The Type 38 rifle was a long implement and optimized to use the Type 30 bayonet. The rifle was 4 feet, 2 inches in length and became the longest service rifle in service during World War 2. The additional 20-inch long bayonet gave the Japanese soldier an advantage when bayonet fighting was required in close-quarters. However, the average Japanese infantryman stood at about 5 feet, 3 inches and thusly had difficulty handling such a long weapon. The inherently small stature of the Japanese soldier also required a smaller caliber round and less of a powder charge to contain recoil when the weapon was fired from the shoulder.
These design problems lead to different versions being produced that included the carbine Type 38, a shorter version of the base rifle, that was issued to "non-combat" troops. In this form, the overall length was reduced to 966 mm. An airborne paratrooper model was also produced with a folding buttstock. The Rifle Type 97 utilized a telescopic sight and was issued to snipers. Rifle Type 99 used a 7.7mm cartridge that had a folding monopod for stability when firing at troops or even low-flying aircraft (the latter use is suspect however).
As all service rifles and bayonets were the property of the Japanese Emperor, each were stamped with the sixteen petal chrysanthemum on the receiver (for the rifle) and on the blade (for the bayonet). This gave the common soldier a cultural connection to the Samurai warrior class that was still of great pride to the Imperial Japanese Army of the day.
The Type 38 was a manually-operated bolt-action rifle, requiring the operator to actuate a bolt handle on the receiver, this action ejecting the spent cartridge and introducing a new cartridge into the firing chamber. The standard cartridge for the Type 38 became the 6.5mm / 50mm Arisaka round fired from a 5-round box magazine. Rate-of-fire was reported to be about 30 rounds a minute in the hands of a trained marksman.
Empty weight of the weapon system was a manageable 8.7lbs. She fielded a generally conventional design with a long wooden forend banded in two places. Her major internal workings were concentrated at the rear of the receiver with the long barrel taking up most of her running length at the front. Sights were fitted at the front (post), just aft of the muzzle, and atop of the receiver (flip-up leaf), ahead of the action. The buttstock was solid wood and contoured to an ergonomic shape to fit tightly in the firing hand of the user. The trigger was suspended under the action and protected by an oblong trigger guard.
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