Nambu pistol

The Nambu pistols (南部拳銃 or 南部大型自動拳銃, Nanbu kenjuu or Nanbu ōgata jidou-kenjuu) were a series of semi-automatic pistols produced by the Japanese company Koishikawa Arsenal later known as the Tokyo Artillery Arsenal.[1] The series had five variants, the Type A Model 1902 (also called the Grandpa Nambu), the Type A Model 1902 Modified (also known as the Papa Nambu), the Type B (also known as the Baby Nambu), the Type 14 (南部十四年式自動拳銃) and the Type 94.

Type 14 Nambu
Nambu Pistol Model 14
TypeSemi-automatic pistol
Place of originJapan
Service history
In service1906–1945
Used bySee Users
WarsWorld War I
World War II
Second Sino-Japanese War
Indonesian National Revolution
Chinese Civil War
Hukbalahap Rebellion
Korean War
First Indochina War
Vietnam War (Limited Only)
Production history
DesignerKijiro Nambu
No. built10,300 (Type A, all variants)
approx. 400,000 (Type 14)
VariantsType A, Type B, Type 14
Mass900 g (1.98 lb) unloaded
Length230 mm (9.06 in)
Barrel length117 mm (4.61 inches)

Cartridge8×22mm Nambu
Caliber0.31 inches (7.9 mm)
Muzzle velocity951 feet per second (290 m/s)
Effective firing range50 m
Maximum firing range55 yards (50 m)
Feed system8-round box magazine

The pistols were designed by Kijiro Nambu and saw extensive service during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. The Type A was made in very small numbers. Type A Modified and Type B Nambus were never formally adopted by any branch of the armed forces of Imperial Japan but were sold to officers through officer stores. The Type 14 was adopted as an official sidearm.

As World War II progressed, and particularly in the final year of the war, in order to speed production, Type 14s began to be more hastily manufactured with a subsequent decline in quality.


The origin of the Nambu pistol series goes back to a design by Lieutenant General Kijiro Nambu.[2] General Nambu claimed the design originated with experimentation during the "30 year Automatic Pistol Plan" of 1897 in Japan.[1] It is probable that the pistol series was influenced by the Mauser C96, after a Japanese commission toured Europe and reported recent developments. The first Nambu type known as the Type A was completed in 1902.[1] The Type A underwent trials with the Imperial Japanese Army but was never formally adopted.[1] Many Original Type As were sold commercially to China and Siam.[1] Coinciding with British customs, Japanese army officers were expected to purchase their own side arms.[2] The Nambu Type A Modified pistol was adopted by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1909 and the Thai Army in the 1920s.[2]

Most of the Type A Modified and Type B Nambu pistols were produced by the Tokyo Arsenal with a few pistols being produced by the Tokyo Gas and Electric Company.[1] The Type 14 Nambu was produced by the Nagoya Arsenal in either Nagoya's Atsuta or Toriimatsu factories.[3]

Common design

The Nambu pistol series withdraw the magazine from the grip of the pistol by pressing the magazine release button on the left side of the frame.[4] The magazine is loaded by hand, as there is no charger clip for loading.[4] The A Nambus and the Type 14 Nambu have 8-round magazines while the Type B Nambu has a 7-round magazine.[4]

The Nambu pistol series is a recoil operated, locked breech, semi-automatic pistol. The pistols are slender barreled with a single piece frame.[1] The barrel is forged integrally with the receiver.[1] The breech-lock was achieved by a propping system similar to the breech lock system used in the Glisenti Model 1910.[5] As the barrel moved forward, the block would be lifted as it rode across the frame forcing the lug upward to lock into the bolt.[2] The Nambu series is well balanced despite the main spring chamber protruding from the left side.[1]

The Nambu pistol uses a low pressure 8 mm cartridge, which is considerably less powerful than contemporary pistol cartridges like the American .45 ACP, the Soviet 7.62×25mm Tokarev, the British .455 Webley, and the German 9×19mm Parabellum. The safety catch on the Type A requires both hands to operate; it was omitted entirely from the Type 14.

Type A

The original Nambu was the Type A, designed by General Kijiro Nambu in 1902. The Type A had two basic variants with the first group of Nambus produced between 1903-06 different than those produced after 1906.[3] Among collectors, the original Nambus are commonly referred to as Grandpa Nambus.[6] The Grandpa Type A was produced until around serial number 2400.[6] Both the Tokyo Arsenal and Tokyo Gas and Electric Company ceased production on the Type A Nambu in 1923.[3] The Nambu Type A outwardly resembles the Luger P08 pistol but functionally is more similar to the Mauser C96.[3]

Grandpa Type A Nambus have multiple variances from the later Type A Modified. The Type A Modified, commonly referred to as Papa Nambu, were produced at the Tokyo Arsenal until the 7000 serial number range.[7] The trigger guard of the Grandpa Type A Nambu were considered extremely cramped especially when wearing gloves and were enlarged in later produced models.[3]

The Grandpa Nambus also had a wooden bottom magazine and welded lanyard loops.[3] Papa Nambus had aluminum bottomed magazines[8] with lanyard loops retained in rings.[3] Both the Grandpa and Papa type Nambus may have the Siamese juk symbol stamped on the rear grip indicating service in Thailand before World War II.[9]

The Type A originally had a provision that allowed for the installation of a shoulder stock, based on the C96.[10]

Type B

Type B Nambu
TypeSemi-automatic pistol
Place of originEmpire of Japan
Service history
Used byImperial Japanese Army
WarsSecond Sino-Japanese War,
World War II
Production history
DesignerKijiro Nambu
ManufacturerKoishikawa arsenal
Produced1909 to c1929[3]
No. builtaround 6,000[5]
Mass650g (23 oz) Unloaded
Length171mm (6.75 in)
Barrel length83mm (3.25 in)

Cartridge7×20mm Nambu
ActionShort recoil, locked breech
Muzzle velocity290m/s (950 ft/s)
Feed system7-round detachable box magazine
SightsOpen Notch Rear[1]

The Type B Nambu was a three-quarters sized scaled-down version of the Nambu Type A Modified.[5] The Nambu Type B was produced because the Type As were felt to be too cumbersome and sold poorly.[5] The Type B Nambu was designated the Type Nambu by Japanese Authorities.[9] It is commonly referred to as the Baby Nambu in Western Markets because of its small size.[11] It fired a smaller 7 mm round than the conventional 8×22mm Nambu. Production began at the Tokyo Artillery Arsenal.[9] The first 450 Type Bs had a wooden magazine bottom and single diameter firing pin but later Type Bs were produced with an aluminium magazine bottom and multiple diameter firing pin.[1] The Nambu Type B was never adopted officially by any Japanese armed forces.[12] Nearly all Nambu Type Bs were purchased privately by Japanese officers but never achieved popularity as they were twice the price of comparable imported pistols.[3] The Japanese Army's Kaikosha military outfitting business listed the price of the Type B Nambu at 180 yen, while a newly commissioned Second Lieutenant's monthly salary was 70 yen.[13]

Koishikawa factory stopped parts production in 1923 after the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake but assembly would continue until 1929.[1]

Type 14

The "Type 14 Nambu" was designed in 1925 with the goal of simplifying manufacturing to reduce cost.[8] It was officially adopted for issue to non-commissioned officers in the Japanese Army in 1927 and was available for purchase by officers.[8] The Type 14 was an improved version of the Type A Modified Nambu. As many as 400,000 Type 14s were possibly produced.[11] Most Type 14s are marked with the month and year of production according to the year of Emperor Hirohito with his reign name abbreviated Sho from Showa left of the stamped date.[14]

Later production models are distinguished by an enlarged, oblong trigger guard (which was introduced after Japanese soldiers reported difficulty in accessing the trigger while wearing gloves in Manchuria) and sometimes have a knurled steel cocking knob instead of the standard "slotted" cocking knob.[11] An auxiliary magazine spring was added from mid-1940 to retain the magazine and aid the magazine follower.[15] The safety is a lever on the left side and locks the barrel and barrel extension as well as stopping the sear from moving.[15] A redesigned cocking knob was implemented in 1944 in order to simplify production.[11] The Type 14 also lacks the grip safety used on the previous models.[11] The Type 14 could be equipped with the Type 90 tear gas grenade with use of a special attachment.[16]

Pre-World War II Type 14s are well made, with quality dropping during wartime.[17] Machining marks, a lack of polishing, and thin bluing became more common as wartime shortages affected quality.[17] The later Type 14s remained quite functional despite the decreased quality.[17] Holster quality for the Type 14 also degraded as the shortages of critical raw materials forced a change from a leather holster to rubberized canvas.[18]

One quality of the Type 14 caught the eye of William B. Ruger who had acquired a captured Nambu from a returning U.S. Marine in 1945. Ruger duplicated two Nambus in his garage,[19] and although he decided against marketing them, the handgun's rear cocking device and the Nambu's silhouette were incorporated into the Ruger .22 semi-automatic pistol series, when in 1949 the Ruger Standard (and later Mark I, II, III and Mark IV) pistols were sold to the American public.[20]



  1. Hogg, Ian, Pistols of the World 4th Edition (2004) p. 191.
  2. McNab, Chris, The Great Book of Guns (2004) p. 124
  3. Hogg, Ian, Pistols of the World 4th Edition (2004) p. 232.
  4. Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 23
  5. Hogg, Ian, Military Small Arms of the 20th Century 7th Edition (2000) p. 67.
  6. Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 8
  7. Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 9.
  8. Hogg, Ian, Military Small Arms of the 20th Century 7th Edition (2000) p. 66
  9. Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 11.
  11. Kinard, Jeff. Pistols: an illustrated history of their impact, p. 245, ABC-CLIO, Inc. 2003.
  12. Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 12.
  13. Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 13
  14. Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 5.
  15. Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 22.
  16. Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 31.
  17. Kinard, Jeff. Pistols: an illustrated history of their impact, p. 246, ABC-CLIO, Inc. 2003.
  18. Skennerton, Ian, Japanese Service Pistols Handbook (2008) p. 30.
  19. Wilson, R. L. "Ruger & His Guns; A History Of The Man, The Company And Their Firearms." 1996. ISBN 0-7858-2103-1.
  20. John Whitt (2011). "Type 14 Nambu pistol". Retrieved 2011-02-03.
  21. Chinese Warlord Armies 1911-30 by Philip Jowett, page 21.
  22. Philip Jowett (2005). The Chinese Army 1937–49: World War II and Civil War. Osprey Publishing. p. 47. ISBN 978-1841769042.
  24. History of the Gun in 500 Photographs. Time-Life Books. 2016. p. 162. ISBN 1618933655.


  • Hogg, Ian; Weeks, John (2000). Military Small Arms of the 20th Century (7th ed.). Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87341-824-7.
  • Hogg, Ian; Walter, John (2004). Pistols of the World (4th ed.). Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87349-460-1.
  • Kinard, Jeff (2003). Pistols: an illustrated history of their impact. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-85109-470-9.
  • McNab, Chris (2004). The Great Book of Guns. Thunder Bay Press. ISBN 1-59223-304-X.
  • Skennerton, Ian (2008). Japanese Service Pistols. Arms and Military Press. ISBN 978-0-949749-88-8.
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