“Last Ditch” Arisaka: A Casual Overview of the Difference between Regular Production and End of War Rifles

Type 99 Arisaka Rifles - Institute of Military Technology collection

The key to mass production is historically tied directly to the simplicity (and repeatability) of individual parts. As Japanese manufacturing facilities were bombarded and destroyed by U.S. forces during World War II, this became increasingly important for the continued production of infantry rifles like the Type 99.

While there is no official model change, the fingerquote “Last Ditch” Arisaka rifles were a final effort by the Japanese to turn out as many firearms as possible – which meant cutting a lot of corners. Here we’ll compare an early Type 99 against a late Type 99 to see a few of just which corners were being cut.

 

Type 99 Arisaka Rifles, Front Sight Comparison – Institute of Military Technology collection

At the muzzle we see that the difficult-to-produce front sight protection posts were removed entirely, the front barrel band was drastically simplified, and we can see the rough machine work on the barrel. The rifling inside, however, was reportedly unchanged (with the exception of the chrome lining).

 

Type 99 Arisaka Rifles, Handguard and Barrel Comparison – Institute of Military Technology collection

The monopod was done away with, as well as the upper handguard. The rear barrel band was simplified, and the cutout for the fore grip was deemed unnecessary.

 

Type 99 Arisaka Rifles, Receiver and Rear Sight Comparison – Institute of Military Technology collection

The rear sight shows a dramatic simplification. Fun fact: Those wings on the rear sight of the early rifle were for anti-aircraft fire, to be used in combination with the monopod for elevated off-hand shooting. Also, note the Chrysanthemum present on the the last-ditch rifle.

 

Type 99 Arisaka rifles, Safety Knob and Bolt Handle Comparison – Institute of Military Technology collection

At the back of the bolts we see that the usually-excellent knurling on the safety knob has been omitted, and the bolt handles were much more crudely turned. The generally-rough quality of the wood can be seen here as well.

 

Type 99 Arisaka Rifles, Buttplate Comparison – Institute of Military Technology collection

Finally, the buttplate shown here is simply a tacked piece of wood further indicating that the longevity of the rifle wasn’t much of a concern.

It’s important to note that these changes didn’t happen overnight. It’s common to see rifles with various features present or not present as that transition took place.





Corey R. Wardrop

Corey R. Wardrop is the Museum Curator for the Institute of Military Technology in Titusville, Florida where he manages one of the finest, if not the finest, firearms collections in the country. Corey is a former OIF infantry Marine and has worked professionally in the firearms industry for nearly 20 years. In 2014 he obtained an unrelated Bachelor of Science degree from one of the nation’s leading diploma mills. Through his work at IMT he is currently studying CAD design with an emphasis in reverse engineering rare firearms.
Corey asks forgiveness for his novice-level photographs and insists they are improving dramatically thanks to certified rockstar http://nathan-wyatt.com/. Corey can be reached at wardropcr@gmail.com and always appreciates suggestions for future articles.
For the record, Corey felt incredibly strange writing this bio in the third person.


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  • Yohei Nizaemon Aoki

    This makes me feel regrettable…

    • DIR911911 .

      this makes you have regrets or makes you feel regret

      • glenn cheney

        Bet here is many late production rest in some Maru cargo hold sleeping with the fishes.
        U.S. submarine interdiction and B-29 mining operations had severely impacted Japanese logistical operations in the theater.
        Most of the capture arms were by Russian forces in Manchurian regions as thousands of Japanese troops surrendered and stacked these rifles high.

    • SP mclaughlin

      “become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone….”

  • Tim

    Thanks for laying that out. I have seen various examples, but it takes a side by side to truly get a prospective.

  • Twilight sparkle

    I may be wrong but I believe some of the early arisakas also had a dust cover.

    • Brick

      You’re right. They stopped being included in late ’43 I think.

    • Corey R. Wardrop

      Hi Twilight sparkle,
      The early Arisaka photoed here does have its original dust cover, but I removed it to illustrate the difference. I’m told most end-users ditched the dust covers because they rattled in the field.

      • Twilight sparkle

        That’s cool I thought that I had read that they often were discarded but it’s been awhile since I’ve brushed up on my mil surp stuff, thanks for the nice side by side

      • Alex A.

        The real reason dust covers are often missing is because American servicemen discarded them. The noise made by the dust cover while working the bolt was a mouse fart compared to the report of the rifle being fired. Furthermore, the rifle, as with the rest of the soldier’s equipment was considered to be the personal property of the emperor, and one didn’t discard the personal property of a living god.

  • John

    Interesting. I wonder how much lighter the last run rifle is compared to the first run, and whether the weight savings made much of a difference.

    • Juggernaut

      At the end of the war the Japanese were starting to use carbon fiber handguards and low profile barrels to save even more weight.

      • Tim

        it just needs a huge ass spoiler, some stickers and a fart-can, kazoo based muzzle break and it would be good to go!

    • .45

      Well, they lost the war and the Arisaka ’99 is hardly the most popular firearm in the world, so I’m going to go with “No significant difference.”

  • Edeco

    Great article. Somone should make an Arisaka-shaped 410 slam-fire from plywood & radiator clamps, with a flower drawn on with a sharpie, and do little write-up calling it a very-late production unit.

  • .45

    Hmmmm… My Arisaka has the simplified front sight post, the badly done stock, and an adjustable rear sight simply lacking the antiaircraft wings, but the metal buttplate and more complex barrel bands are present, for which I am glad. They make it look a bit classier. On the other hand, the mismatched bolt and rusty innards make it a real PIA to shoot, so it needs help…

  • Blake

    And where is the photo of the noted Chrysanthemum?

    • EmptyJay

      In the next to last photo: on the receiver, just in front of the bolt.

      • Blake

        Yeah I see where it is, but for something that I was told to check out to only have a high-angle shot of is ridiculous.

        • mazkact

          Lighten up Francis 😉

      • Person

        Careful, he’s triggered.

        No pun intended.

    • Corey R. Wardrop

      Hi Blake,
      My apologies – I mentioned the Chrysanthemum when writing the article, but later updated the photo and the Chrysanthemum is no longer visible. I didn’t even notice until you pointed it out. This is my second article for TFB, but I’ll get the hang of it.

      • Blake

        No you won’t. You’ll suck forever, your mom says so. Or not.

      • jimmy craked corn

        You can see it in the picture with the bolt and stock.

  • Kivaari

    I had two late war rifles. To my amazement the bores were chrome-lined and in perfect condition. It didn’t look like they skimped where it counted.

  • Ark

    Talk about a depressing thing to be issued.

    “Here. I’ll last about as long as you’re expected to.”

  • Rocky Mountain 9
  • codfilet

    I have a “Last Ditch” with an interesting pedigree: It is a Toyo Kogyo, made in Hiroshima, with a 5x,xxx serial number, from the 35th series. All matching, Mum intact. It was very likely still in the plant when the fateful bomb dropped, and became a souvenir.