Type 11 light machine gun

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Type 11 light machine gun
Japanese Type 11 LMG from 1933 book.jpg
Type 11 Light machine gun
TypeLight machine gun
Place of originJapan
Service history
In service1922–1945
Used byJapan
National Revolutionary Army
Chinese Red Army
Viet Minh
Korean People's Army
WarsSecond Sino-Japanese War
Soviet-Japanese Border Wars
World War II
Chinese Civil War
First Indochina War
Korean War
Vietnam War
Production history
DesignerKijiro Nambu
No. built29,000
Mass10.2 kg (22.49 lb)
Length1,100 mm (43.3 in)
Barrel length443 mm (17.4 in)

Cartridge6.5×50mm Arisaka
Rate of fire500 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity736 m/s (2,415 ft/s)
Effective firing range600m
Maximum firing range2000m
Feed system30-round, hopper system
Japanese Border Guard Trooper and Type 11 light machine gun

The Type 11 light machine gun (十一年式軽機関銃, Jyūichinen-shiki Kei-kikanjū) was a light machine gun used by the Imperial Japanese Army in the interwar period and during World War II.[1]


Japanese soldier with a Type 11 in China
Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces armed with the Type 11 during the Battle of Shanghai

Combat experience in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905 had convinced the Japanese of the utility of machine guns to provide covering fire for advancing infantry.[2] This was reinforced by the first-hand observations of European combat tactics by Japanese military attachés during the First World War, and the Army Technical Bureau was tasked with the development of a lightweight machine gun, which could be easily transportable by an infantry squad. The resultant “Type 11 light machine gun” (named after the 11th year of the reign of Emperor Taishō, or 1922) was the first light machine gun to be mass-produced in Japan[3] and the oldest Japanese light machine gun design to see service in the Pacific War. It was superseded by the Type 96 light machine gun in 1936.

Design details[edit]

The Type 11 light machine gun was a design by famed arms designer Kijirō Nambu, based on a modification of the French Hotchkiss M1909 Benét–Mercié machine gun. It was an air-cooled, gas-operated design, using the same 6.5×50mm Arisaka cartridges as the Type 38 infantry rifle.[4]

The Type 11 with accessories

A feature of the Type 11 machine gun is its detachable hopper; it can be refilled while attached and does not require removal during operation. Instead of a belt or box magazine, the Type 11 was designed to hold up to six of the same cartridge clips used on the Type 38 rifle. The five-round clips were stacked lying flat above the receiver[5], secured by a spring arm, and the rounds were stripped from the lowest clip one at a time, with the empty clip thrown clear and the next clip automatically falling into place as the gun was fired. The system had the advantage that any squad member could supply ammunition and that the hopper could be replenished at any time. The relatively short barrel (17.5 inches) produced excessive flash with standard ammunition (initially intended for Type 38 rifles with barrel more than a foot longer). A new loading was introduced for this reason, which had a slightly lower muzzle velocity (under 100fps), but burned much more completely in the Type 11 short barrel and produced much less flash as a result. This new round was called the 6.5×50mm Arisaka genso round, the cartons identified by a circled "G".[6]

The inherent disadvantage of the hopper was that the open feeder box allowed dust and grit to enter the gun, which was liable to jam in muddy or dirty conditions due to issues with poor dimensional tolerances[5], which gave the weapon a bad reputation with Japanese troops.[7] Another issue was that the weight of the rifle cartridges in the side-mounted hopper unbalanced the weapon when fully loaded. To compensate, the buttstock was designed in a way that it bent to the right, leading to the Chinese nickname for the weapon "bent buttstock" (Chinese: 歪把子). Reloading the weapon during an assault charge proved impossible due to the clip feeding system.


Type 89 "flexible" – two Type 11 actions mounted on a flexible mounting for anti-aircraft use and as a rear-defense aerial gun. The machine gun was chambered for the 7.7x58mmSR Type 89 cartridge. It was equipped with a metallic Y-shaped stock and two spade grips, the barrels had no cooling fins. It was fed from two 45-round quadrant-shaped pan magazines (each magazine had a place for nine five-round stripper clips). The double-barrelled machine gun weighted about 28 kg and had a rate of fire of around 1,400 rpm.[8]

Type 91 – was a modified Type 11 for use on tanks and armoured vehicles. The machine gun was equipped with an angled pistol grip, the stock and bipod were removed.[9] Additionally, the machine gun was equipped with two brackets (on the right side) for mounting a 1.5x30 scope manufactured by Tomioka Kogaku.[10]

Te-4 – a modified Type 11 which was designed to replace the Type 89 "flexible" due to the excessive weight of the latter. It used a different flexible mounting, had a shorter wooden stock and a straight pistol grip with an enlarged trigger guard, the barrel had no cooling fins. It was chambered for the 7.7x58mmSR Type 89 cartridge and fed from 70-round pan magazine. It is uncertain whether the Te-4 was made by splitting the Type 89 "flexible" or was a direct derivative of Type 11.[8]

Combat record[edit]

A Type 11 light machine gun captured by the Chinese Army and used against the Japanese soldiers.

The Type 11 came into active service in 1922, and some 29,000 were produced by the time production stopped in 1941. It was the primary Japanese light machine gun through the Manchurian Incident and in the early stages of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Although superseded by the Type 96 light machine gun in production in 1936, it remained in service with front-line combat through the end of World War II. Many were captured by the Chinese and were used against the Japanese. Manchukuo Imperial Army received replace its ex-Chinese ZB vz. 30s with Type 11s in 1936.[11] Both sides also used Type 11 machine guns during the Chinese Civil War[12] and North Korea used Type 11 and Type 91 during the Korean War.[13] The Viet Minh also used the Type 11 during the First Indochina War,[14] as did the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.[15]


  1. ^ Bishop, The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II
  2. ^ Meyer, The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan. pg.53
  3. ^ "MG". www3.plala.or.jp.
  4. ^ TM-E 30–480 (1945)
  5. ^ a b Rottman, Gordon L. (2005). Japanese Army in World War II - Conquest of the Pacific 1941-42. Oxford, England: Osprey Publishing. p. 46. ISBN 1841767891.
  6. ^ "Type 11 Nambu LMG". 30 March 2012.
  7. ^ Meyer, The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan. pg.55
  8. ^ a b Mikesh, Robert C. (2004). Japanese Aircraft Equipment 1940 – 1945. Shiffer Publishing. pp. 115–116. ISBN 978-0-7643-2097-2.
  9. ^ "1220195091.1027914646.jpg". Archived from the original on April 27, 2014.
  10. ^ "Machine Gun Equipment". Japanese Weapons.net. Retrieved 2015-12-11.
  11. ^ Jowett, Philip S. (2004). Rays of the rising sun : armed forces of Japan's Asian allies, 1931-45. 1, China & Manchukuo. Helion. p. 15. ISBN 9781906033781.
  12. ^ "Mukden Arsenal after WWII". wwiiafterwwii.wordpress.com. April 3, 2017.
  13. ^ Kinard, Jeff. "Machine guns". In Tucker, Spencer C.; Pierpaoli, Paul G., Jr. (eds.). The Encyclopedia of the Korean War: A Political, Social, and Military History. 1. A-L (2nd ed.). ABC-CLIO. p. 535. ISBN 978-1-85109-849-1.
  14. ^ Ezell, Edward Clinton (1988). Personal firepower. The Illustrated history of the Vietnam War 15. Bantam Books. pp. 47-48. OCLC 1036801376.
  15. ^ "Type 11 Light Machine Gun". awm.gov.au. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 4 February 2019.


  • Bishop, Chris (eds) (1998). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II. Barnes & Nobel. ISBN 978-0-7607-1022-7.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Mayer, S.L. (1984). The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan. The Military Press. ISBN 978-0-517-42313-4.
  • Morse, D.R. (1996). Japanese Small Arms of WW2; Light Machine Guns Models 11, 96, 99 97 & 92. Firing Pin Enterprizes. ASIN: B000KFVGSU.
  • Popenker, Maxim (2008). Machine Gun: The Development of the Machine Gun from the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day. Crowood. ISBN 978-1-84797-030-5.
  • Rottman, Gordon L. (2005). Japanese Infantryman 1937–1945. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-818-2.
  • US Department of War (1994). Handbook on Japanese Military Forces, TM-E 30–480 (1945) (reprint ed.). Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8071-2013-2.

External links[edit]