When the Japanese Copied the M1 Garand

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The Type 4 (sometimes also called the Type 5) was a clone of the US M1 Garand rifle developed by the Japanese Navy towards the very end of World War II. It’s a fascinating rifle for its combination of American engineering and Japanese style. Forgotten Weapons released a video yesterday giving an overview of the rifle at Rock Island Auction:

The Japanese project to create the┬áType 4 was not the first time the M1 Garand would be copied, and it was certainly not the last. As an interesting tie-in, John Pedersen, who developed the first Japanese self-loading rifle to be trialed (today called just the “Japanese Pedersen”), was perhaps the first designer to copy the Garand, with his GX and GY rifles. In the post-war world, the M1 would become perhaps the most influential rifle in the world, and its mechanisms and concepts would be copied numerous times in the late ’40s and early ’50s.

The Type 4 project was probably doomed to fail, not just because of the impending end of the war, but because the Japanese had none of the manufacturing techniques and machines developed by John Garand during the production engineering phase of development for the M1. Even for the US, and with the help of such a genius as Garand, this engineering took years; that the Japanese could do the same for themselves in a matter of months was probably too much to hope.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • DW

    One day Howa starts making Garand replicas the whole thing would come full circle.

    • SP mclaughlin

      Or if someone stateside makes Type 64/89 clones.

  • SirOliverHumperdink

    This is why I come here. I love articles like this. Like a trip to the NRA Firearms museum on my couch. Thank you!

    • If you are ever in Faifax, Va., be sure to visit the NRA Museum; it’s a great place. Also, have lunch at the NRA cafe. They pile the food on. The last time I had lunch there, I didn’t eat again for two days.

  • Fruitbat44

    Is this an example of Japanese inter-service rivalry (or at least a terminal lack of co-operation) in that it’s the *Navy* developing a self-loading rifle?

  • Sianmink

    Good bit of design security there. The only way we were able to field the Garand was some really genius machinery that had to be designed for its production. You can capture examples of the rifle and try to copy it mechanically, but without the specialty tooling, it’s not going to turn out well.

    • Edeco

      The US was a paradigm shift or so ahead in terms of both manufacturing and logistical philosophy, no doubt about it.

      • jcitizen

        Maybe, but I always admired the German small arms more – especially the MG42, and FG42 paratroop rifle. The StG44 isn’t bad either, but I can imagine it was pretty heavy for the medium round it fired. That FG 42 using saddle drums had to be an absolute terror to the enemy.(don’t know if it was specially modified, or if it could use stick mags too)

        As much as I love Thompsons, I’m glad I never had to carry one!

        • Gunner4guy

          Depends. My dad carried one occasionally(when he didn’t have a Garand) when he went ashore to help direct landing craft in during the initial assault and after when supplies were brought in(Saipan, Iwo, Okinawa, Leyte). He’d toss my M1928A1 around like it was a toy but then he was 6′ 4 1/2″..! He told me most of the GI’s and Marines who had them seemed to be runts – kind of like when I was in and the littlest guys got the M2’s and M60’s and the big guys like me got the plain jane M16’s. BTW, I’ve seen one of the Japanese ‘Garands’ in a collection….it looked like junk.

          • jcitizen

            My Dad was only allowed an 1911 (WW1 issue) because he was a pilot – I always got the M2 and M60 duty – I traded my NFA Thompson for a semi-auto made of aluminum, because I like the look but not the weight.

        • Not aware of the FG42 ever using saddle drums, not can I imagine how your would fit them, given that the receiver design doesn’t allow for it.

          • jcitizen

            Just google the FG42 and you will see a lot of pictures with one mounted on the left side magazine well. It looks pretty clumsy for sure, but in a pinch, I’d imagine it was a relief to have the firepower in certain combat circumstances! If course it could have been a prototype, but I don’t remember reading that it was never issued.

          • Gunner4guy

            I’ve pics of the FG42 with saddle magazines but I believe it was for use by a rear gunner in a Stuka. No idea about it’s use in other aircraft. Would guess someone somewhere probably ‘adapted’ it for ground use by adding a bipod, maybe even 1 of those tall tripods for anti-aircraft defense. HAD to be heavy though.

          • jcitizen

            I read combat reports that the German troops threw away the drums for their LMGs, as they were pointless, but then all it was for was holding the belt. The regular field ammo box did that just fine. You are more than likely right, that ground troops would have abandoned it for regular stick magazines. If they were in a static position, it would have been OK, but static warfare was made obsolete forever by the German Blitzkrieg.

          • Don’t confuse the belt drums with the saddle drums. Wholly different beasts – you had to swap the feed tray cover tonuse saddle.drums.

            As for the cylindrical 50 round belt “drum”, well, that was an “assault drum”, really. It was never intended to be used on the defense… and for most of the war after 1940, the Germans were on the defense, where you could easily set up a can of 250 rounds.

          • jcitizen

            I usually end up taking mine off before shooting too. The drum holder is a pain in the @ss! To add to the confusion, there are three variants of the saddle drum – one for the MG34, one primarily designed for the MG13/15, and the “figure 8” made for a certain aircraft whose history escapes me at the moment.

            I’d love to have a Doppel Trommel for my MG34, but the ones with the right feed are getting pretty rare – I’d be better off modifying an MG15 drum, and possibly ruin its historic value. Plus the feed cover is way expensive!

          • FG42 wasn’t used as an aircraft gun. And it came out well after the Ju87 (which was equipped with an MG15 as the rear gun, and the MG15 did use saddle drums)

          • Gunner4guy

            Okay, this isn’t the same MG I thought it was. Maybe it was an FG42 I saw. It had a ‘saddlebag’ magazine that hung over both sides, NOT like the one in the pic above. Have to admit that I don’t follow German aircraft mounted MG’s as much as other individual and crew-served weapons, way too many variations to keep track of.

          • If the saddle drums mounted on top, you were probably looking at an MG34.

          • Gunner4guy

            Could very well be, it’s been a while since I saw the pictures and memories can get scrambled plus the Germans had so many variations…. I’ll have to do some digging. At least the US wpns don’t have quite the same amount of variations & I’ve shot/worked on a bunch of WW2 and up(at least till I finally ETS’d in 89.

          • The WWII German armed forces – a collector’s wet dream and a quartermaster’s nightmare.

          • Gunner4guy

            Not disagreeing with you!

          • Got any links? Just did a Google image search, found nothing with an FG42 with anything but the standard box mag, except the American kitbashed belt fed prototype.

          • jcitizen

            My bad – this pic came up on an FG42 search but I think it may be an MG13 variant – I’d never seen one mounted sideways like that. I’m sure I read that several were made to take them.As you can see, that is a special “figure eight” variant of the saddle magazine. They may have had to use this same model if they actually issued an FG 42 that could take them. This particular one was probably for aircraft, as I believe that was what the special magazine was made for.

          • Yeah, that’s an LMG, not an FG42.

          • jcitizen

            Here is another one – MG 15 variant for vehicles? I dunno!!

          • MG13s and MG15s were pressed into service, especially while they were still trying to produce enough MG34s for every vehicle, not to mention every rifle quad.

          • jcitizen

            That is what I read in my MG34/42 history book. It doesn’t cover the FG42 well enough though – I need to dig out my small arms of the world and learn some more. I can’t remember if I read about the drum fed FG42 on here at TFB or Shotgun news, but they were adamant that a similar if not identical saddle type mechanism was used in limited numbers.

          • I’m sure you could kitbash an existing 7.92mm drum from a LMG tonfit an FG42, if you didn’t mind ruining the drum, just as I’ve seen (and fired) Stens that had dorked up Suomi drums welded to Sten mag bodies.

          • jcitizen

            Only the figure 8 drum would work in my humble opinion. That one is too rare to bash up. I always wanted to modify those civilian available K-50M PPsh variants to take the drum using the original WW2 caliber. I hadn’t accounted for the fact that the origiinal Vietnamese versions could already take the drum, but probably used 9mm ammo. I’m always trying to brain storm something like this. My latest project is to make a drum attachment to convert an Degtyaryov DP-27 into a belt fed. The original kit is non-existent in rarity. so I’ll have to make it out of pieces parts, maybe using a SG43 Goryunov parts kit.

          • Yeah, whichever style of drum you would end up modifying, we’re talking about permanently altering a faily rare historical artifact to use with another even rarer historical artifact.

          • jcitizen

            True – however, I’m planning to build several of these, and market them for DP-27 owners, so they can ditch the “pan” to have fun! I won’t have to sacrifice the original equipment, I just need the parts for measurement on specs, then maybe the rest I can enter as G code for a CNC machining center. The good thing is, there a a lot of Maxim or PKM belts and loaders out there for these things.

          • Near as I can tell, Chinn, Kokalis, Smith, nor Ezell ever heard of these FG42 saddle drums…

          • jcitizen

            I swear reading about the program in a history article in Shotgun News – Kokalis didn’t write the article – I may be getting old timers about the pictures I saw, especially since most are of another aircraft or ground variants out there. I could swear I read about it recently, as I was fascinated with that particular combination. I need to start collecting the URLs of these studies I read about so I can back track them. My Small Arms of the World has an extensive article about the FG42, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t mention the program either. Of course Aberdeen Proving grounds played with an in house shop modified variant that was belt fed, but never adopted – it was the precursor of the M60. That one was mentioned in the same article.

  • Ben

    With its Japanese style sights and feed system and being more awkward, id say it wouldn’t have been as good as M-1. Like the idea of a mass produced Japanese SMG the Generals in Tokyo didn’t like them and so none where made or fielded till the very end of the war. Like Hitler, Tojo was a major road block for new infantry weapons for the Axis. Thank goodness.

    • Tom

      There no way the sight would of made it to production, or if it had I am sure the marines/soldiers would have opened it up a bit. Clip loading would not be any more awkward than on an Ariska or any other bolt gun and many early post war semi autos (FN49 and SKS) used clip loading. All in all would it have been better than the Garand probable not but it would have been better than an Ariska.

      Of course Japan simple did not have the industrial capacity and resources to win the war any more than Germany had and by the time the Japanese would have had this it would of been far to late to change anything in a meaningful way.

  • Secundius

    Could also be a Refinment of the German Gewehr 43. Both using two 5-round Stripper Clips and Both Japanese and German ammo were nearly Identical…

    • jcitizen

      That is surprising, I always understood that British ammo was more similar to 7.7mm .

      • Yes, the Japanese 7.7mm rimmed round was basically .303 British, because they cloned the Lewis Gun.

        The only way the Japanese and German rounds were really alike was in general performance, just like everyone else’s “full power” rifle rounds from the late 19th Century until the introduction of intermediate “assault rifle” calibers (discounting the handful of 6.5mm and similar cartridges).

        • jcitizen

          Thanks Rick – my uncle took a paratroop take down rifle in 6.5mm that was the best quality made Japanese rifle I’d ever seen. It was in perfect condition, so I doubt it fired a round; but he was in the thick of the battle on Tarawa and Iwo Jima, so I figure he took it from an underground arms room on one of those two Islands – or maybe he sniped the guy before he could shoot. He pulled sniper duty on Iwo Jima, because they didn’t need AA gunners anymore, and he had an expert marksman badge. He didn’t like talking about that part of the action very much. Seeing the enemy go down through a scope was probably more than he wanted to see. He always slept with a USMC bayonet under his pillow for years afterward.

          • My ex-wife has a decent family heirloom capture piece (not defaced or import marked, and provenance on capture) Type 38. Worn finish on the metal and handling marks on the wood, but no pits or other issues, and a clean, sharp, bore.

          • jcitizen

            The best thing about those things is that they were battlefield pickups, and not just arsenal stuff sold on the market after WW2. We should have had my Uncle sign an affidavit that he acquired them from the action, and put his DD-201 file in there. However, the Japanese skull he brought back is proof enough! Too bad Gramdma threw it away!! :p

          • Tassiebush

            Haha naughty uncle!

          • jcitizen

            My Grandmother almost passed out when I told her a pistol collection that had a German skull sold for over $60,000 way back then, when it happened in the late ’70s. No telling what that collection would have been worth had she not thrown it away! I confiscated the collection so nobody else would damage it further, until I could give it to his kids, they could hardly believe what the rare type of Samurai sword was worth!

          • Tassiebush

            Ouch that’s a big shame! Glad you secured the remnants. That reminds me of a story in my wife’s family. Apparently one of her great great grandfathers was offered Mount Nelson which is now a suburb of Hobart our capital of Tasmania for a low price but declined to buy this useless patch of rubbish bush. I can just imagine how valueless it would have seemed at the time. Rocky scrub with stoney soil and barely a straight tree all the way up on an inconvenient hill. I guess sometimes it just isn’t possible to see the value in things.

          • jcitizen

            Sounds way better than the desert I live in! HA!

          • Tassiebush

            Yeah it’s not a bad rainfall area by local standards. Mind you predictability just went out the window.
            On a tangent our rainfall patterns have shifted dramatically. Our rainsoaked peaty West coast dried out and about 1-2% of it got burnt after fires ignited by dry lightening. Areas that have not had fire for a thousand years. West coast Tasmania has quite a lot of rainforest and wet Alpine areas with slow growing plants that just can’t handle fire. The normally drier north east was getting flooded while this went on. Our worst problem is it isn’t raining where our hydro dams are and our East isn’t as suited for dams. We’re looking at possible brown outs in winter. My comments might be less frequent lol!

          • Tassiebush

            So where are you? What type of desert stuff is there?

          • jcitizen

            I live in the Great American Desert, othewise known as the Bible Belt. We just had something wet fall down today, we are all in wonder at just what it is?? Maybe that is what H2O looks like when it rains – hmm? LOL!

          • Tassiebush

            Haha yes that does give me the impression that precipitation isn’t a common occurrence over your way!