The Howa Type 89 was a replacement for the Japanese Self-Defense Force’s Howa Type 64 rifle. As with many other major militaries, the JSDF made the transition from a .30 caliber, wood stocked, milled receiver rifle to a .22 caliber, stamped construction weapon. The Type 89 was largely based on the AR18 design, with a stamped receiver and gas piston action. Most used a fixed polymer stock, though our photos show the folding-stocked variant.


  1. The Howa Heavy Industry Type 89 Assault Rifle is a Japanese-exclusive assault rifle used by the Japan Self-Defense Forces, Japan Coast Guard and the Special Assault Team. It was never exported outside of Japan due to its strict anti-hardware export laws. It has replaced the Howa Type 64 battle rifle in frontline units. Type 89 rifle was developed by HOWA Machinery Co., Japan, for National Defence Forces of Japan.Type 89 rifle is a select-fire, gas-operated, rotating bolt firearm. The gas action and bolt group is somewhat similar to USA-designed with-18 rifle, previously manufactured by HOWA uned license from Armalite Co (USA). Type 89 rifle has receiver made from stamped steel, polymer furniture and flip-up aperture rear sights. It also has lightweight folding bipods. Type 89 rifle may fire rifle grenades.

  2. The writing on the magazine is hard to make out. My best guess is that it’s supposed to say 訓 (Training or instructional). Unlike the Germans and early Famas, the Type 89 does use standard AR15 magazines and there are a few pictures out there of Japanese police and military with Magpul mags.

    As for the selector:
    アis for 安全 (Anzen, safety)
    レ is for 連発 (Renpatsu. Full auto)
    3 is 3 shot burst (duh)
    タ is 単発 (Tanpatsu, semi)
    From what I’ve read the selector only goes clockwise and back (can’t go directly to full auto). Most photos of JSDF doing weapons practice have brass bags obscuring this so my information is limited (I’ve heard police training have to turn in all their brass after training or they go full shut down everything, part of why they continue to use revolvers. I’d assume the brass bags are a similar deal with the JSDF). Publicity photos of a modernized Type 89 show a more common 3 position AR10/15 style selector.

    As for the lineage and history, I don’t know much. I’d suspect the civilian AR-18s Howa made before Nam politics got in the way led to it, but I’m sure you already had that idea. Would love to get the politics cleared up and see the new version with picatiny rail imported.

    • The reason why the export ban in Japan is because Howa somehow sold AR-18s directly to IRA insurgents and it became international news so Japan made it so they couldn’t export military or “military style” firearms.

    • The Type 89 Fire select can only move counter-clockwise. So you go Safe-Full-Burst-Semi. You can see there’s not enough clearance for the selector switch to rotate clock-wise.

    • They *can* use standard AR15/M16 mags, but they have a slightly different feed lip and follower design. Those mags will not effect a last round bolt hold open.

      The Type 89 specific mags have the punched holes for round counts and will effect a last round bolt hold open.

    • This is because some geeky JSDF trooper reported a false number of shots and stole the few rounds left in the mag.
      Although there have been no cases of stolen ammunition being fired, this was a critical case in Japan, where possession of guns and ammunition by civilians is strictly prohibited.

    • Outside of training exercises where Japanese troops go to Yakima, Washington in USA and the Philippines, Australia, etc, no, so far as anybody can tell these have never left the country nor have ever been the property of anybody except Japanese gov and Howa.

      There are no Japanese made JGSDF surplus weapons even on the Japanese deactivated market, let alone anywhere else.

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