They Type 26 was an indigenous Japanese revolver introduced in 1893 (26th year of the Meiji era) to replace the Smith & Wesson No. 3 in Japanese military service. In many ways the Type 26 was akin to the other military revolvers of the day, like the Russian (and Belgian) Nagant, the French M1892, as well as the later models of Webley. It uses a fairly weak (by today’s standards) 9x22mm rimmed cartridge, which was roughly equivalent to a light .38 S&W load (the Handloader’s Manual of Cartridge Conversions has instructions for making this from .39 Special brass).

Type 26 revolvers were manufactured until 1930, and although the Type 14 and Type 94 Nambu automatic pistols were adopted to replace it, the Type 26 revolver saw service through the end of WWII. In fact, these revolvers tended to live quite harsh lives, and the majority were arsenal refurbished at some point (some being refurbished more than once). Teri at Nambu World has several pages of excellent detailed photographs of several Type 26 revolvers, showing many of the details of the refurbishing process.

In shooting and handling, I found the Type 26 very similar to the British Enfield No2MkI. Both have quite light recoil thanks to their light-powered ammunition, and both are double-action only designs. As with the Enfield, the Nambu trigger feels too heavy when target shooting or general handling, but I suspect it would prove well suited to combat shooting (as the Enfield certainly does). One interesting potential defect of the Type 26 is that its cylinder can spin freely until the trigger is pulled, at which point it is indexed by one position and locked in place. This theoretically makes it possible for a partially-fired cylinder to be inadvertently rotated, and a previously-fired round to wind up under the hammer when the shooter is expecting a live round. This seems unlikely to happen very often, but it is possible. The rapid unloading of the break-action design is nice, although (again, as with the Enfield) loading cartridges individually prevents the gun from being very fast to get back into action.

Overall, I like the Type 26. It isn’t flashy or powerful or particularly innovative, but it is a reliable and effective combat sidearm. It’s a shame the ammunition is essentially unobtainable outside of converting brass and handloading.

2 Comments

  1. For execution of enemy civilian’s and POW’s, your own cowards, and wounded as well as Honorable suicide these probably worked fine.
    As a fighting handgun?

  2. This gun fired a 9mm rimmed cartridge dimensionally similar to .38 S&W but not interchangeable. It was perhaps the weakest military round ever. I have read that it moved at only 550 fps. Not even good for seppukku (“honorable suicide”). This term is often confused with hara kiri which is a ritualized form of seppukku involving self- disembowelment followed by beheading by an “honorable” accomplice. So Sorry!

    When the first American occupation forces landed in Japan they immediately went to arrest Gen. Tojo (who had been deposed about a year earlier) for war crimes. He had had a doctor tattoo a circle around the center of his heart for such a moment, and when the MP’s arrived at his house, he promptly shot himself there with this very gun. Tojo had been issued this revolver upon graduation from the academy. Since his whole career was spent in diplomatic posts, he never used it for real and the ammo was probably 40 years old. Although seriously wounded, the bullet didn’t penetrate sufficiently to kill him, even in the days before open heart surgery. He survived and recovered, only to be convicted and hanged several months later.

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