Type 99 Walk-Around
Design-wise, the Type 99 followed in line with much of the rifle offerings of the time. She held all of her major components in a wooden frame featuring an ergonomic pistol grip and integrated shoulder stock. The trigger sat within an oblong ring under the main body. Metal works were exposed along the top of the receiver and included the rear sight and the ball-tipped bolt-action lever, offset to the right-hand side. The ejection port was just ahead and above the trigger group and the rear sight just ahead of the ejection port itself. The Type 99 was the first quantitatively produced combat rifle to feature a chrome-lined bore to help with maintenance and cleaning of the rifle. This feature was wholly dropped towards the end of the war to ease production and demand on resources. There were two bands along the foregrip, one just ahead of the receiver and the other just behind the barrel muzzle. The barrel extended a short distance away from the wooden body and sported a simple forward sight atop the muzzle.
The 7.7x58mm Cartridge
The Type 99 made use of the 7.7x58mm Arisaka cartridge of which five such rounds were fed into the system by way of an internal box magazine or "stripper clips". Muzzle velocity was rated at 2,394 feet per second and the firing action was known as "bolt action", requiring each individual round to be loaded by operating the bolt handle. This action ejected any cartridge currently in the firing chamber (spent or not) and introduced a new cartridge ready to fire. Weight was a manageable 8.16lbs while the length measured out to 44 inches with a 26-inch barrel (Short Rifle). An optional bayonet could be fitted to the underside of the barrel, this by way of an attaching lug and loop. The bayonet could be removed and used individually as a combat knife or field utility tool. The monopod was hinged at the second band and folded up against the stock forend. This could be removed if needbe.
Type 99 Variants
The Type 99 was developed into other useful forms. This included the Type 99 Parachutist's Rifle of 1940. The rifle was developed for use by Japan's airborne soldiers, featuring a joint set between the barrel and the action. In practice, however, this mechanical change did not endear the rifle to her users and led to the development of the Parachutist's Rifle, Type 2 of 1942. The Parachutist's Rifle, Type 2 attempted to right the wrongs inherent in the earlier airborne version. A sliding horizontal wedge replaced the previous joint and the rifle proved a better end-product. However, production of the system was very limited and only a few saw extensive action in the Pacific Theater.
The Type 99 "Short Rifle" was the regular issue Type 99, appearing in 1942, while the Type 99 "Long Rifle" appeared in limited numbers. The Short Rifle sported a 26-inch barrel while the Long Rifle was given a 31-inch barrel. The Sniper Rifle Type 99 was a specialized form fitting an optic sight (Tomoika Type 1, 2.5x) along the top of the receiver, offset to the left side on a mounting bracket. The monopod was retained to help with accuracy. A strong leather sling was issued for field work and hooked along the left side of the forend and buttstock. The optic sight was carried in a hardened case for protection.
Poor Crop at War's End
Despite some early-earned respect, the Type 99 suffered from quality control towards the end of the war with the Japanese Empire war machine was on life-support. Raw materials and competent production processes were both in short supply resulting in rather poor quality and finishes on most of the outgoing Arisaka rifles including the Type 99. Some were shipped without finishes of any kind while others had their rear sites wholly replaced by a more basic and fixed system. Additionally, the machining process involved in the internal components often led to the rifle being quite dangerous to fire for the operator for the core components were ill-produced. As Japanese surrender became all the more imminent, many Army rifles bearing the Imperial Chrysanthemum marking of the Emperor had this emblem grounded down in 1945 to spare the Emperor the embarrassment of surrender. Many surviving rifles are often found with this particular condition, especially late-war/late-model model production versions.
The Type 99 and the Korean War
The Type 99 Short Rifle made something of a reappearance in the upcoming Korean War (1950-1953). South Korean Army forces took to modifying existing Type99s to fire the .30-06 Springfield cartridge that was in use by a multiple set of American weapons including the Springfield M1903. Other changes greeted this re-envisioned weapon system such as a lengthened magazine and revised ejection port. While somewhat useful in the field, these modified Type 99s proved somewhat inaccurate for the Type 99 was a rifle never intended to fire the longer .30-06 Springfield cartridge. Nevertheless, this revised Type 99 was still used in some number (about 133,000 according to sources) and made a statement all its own.
The Type 99 was produced by a wide variety of state factories across Japan (including come production coming out of Korea). This included Toriimatsu Arsenal in Nagoya, Dai-Nippon Heiki Kogyo of Notobe, Kayaba Kogyo of Tokyo, Toyo Juki of Hiroshima, Tokyo Juki of Tokyo and Jinsen Arsenal of Korea.