Nambu World: Arisaka Type 2 Paratroop Rifle

    The Type 2 Paratroop rifle is basically a take-down version of the Type 99 Arisaka rifle. It fires the 7.7mm X 58 Arisaka cartridge. The Japanese experimented with several versions of paratroop rifles, including ones with folding stocks and an interrupted thread-style take-down before settling on this one, which has a screw-in wedge that holds the two halves together (the system will be described in great detail below with close-up photos). The Type 2 is the only paratroop rifle that was produced in any real quantity (i.e. more than a few hundred), and even it is rare, with only about 21,200 known to have been produced. The model designation comes from the year based on the Japanese system that counted from the date of the mythological founding of the Japanese Empire by Emperor Jimmu in 660 B.C. By this system, the Western year 1942 when the gun was adopted was 2602, with the "two" becoming the model designation. Actual production began in late 1943. I was very lucky to acquire this rifle in late 2008 from the daughter of the U.S. veteran who brought it back. It came with the "bring back" document and a few other items that he brought back. These are shown further down the page together with a brief summary of the soldier's story. The gun is all matching, and although the "mum" has been ground, it appears to be in unissued condition. Immediately below is a view of the left side. Overall length is 1120mm(44-1/8"). The barrel is 649mm (25-1/16") when measured as required by Canadian law (rod down the barrel with the bolt closed).

    The Japanese did not make very extensive use of paratroopers and development of specialized weapons for them also lagged. According to the Fred Honeycutt book Military Rifles of Japan,  (pp. 134-135), the experiences of the airborne attack on Palembang in Sumatra, Dutch East Indies, February 13-15, 1942 may have provided the impetus for the Japanese to get serious about paratroop weapons. In that battle, the airborne troops were equipped with standard rifles that were dropped in separate canisters and ended up landing in swamps some distance from the men, who then had to fight with just pistols, bayonets and grenades. The exploits of this intrepid, if unlucky, unit were immortalized in a dramatic painting by Goro Tsuruta (1890-1969; Tsuruta is the surname). For more on Mr. Tsuruta, see Goro Tsuruta | IFPDA). This image appeared in a magazine and also on postcards. Here is the postcard version. The caption on the left says "Paratroopers landing in Palembang. Army sent to Sumatra region. Goro Tsuruta. With the permission of the Ministry of the Army." The back says "Issued by the Army Museum Association".

    Now I know you are dying to see how the gun comes apart, so here is a teaser: right and left shots of the gun in two pieces. In the first one you will note a screw with a D-ring through it at the front of the bottom (rear) half. Turning that is what loosens the wedge so the gun can come apart. But more on that later...

    Let's start our detailed tour with the markings. Here is the top of the receiver. As noted above, the Imperial chrysanthemum, usually shortened by collectors to the "mum", has been ground off, but you can still see some around the edges. The grinding of the mums was reportedly done to spare the Emperor the embarrassment of having his symbol fall into enemy hands (actually the Japanese always either cancelled the mum or ground it off on weapons that were withdrawn from active service in the Imperial Army or Imperial Navy, even when they were sent to allies or to other departments of the Japanese government). Below that are two kanji characters, ni-shiki, or "Type 2". The hole below that is a vent hole for gases to escape in the event of a case rupture. All Japanese rifles had this feature. The earlier Type 38s had two holes; when the Type 99 was introduced, they decided one would do (the Type 2 is a derivative of the Type 99).

    The serial number, 16776, is on the left side of the receiver. Since total production was a little over 22,000, this one was made about 3./4 of the way through the production run. The mark after the number is the Nagoya Arsenal logo. Nagoya was the only arsenal to make these rifles. The small square in the upper right of the photo is actually a partially struck kanji character na (as in Nagoya), which was used by Nagoya Arsenal as an inspection mark.

The two halves and the barrel are also marked on the left side with an assembly number, in this case 775. This number bears no relation to the serial number; it is only a coincidence that it is so close in this case.

    OK, so how do you get it apart, and what holds it together? At the far right of this photo you can see a round knob with a D-ring through it. That is the knob that you have to undo to take it apart. A couple of turns counterclockwise will do it. Then the wedge that holds the two halves together slides out to the right. If it is stuck and WD-40 or something similar won't loosen it, then you may have to undertake drastic measures. This one was completely jammed when I got it, but I think I did more than necessary to get it apart. I removed the sheet metal protective guard and the D-ring and then wrapped the knob in cloth and used a pair of pliers to get enough torque on it to turn it. I probably could have just removed the D-ring and left the protective sheet metal guard in place. Live and learn.

    Here is the connecting part of the front half. Note the indexing hole to the right of the photo (it's below the barrel when the gun is oriented normally instead of being on its side). There is a peg on the front part of the rear half that fits in that hole to line things up. Now, take a look at the bottom of the barrel. See that notch? That's what the wedge fits into to hold the two halves together. The next photo shows it from a better angle.

    In this photo taken from the right side you can see the notch very clearly. In the photo it is just below the flat metal surface that has that indexing hole in it.

    Here is the wedge in the "out" position. You can also see the sheet metal guard that surrounds this whole area and is held on by a screw that you see just above and to the right of the wedge. At the extreme right of the photo you can also see part of the peg that fits into that indexing hole on the front half.

This photo shows the groove in which the wedge travels. You can also see the indexing peg at the bottom.

Here the peg is half-way across the groove in which it travels. That indexing peg is again at the bottom of the photo.

Now let's take a tour from the muzzle to the butt of the rifle. You can see here that the front sight is protected by metal ears. The tip of the cleaning rod is also visiible, and at the very bottom, the stud for fixing the bayonet.

Here's a close-up of the ears and the front sight.

On the bottom you can see that the bayonet stud is marked with the last three digits of the rifle's serial number, 776. That little square button at the far left is the cleaning rod release.

Here;s the cleaning rod, which is 541 mm (21-5/16") long.

Here's the interesting part that sticks out the front when it is in place on the gun. This includes the slot for cleaning patches at the far right and the recessed segment for the cleaning rod retaining spring at the far left.

The other end is threaded. This is not for screwing into the gun (a spring retains the rod), but rather for attaching accessories like a cleaning brush.

Here;s a close-up of the recessed segment that the retaining spring fits into.

The rear sight is graduated to 1500 metres. Note the AA (anti-aircraft) wings. These were deleted on later specimens, with the switchover occurring gradually between around serial 14000 and 18000.

    Here are those wings in action. The idea of having riflemen shooting at planes was taken seriously enough that I have many period photos showing groups of soldiers practicing doing so. As far as I can determine, nobody thought that a single guy with a rifle was going to shoot down a B-29. However, a large group of 50 or more soldiers all shooting in volleys at a low-flying plane might be enough to dissuade a pilot from swooping in to strafe the group, I suppose.

    This top view of the rear sight shows the numbers better. The numbers on the wings were supposed to correspond to the speed of the aircraft in hundreds of kilometers per hour. Obviously the faster the plane, the more the shooter had to lead the plane to have any chance of hitting it.

There is also a peep sight for quick aiming at normal battlefield distances.

    Here is a shot of the top of the rifle.


    This is a shot of the bottom of the gun. Note the whole in the bottom of the stock at the far right, just forward of the area where the two halves join. This was to drain water out of the stock if it got wet so the water would not get trapped there and rust the barrel.

Just to the rear of the lower tang is a stock inspection mark. It is applied so that to be read properly the gun should be held muzzle up.

Here is the mark rotated into the proper orientation. It is the kanji na, as in Nagoya, and was a standard inspection mark of Nagoya Arsenal.

Now let's take a look at the action. Here's the right side.

Top view. Note the plum shaped knob on the bolt handle and the Mauser-style bolt release (upper left of photo). You can also see where the stripper clip of ammo would fit in (the front of the bridge just ahead of the bolt handle).

The safety was still made with the elaborate radial checkering. The notch is the position indicator. The safety is off in this photo.

    Here are two shots of the safety. On the left the safety is in the off ("fire") position, while on the right the safety is in the "on" ("safe") position. Note the positions of the indicator notches; straight up is the "safe" position. HOWEVER YOU SHOULD NEVER RELY ON THE SAFETY ON ANY FIREARM. ALWAYS TREAT THE GUN AS IF IT WERE LOADED AND READY TO FIRE! If you have a matching Arisaka, the safety will probably go into the on and off positions fairly readily. However, if the gun is not matching, you may have a lot more trouble and it may not go into the safe position at all. This is because the guns were made with a lot of hand fitting and so the lug a non-matching safety may just not fit into the appropriate notch. This one matches and so the safety works easily. A lot of people think Arisaka safeties are way too stiff, but this is usually because they are not operating them correctly. Engaging the safety requires compressing the firing pin spring, which is quite powerful. So the trick is to use the heel of your hand, not your finger tips. Hold the gun by the small of the stock in your left hand and use the heel of your right hand (the lower part of the palm near the wrist) to twist it on and off. That way you are using the strength of your arm, not just your fingers. Easy once you know how.

Here's a top view of the "off" (left) and "on" (right) safety positions.

Here is how the bolt release opens. Just pull the front of the lever outwards.

Here is a rear view with the bolt removed.

The bolt, right side as it comes out of the gun with handle upwards. That flat piece running along the side is the extractor.

In this close-up you can see the serial number on the bolt handle and extractor.

Here's the left side as it comes out of the gun.

A bottom view.

    To strip the bolt, just give the safety knob a quarter turn. It comes off and the rest of the parts slide out. This photo shows the extractor (top), bolt body (centre), safety (lower left), firing pin (lower right) and firing pin spring (bottom right).

The other side  of the same parts.

In this close-up of the trigger guard you can see the magazine floor plate release just in front of the trigger (right of the trigger in the photo).

Pulling backwards on the release allows the magazine floor plate, spring and follower to swing downwards. The mag holds five rounds.

This shot shows the hinge mechanism.

The bottom of the forestock shows this insert. It would have been put in when the gun was made to deal with an imperfection in the wood such as a knot.

    Although the gun shows essentially no wear and appears unissued, 60 plus years of travels and storage take their toll. It has the usual small scratches and dings, some light rust in a couple of spots and on the left side, this strange discoloration of the wood, which appears to be a burn of some kind.


    On the right side of the action there is also this strange group of scratches. Given their long, continuous, back-and-forth pattern, I suspect this happened during shipment at some point, when it rattled up and down against something sharp and hard like a staple.

There is a groove in the stock above the rear sling swivel that appears to be there to allow for clearance for a hook type attachment.

The butt plate is what collectors call the "cupped" design.

    This is the "bring-back" document for this rifle. US servicemen required such a letter to authorize them to bring back war trophies. This one was made out to Sgt. Chester D. Stripling and signed by Infantry Captain Owen W. Skreen. It bears the seal of the 387th Infantry Regiment. From Sgt. Stripling's daughter I learned that his ship was headed for the Pacific Theatre, but when Japan surrendered he ended up in Tokyo. He acquired the rifle while serving in the early part of the US Occupation of Japan. I have a separate letter from her attesting that this document was issued in connection with this rifle, since the document itself does not include a serial number (many did not).  

    The bottom half of the document just repeats the information on the upper half, so let's zoom in on the upper half so it is easier to read.

 References on the Type 2 Paratroop Rifle

    There has not been a lot published on this scarce gun, but here are the references I have found:

Military Rifles of Japan, Fifth Revised Edition, by Fred L. Honeycutt, Jr. and F. Patt Anthony (Julin Books, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, 1996), pp. 134-135, 142-143.

The Japanese Type 99 Arisaka Rifle: A Guide for the Collector and Historian, Second Edition-2007, Banzai Special Project #11, edited by Doss White and Don Voigt, p. 95.

Japanese Military Small Arms and Equipment by Shigeo Sugawa (Kokusho Kanko: Tokyo, 1995), pp. 98-100. (Text in Japanese but with English captions on photos).

Japanese Parachute Troops, Normount Technical Publications, Wickenburg, AZ, pp. 46-47. This is a reprint of a US Army manual under the "Combat Bookshelf" imprint.

Japanese Infantry Weapons, CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin No. 55-45, 15 March 1945, United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, pp. 16-17 (This publication erroneously refers to the coupling mechanism as an interrupted thread, which was the mechanism used on the earlier Type 100 rifle. Earlier US publications by this name, such as the widely reprinted Special Series No. 19 dated 31 December 1943, did not include the Type 2, probably due its introduction late in the war).

Shoju kenju kikanju nyumon [Introduction to rifles, handguns and machine guns] by Jiro Sayama (Kojinsha: Tokyo, 2000), pp. 117-119. (in Japanese, but there are several photos).

Links on the Type 2 Paratroop Rifle

Here is a link to a site with photos of the Type 2 Paratroop rifle:

—คใ•บŠํi“๑Žฎฌej (in Japanese)

Bayonets for the Type 2 Paratroop Rifle

    The Type 2 takes a standard Type 30 bayonet, and photos suggest that is what it was most often used with. Given that these rifles were produced late in the war, the straight crossguard variations of the Type 30 would be the most suitable to mate with them rather than the earlier hooked quillon types. This straight guard bayonet with blued blade made by Matsushita Kinzoku under Kokura Arsenal supervision would be a typical example of a bayonet that is a rough match in terms of period and style.

Here it is mounted on the rifle. The rifle and bayonet together are 150 cm long (about 59").

Two close-up views of how the bayonet attaches to the rifle.

This rifle is also often associated with a short version of knife-bayonet previously now known as the Test Type 1 (there was also a "Special Purpose Test Type 1" that showed some German influences). Prior to the publication of the LaBar book, these weapons were erroneously referred to as the "Type 100 Bayonet" because it was thought they were made for use with the Type 100 machine gun.  They were made by Toyoda Automatic Loom Works. I am working on a deal to get both versions, but don't have them yet. When I get them, probably in late 2009, I will post photos here. Until then, you can also get more details on these two short bayonets in the following two books on Japanese bayonets:

Bayonets of Japan: A Comprehensive Reference on Japanese Bayonets, by Raymond C. LaBar (Raymar Inc., Tunnel Hill, Georgia, 2007), pp. 88-92. (this is the newer of the two books. It is both easier to get and much more comprehensive)

Japanese Bayonets: The Definitive Work on Japanese Bayonets 1870 to the Present, by Larry Johnson (Cedar Ridge Publications, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma: 1988). pp. 30-38. (out of print for many years and very hard to find, but many people still refer to it if they have one since the LaBar book is so new some people don't even know it is out yet).

Here is a link to a website with photos of one of the short knife/bayonets, which the site refers to as a "Type 2":

“๑ŽฎeŒ• Type 2 bayonet (in Japanese)

Other Type 2 Accessories

   There were special ammo pouches for paratroopers. I don't have one, but they had numerous small pouches on a belt instead of the standard "two-small-in-front, one-large in back" set of pouches used by the regular infantry. There is a line drawing from a period manual on page 226 of the Derby and Brown book Japanese Military Cartridge Handguns 1893-1945.

More on Japanese Paratroopers:

There is a great DVD of a period propaganda film on paratroop training. It is only in Japanese (no sub-titles) and you have to have a Japanese or region-free DVD player to run it, but the images are well worth it.

The title is Sora no shinpei: Rikugun rakkasanbutai kunren no kiroku ("Divine soldiers of the sky: Record of the Training of Army Paratroop Units"). You can get a copy in Tokyo at the bookshop in Yushukan, the museum associated with Yasukuni Shrine. I think I have also seen it in major Japanese bookstores. It is number 12 in a series of these re-issues of Japanese war-time propaganda movies about the military.

  Last updated: September 1, 2009. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.

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