Type 92 Shiki Kikanju
Heavy Machine Gun (HMG)
The Type 92 heavy machine gun was nicknamed the Woodpecker due to its distinct stuttering sound when fired.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The Type 92 Shiki Kikanju Heavy Machine Gun was utilized as the standard heavy machine gun by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War 2. She began as a design of Kijiro Nambu in 1932 and was quickly put into production that same year. The weapon would see extensive action in World War 2, the Korean War and the Chinese Civil War despite her tendency to jam.
Leading up to the Second World War, the Imperial Japanese "powers-that-be" understood that their 6.5mm cartridge had met its proverbial day in the sun - outmatched by those used by other world powers around the globe. As such, a move was enacted to develop and produce a better man-stopping round for her infantrymen, this becoming the new 7.7mm cartridge. The 7.7mm caliber was quickly established as the primary cartridge for many of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) weapons including the Type 92 Shiki Kikanju Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) - itself seeing origins within the Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun and proving nothing more than a larger version of the preceding IJA Type 3 HMG. The Type 92 was chambered to fire the 7.7mm Type 92 machine gun cartridge as was the Type 89 aircraft machine gun. Full-scale production of the Type 92 delivered the Type 92 to Imperial Japanese Army units between 1932 and 1941.
The Type 92 was a gas-operated, air-cooled weapon classified as a "heavy" machine gun with a listed rate-of-fire between 400 and 450 rounds per minute. The 7.7mm Type 92 (Shiki) cartridge (available as rimmed and rimless) was delivered into the mechanism by way of a 150-round metal strip. The use of these ammunition strips (and not belt ammunition) worked against the Type 92 and her crews to an extent, resulting in a lower rate of fire than what her contemporaries generated. Additionally, this operator-initiated feed action made her prone to jamming. Muzzle velocity was about 2,400 feet per second and effective range was listed out to 870 yards. The weapon's running length was 45.5 inches while the barrel made up over two feet of this length. An oil-filled dispenser was made part of the overall system to help ensure smooth delivery of cartridges to the ammunition feed and cartridges themselves were oiled before leaving Japanese factories - though this well-intentioned coating generally attracted dust and dirt leading to potentially worse jams. As such, misfed cartridges proved an all-too common occurrence in the operational history of the Type 92.
With its required tripod, the Type 92 weighed in at an ungainly 122lbs, requiring multiple infantry to carry her into position. Once set and made ready to fire, the Type 92 crew was generally made up of three personnel. The tripod was of note for having holes drilled into its feet. This allowed poles to be driven through the holes to act as carrying handles and facilitate transport of the machine gun by two soldiers. When in action, one soldier managed the aiming and firing of the weapon while a second crewmember served to feed the ammunition clips into the feed mechanism. The 7.7mm Arisaka rifle round could be utilized if need be. Additionally, the Type 92 could be used as a stopgap anti-aircraft machine gun in addition to its standard use against infantry and light vehicles.
External design was conventional and utilitarian by early 1930s standards. Clearly identifiable was the ribbing located ahead of the receiver and aft of the barrel. The major workings were concentrated into the aft portions of the weapon and included the integrated downward handle grip. Ammunition was fed from the left side of the receiver and ejected from a port along the right side of the receiver. Unique to the Type 92 was the fact that its iron sights were offset slightly to the right as opposed to down center. Optional periscopic sights of various standard IJA types could be fitted as well for improved downfield accuracy.
The Type 92 was known to the Allies as the "Woodpecker" for her distinct stuttering sound when fired. As the German MG42 was to the Allied soldiers in Europe, so too was the Type 92 to the Allied soldiers in the Pacific - infantrymen soon learned to identify the weapon system merely by its firing operation and thusly knew something of their enemy when coming under attack. Some captured Type 92s were put back into action against their previous owners by United States Marines on Iwo Jima and other island conquests made by the Americans. Similarly, Chinese forces battling the invading Japanese made use of captured Type 92s as well.
Despite the end of its production run and Japan's capitulation in 1945, the Type 92 soldiered on in the upcoming Korean War by the North Korean Army who still found value with the aged system. The Type 92 received its Japanese military designation by the Japanese Imperial Year of "2592", signifying the year of introduction as "1932" to the rest of the world.