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The Vault

Japanese “Papa” Nambu video

In 1925, the Imperial Japanese Army adopted the Type 14 pistol, which was produced in large numbers during WWII. It looks outwardly pretty similar to a Luger, but i mechanically very different. What many folks don’t realize is that the Type 14 was the final iteration of a pistol design that dated back to 1902. In that year, then-Captain Kijiro Nambu first produced his automatic pistol at the Tokyo Arsenal. That gun is known colloquially as the Grandpa Nambu, and it was chambered in the same 8mm Nambu cartridge that would continue to be used through 1945.

The Grandpa was provided with a shoulder stock holster (as were many pistols at the time, most recognizably the C96 Mauser). Fewer than 2400 of these pistols were made, and they can be distinguished by a very small trigger guard and a magazine with a wooden baseplate. A few revisions were made to the design (including enlarging the trigger guard), and the resulting “Papa” Nambu went into production in 1906. The Japanese Navy ordered several thousand Papa Nambus (these can be distinguished by an anchor stamp behind and below the serial number), and some were also purchased by Army officers. At the time in Japan, officers were responsible for purchasing their own swords and sidearms.

The shoulder stocks were omitted form the Papa Nambu pistols, as they were not really all that useful. Th one batch of stocked Papas known to exist was made for a Thai contract, and most likely included by specific Thai request. Then there i one which we had the opportunity to take a look at recently, which was made specially as a presentation gun. In 1913, Japan was courting a Mexican contract to produce service rifles, and this Papa was presented to a senior Mexican official as an example of the quality that the Tokyo Gas & Electric company could produce. It worked, too, because the Japanese did win the contract. The presentation Papa is a gorgeous pistol:

Thanks to Jim Langley for inviting us to take a look at the very rare piece!

For disassembled photos of the Papa Nambu, I recommend this set of pages at Nambu World: Teri’s Japanese Handgun Website.

4 comments to Japanese “Papa” Nambu video

  • Ruy Aballe

    Stunning! The fit and finish are nothing short of superb, putting to shame many European guns from the same era. Amazing gun and story! Thanks for posting this, Ian.

  • That is a really cool piece. Surprisingly clean. Thanks for the video. :)

  • Mg-42

    The rarity of this peace is unbelievable. The opportunity to see and touch this pistol is once in a lifetime.

  • ColonelColt

    I’ve had the chance to handle a standard, later Nambu made for the army and I have to say it was an ungainly looking pistol but felt good in the hand. It sounds like the gentleman might have actually fired this specific gun. If he has, I applaud him. No matter how much a gun is worth, unless it is deemed unsafe, it should be taken out of the darkness every once and a while and be given a chance to live once again.

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