The Arisaka Type 44 Cavalry Rifle was based on the Type 38 carbine, itself based on the Type 38 infantry rifle.
Authored By: JR Potts, AUS 173d AB and Dan Alex | Last Edited:
Credit: Two views of the Japanese Type 44 Carbine
The Type 44 Carbine (also known as the Type 44 "Cavalry Rifle") was a standardized Japanese Army bolt-action carbine weapon designed in 1911 by famed Japanese gunsmith Baron Arisaka Nariakira and introduced into Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) service in 1912. The type led a long and storied career within the ranks of the IJA and saw production span into 1942 during World War 2. As such, the weapon was used throughout the nation's various conflicts in that span and survived in circulation long enough to see combat actions in the upcoming Korean and Chinese Civil Wars. The "carbine" - or "cavalry rifle" - classification described the weapon as a shortened form of an existing "long rifle" design - namely the bolt-action Type 38 service rifle which, itself, was developed into the Type 38 Cavalry Rifle. The Type 44 was, therefore, based on the Type 38 Cavalry Rifle. Carbine weapons were developed to provide the firepower of a traditional long rifle within a more compact body suitable for use by mounted infantry (cavalry) and this usually involving the shortening of the barrel assembly while keeping the rest of the design intact - in essence making for a more logistically friendly end-product.
While its lineage was based on the Type 38 series, the Type 44 was distinguished by its use of a "needle-type" bayonet fitting (as opposed to a conventional blade). This installation could be folded backwards and locked in place under the forend when not in use, keeping the Type 44's compact size in check. Design of the Type 44 included a largely wooden body with an integrated ergonomic shoulder stock, ringed trigger guard and metal internal components. The components were conventionally set within the rear portion of the receiver while the wooden forend encased the barrel, allowing for minimal protrusion of the muzzle. Iron sights were fitted at the muzzle and a flip-up type installation was identified along the receiver top along the midway point.
As a bolt-action system, the Type 44 relied upon the operator to manually actuate the bolt-mechanism to eject spent shell casings and introduce a fresh cartridge for firing. The bolt was of typical design and orientation, capped by a knob and set to the rear of the receiver. The user raised the bolt handle, pulled the handle to the rear, set the handle forward again and lowered the handle along the side of the gun body, making the carbine ready to fire. Each round needed to be managed in this way, making the weapon's rate-of-fire directly tied to the speed of the operator himself. Ideally, the buttstock was set firmly against the shoulder of the firer for more accurate results while the non-trigger hand supported the forward portion of the gun.
The 44 measured in at 38.3 inches long and weighed 7.28 pounds. Comparatively, the Type 99 Arisaka infantry rifle was a hefty 44 inches long and weighted 8.6 lbs. Both weapons fired the same 6.5 x 50mm Arisaka cartridge which, at its inception, was proven to cause maximum damage against targets for its propensity to tumble in the air and break up upon impact (in later years, particularly concerning World War 2, the 6.5 Arisaka was deemed obsolete when compared to contemporary offerings elsewhere). The carbine was fed by 5-round "stripper" clips which were inserted down into the internal magazine of the weapon. The use of stripper clips meant that the carbine needed to spend all five of its rounds before a reload was possible (a user could not, therefore, "add" more rounds to a half-spent magazine). This limited the Type 44 from a tactical perspective.
Stripper clips, in general, were nothing more than individual, ready-to-fire cartridges attached at their base to a metal or heavy plastic "clip". The user set the clip above the magazine well of the weapon (those designed to accept stripper clips) and applied pressure to the cartridge to which each cartridge was then "stripped" clean from the clip and stacked within the internal magazine accordingly. The empty clip could then be thrown away or (in some designs) reused by adding fresh cartridges and fed into a weapon once again. This method was a preferred feed mechanism over that of individually loading rounds into a weapon by hand. The British knew stripper clips as "chargers" while "stripper clip" became the more accepted term elsewhere.
In the lead up to World War 2, Japan was already at war with neighboring China for its natural resources and this widespread conflict proved a highly mobile endeavor for the IJA, requiring the services of tens of thousands of Japanese troops when attempting to contain and subdue the country. As such, cavalry were used to wage war when possible, especially over terrain lacking any access to major roads. The shorter Type 44 carbine weapon was preferred for such engagements and, on the whole, Japanese soldiers found the weight and length of the Type 44 to be of favorable design considering the average stature of the IJA soldier to be just 5 feet 4 inches tall. The needle bayonet fitting was a also key device, especially in close-in combat where wielding an edged weapon beyond arm's length was preferable to a firearm longer than a pistol.
In practice, the Type 44 exhibited a light recoil when fired and nearly no muzzle flash was apparent, helping to conceal the position of the firer if on foot and hidden for ambush. The system also benefited from light maintenance requirements and little training was needed in its basic use. The rather simple construction used in the manufacture of the Type 44 made it possible to issue the weapon in the thousands alongside standard infantry long rifles.
In all, some 92,000 of Type 44 carbines were produced out of Japanese military arsenals.
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