Wartime Japanese Arisaka Rifle
The Japanese military went into the Second World War armed with a family of Mauser based bolt action rifles, collectively known as the Arisaka’s. Developed in the late 1890′s, the Arisaka was progressively modified through the 1940′s. Initially, the rifle was chambered in a 6.5mm cartridge, but reports from the front lines in China during the late 1930′s forced the Japanese military to shift over to a shorter, better-balanced rifle in a 7.7mm cartridge. The type 99 rifle did not completely replace the earlier 6.5mm family of rifles, and they would serve alongside each other up to the very end of the war.
The Type 99 in my collection is a war trophy brought home by my late great grandfather at the end of his brief tour overseas with the US Navy during WW2. It was made at the Nagoya arsenal, probably in the 1942-1943 time frame and does not appear to
have seen any combat use. From what was described to me by my grandfather, the rifle was heavily played with by him and his three brothers growing up, and poor storage conditions in a humid mid-western cellar caused extensive pitting and oxidizing of the blued finish. Many genuine battlefield pick-ups are in worse condition than my example.
Due to the wear and tear the rifle has suffered from, and the fact 7.7x58SR is almost impossible to find, I have not live fired this rifle. I have dry practiced with the rifle and been able to compare it to a couple other opposing designs from the era. Without being able to check practical accuracy, I will say that the rifle is very handy for the length and the time period. The trigger is heavy and the sights are not windage adjustable, which, although typical for the era, are weaknesses compared to the M1903 or M1 rifles. Both have adjustable rear sights and excellent triggers for combat rifles.
Some peculiarities that the Type 99 exhibits, include a reciprocating dust cover for the bolt, which is a very noisy piece of equipment that gives you no functional improvements. The safety is a checkered knob on the back of the bolt, which is depressed and rotated to put the safety on or take it off. Also, all of the major components (including the dust cover) are stamped with the last three digits of the serial number.
Overall, my opinion of the rifle is that it was far from crude, and, with the exception of the late war emergency “last ditch” rifles, was durable and on par with what was commonly available throughout the world at that time. Only from the American marksman’s perspective does the rifle suffer from some limitations, and the performance of Japanese troops during the war might well have proved better had there not been so much emphasis placed on the bayonet.