Nambu pistol

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Type 14 Nambu
Nambu pistol-IMG 6531-white.jpg
Nambu Pistol Model 14
TypeSemi-automatic pistol
Place of originJapan
Service history
In service1904–1945
Used bySee Users
WarsRusso-Japanese War
World War I
Pacific War
Second Sino-Japanese War
Indonesian National Revolution
Chinese Civil War
Hukbalahap Rebellion
Korean War
First Indochina War
Vietnam War (Limited Only)
Production history
DesignerKijiro Nambu
No. built10,300 (Type A, all variants)
approx. 400,000 (Type 14)
VariantsType A, Type B, Type 14
Mass900 g (1.98 lb) unloaded
Length230 mm (9.06 in)
Barrel length117 mm (4.61 inches)

Cartridge8×22mm Nambu
Caliber0.31 inches (7.9 mm)
Muzzle velocity951 feet per second (290 m/s)
Effective firing range50 metres (55 yd)
Feed system8-round box magazine

The Nambu pistols (南部拳銃 or 南部大型自動拳銃, Nanbu kenjuu/Nanbu ōgata jidou-kenjuu) are a series of semi-automatic pistols produced by the Japanese company Koishikawa Arsenal, later known as the Tokyo Artillery Arsenal.[1] The series has three variants, the Type A, the Type B (also known as the Baby Nambu), and the Type 14 (十四年式拳銃, Jūyon nen shiki kenjū). The Nambu pistols were designed to replace Japan's earlier service pistol, the Type 26 revolver.

The pistols were designed by Kijiro Nambu and saw extensive service in the Empire of Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War and Pacific War. The most common variant, the Type 14, was used mostly by officers, who had to pay for their pistols themselves.

Towards the end of the war, the production quality began to decline in order to speed up manufacture. Nambu pistols were noted for their lack of reliability and stopping power compared to other handguns being fielded by other nations at the same time, such as the M1911 and Walther P38.


Prior to the design of the Nambu, the only pistol in Japanese service was the Type 26 revolver, which served with distinction during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). However, in the 1890s, semi-automatic pistol designs began to emerge, among them, the Mauser C96, which was influential in the production of the Nambu, as it uses the same locking mechanism as the C96,[2] and the Nambu was designed shortly after a Japanese commission reported on European military developments.

The first Nambu, the Type A, was completed in 1902. This version was never adopted, but some were sold to China and Siam. The Type B was adopted by the Imperial Japanese Navy and Royal Thai Army during the 1920s, and the later Type 14 was adopted in 1926 (Taishō 14) as the service pistol of the Imperial Japanese Army until its surrender in 1945.[3] Nambu pistols were symbols of prestige, often carried in fanciful holsters, and were used more as a means of ornament and status rather than actual combative purposes.[2] Japan produced about 400,000 Nambu pistols over the course of the war, whereas in this same time period the United States had made over a million M1911 pistols.[4]

Alongside other Japanese weapons, such as guntōs and Arisaka rifles, many American servicemen took Nambu pistols home with them as war trophies. Production of Nambu pistols ceased after the end of the war and Nambu pistols were replaced by M1911A1s provided by the US to the Japan Self-Defense Forces and police.[5]

8×22mm Nambu ammunition


The Nambu pistol is a recoil operated, locked breech, semi-automatic pistol. The Type A and 14 Nambus have magazine capacities of eight rounds, whereas the Type B has seven.[6] A common flaw in the series was that the gun's safety catch and its magazine release did not enable the magazine to slide out of the gun once it was completely empty, forcing the operator to work against the weight of the recoil spring and leaf spring, making reloading difficult.[7] In response to this issue, the magazine catch was removed from the Type 14. Another issue with the safety was that it is located just above the trigger guard, meaning that it can not be activated with the same hand that is holding the pistol.[8]

The grip on the Nambu is slanted, which makes feeding the magazine a delicate procedure. The magazine spring is only about 60% effective, and the bullets moving against the walls of the magazine cause frictional loss, weakening the spring further. Furthermore, the size of the bullets has to be exact; soft point and cast lead bullets fail to chamber properly.[9]

The Nambu pistol uses the 8×22mm Nambu cartridge, which made it substantially weaker than other handguns. The 8 mm round's muzzle energy is less than half that of the 9×19mm Parabellum (used in the Walther P38), and the 7.62×25mm Tokarev (used in the TT-33).[10]

Type A[edit]

Original "Grandpa" Type A

The first type of Nambu that was produced was the Type A. Type A Nambus produced from 1903-1906 have differences from those produced after 1906, and, among collectors, the original Nambus are commonly referred to as "Grandpa" Nambus.[6] The "Grandpa" Type A was produced until around serial number 2,400.[6] Production of the Type A Nambu ceased as of 1923, as the Type 14 was both cheaper, and more effective.[11] The Nambu Type A somewhat resembles the Luger pistol in appearance, but this is superficial.

A later version of the Type A Nambu, the Type A modified, also known as the "Papa" Nambu, was produced until around serial number 7,000.[12] The trigger guard of the "Grandpa" Nambu was enlarged in later models.[11] The Type A originally had a provision that allowed for the installation of a stock, as seen on the Mauser C96. However, there are no known instances of a Nambu pistol being fitted with a stock.

Type B[edit]

Type B Nambu
TypeSemi-automatic pistol
Place of originEmpire of Japan
Service history
Used byImperial Japanese Army
WarsSecond Sino-Japanese War,
World War II
Production history
DesignerKijiro Nambu
ManufacturerKoishikawa arsenal
Produced1909 to c1929[11]
No. builtaround 6,000[13]
Mass650 g (23 oz) Unloaded
Length171 mm (6.75 in)
Barrel length83 mm (3.25 in)

Cartridge7×20mm Nambu
ActionShort recoil, locked breech
Muzzle velocity290 m/s (950 ft/s)
Feed system7-round detachable box magazine
SightsOpen notch rear[1]

Due to failings with the Type A Nambu, an improvement, the Type B, was devised.[13] Both the pistol itself, and the round it fired, are smaller than the other Nambu pistols, leading to the name "Baby" Nambu.[14] Type B Nambus were produced at the Tokyo Artillery Arsenal.[15] The first 450 models have the bottom part of the magazine made of wood, and only one diameter firing pin, but later Type Bs have the magazine made from aluminium, and incorporate a multiple diameter firing pin.[1] The Type B Nambu was never adopted officially by any Japanese armed forces.[16] As was customary in the Imperial Japanese Army, officers paid for pistols with their own salaries, but the Type B Nambu was unable to achieve market success as it was twice the price of a comparable imported pistol, such as the FN M1900.[11] A Type B Nambu sold for 180 yen,[17] making it cost roughly the same as a captain's entire monthly salary.[18]

After the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, Koishikawa arsenal stopped producing new parts for Type B Nambus, but continued to assemble ones with pre-existing parts until 1929[1]

Type 14[edit]

Type 14
Nambu Type 14, Series 1, original pistol and holster, exhibited in the Texas Military Forces Museum

The Type 14 Nambu gets its name from the year it was produced - the 14th year of the Taishō era, or 1926. It was designed to help lower the manufacturing cost of the Nambus, and like the Type A, fires the 8×22mm Nambu.[19] From 1927, it was a standard issue sidearm for officers[19] and was being sold for 78 yen by 1939.[20] It is believed that around 400,000 Type 14 Nambus were produced,[14] but the exact number is unknown, as Japanese soldiers considered their weapons property of the emperor, and many chose to destroy their pistols or throw them into the ocean to avoid them falling into enemy hands.[21]

Later production models have a larger trigger guard, following complaints by soldiers stationed in Manchukuo that it was difficult to fire the trigger while wearing gloves. Some of these models also have a knurled steel cocking knob instead of the standard "slotted" cocking knob.[14] After 1940, an auxiliary magazine spring was added to assist in reloading.[22] A redesigned cocking knob was implemented in 1944 in order to simplify production.[14] The Type 14 also lacks the grip safety used on the previous models.[14]

Pre-1937 Type 14s are well made, with a noticeable decline in quality after the war's beginning, to meet the production demands of wartime.[23] However, later Type 14s remained mostly functional despite the decreased quality.[23] The holsters for the pistols also had to be changed to accommodate wartime. A lack of available raw materials resulted in a move from holsters made of leather, to rubberized canvas.[24]



A Mark IV model of the Ruger Standard pistol

In 1949, William B. Ruger took design elements of the Nambu in his own design, which became the Ruger Standard. This was the first weapon designed by Sturm, Ruger & Co. The Ruger Standard would become the most successful .22LR pistol ever produced,[30][31] and as of 2016, Ruger's company produced more firearms than any other American company, and was worth over $600 million.[32]

Because of their rarity and historical significance, Nambu pistols became sought after by gun collectors, with models selling anywhere from $800[33] to $1,500.[34]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In The Mandalorian, the character Cara Dune uses a Nambu pistol, modified to fit the sci-fi setting.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d e Hogg, Ian, Pistols of the World 4th Edition (2004) p. 191.
  2. ^ a b Barker, A.J. (1979). Japanese Army Hanbook. Ian Allan Publishing. p. 39.
  3. ^ Ramsey, Syed. Tools of War: History of Weapons in Early Modern Times.
  4. ^ Thompson, Leroy (2011). The Colt 1911 Pistol. Osprey Publishing. p. 41.
  5. ^ "Premiera karabinka typ 20". MilMag. Archived from the original on 28 February 2022. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
  6. ^ a b c Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 8
  7. ^ Campbell, Bob: "Firing the Nambu Type 14, Japan's Service Pistol". Small Arms Review (retrieved January 5, 2020)
  8. ^ Henrotin, Gerard (2010). The Nambu Type 14 pistol Explained. HL Publishing. p. 8.
  9. ^ Henrotin, Gerard (2010). The Nambu Type 14 Pistol Explained. HL Publishing. p. 9.
  10. ^ Rottman, Gordon (2013). The Big Book of Gun Trivia: Everything you want to know, don’t want to know, and don’t know you need to know. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  11. ^ a b c d Hogg, Ian, Pistols of the World 4th Edition (2004) p. 232.
  12. ^ Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 9.
  13. ^ a b Hogg, Ian, Military Small Arms of the 20th Century 7th Edition (2000) p. 67.
  14. ^ a b c d e Kinard, Jeff. Pistols: an illustrated history of their impact, p. 245, ABC-CLIO, Inc. 2003.
  15. ^ Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 11.
  16. ^ Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 12.
  17. ^ Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 13
  18. ^ US Army Field Manual 30-480: Handbook on Japanese Military Forces. 1944. p. 8.
  19. ^ a b Hogg, Ian, Military Small Arms of the 20th Century 7th Edition (2000) p. 66
  20. ^ "兵器臨時定価、予価、表送付の件 Military catalogue of the Japanese military". National Archives of Japan. August 1939.
  22. ^ Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 22.
  23. ^ a b Kinard, Jeff. Pistols: an illustrated history of their impact, p. 246, ABC-CLIO, Inc. 2003.
  24. ^ Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 30.
  25. ^ a b c d e McNab, Chris, The Great Book of Guns (2004) p. 124
  26. ^ Bloomfield, Lincoln P.; Leiss, Amelia Catherine (30 June 1967). The Control of local conflict : a design study on arms control and limited war in the developing areas (PDF). Vol. 3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Center for International Studies. p. 91. hdl:2027/uiug.30112064404368. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 4, 2020.
  27. ^ History of the Gun in 500 Photographs. Time-Life Books. 2016. p. 162. ISBN 1618933655.
  28. ^ Chinese Warlord Armies 1911-30 by Philip Jowett, page 21.
  29. ^ Philip Jowett (2005). The Chinese Army 1937–49: World War II and Civil War. Osprey Publishing. p. 47. ISBN 978-1841769042.
  30. ^ Quinn, Boge. "Ruger 50th Anniversary .22" Gunblast Web site. Accessed January 8, 2009.
  31. ^ Metcalf, Dick. "50 years of Ruger Auto Pistols" Web site. Accessed January 13, 2009.
  32. ^ Duprey, Rich. "Can You Guess the Biggest Gunmaker in the U.S.?". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  33. ^ "Japanese Nambu Type 14 8mm Semi-Automatic Pistol". Vogt Auction.
  34. ^ "Nagoya Type 14 Pistol 8 mm Nambu". Rock Island Auction.


External links[edit]