Following on the heels of another clone of John Garand’s M1 rifle, was the Type 4 (ambiguously synonymous with the designation “Type 5”) another product-improved copy. Compatible with existing 7.7mm ammunition and stripper clips, the Type 4 fed from a 10-round fixed box magazine. Interestingly, the Japanese had before the war experimented with Pedersen-derived toggle-locked rifles (with the assistance of Pedersen himself), and at least two different models were made. Given that Pedersen himself would later copy the Garand, and the Japanese would follow suit, this makes the whole cycle of development of selfloading rifles in both the United States and Empire of Japan dizzyingly interrelated and circular. The toggle-locked Japanese Pedersens were in the standard 6.5mm Arisaka caliber, but the project was cancelled when the war in China broke out in 1936. Eight years later, Japanese engineers would undertake the design of the Type 4, which is the subject of a recent article posted to the Historical Firearms blog:
In 1944 the Japanese Navy produced a limited number of semi-automatic rifles, these were heavily based on the US M1 Garand which they had faced in the Pacific for the previous three years. There is some confusion over what this Japanese clone was designated as. Some describe it as the Type 4 while others have called it as the Type 5.
These Japanese Garands used the American rifle’s gas system and rotating bolt but were chambered in Japan’s Type 99 rimless 7.7x58mm cartridge rather than the US’ .30-06 it also had a number of external differences with a different front sight and fitting for a Type 99 sword bayonet, as well as a rear tangent sight instead of the M1′s aperture sight (see image #5), a stripper clip fed 10-round box magazine which protruded from the base of the receiver, and used standard Japanese sling swivels and a slightly different stock profile.
The Japanese Garand’s receiver note the charger guide for quickly loading the rifle (source)The Japanese Garand’s action operates in just the same way as the American rifle with the bolt locking back on an empty magazine ready to be reloaded before it snaps back forward – making it possible to get ‘Japanese Garand Thumb’.
The Japanese Navy had experimented with semi-automatic rifles in the early 1930s looking at a rifle based on the Czech ZH-29 as well as a Pedersentoggle-lock design. Several of which were apparently issued and captured by US forces on Okinawa. However, these never progressed beyond evaluation and the Japanese military continued to use its bolt-action rifles. However, when they encountered the firepower of the American semi-automatic Garands a need for a new more modern rifle was seen.
US Ordnance Dept. photo comparing the M1 and the Japanese Garand (source)The call for the new rifles was made as early as 1943 when the Japanese Navy’s elite naval infantry requested a weapon to increase their firepower. Trials and examination of captured M1s was carried out and it was found that the design could be adapted to chamber Japanese service ammunition and a reverse engineered clone was constructed. Eventually up to ~250 Japanese Garands were built. The rifles were manufactured and stored at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal in late 1944 and early 1945.
The full article is available at the Historical Firearms blog, as are many other good introductory articles on obscure and not-so-obscure firearms, battles, and tactics.
M1 Pencil has some more information and photos on the Type 4 and (what I believe is the second model of) the Japanese Pedersen, while even more information on the Japanese Pedersens can be found at Milpas.cc.
Once the M1 rifle saw widespread service in World War II, the floodgates had opened. Clearly, here was a solution to the self-loading rifle problem. Some nations that had existing selfloading rifle programs perfected them, but others took the obvious road and simply copied the M1, or adopted surplus examples after the war. In the minds of every small arms engineer, though, there was no turning back. With the M1, the selfloading age had begun.
The Pedersen Collection at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia has one of the original Japanese Garands. Below is a short video distributed by the museum, and available on their website are high resolution images of the rifle: