Bolt-Action Service Rifle
Influenced by European rifles of the period, the Murata became a homegrown Japanese design and served into the World War 1 years.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The bolt-action rifle debuted on the battlefield as early as the 19th Century and went on to be the standard infantryman's weapon well into World War 2 (1939-1945). These weapons were generally of considerable overall length (inevitably leading to development of shorter "carbine" forms) with wooden stocks and firing self-contained cartridges. They were evolved along various lines but maintained their general battlefield form and function until given up, as a frontline service weapon, in favor of automatic rifles.
Back in 1880, the Japanese Army moved ahead in adopting the Meiji Type 13 "Murata" bolt-action rifle. As expected, this rifle continued the widely-accepted design qualities of contemporaries and was limited to single-shot firing. The bolt-action mechanism, manually-actuated, was used to extract spent shell casings and open the breech for accepting a fresh cartridge. Other qualities included bayonet support, single-banded full-length wood stock and iron sights for ranged fire. The trigger was underslung in the usual way and the shoulder stock was made integral to the weapon body. Sling sloops provided attachment points for a shoulder strap.
Since the middle of the 1800s, the Japanese Army relied on a mixed collection of long guns that were imported from Europe so the locally-minded Murata was something of a departure for both the Army service and Japanese industry as a whole. The Japanese Civil War also revealed the Army need for a standardized long gun and this led to Japanese Army officer Major Murata Tsuneyoshi heading a committee to fashion a new service rifle - hence the weapon came to bear his name ("Murata"). The rifle borrowed proven elements from the French Lebel and the Austrian Kropatschek series.
The original Model 1880, as its name suggests, was adopted in 1880 and chambered for the local 11x60mmR Murata cartridge. This product was also recognized as the "Type 13" due to its introduction during the 13th year of Emperor Meiji's reign. The Model 1883 (Type 16) was a carbine form in 11x60mmR chambering and, beyond its shortened length, was more or less faithful to the original. When revisions were enacted to the Type 13 design, this produced the Model 1885 (Type 18) in turn and, later that decade, further work begat the Model 1889 (Type 22). The Model 1889 was a significant development in that it became the first to use a smokeless powder cartridge, which gave the weapon a modern quality, and the first Japanese small bore magazine rifle as it was chambered for 8x53mmR. The Type 22 introduced an 8-round tube magazine for repeat firing and its shortened carbine brother held a 5-round magazine.
At the time of the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) the Murata series rifle was made the standard-issue Japanese Army weapon. However, the war showcased the inherent limitations and deficiencies in the Murata and authorities already looked to secure its official successor. Work on a new long gun then produced the Arisaka Type 30 which entered service in 1897. A plethora of offshoots were spawned from this classic weapon that saw service into World War 2.
Despite the introduction of the Arisaka series, the Murata rifle continued to be encountered into the new century - seeing its last commitments in World War 1 (1914-1918).