Nambu Type 14
Semi-Automatic Service Pistol
The Type 14 Nambu pistol was in widespread use with the Japanese Army during World War 2.
Authored By: JR Potts, AUS 173d AB and Dan Alex | Last Edited:
Like the standard-issue rifles of the Imperial Japanese Army during the 1920s, the pistols of the IJA were equally outdated for their time. The Nambu Type 14th Year Pistol, which appeared in 1925, was an improved form of the semi-automatic 8mm Nambu "4th Year Type" pistol (or "Model 04") which was officially accepted into service by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1909 with a modified form appearing in 1915 (the 4th year of the Taisho era). The 4th Year Type - showcasing a design layout not unlike the famous German Luger but an internally different pistol all its own - saw combat actions in World War 1 but proved unreliable on the whole and expensive to produce for Japanese industry. The design was born from the mind of fabled Japanese gunsmith and IJA Major Kirijo Nambu (hence the pistol's name of "Nambu" as well as its named cartridge) and featured a grip-mounted safety ahead of the butt with overall construction quality being generally acceptable save for the weak design of the striker spring. The Nambu 4th Year Type survived largely as a commercial venture until, in 1925, the weapon was revised in an attempt to reduce manufacturing costs and sway IJA authorities to formally adopt the gun as its official standard-issue sidearm. The new weapon was known as the "Type 14".
Despite the changes, the Type 14 remained largely faithful to the original design - though this included some inherent limitations and faults. The Type 14 sported a safety catch which replaced the grip safety. However, this forced the operator to use his free hand to managed the system, something of a detrimental quality in the heat of battle. The Type 14 retained the same semi-automatic firing action which saw the barrel, bolt and receiver all recoil in unison, rotating and unlocking bolt. The bolt was then moved back into position by a pair of recoil springs and made ready fire the next cartridge. This complicated arrangement brought with it added maintenance in-the-field for a pistol that should have been robust and worry-free by design. The Type 14 also retained the original's low-powered 8x22mm "Nambu" round which never proved adequate when compared to contemporary designs such as the 0.45 ACP and 9mm Parabellum. The pistol was fed from an 8-round detachable box magazine inserted into the pistol grip. Additionally, in the IJA, officers had to purchase their own pistols severely limiting the reach of the Type 14 from the start. Those members that were able to procure the pistol were rewarded with a relatively light trigger pull and good overall balance, the latter attributed to all of the major components being concentrated at the rear of the weapon, near the firer's hand. Formal adoption of the Type 14 into IJA service occurred in 1927 and the series went on to become the most widely used service pistol of the Japanese military from the span of 1925 to 1945: the latter marking the final year of World War 2 and the formal fall of the Japanese Empire.
As IJA officers had the "pick of the litter" in terms of their selected pistols, some elected to purchase proven foreign pistol types with their larger, high-powered cartridges than settle for the 8mm Nambu. Despite some good qualities in the design, the Type 14 was nonetheless vastly inferior when compared to the proven "manstoppers" of her time such as the famous American Colt 0.45 pistol. The striker recoil springs proved inherently weak and became much worse over time which eventually led to misfires - a defect originating in the 4th Year Type of 1909.
During the Japanese campaign in Manchuria, cold weather had set in, forcing Japanese officers to don thick winter gloves. However, the trigger ring of the original Type 14 proved too small for the gloved hand and thusly forced another revision to the Type 14 design in 1939 (known as the "Kiska") which, naturally, enlarged the ring for such operation. At this time, a magazine retaining spring was also added. One of the many shortcomings of the Type 14 was its magazine design which proved difficult to remove from the frame when the gun had become dirty or wet. This defect led to the deaths of many Japanese officers in the various jungle campaigns of World War 2.
Perhaps as many as 320,000 Nambu Type 14 pistols were produced. Its wide-spread use by Japanese forces made it a popular "trophy" of sorts to Allied personnel, similar to how the German Luger in Europe was coveted.