive date, but I did find en eBay listing for one made by the Lodi Manufacturing Company of Lodi, California that looked quite old. It had the old, fabric-wrapped style of electric cord and a clamp for an electrical connection.


            Here is the gun with the slide and bolt locked back. Like all other Japanese military pistols, the Type 94 lacked a separate hold-back device, so the bolt locked back on the follower when the magazine ran dry. This made removing the magazine to reload slow and difficult, especially under wet or muddy conditions when the magazine base was hard to grip.


            When the bolt is back, the locking block disappears back and down into its recess in the frame: note the empty area behind the notch in the slide shown here.


            When the bolt goes forward into the firing position, the locking block moves forward and upward into the locked position. This can be seen from the outside if you look at that same little notch. This was not a very strong locking mechanism, one of a number of design weaknesses in the pistol.


            The magazine serial number does not match, but all the other numbers do (last three digits of gun’s serial number on all major parts). The dot above the number 714 indicates this was the spare magazine for the gun with which it was issued. The little character in the lower left is the kanji to as in Tokyo, an inspection mark.


            The crossbolt (upper left), locking block (upper right) and firing pin (bottom) all have the correct numbers, 116. The first 1 in the number on the firing pin looks like a cross because it was stamped over top of an inspection mark.


            The tip of the firing pin has broken off and the firing pin spring was missing when I got it. I replaced the spring with one from Wolff Gunsprings.


            The side of the firing pin has the kanji inspection mark sha, as in kaisha (company). This mark replaced the N that the company had used when ultra-nationalists pressured companies to eliminate the use of English symbols.


            This shot shows the location of the serial numbers on the slide (left), barrel (middle) and bolt (right). The two lugs on the bottom of the barrel that are visible in this photo fit around the locking block.


            On the bottom of one barrel lug are two identical inspection marks. Both are the kanji to as in Tokyo. Although the Chuo Kogyo factory that produced Type 94s was nominally under the supervision of Nagoya Arsenal, its main factory was in Kokubunji, a Western suburb of Tokyo. As a result, throughout most of the Type 94’s production history, it is believed that inspectors from Tokyo Arsenal actually performed the inspections, hence this mark.


Here is a better shot of the sha mark, this time on the left side of the bolt.


            The sha inspection mark on the left side of the frame, to the rear of the grip frame, in an area that would normally be covered by the grips. This one is poorly struck, so the lower left portion of the character is not visible.


Removing the grip revealed a couple of small chips on the inside of the bottom of the grip.


            The sha inspection mark on the right side of the grip frame, just below the arsenal and company logos. This would normally also be covered by the grip panel.


            On the right side of the frame near the front, below the barrel, is this inspection mark. It looks like an M, but I suspect it may have been intended to represent mountains. This design is frequently found, sometimes repeated in a long string, on other military items.


            The inside of the right grip has a little brass pin embedded in the bakelite to assist in holding the grip in place.


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Last updated: May 22, 2007. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.