type 30 rifle

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How the Japanese named their small arms,

In 1899 the Japanese adopted the Type 30 bolt action rifle. The rifle had many flaws, so it was redesigned by Kijiro Nambu, and the new Model, called the Type 38 was adopted in 1905.  In 1939 the Japanese adopted a new and improved bolt action rifle in a new caliber, it was called the Type 99. In 1942 they developed a shortened paratrooper version of the Type 99, it was called the Type 2. Umm…wuht????

On popular Japanese light machine gun in the 1920′s was the Type 11 Light Machine gun, adopted in 1922. The weapon was found to be severely problematic, so it was replaced by the Type 96… in 1936. Huh???

At first glance the way the Japanese number their small arms models seems not to make any rational sense at all. Typically weapons are named based on succeeding models, like the Lee Enfield Mark I, Mark II, Mark III etc, or model numbers are by date, like the Model 1911 pistol adopted in 1911, the Model 1917 revolver adopted in 1917, the 1903 Springfield adopted in 1903.

While Japan’s modeling system may seem nonsensical at first glance, there actually is a very interesting method to their madness. Originally  models names were determined by the reigning year of the Japanese Emperor. For example, the Japanese Type 38 bolt action rifle was adopted in 1905, which was the 38th year of Emperor Meiji’s reign. The Type 11 light machine gun was adopted in 1922, then the 11th year of Emperor Taisho’s reign.

In 1927 the Imperial Army chose to switch to a system using the Japanese calendar.  The Type 99 bolt action rifle and Type 99 machine gun were both adopted in 1939, which was the year 2599 according to the Japanese calendar. Hence, the model was named after the last two digits in the year 2599. In 1942, a paratrooper version of the Type 99 was created called the Type 2.  On the Japanese calendar that was the year 2602.  The Japanese chose not to count zero as a digit, thus the model was the Type 2 Paratrooper rifle, not the Type 02 Paratrooper rifle.