In many countries prior to WWII, it was not uncommon to begin preparing children for military service at fairly young ages, and several countries produces small-scale rifles for training boys who could not yet handle full-size weapons. These include France and Italy (with miniaturized Lebel and Carcano rifles), and also the Empire of Japan. Today we’re taking a look at a small-scale Type 38 Arisaka trainer, approximately 7/8 normal size. While most of these sorts of rifles were designed for small rimfire cartridges, this one was instead chambered for 6.5x50mm blank rounds.

These rifles were made by the Nambu company, starting in 1927 and running into the early 1930s. Lt. Gen. Kijiro Nambu (the same man who developed the Nambu pistols and machine guns) started the company to make training rifles after his retirement from military service.The company was eventually bought up and merged with other firms and went into manufacture of more standard weaponry.

My assumption in the video that this rifle fired blanks was incorrect – Japanese blank cartridges for the 6.5mm were fitted with normal-size wooden bullets (for use with cut-type grenade launchers). The trainers actually used gallery rounds with very small and light projectiles. Presumably the recoil from these was light enough to safely use the bolt handle for locking. Courtesy of Teri, here’s a photo of the different types of 6.5mm Japanese ammunition:

6.5x50 Japanese cartridges
6.5×50 Japanese. From left to right, standard Type 38 Arisaka 6.5X50SR round, early round-nosed Type 30 6.5 round, wooden bullet blank, paper blank, gallery round with short flat projectile, gallery round with round lead ball.

The trainers used the two gallery cartridges on the right-hand end of the photo. In addition, there was apparently a conversion kit (extremely rare today) to make the trainers into air rifles firing small darts.

 

Video

2 Comments

  1. This training rifle and its gallery ammo seem to be the predecessors to plastic training ammo and respectively modified firearms. What would happen if somehow a Japanese school kid with a fully loaded Type 38 Trainer ended up virtually face to face with an American Para-Marine stuck in a tree, still trying to cut his parachute harness? The American has his Johnson rifle, but it’s not so great at the moment since firing 30×06 from the hip while up a tree will be most inaccurate, and it will probably take five seconds to draw a Colt M1911 from a holster…

    [cue awkward silence]

  2. Someone asked about military “training” while at public schools. Found this book in a throw away pile while back in Japan. History of Japanese Education & Present Educational System by Hugh Keenleyside and A.F. Thomas 1937. Hokuseido press. Tokyo.

    Middle School: Military training page 199-201. “middle school the Japanese student under goes for the first time organized military training…five hours a week…squad drills, target practice, bayonet-fighting, hand grenades, other implements of modern warfare…lectures to stimulate martial and patriotic ardor.”

    “it is more difficult to estimate the attitude of the student. Individual enquires are generally answered by the assurance that military training is the most unpopular.”

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