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Howa Type 89

Assault Rifle [ 1989 ]

The Howa Type 89 is a modern 5.56x45mm NATO-caliber assault rifle in service with the Japanese Self-Defense Force.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 02/26/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

In 1964, the Japanese military, in keeping with Western powers, adopted the Howa Type 64 Battle Rifle and this local product was used to succeed the aged stock of American M1 Garand self-loading rifles issued after World War 2 (1939-1945). The Type 64 was chambered in the proven 7.62x51mm NATO rifle cartridge and fired from a 20-round straight detachable box magazine. Over 230,000 went on to be produced though none saw export due to strict export laws in post-WW2 Japan.

By this time, the American military had shifted its attention away from the 7.62mm cartridge and its corresponding M14 Battle Rifle series to introduce the M16 Assault Rifle chambered for the smaller and lighter 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. The shift to the new cartridge meant that a single infantryman could now carry more ammunition - though at the expense of reduced penetration at range. The 5.56x45mm cartridge was a NATO standard round which led the Japanese military to follow suit and adopt a new gun chambered for it - this becoming the Howa Type 89 of 1989. Like the Americans, the Japanese abandoned the Battle Rifle concept and accepted the Assault Rifle as a standard frontline weapon system.

Development of the weapon fell to the Japanese Defense Agency with manufacture once again coming from the Howa Machinery Company Ltd who already had experience in producing the Armalite Ar-18, an AR-15/M16-family weapon. The development phase yielded several forms of the rifle that would eventually become the Type 89 in service. Something of a no-frills service rifle, the gun became yet another in a long line of indigenously-designed and produced rifles for the nation of Japan. The finalized form was given a weight of 7.7 pounds and an overall length of 36 inches with the barrel assembly measuring 16.5 inches long. Feeding could be from either a 20- or 30-round detachable box magazine with the rate-of-fire reaching 750 rounds-per-minute. Optimal engagement ranges fell within 500 meters and muzzle velocity listed at 920 meters-per-second.©MilitaryFactory.com
At its core, the weapon relies on a gas-operated action with a rotating bolt function. The gas arrangement is such that a smoother action results, producing less recoil and stress on critical moving parts when compared to other guns of this class. The firer manages the trigger to achieve single-shot or automatic fire functions as needed though there was a separate mechanism added to actuate the three-round burst mode (leaving the basic shooting function untouched should the burst mode fail in the heat of battle). A bipod is a standard fit under the barrel and the muzzle brake was noticeably slotted. Iron sights allowed for basic ranged fire while the gun was eventually given support for a Weaver and (later) Picatinny rail sections for the mounting of tactical accessories such as optics, aimers and flashlights. An adapter is required to install the American 40mm M203 single-shot grenade launcher under the barrel while the barrel inherently supports firing the local Type 06 Rifle Grenade (introduced in 2006).

The Type 89 Assault Rifle went on to exist in two primary service forms: the original with its solid, fixed plastic stock and the Type 89-F (Type 89 "Para") which features a folding, steel tube stock (collapsing over the left side of the receiver with bracing at the shoulder coming through a simple pad). The "para" descriptor is often used for compact rifle forms as they are generally favored by paratrooper elements. Its issue has also fallen to other specialist troopers such as vehicle crews where a shorter gun length ahs proven ideal for firing from confined spaces.

In practice, the weapon offers basic man-stopping value for JSDF forces in the same vein as the American M16. Quality and finish are considered quite good, particularly when compared to the preceding Type 64 series and the new gun is less complex in terms of operation, repair and maintenance. Despite its general resemblance to the American M16 and its related family of arms, there are slight differences in the Type 89 that include a follower featured on the magazine to hold the bolt open after firing the final cartridge. The well itself is also not tapered or beveled as it is in the M16. Recent JSDF experience in Iraq has brought along several refinements to the line as well: a left-hand selector has been seen as has increased support for tactical accessories. A shortened carbine form, following the general form and function of the American M4 Carbine, has also resulted from recent deployment experience by the Japanese military.

For the near future, the Type 89 will remain the standard frontline service rifle for the JSDF though the service may very well follow other regional powers in adopting a more modern weapon system.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


Service Year

Japan national flag graphic


Assault Rifle

Howa Machinery Company - Japan
(View other Arms-Related Manufacturers)
National flag of modern Japan Japan
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Automatic Function
Features a mechanical function to automate the firing action.
Assault Rifle
Modern class of long gun featuring select-fire properties, automatic internal function, and magazine feeding.
Special Forces
Qualities of this weapon have shown its value to Special Forces elements requiring a versatile, reliable solution for the rigors of special assignments.

Overall Length
916 mm
36.06 in
Barrel Length
420 mm
16.54 in
Empty Wgt
7.72 lb
3.50 kg

Iron Sights; Optional Optics


Gas-Operated; Rotating Bolt

Rotating Bolt
System utilizes internal mechanism to lock the breech or rear barrel assembly prior to firing.
Gas-operated system is featured, typically involving a gas cylinder and rear-driven piston directing energy to the bolt component.
(Material presented above is for historical and entertainment value and should not be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation - always consult official manufacturer sources for such information)


5.56x45mm NATO

Sample Visuals**

Graphical image of a 5.56mm intermediate rifle cartridge
Rounds / Feed

20- or 30-round detachable box
Cartridge relative size chart
*May not represent an exhuastive list; calibers are model-specific dependent, always consult official manufacturer sources.
**Graphics not to actual size; not all cartridges may be represented visually; graphics intended for general reference only.
Max Eff.Range
1,640 ft
(500 m | 547 yd)
Muzzle Velocity
3,018 ft/sec
(920 m/sec)

Type 89 - Base Series Designation; solid plastic stock variant.
Type 89-F (Type 89 "Para") - Folding Stock compact variant for issuance to special elements such as paratroops and vehicle crews; steel tube stock with padded shoulder.

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Images Gallery

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Image of the Howa Type 89
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS network.
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Image of the Howa Type 89
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS network.
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Image of the Howa Type 89
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS network.
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Image of the Howa Type 89
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS network.
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Image of the Howa Type 89
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS network.

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