I recently had a chance to take a look at a rifle that has been floating around the Japanese collector’s community causing grief since for at least 25 years. It is a Type 99 Arisaka, specifically a first-series Nagoya production gun, serial number 84664. What makes it unusual is that it had a Type 96 or Type 99 Nambu light machine gun bipod attached to the muzzle.
In theory, this is supposed to be an experimental rifle from Nagoya during the period when they were about to stop mounting bayonets on new-production Type 99 rifles. It is supposed to be one of several different test models made to evaluate different bipod/monopod options, which does fit the time period when this rifle was originally made. The rifle’s monopod lug was ground off of its barrel band, and the stock and handguard were cut back several inches to make space to mount the bipod. The bayonet lug on the bipod is correctly positioned, so a standard Type 30 bayonet will still fit and latch securely. The bipod and bayonet lug are numbered to match the rest of the rifle, and the dust cover and stock have been marked with characters suggesting that it is test rifle #22 from Nagoya.
Problem is, the bipod was added by a US collector in the late 70s or early 80s, not by Nagoya Arsenal. It was produced as a practical joke on another collector, and later found its way into circulation, being advertised as a real Japanese prototype. I learned this backstory from a noted collector who was offered the rifle back in the 80s, and spoke to its original creator. Unfortunately, prior to the internet it was difficult to make this sort of thing widely known, and each time someone went to sell it they had already invested in it as if it was legit, and thus wanted to recoup their money or make a nice profit on it.
Here is the rifle back in the 80s (you can tell from the couch), back when my correspondent was offered it:
Having handled the gun, I have to say that I really liked the way it handled. The Nambu bipod is lighter than you might expect, and I think it works pretty well in this application. If I could buy this piece for the price of a well-sporterized Type 99, I would absolutely do so. But as a collector, one has to be careful to view novelties with some skepticism – just because we like something doesn’t mean it is historically legitimate. Caveat emptor, as always.