Japanese Type 26 Revolver (Video)

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.

55 Comments

  1. I saw one of these at a yard sale last year.I had to come home and look it up.The fellow was very proud of it even though he did not know a thing about it.I twas rougher than a cob..no finish.

  2. I know that Japanese pistols tended to be weak, but that is probably due to ergonomics and resource limitations. All Nambu pistols were complex, adding to their less than impressive combat performance due to their weak cartridges. But then again, even a poorly designed gun can kill anyone on the receiving end. In a hand-to-hand scuffle, a drawn Type 14 or Type 94 pistol could make a big difference depending on where it’s pointed. You don’t want 8 mm Nambu point-blank in the gut.

    • I think part of our gun culture problem is that we collectively have “Magnumitis”! One of the Nambu automatic cartridges delivered 1,200 FPS, IIRC which is certainly well over any wound threshold in anyone’s book. The .32 ACP, (71 grains@1000 FPS) had been the world’s police cartridge for decades until quite recently in the scope of these things and it certainly would not have done so if it had not worked to some extent. Think of this; The lowly .22 LR rim fire cartridge kills more people in this country than all the rest! First, last and always, it is where you put the hole that counts!
      Lastly, IIRC, it was the “Hitchman Report” which studied 3-4 MILLION casualties from all countries to find that it only took between 50-60 foot pounds of energy to cause any fatal, or effective wound, a number that the most anemic fire arm can deliver!

    • Nowadays the ammo for Type 26 may seems weak, but when you compare it to other 1890s European (excluding British) revolver ammo it isn’t. See French 1892 revolver (7.8g bullet @ 225m/s i.e. ~120gr @ 738fps), Swiss Schmidt 1882 revolver (104gr @ 720fps), Swedish Nagant m/1887 revolver (223m/s i.e. ~730fps, I don’t know bullet weight).

  3. This and a Type 38 versus an M1895 Nagant and a Mosin-Nagant M1891 would make a good 2 gun match, Russo-Japanese war-style. Though, I can already guess that the Nagant revolver would slow things down considerably.

  4. Neat! Kudos to whoever did the refinishing job… the first thing I noted was the reflection in the finish, not typical of 19th century military revolvers. The easy-remove sideplate and access to the action reminds me of French revolvers of the era.

    Seems like everything I’ve read about the No 2 Mk 1 Enfield mentions the rough trigger pull. I had one for a spell in the 80s that I picked up in a trade and it had one of the smoothest double-action trigger pulls I’ve ever seen. Don’t know if it had been tweaked by an ordinance sergeant somewhere or had just been shot into smoothness, but it was lighter and smoother than most factory Smith K-frames. Unfortunately the sights were WAY off – a lot more than the 146-grain American loads aimed with sights zeroed for .380/200 would account for. As I recall it was over two feet high and to the left at ten yards, so it went with the next trade. Neat little revolver, aside from not being able to hit anything with it without doing calculus in my head.

    • I agree. The Enfield revolver in my experience had a smooth and controllable trigger pull, and also very good sights, better than the Webley in my opinion. It was accurate too, though very underpowered compared to a 9mm or a .45.

  5. Thank you Ian for another excellent and accurate report.
    I have a couple of questions.
    What do you think the price range would be for one of the Japanese Type 26 pistols?
    Where could one buy the 9x22mm rimmed Jap. cartridges (and price)?
    Thanks again.

    • I suppose you mean the Abadie system, which is not a break-action type. The M/1878 Abadie fired a rather weak 9,1mm round (the cartridge was loaded with black powder of course); the Portuguese must have liked the M/1878, for they ordered a virtually identical revolver, the M/1886, but for a longer barrel.
      The Japanese Type 26 is a different sort of animal and a superior pistol to the Portuguese/Belgian Abadie in either of its incarnations.

  6. One of these could have been my first handgun. The old VL&A gunstore in Oak Law, Illinois had one of these and a Luger totally devoid of finish. I punted and eventually got a Series 70 Colt which I still have.

    At the time I was looking at that gun, Midway was selling surplus 9x11mmR ammunition for them. As a matter of fact, that’s how I first heard of Midway, from their ads for that ammunition (in Shot Gun News, as I recall).

  7. I have shot it in the past & it is an interesting though not a particularly great gun. You take 38 special case shorten and thin the rims and use light loads with 9 mm lead bullets and you have a nice little gun to shoot.

  8. Very, very interesting. Thanks very much for the review! I had always read that the trigger pull weight on these revolvers was abominably heavy. Then again, double-action-only is not everyone’s cup of tea. I have seen examples at shows that included the full flap leather holster for big price tags. I know that Guns and Ammo recently did a WWI M1889 Bodeo (a derivative of the Chamelot-Delvinge, yes?) 10.4mm vs. the Austro-Hungarian Rast-Gasser 8-shooter 8mm revolver. Very interesting!

    I’d agree that if ammo could be made up in sufficient quantity that a late-19th century revolver match-up might be pretty interesting.

  9. Ian, my local gun store, Bensons, in Coram NY has 2 boxes of OWS 9mm “Jap revolver” ammunition on the shelf…Interested?

  10. Had one of these a few years back that I picked up at a gun show for $150. It didn’t have a lot of finish but otherwise in nice shape.
    We found that Hirtenberger .38 S&W fit the chambers very well. The gun shot fine with that ammo even though, as has been observed, you couldn’t hit squat with it. I got rid of it when I decided to cash out my various Japanese weapons. I remember the trigger pull being better than I expected-long, a bit stiff but smooth.

  11. The slow reloading of the Type 26 really wasn’t an issue for the Japanese Army officer corps. They followed the doctrine of most European armies of the time, that being that an officer’s job was to supervise, not engage in personal combat. The officer would ideally only need his sidearm in event an enemy soldier or two got through his own riflemen’s skirmish line and charged him directly. At which point, assuming he could shoot straight, the six rounds in the revolver would be enough, two or three per customer.

    And of course, he had a sword, too. Once the range dropped to arm’s-length, unless the soldiers attacking had bayonets fixed and more importantly knew what they were doing with them, he had a distinct advantage.

    Seen in context, the Type 26 made perfect sense from the Imperial Army’s POV.

    cheers

    eon

    • Agreed. If an enemy infantryman tried to engage a Japanese officer at close quarters (let us say in the trenches), the officer would have a speed advantage (heavy bolt-action rifle with fixed bayonet vs revolver and long sword in confined space). Do not try to parry a katana (or mass-produced saber, depending on the officer’s lineage…) with a bayonet… No, I am not watching anime while telling this to you. If I am going to bayonet a sword-wielding opponent, I will not allow him to dodge to the side (side-stepping is the way to counter spear attacks from the front, I believe).

      • Sidestep, free hand seizes shaft aft of point, push it up and to the side, thrust up and in with the sword. Your opponent’s momentum in his thrust tends to carry him right onto your point.

        Used against the Greek phalanx by Roman legionaries with the relatively short-bladed gladius, this tactic was largely responsible for Greece becoming a Roman province. The 15th Century Spanish tercios used it with rapier against pike, with roughly the same results.

        When the Greeks became the core of the later Roman (Byzantine) Empire (2nd-5th Centuries AD), they decided that the only thing wrong with the gladius was it was too short. They lengthened it by about eight inches (from about two feet to about 30-32″) gave it a sharper point, and called it a spatha. Yes, it was optimized for both cutting and thrusting.

        Coincidentally, it ended up about the same length as a katana. With about as sharp an edge and point, too.

        Moral; the best way to deal with a swordsman… is to shoot him from as far beyond arm’s-length as possible.

        No, I’m not watching anime, either- but I have some friends in the SCA. The main chorus of one of their favorite filks goes like this;

        “We’re harmless historical nuts
        Who wear boiler plate on our butts
        Who dress up in clothes from the 12th century,
        To bash on each other with sticks and debris…
        And make up the world’s largest private army!
        Harmless historical nuts!”

        😉

        cheers

        eon

        • You know, you just don’t get information like this – the history, the glossary, the tactics, the lyrics – at the AR fanboy web sites. Why do I suspect that there are countless other verses, of declining taste, to that song? I have trad-Celtic musician friends who play at the Renaissance Festivals and late at night, around the campfires when the tourists are long gone, they do incredibly vulgar and hilarious things to “Greensleeves.” “Green sleeves was all she wore….”

          • Wow, thanks! That should burn out my forward icon. Loved pages 2 and 26 in particular, but I’m sure many others will also appeal as I study this incredible document. For some reason I’m suddenly walking around singing – to the tune of Wabash Cannonball – “Don’t put sand in the Vaseline, you’ll hurt the one you love…”

        • No, the correct tactic is to thrust your bayonet equipped rifle with your arms while standing firm. If he tries to parry, push through with your longer heavier weapon. If he tries to side step, or dodge, reflex and stab again. The advantage is always with the man with the longer and heavier weapon. At least that is what I was taught when I took Kendo. When fighting with edged and other muscle powered weapons, size, speed and strength count, but they are easily offset buy a longer and heavier weapon.
          Note that the Katana was NOT the ultimate Japanese sword, or even edged weapon. That honor fell to a pole arm that had a sword like cutting edge and point! There were at least two sizes of sword that were longer and heavier than the Katana, both, or all three considered better weapons in a war.

        • Couple of minor corrections:

          The Greeks didn’t became the core of the (East) Roman Empire until after Constantine (the Great) moved the capital to Constantinople in 324 AD. At that time the Spatha was already in common use by Roman infantry. Also, the Western part of the Empire remained “latin” all the way to its end in 476 AD.

          The Spatha has unknown origins (the word comes from Greek, but most likely not the sword design itself) and may have been originally used as a cavalry sword in the 2nd Century AD and possibly earlier (this has not been proven, though). The general design was probably either Celtic or German in origin, although it may have developed “organically” from longer versions of the Gladius . The late Roman army also didn’t abandon the spear, quite the contrary in fact. During the late Empire the Pilum , an almost pure throwing javelin, was replaced by the somewhat shorter , which was better suited for thrusting, but could still be thrown effectively.

          In reality the fight between a swordsman and a man with a short thrusting spear was probably decided by individual skill rather than any intrinsic superiority of the weapons. In military use spears had qualities which could not be replicated by swords and vice versa, so both remained in use well into the gunpowder era.

          If we consider the original premise of this discussion, that is a late 19th or early 20th century non-Japanese infantryman with a fixed bayonet vs. a Japanese officer with a sword, the latter is probably going to win because his training emphasized close range combat much more, and he was likely to be at least somewhat proficient with his sword. If we reverse the situation and put a non-Japanese officer with a sword against a Japanese infantryman with one of those nasty sword bayonets, all bets are off, and I would say that most of the time the latter probably has an advantage.

          • The Japanese swordsmanship culture in traditional Western perception might have been overplayed a bit. Of course, I recall my one time Aikido sensei showing sword technique, but that was one knowledgeable individual. Probably not every Japanese is master of sword just like not very Czech is first-league hockey player. So, what I try to say is that I am not exactly convinced that ALL Japanese officers were masters of Tachi or Katana.

            My tradition being Central-European tells me that there was plenty of attention to sabre fighting skill in A-H military well documented in history of Pandurs and Ulans. I would therefore think that the time of sword/ saber/ rapier and derivatives has developed and culminated rather evenly across industrial world. And yes, it has become quite obvious, the debuting new weapon being pistol soon took the precedence. Bit by bit, but it did.

            When you talk about spear, javelin and similar tools I recall a thought I had long time ago. Is it not in fact the projected spear’s tip which we have in form of bullet? It is same idea, albeit with some stand-off. When all have the same stand-off, things are back to equal.

          • Correction:

            “During the late Empire the Pilum , an almost pure throwing javelin, was replaced by the somewhat shorter Spiculum , …”

            @Denny:

            It is undoubtedly true that not every Japanese officer was a master of the Tachi or Katana, but the Japanese infantry doctrine emphasized close range combat as decisive and officers were expected to be able to handle their swords reasonably well. I am not sure if that was still the case for infantry officers in European armies in the time frame we are discussing here. For cavalry most definitely, since the cavalry saber remained a very important practical weapon until WW1 and in some cases beyond.

          • You may be right Euroweasel and none of us can tell what was infantry use of sabres and spears in final part of Empire history; part of deeper historical research, perhaps. Considering past events especially ongoing hassles with Ottoman Turks one can imagine where the emphasis were.

            The “cold blade” tools of all kind were used by A-H infantry during WWI. As matter of fact I well remember what my grandfather told me. He kept as a keepsake what he called ‘stormer’ – basically large kitchen knife with 12 notches on it.

  12. the Handloader’s Manual of Cartridge Conversions has instructions for making this from .39 Special brass

    i think it’s supposed to be .38 Special brass and not .39

  13. I have mentioned this previously but why to do many early 20th century anti-personnel side arms feature underwhelming cartridges.
    Was it a matter of strength of action? 44BP and 45colt BP revolvers predated these much weaker newer smokeless cartridges.
    Was there little terminal ballistics research?
    Was the smaller physical size of people a factor? (some data suggests WW1 conscripts average 5’7″ height)

    • Consider that in Europe the revolver was rather a officer badge than actual firearm. It was designed to be used only in rare desperate situation.

      • And firing the coup de grace at point-blank range after the firing squad did the, erm, “heavy lifting.”

    • Yes, there was little terminal ballistics research at the time, and certainly even less for handgun cartridges. The general consensus seems to have been that as long as the bullet penetrated deep enough to reach vital organs at close ranges, the cartridge was powerful enough. For military use, where only FMJ is allowed, there are many people who still think that is essentially correct.

      Choice of action also played a role, not so much for the revolvers, but for the early semi-auto pistols. .32 and .380 ACP could be used with a simple blowback action. Simple blowback pistols were cheaper than short recoil action pistols, reliable, accurate and had relatively few moving parts. Those were still a major consideration when Makarov designed his pistol around the 9x18mm cartridge, which was designed to be the most powerful one that could be reliably used in a simple blowback pistol (the less widely spread German WW2 9x18mm Ultra and early 1970s 9x18mm Police had a similar design goal.)

  14. It’s more that a couple of well-known American cartridges (.44 WCF and .45 LC) were very overpowered by the standards of the 19th century and this carried over into the 20th. As an example, the 11mm French (the OTHER Model 1873 revolver, arguably the tactical superior of a Colt Peacemaker) was essentially a 43-11 compared to the .44-40. Most of the 11mm European rounds were of more or less this power… even the vaunted .455 – no slouch as a manstopper – is fairly “anemic” compared to a .45 Long Colt. Although the US Army actually carried the Schofield load, which as I recall is a .45-28 with similar ballistics to a .455… meaning on a clear day shooting at the sky you could see the bullet in flight. Similarly, most of the 7.62/8 mm Euro smokeless rounds were in the .32 S&W range and the US’s experiment with the .38 Long Colt inspired a scurry back to the .45.

    Keep in mind, during the 19th and early 20th, the pistol was an officer’s status symbol carried as a backup to his primary weapon which of course is the sword. (Note that virtually all pre-automatic-era revolvers were either break-top ambidextrous or obviously designed – from Single Action Army to French 1892 – to be used by the left hand. Officers and cavalrymen fought with the sword; I suspect that the primary use of the officer’s handgun was to execute reluctant conscripts, pour encourager les autres. For a point-blank coupe de grace, an anemic 7.5 mm works just fine.

    • Prior to the introduction of the revolver, and even into the early metallic-cartridge era, the pistol was mainly a cavalryman’s weapon, and the calibers reflected that. The purpose wasn’t to wound or kill an enemy, but to take his horse out from under him. Hence not only the .45 caliber Colt and S&W, but the “50-bore” (.45 caliber) and “44-bore” (.50 caliber) Beaumont-Adams revolvers, the 11mm Lefaucheux and its various Belgian and Spanish copies, etc.

      The Colt Walker, Dragoon, etc., and Remington Army .44 percussion revolvers were built on the same principle. Big bore, plus a big enough powder charge behind a fairly heavy bullet to cripple or kill an enemy cavalryman’s mount. Again, the principle of the swordsman; the cavalryman’s primary arm was supposed to be the saber. After the Crimea and the American Civil War, most “yellowlegs” sensibly concluded that if you took the other guy’s horse out from under him first, he was a lot easier to deal with. (Infantrymen have known this for centuries, going back to when the longbow and crossbow first became a credible threat to the armored knight.)

      When the idea of a revolver as more of a badge of rank than a serious fighting arm came around on the Continent, the revolvers and calibers shrank to something that could be conveniently carried on the belt, rather than in a saddle holster. Hence, 4″ to 5″ barrels, and bores of from .41 on down to as little as .29 (10.3 down to 7.5mm).

      One anomaly in this was the British predilection for revolvers firing rifle-musket-sized slugs at shotgun velocities (.577in, 470-grain Minie’-type bullet at 600 FPS= 375 FPE). These were intended for dealing with tribesmen in the colonial wars, who were considered tougher opponents. Similarly, the Austrian Army for a while used a revolver chambering the 11mm Werndl single-shot rifle round, considered something of a black-powder Magnum by Continental standards. (On who, or what, they intended to use it they were never able to adequately explain.)

      In fact, both were in the same FPE range as the American .45 pistol rounds. The Werndl (245 grain @ 790= 340 FPE) was about equal to the .45 Schofield. The .577 Webley/Tranter had about the FPE of the .45 Colt out of a 5 1/2″ barrel.

      Not exactly as powerful as they looked “in person”, so to speak.

      cheers

      eon

      • Well, its good to remember that the 20th century US preference of large caliber handguns in military use also came about for a very large part from experience against tribesmen, namely the Moro rebellion. Without that conflict there is a high chance that the US military would have continued to use about .38 caliber rounds into WW1 and beyond. For example the 1911 could have been adopted in .38 ACP. I highly doubt that the .38 ACP or even the much less powerful .38 Long Colt (if still used) would have been seen in WW1 as seriously under-performing.

        Of course the .38 ACP was still a more powerful cartridge than many of the “anemic” European revolver cartridges, or the .32 ACP and .380 ACP adopted later by many European armies for their automatic pistols, but without the Moro rebellion the later mythos around the .45 ACP probably would have never came to be.

        • Very good insight! I am of similar opinion. One such direction which were just the opposite – e.i. .30 cal with high effective range and penetration was 7.62 x 25 Tokarev. In fact it surprises me that now one built a new gun for this excellent cartridge.

          • Denny, I’ve been under the same impression ever since 1989… Actually I dream of an high capacity, fully modern gun. Of course, it doesn’t need to be a new design, something already extant will do just fine.

          • Interestingly, I remember reading something a few years ago about a chap who converted both a Glock 20 and a 1911 to 7.62×25 Tokarev.
            The Spanish company Star also had a few versions of their 1911 look-alikes chambered for the 7.63 Mauser; the last batch (of the Model MMS, if I recall correctly) was manufactured in the early 1980s from old parts they had in stock. Great pistols by any account.

          • The French 7.65×20 Long (Longue), although often considered weak, was also significantly more powerful than the .32 ACP and somewhat more powerful than .380 ACP. The standard French military loading had an 85gr bullet and muzzle velocity of 1,120 ft/s (Mle. 1935A pistol with a 105mm barrel). You sometimes see much lower muzzle velocities in some sources, but they are not for the French military load.

      • Yes. Colt Army caliber .44 to put down a horse, injured or not. Colt “Navy” .36 caliber for use aboard ships where there were no horses…

        The largest handgun of the 19th century: The Colt Walker Dragoon designed as a multi-shot pommel-holster behemoth!

    • “.44-40”
      Remember that 44-40 was initially rifle cartridge later adopted to use in revolvers. This can be considered, as a predecessor of modern Magnum hunting revolvers.

    • Don’t forget Austrian 11mm Gasser – 312 grains soft lead bullet @ 250-260m/s is quite respectable.
      Commercial ammo was somewhat more mild with ~225-230 m/s.

      Only European army that considered revolver as standard infantry sidearm was Montenegro, where every male citizen was obligated to own Gasser revolver (in above 11mm Gasser). It payed off in Mojkovac Battle where 6500 Montenegrin managed to inflict heavy casualties to Austro-Hungarian forces in vicious close quarter fighting in Village of Mojkovac and surrounding forest.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Mojkovac

      • Apparently these large-caliber revolvers were popular with Austro-Hungarian K.u.K storm troops for trench raids and suchlike due to the heavy caliber.

  15. The Austrian Rast and Gasser used an identical pivoting trigger guard and hinged sideplate (not sure which came first, but the one probably influenced the other, or alternately, both may have been influenced by another design I’m not aware of). The Rast and Gasser was a gate loaded revolver though, and fired an 8mm caliber at least as anemic as the Type 26. Given the faster reloading, and assuming the Type 26 didn’t have a horrendously heavy trigger pull, like a lot of 19th century military revolvers did, it probably would have made the better weapon simply on the basis of faster reloading. There doesn’t seem to be much else to choose between them.

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