RIA: Japanese Type 4 Garand Copy

Partway through 1944, the Japanese Imperial Navy began a program to provide their infantry units with better firepower than was afforded by the bolt action Arisaka rifles. The initial experimentation was based on rechambering captured US M1 Garand rifles for the 7.7 Japanese cartridge, but an incompatibility of American en bloc clips with the Japanese cartridge hamstrung the project. In response, the M1 was reverse engineered, and the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal began to manufacture a copy of the rifle which would use a 10-round fixed magazine fed by two standard stripper clips.

This rifle was designated the Type 4 (2604/1944), although it is often referred to today as the Type 5. In total, parts for 200 rifles were manufactured, but only about 125 had been actually assembled into functional guns by the time the war ended.

40 Comments

    • Obviously someone knew that… Sadly, it was still assumed by American military experts that Japanese gun makers were plagiarizing copycats with no skill or originality. A close examination of the Type 4 would give the makers some credit in attempting to reconcile the basic design with ammunition and quality concerns. Last time I checked, the magazine was detachable for cleaning… Or am I wrong?

  1. That’s not a “tangent” rear sight. Similar, but it doesn’t seem to track off to one side like a Springfield.

    • This type of sight is called the “tangent leaf” sight – it refers to the angle between the sight leaf and bore axis changing with the slider movement along the leaf, which due to the incline in the sight base moves the notch up and down.
      M1903 had a ladder sight, whereas you had to move the slider with the notch up and down the sight frame erected to upright position. The rotating sight base of the ’03 has nothing in common with the sight being a tangent sight or not. Millions of Mauser rifles do have tangent sights, even though they don’t “track off to one side”.

  2. Thank you Ian for that historically important presentation.
    My question is did the Japanese stripper clips go inside the magazine well (and were rejected by the last shot [like the U.S. M1 Garand])
    or were they manual thrown away after the ten rounds were inserted into the copy gun’s magazine well?
    Thank you again.
    Pat

    • If they went inside the magazine well, they wouldn’t be called “stripper clips”, would they. Ian also said that it used standard Arisaka 5-round stripper clips, which means that you put the clip in the guides, pushed the rounds in and discarded the clip, and then repeated that procedure for a full 10 round magazine. This was, incidentally, very much like the SVT-38/40, which was also supposed to be reloaded with stripper clips in normal use. You were only supposed to change the magazine if you were in a real hurry and of course if you had a spare magazine, which many Soviet soldiers frequently didn’t have. The Type 4 didn’t have a detachable magazine, so using the stripper clips would have been the only way to reload it (besides reloading with single cartridges).

      • I believe he meant that the bottom of the clip partially protrudes into the magazine, but doesn’t fall all the way down like an en bloc charger. Rifles like the FN49 can expel the clip in the charger guide when the bolt is released instead of the user needing to manually remove it.

      • It wasn’t only the case with the SVT – in an SMLE you also had a detachable mag, which was loaded with strippers. But anyway, the SVT is not a good example, as the 4-Shiki’s mag was non-detachable. But the broader scheme of things remains the same: no en-bloc clips inserted into this magazine, just like in SAFN-49 prior to the Argentine refit.

        • I think the SVT is a good example of a contemporary semi-auto rifle loaded normally with two stripper clips, but of course something like the M1941 Johnson rifle would be an even better example. Unless you think the rotary magazine makes it a bad example; it was non-detachable in any case…

  3. Reverse engineering may sound like fun but it is not. I’d say being thru my own experience, it is better to start form scratch; with some general concept of course. All tiny little details count – material, heat processing and even secondary processes such as grid/ glass bead blasting. Also, with every new product there is a learning curve which takes some time to complete. It is work of art, not just science to make good gun.

    so much more should be appreciated this Japanese effort. In comparison with German “last ditch” weapons they obviously took wrong path.

    • Hi Denny,
      Exactly.
      Mass manufacturing reliable rifles with truly interchangeable parts is a massive project to establish and to get right.

      I gather that Garand’s own development work on the gun itself was not straight forward.

      Later de-bugging of the design to create the M14 was also far from straight forward, despite the wealth of precedent experience with the M1.

      IIRC the Garand design results in high shear stresses in the bolt locking lugs, making the orientation of grain structure in the bolt an important factor in obtaining a long working life,

      add on to that the importance of adequate steels, appropriate radii, surface finish and surface pre stressing, as you indicated.

      I would imagine that the Japanese also had fun with matching the gas port size and position to the pressure characteristics of their loads, in order to get smooth cycling. This might explain the slightly longer section of barrel ahead of the gas block on the Japanese rifle, compared to the 30-06 American Garand.

      Back in the 80s I saw some photos of Ruger’s project to produce a full sized Garand type action to go along with their Mini 14.

      One of the notable features, when the full sized Ruger bolt was compared to the Garand M1 and M14 bolts was how much further the locking lugs came back down the bolt – in order to increase shear area to compensate for the random grain structure of cast rather than forged bolts.

      • My greetings back to you Keith!

        The bolt design (or its mimicking as is the case) is certainly good illustration as an example what is involved. If it was me facing the task I’d increase proportions of lugs and radii as much as possible. Mechanical properties of batches of war-production steel may vary one from the next.

        What amazes me is how Japanese just as other warring sides, open to aerial bombardment and shipping harassment, were able to muster all that production including artillery, warships and aircraft. Just beyond my imagination. I recall that there are plenty of challenges even in peace-time production.

  4. It is interesting why the Japanese did not focus on producing the Johnson rifle instead, one of its claim to fame is that it was easier to manufacture than the M1. Maybe they did not think the Johnson worked well with a bayonet.

    • Certainly the Japanese were bayonet-obsessed, but I’m guessing a bigger factor was that they had more opportunity to capture Garands for study, since they were so much more numerous than Johnsons.

    • The Germans never got around to giving Japanese representatives samples of those weapons and besides, the US Navy and the Royal Navy sank most of the subs carrying weapon exchange shipments!

    • If you are thinking about G43: it would require redesign to new cartridge too, dimension-wise these cartridges are quite similar, however I don’t know burning characteristic for both, so is hard to say whatever it would be harder or easier.

  5. This was a very interesting project for the Japanese Navy to undertake so late in the war. With war materials at such a rationed level, you can understand the Idea to try and attempt a caliber conversion. However, the best that these rifles could have hoped for was use in the Home Armies last ditch attempts to defend Japan. The more curious question is that since the Japanese had captured so many 1903 Springfields and Lee-Enfield rifles along with ammunition, why didn’t they simply reissue those rifles to troops.
    Speaking of the 1903 and the Lee-Enfield, why did the US Army choose the Krag rifle over the Lee-Enfield?

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if the Japanese Army did have plans to issue captured rifles for the defense of the home islands. Since Japan surrendered and didn’t fight to the bitter end, they didn’t have to issue rifles in non-standard calibers, unlike the Germans in 1945. For logistical reasons it would not have made much sense to use them at the outer islands. Even the Germans typically issued Italian made weapons only in Italy and the Balkans, places closely to the ammunition stockpiles in Italy. Captured Soviet weapons were issued at the Eastern Front and captured Soviet small arms typically only to the “volunteer” (more or less) Russian and Ukrainian troops.

      • Japanese experience was no different, really. The Japanese issued SMLE to troops in former British colonies and enclaves, e.g. Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. Occupation forces in the Philippines re-used M1917, M1903 and M1s from Bataan, Corregidor, etc. Dutch Hembrug 6.5mm rifles were used by pro-Japanese nationalists in Dutch East Indies/Indonesia, or provided to formations like the Subhas Chandra Bose Indian National army, etc.

  6. Some years back I was lucky enough to visit the Interarms warehouse in Manchester, England, where the late Sam Cummings was a most generous host.

    His boardroom was decorated by many fine and rare firearms, amongst which was one of these Japanese “Garands”. It was in quite poor condition, lacking much of its woodwork. I regret to say I did not realise at the time quite how rare it was, though I did spend a lot of time examining some of his other rare guns. The EM2 caught my imagination.

    The warehouse itself was an Aladdin’s cave of guns, with old bolt action rifles stacked like logs, literally hundreds and hundreds of them, awaiting despatch.

    Sadly, the warehouse is no longer there, and Sam himself has passed, but it remains a lasting memory.

  7. From the photos, the Japanese Clone of the M1 Garand appears to be a very credible copy of the original, without its greatest drawback—the en-bloc clip system. That tell tale “Ping” and up flung clip was sure to have gotten a lot of our boys killed once it let the enemy know that they had fired their last shot. Even a non-detachable magazine would have been a better design and would have made it far easier for us to have created the BM59 long before Italy did.
    It is interesting to note that during and shortly after the war, of the major participants, only England and the USSR didn’t attempt to field a copy of the M1 and I am not all together sure that the Soviets didn’t have their own clone somewhere

    • Actually the ping sound was only heard if an ejected clip hit rock, tree, or any sufficiently hard surface, and no enemy combatants were able to make use of the sound due to being too far away in the midst of a shooting battle. More riflemen were lost to artillery shells than to some other team ambushing them from the tops of trees after hearing an ejected clip! And some marines deliberately threw empty clips to trick enemies into shooting at the noise in the dark or just popping up from cover. However Type 4 Rifle does not give Garand thumb because of its bolt lock for strip charger feed…

        • Well, it appears that your clips hit the back of the receiver before flying away. That ping doesn’t last very long, and is completely useless to the other team unless the ping comes from a lone wolf attacker. More likely to give away your position is a decolored shiny muzzle and an amateurish “stick the muzzle as far out of an opening” sniping position, since the Garand used stainless steel for the gas tube (cannot be parkerized, must be painted black to avoid gleaming).

    • En-bloc clips are not a draw back if you need to top off the rifle just eject the clip and stick in a fresh one just like modern day tactical reloads with a detachable magazine rifle. The ping killing soldiers is a myth due to the noise of battle and the fact a fresh en-bloc could be inserted into a rifle faster than fiddling with stripper clips. I think the 8 shot Garand could put more rounds down range faster than a 10 shot Johnson rifle could, which had to use stripper clips.

    • Sorry. Apart from a removable lockwork housing, the take down looks same; Clamping the receiver to the stock by means of camming trigger housing side lugs.

  8. I’d absolutely love to completely kill the Garand “ping” myth. Don’t happen-never did-never will. And continues to be annoyingly perpetuated by those having never even seen a Garand in the flesh, much less touched one, much less fired one, much less experienced any form of fire-fight.
    Book learning has its place, but it’s all too easy to descend to the equivalent of political punditry; Pronoucements based on little if any true or even practical reality.
    For the record, a real fire-fight is NOT a sequence of bang-boom-rat-a-tat,tat, pow, pow,bang, blooey, like in the movies. Think instead a sound like a 9-car freeway CRASH! That goes on and on and on…and on.
    Believe me, an insignificant, extremely low-sound level “ping” is never heard, and even if somehow, it’s in the mix, if it’s there, it’s never more than an the sound of an ejected cartridge from any bolt-action, Mauser, Enfield, SKS, or what have you.

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