The Type 4 / Type 5 rifle was a Japanese attempt to copy and mass-produce the classic American M1 Garand semi-automatic service rifle. Throughout the war, the Japanese infantryman relied on proven -but decidedly limited - bolt-action types and required a new, more modern weapon with good man-stopping capabilities as well as a smooth repeat-fire action. The British and the Americans had both moved on to repeat-fire rifles and the Germans and Soviets were following suit with designs all their own. Rather than invest in an all-new weapon, the Garand was selected for haste. While the Japanese had delved into semi-automatic service rifles prior to their full commitment to World War 2 (1939-1945), none of these projects supplied a viable end product. The commitment to the conflict also ensured that further development on such guns would be stymied for the foreseeable future.
The gun is recognized under the designations of "Type 4" and "Type 5" in sources and is known casually as the "Japanese Garand".
While borrowing heavily the key elements making up the Garand rifle - including its form and function - the Type 4/5 was chambered for the local 7.7x58mm Arisaka rifle cartridge, a departure from the .30-06 featured in the American gun. Also unlike the Garand the Japanese 5 semi-automatic service rifle made use of a ten-round internal magazine as opposed to an eight-shot design. The longer magazine case projected from the bottom of the gun body and feeding was by way of 2 x five-round "stripper" clips. The Type 4/5 rifle carried with it Arisaka-style sling loops, a leaf-style rear sighting device (as opposed to the Garand's aperture arrangement), and featured a wooden body - the trigger group slung underneath in the usual way. On the whole, the Japanese approach remained largely faithful to the American design.
With design work beginning in 1944, Japanese factories began setting up for mass production of the "Japanese Garand" in 1945. However, the Japanese surrender of August ended all planned manufacture of this semi-automatic rifle and only about 100 examples were completed from the 250 that were in the works at war's end. Twenty were known to be confiscated by the Allies at the Japanese Naval Arsenal on Honshu after the cessation of hostilities.
A true rarity today, the Japanese Garand is one of the lesser-known Japanese firearms to emerge from the fighting of World War 2. Its near-direct copying says much about the classic American design - that the enemy would be so keen on duplicating a sound and effective weapon such as the war-winning M1.