Nambu Type 94
Semi-Automatic Service Pistol
The Nambu Type 94 semi-automatic pistol emerged from testing in 1935 and saw extensive service during the World War 2 period with production reaching 71,000 examples.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The Empire of Japan fielded a variety of semi-automatic pistol types during its involvement in World War 2 (1939-1945) - the most famous of these being the Nambu Type 14 (detailed elsewhere on this site). Another such weapon to come from the mind of designer Kijiro Nambu was the forgotten Type 94 Nambu which emerged during the inter-war years in 1935 and managed to see service throughout the global conflict thereafter. Roughly 71,000 of these pistols were produced by the Nambu Rifle Manufacturing Company from 1935 until 1945.
The weapon was chambered for the proprietary 8x22mm Nambu cartridge and fed from a six-round detachable box magazine inserted into the grip handle. The cartridge had origins in 1902 and was adopted in 1904 - designed by Mr. Nambu himself. A bottlenecked, rimless cartridge design, it was intended from the outset to feed into compact hand guns like the Type 94 and saw service from World War I (1914-1918) until the Second World War. It was, more or less, comparable to John Browning's .32 ACP round that emerged from the United States in 1899.
The Type 94 began development in 1929 with the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) soldier/officer in mind. A recoil-operated, locked-breech action was selected and the frame made as compact and lightweight as possible. Weight was 765 grams and overall length became 7.4 inches (the barrel measuring just 3.78 inches long). Muzzle velocity reached 1,000 feet-per-second giving useful penetration at close-to-medium ranges and sighting was through a front-blade, rear-fixed "V" iron arrangement which aided the operator in achieving some accuracy in ranged fire.
The Type 94 went through a protracted testing, development, and trials period for it did not meet IJA standards until adopted in late-1934. When Japan invaded Manchuria during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), a shortage of useful semi-automatic pistols was notable and this pressed Japanese factories to rush weapons like the Type 94 to the frontlines. Once available in serviceable numbers, they were placed in the hands of paratroopers, aircrews, and vehicle crews who could appreciate the small footprint of the design.
Early production pistols were held to a much higher standard than later-war forms - which were hastily pushed out of production facilities due to the pressures of a failing war effort. On the whole the design was well-liked by its users though criticisms began to center on the gun's complex take-down process as well as the ability for the gun to accidentally discharge if certain mechanical conditions were met.
With Japan under the full force of the Allied bombing campaign heading into 1945, production of this pistol slowed to a crawl by the war's final months. By this time, desperate measures were instituted in manufacture of the pistol to circumvent shortages of supplies such as wood and metal. This included crude plastic grips in place of the original wooden ones, lack of inspection stamps/dates on late-war guns, and parts/components simply taken from other guns that were available.