First Range Trip with a Type 96 Nambu LMG (I Think I’m in Love)

What goes into preparing a gun for filming? Function checking, zeroing, and generally building some familiarity. Today we will go through that process with a Japanese Type 96 Nambu LMG. Rather like some French guns, Japanese small arms from World War Two have a thoroughly undeserved poor reputation. The Nambu is an excellent LMG design – Japanese machine guns are largely derived from Hotchkiss systems, although the Type 96 is several generations removed from any French-made Hotchkiss. It is chambered for the 6.5x50mm semi-rimmed cartridge, which is one of the softest-shooting cartridges used in WW2. The Type 99 is basically the same gun scaled up to use a 7.7mm round, and those are pretty nice to shoot. The Type 96 is downright fantastic, as you can see by my target at the end.

I am excited to get the chamber cleaned up and do a bunch more filming with it! The 6.5 Japanese is a caliber that is difficult to find ammunition for, and I am grateful to Steinel Ammunition for providing me a batch of theirs to use today!

35 Comments

    • Not for nothing did Americans find out the hard way what a proper light machine gun could do. As our friend eon might say, “you don’t bring a rifle, not even the vaunted M1 Garand, into a machine gun fight.”

      • Pretty much sums it up.

        The U.S. doctrine was to use the infantrymen’s rifles as the squad base of fire. The Russian Army did essentially the same thing except they relied upon the PPSh SMG, which meant they weren’t going to do much shooting beyond 200m except with their squad LMG, the 7.62 x 53R DP (which is a much better LMG than most Western experts give it credit for being).

        The British doctrine relied on the high rate of fire of a properly manipulated SMLE or No.4 to keep the enemy busy, while the Bren smacked targets of opportunity and points of resistance (other than those worth a 2-inch mortar bomb).

        The German doctrine was that the LMG (or in their case the belt-fed GPMG) was to do the killing out to 1,000m, and the riflemen were there to support, protect, and help move it. (And carry belted ammunition for it, as well.)

        Imperial Japanese doctrine was mixed, in that while their weapons were capable of superb accuracy at long range, their training put more emphasis on the close-quarters fight. How much of this was a cultural “thing”, and how much was due to realizing that in actual practice, you generally can’t see things on a real battlefield well enough to hit much beyond 200m with the rifle or 500m with the LMG, is a subject that has never really been researched properly.

        The Imperial Japanese military have been criticized for basing virtually all their LMG and MMG designs on the Hotchkiss, but I think that’s rather like criticizing everybody else for using pistols based on Browning designs.

        You use what works. And Hotchkiss type MGs work pretty well in even the most inclement conditions.

        Conditions don’t come much more “inclement” than Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the Southwest Pacific, to say nothing of the Aleutians.

        cheers

        eon

        • About the Soviets – AFAIK they definitely could not rely on SMGs in the beginning of the war – there were too few of them (yes, I include the PPDs) – and in fact was looking to equip every soldier with an SVT which plan was scrapped when the war started, and even by the end of the war while they had some squads with only SMGs (the (in)famous tank riders come to mind) it’s not like SMGs outnumbered the Mosins. Ian mentioned that even in the middle of the war they were looking to reequip everyone they could with the new carbine (which became M44) before changing the universal weapon to SKS and yet again to AK

        • “(…)more emphasis on the close-quarters fight. How much of this was a cultural “thing”, and how much was due to realizing that in actual practice, you generally can’t see things on a real battlefield well enough to hit much beyond 200m with the rifle or 500m with the LMG, is a subject that has never really been researched properly.(…)”
          I suspect reason might be different than above – environmental. With Empire of Japan planning expansion to south action in tropical environment was unavoidable (see Malaya for example), which often made firing at great range problematic.

          • That’s what I was referring to. As my old boss (Marine, Guadalcanal, Class of ’42) said, training to deliver precision rifle fire at 500 yards is one thing, but in actual combat in the Pacific, the typical range of engagement was anywhere from 100 yards down to fifty feet, because you couldn’t see any further than that in the banyan forests and etc.

            The result was the Marines issuing more SMGS (first Reisings and then usually M1 TSMGs)than their prewar TO&E had assumed would be needed.

            He also commented that the Reising was issued not because the Corps preferred it, but because when they needed a huge number of SMGs for combat early on, there were exactly two types available in the U.S., the Reising and the 1921/28 Thompson- and the British Purchasing Commission had already taken most of the latter a year earlier. So it was the Reising or nothing.

            cheers

            eon

          • I would humbly beg to differ. The Japanese Army was focused on Manchuria and China; the tropics were not something they had any real focus on, nor did they train for that specifically. Despite copious amounts of Allied propaganda, the Japanese forces were about as well-adapted to the jungle as Allied forces were, which is to say that they really were not.

            I want to say that there was really only one Japanese Army enthusiast for jungle warfare, and that was a guy named Masunobu Tsuji. He was also the idiot who decided to provoke the Manchurian adventure against the Soviets, got his ass kicked in, and then at least learned his lesson not to screw with the Soviets. Tsuji was the guy who organized the Japanese Army jungle school on Taiwan, which was something that only got going in the very late 1930s…

            Japan as a jungle warfare “expert” nation is something that is only really a mirage created by Western propaganda to explain their defeats in Malaya and Singapore; in actual fact, most Japanese soldiers were as adapted to the jungle as the average Allied one, which is to say that they weren’t.

            If the Japanese had been better prepared for jungle warfare, I think you’d have seen a lot more emphasis on things like submachineguns and other close-range weapons. As it was, they really weren’t even into the equivalent of the Kar98k, SMLE, or M1903A3 rifles–They maintained the long barrel lengths from the pre-WWI era well past the point where they were appropriate. The shorter Type 99 didn’t come into vogue until a lot later than other nations went down that path, and its advent coincided with the rise of the jungle school. Coincidence? Unknown.

            There is really not enough known about Japanese tactical/weapons thought and doctrine; their writings are either lost, unknown, or destroyed. In any event, the reasoning behind a lot of their decisions is decidedly opaque, and have been subject to an awful lot of supposition and misinterpretation.

          • “(…)If the Japanese had been better prepared for jungle warfare, I think you’d have seen a lot more emphasis on things like submachineguns and other close-range weapons.(…)”
            Fair point. So either jungle fighting was not of much interest or… IJA’s weaponry evolution was expectionally slow.

            “(…) not enough known about Japanese tactical/weapons thought and doctrine; their writings are either lost, unknown, or destroyed.”
            I do not have English-language text to fix that, but after cursory search I found Russian-text apparently based on Japanese Army 1938 regulation and Japanese literature. See 4th image from top and following here: https://rostislavddd.livejournal.com/302011.html
            Sadly these are scan (you can not copy-paste text) which hinders machine translation.

        • “(…)except with their squad LMG, the 7.62 x 53R DP (which is a much better LMG than most Western experts give it credit for being).(…)”
          DP is weapon for 7,62 x 54 R cartridge, not 7,62 x 53 R cartridge which is Finnish rifle cartridge. During Great Patriotic War it was found that DP is lacking in volume of fire compared to German universal machine gun. Work were set in motion to get machine gun able to provide greater volume of fire than DP and lighter than ancient Maxim machine gun. One of effects was GVG http://sovietguns.blogspot.com/2013/10/gvg-machinegun.html

          • Finnish soldiers liked the DP most of all LMGs used by the Finnish Army during WW2 in significant numbers (the others were the M/26 Lahti-Saloranta, the Swedish version of the B.A.R. Kg m/21, the FN D and the Chauchat). Especially its reliability in field conditions was praised, and while the pan magazines were somewhat awkward to carry and change, their high capacity was preferred over the 20 round box magazines used by all the others.

        • The Marines modified the concept by having two to three BARs per twelve-man squad, often splitting the squad into three four-man fire teams. Thus, three full-auto assault weapons plus the excellent Garand. For assaults especially, it worked, also against Banzai charges.

        • I think that there were a host of armies that emphasized fire discipline over individual marksmanship skills. Alexander Rose’s excellent and informative _American Rifle: A Biography_ refers to this as “field firers.” Both the Prussian/German military tradition, and by extension, it’s east Asian emulator, Imperial Japan, appear to have emphasized this model.

          I might take issue a bit or qualify with eon’s interpretation of British doctrine by WWII… The sheer number of Bren magazines expected to be carried by a typical “section” of infantry versus the quantities of magazine charger clips is at leas suggestive that the British–however hidebound their officer corps–was moving in the German direction, albeit with 28rds. loaded in 30-rd. magazines instead of belts like the Germans.

          • There were armies that “emphasized” marksmanship, but not ones that fixated on it the way the US did. Compare/contrast the German approach, which while paying attention to the marksmanship of the individual soldier, did not go to the mind-warping lengths that the US did with its fantasy beliefs. And, I can’t call it anything but–The literature is full of BS about how the Kentucky frontier rifleman won the Revolutionary War, picking off the British officers in battle. The reality, which was that the war was won by French intervention and von Stueben’s trained regulars standing up in typical musket-bearing formations of the period? That escapes almost all the myth-makers.

            And, the US let the myth overtake reality. Same thing happened during the Civil War, and after WWI. You’ll find the writing and literature full of encomiums praising the individual rifleman, and jack squat discussing the actual mechanics of how the firefight was conducted.

            Right up until Vietnam, when the fantasy finally became completely impossible to maintain, we kept it up. The gravel-bellies wanted to believe that their precious games at Camp Perry mimicked what they’d see in combat, and warped procurement and design completely out of alignment with reality. About the only thing about the M1903 series that appears to have been influenced by actual battlefield use was its short length, and that’s really about the only thing the US should be able to lay claim to, in terms of maintaining contact with war as she was actually fought. The rest of the rifle is an optimized gallery gun for use on a gaming field.

            Brits didn’t manage much better, TBH. The Germans were the only ones who really figured it all out, and they plumped down for the belt-fed LMG down in each rifle squad, as the centerpiece of their organization and tactics. That, and the light mortar, were what enabled their infantry to wreak havoc well beyond their weight class for most of the war.

            They still lost, but it wasn’t because their infantry didn’t dominate the firefight or engagements they went into.

  1. Yes, and finally we see the paper target. I like to see this more, so we can compare, to a certain degree, different weapons.

  2. I’ve always only heard good things about the type 96 and I’ve been looking forward to this video since you first mentioned that you got one, and I am in no way disappointed.
    also, in honour of the title:
    ♪She’ll say I’m not so tough
    Just because
    I’m in love
    With an Jap Em-Gee!♪

  3. Watching you run the Type96 I was thinking I wish my wife’s grandfather was still around. He was a IJA Type 11 gunner in China and was probably familiar with the Type96 also. He could have gave you some good insight and pointers on both weapons I’m sure. I wish I could have taken him out for some range time behind one and having a BS session afterwards. I would have loved to hear his thoughts on the Type11.

  4. I thought that the Type 96 required oiled cartridges to run properly. Could that be the reason for the feeding problems here?

  5. The woodpecker is a good machine gun.
    A break in the brass usually indicates wear on the locking unit.
    You need to lubricate the cartridges by dipping the front half of it in melted wax.

  6. I enjoy all your You tube presentations. I live in a historical area of NY State. Forts: Ticonderoga, William Henry (last of the Mohicans), Ft. Edward, and Saratoga National Battlefield are in our backyard. I’m a local Historian and re-enactor. I also built exhibits for some of those sites. If you ever consider a segment or two on F&I or Rev war (black powder weapons), I have access to those sites and can arrange for you and your film crew a mostly free project. “Have sleeping bag will travel”

  7. What, no bayonet? You call that having fun out at the range?

    But: Shooting at paper is exactly right and scientific. Do it more!

  8. That was a lot of fun! I always wondered what they were like to shoot.

    Seems very well thought out for an assault weapon.

  9. Firing my Type 38 Carbine (6.5mm) with soft point ammo results in every round not being able to feed as the soft point deforms and jams at the feed ramp. I have to hand load every round into the chamber.

    Japanese LMG’s are cool, I enjoyed this video. I like the thought to logistics that the earlier Type 11 LMG had. Infantrymen feed their Type 38 rifles from 6.5mm on five round charge clips AND the LMG gunner also feeds his gun from 6.5mm five round clips. So, just get clips to the infantry and they are supplied with ammo.

  10. My copy of “Military Small Arms of the 20th Century” by Hogg and Weeks may offer some insight.

    It states that the Type 96 was meant to use the reduced power 6.5mm round developed for the Type 11. Furthermore, the rounds were oiled by a device on the magazine loader. Using properly oiled, reduced power cartridges would surely have avoided the two case head separations. It was extremely lucky that the next round managed to take the previous case head out of the chamber with it. Unless Ian has the magazine loader, I would recommend a light dab of oil on the cartridges in future.

    • The “reduced” cartridges were not weakened by any means. They simply had a faster burning powder to reduce muzzle flash, otherwise the iron sights would be completely useless in more ways than one.

    • ” It was extremely lucky that the next round managed to take the previous case head out of the chamber with it.”(C)

      This is the standard way to eliminate this delay for many machine guns.
      If this does not help, use a special extractor.
      This is the usual procedure. Until the 1980s, many Soviet tanks had Goryunov machine guns, which constantly (exaggerated, but not too much) tore things up. Especially bimetal. Extractors hung on laces under each machine gun, and loaders trained to remove the remains of the case while blindfolded.

      • Japanese “reduced” cartridges, this is a reduced flash (and a little sound) of a shot.
        They had to be accepted because the type 11 machine gun, due to the short barrel, gave a strong muzzle flash.

        By the way, for the same reason, these cartridges were preferred by snipers with rifles.

        • Stiven:

          I’d like to hear more about that. My textbooks always refer to “reduced power” cartridges for the Types 11 and 96.

          Be that as it may, the Type 11 had an internal oiler, and the Type 96 had an oiler attached to the magazine loader. Both types were meant to use oiled cartridges to prevent case head separations caused by a lack of primary extraction. The fact that Ian suffered two case head separations firing a couple of magazines rather proves the point.

          • This is confusion due to incorrect translation by a translator not very well versed in the subject. Which is virally relayed by all the others “not very well versed in the subject.”
            This happens all the time in near-weapon publications, and this is no reason for embarrassment.

            In these machine guns, the automation is not entirely correctly designed. The bolt starts to move too early when the chamber pressure is still high.

          • The locking assembly of this machine gun is quite hard.
            This is either an incorrect setting of the gas engine, or wear of the locking assembly (likely), or a STRONGLY wrong geometry of the chamber.
            To be more precise, we need to look at the shot cases.

  11. Another possible reason is ammunition.
    The front end of the case can tear off if, due to the incorrect geometry of the case, it leads to too tight pressing of the bullet with too thin walls of the case case near its muzzle.

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