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Artifact Friday: The Type 14 Nambu pistol

In the early 1900s, Kijirõ Nambu began developing a new type of pistol for the Japanese Navy and Army.

As an Imperial officer in the Japanese Navy, he understood the need for a better firearm, especially for the officers, of the Imperial war machine.

Reports came from Europe of a new semiautomatic called the Mauser C96. It was a semiautomatic pistol developed by the German Empire, and Kijirõ Nambu decided to base his new design on this pistol.

The first Nambu to emerge from Koishikawa Arsenal (Tokyo Artillery Arsenal) was the Type A or “Grandpa Nambu”.

This pistol was large and expensive to manufacture, thus the Japanese military never adopted it. There were later versions including the Type A (modified) and the Type B “Baby Nambu”.

However, these were not as well utilized as the one featured today which is the Type 14.

This Nambu was christened Type 14 because it was produced during the fourteenth year of the Taishō era (1926).

The Type 14 was easier and more economical to produce than its predecessors. Thus, it became a standard issue for Japanese non-commissioned military officers by 1927 and a must-purchase for commissioned military officers.

The Type 14 had the typical Nambu long barrel and a slightly angled grip which made chambering the ammunition in combat difficult.

One of the only complaints that was issued against the pistol was that the original Type 14s had a small trigger guard which was modified later.

From 1927 to 1945, between 200,000 to 400,000 Type 14 pistols

were produced. The exact number is unclear because Japanese soldiers considered their weapons to be the property of the Emperor; thus, many officers would destroy their Nambus rather than have them end up with American service members. 

Type 14 Nambu pistols were collected during the island-hopping campaign by Americans and brought home after the war.

The design impressed American firearm companies including the Ruger Firearm company which based its Ruger Standard Auto pistol on the Nambu.

Type 14 Nambu pistols can be seen in museums across the country. The one in our collection is on exhibit in the Pacific Theater exhibit in the museum's lobby.

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