FIRST LOOK: Japan’s New Type 20 Rifle

    The new Howa Type 20 (Japanese Ministry of Defense)

    The new Howa Type 20 (Japanese Ministry of Defense)

    In December 2019, we reported that the Japanese Self-Defense Forces had completed evaluations for both a new service pistol and rifle. It was announced that they had selected a 5.56x45mm rifle developed by Howa and the Heckler & Koch SFP9. Today, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces unveiled their new weapons and confirmed that the rifle will be designated the Type 20.

    The new Howa Type 20 with Beretta GLX-160 UBG and bayonet (Japanese Ministry of Defense)

    The new rifle will replace the 5.56x45mm Type 89, adopted 30 years ago, and is approximately 78cm or 30.7in long and reportedly weighs around 3.5 kg or 7.7lbs. The rifle will be indigenously produced in Japan by Howa. Each rifle is expected to cost around 275,000 yen – the equivalent to $2,600. This is calculated from the 2019-20 military budget. It is unclear if this also covers accessories like optics and under-barrel grenade launchers.

    The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces shared a video on their social media demonstrating some of the new rifle’s features. Interestingly, the rifle is marked ‘試験用小銃’ or trial or test rifle and the serial number 000001.

    Interestingly, it seems that Beretta’s GLX-160 UBG has been adopted for use alongside the new rifle. Given Beretta also took part in the pistol trials it is likely that at an earlier stage the Beretta ARX160 rifle was also evaluated with the under-barrel grenade launcher being retained. Until now the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces had relied on the Type 06 rifle grenade made by Daikin.

    The new Howa Type 20 (Japanese Ministry of Defense)

    Another of our contributors Anthony J notes that the rifle displayed by the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces are equipped with a DEON March-F 1-8x First Focal Plane optic. This makes sense as DEON are a Japanese optics manufacturer set up in 2004. It is unclear how widespread the issue of these optics will be – will every rifle be equipped with one. There has been no mention of potential red dot optics as yet.

    The HK SFP9 selected by the JGSDF (Japanese Ministry of Defense)

    The rifles are ambidextrous with controls on both sides and a charging handle which can be swapped. They have a full-length Picatinny top rail and an MLOK forend, with MLOCK slots at the 6 o’clock position. The rifle on display has metal back up iron sights, PMAGs, a grip pod forward grip and a length and comb adjustable stock – it is unclear if the stock folds. The rifle also mounts a bayonet. The action and lock up of the rifle is undisclosed by given the presence of a gas tube above the barrel it is likely short-stroke gas-operated, possibly with a rotating bolt.

    The Heckler & Koch SFP9 beat out competition from Glock and Beretta to be selected and the new pistol has also been showcased by the Japanese military. It is reported that between 300 and 330 pistols will be procured this year. The new pistol will replace a locally-produced copy of the SIG P220 which had been in service since the early 1980s.

    The first units to receive the new weapons will be the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade based in Nagasaki Prefecture. The Brigade is the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force’s specialist amphibious unit, tasked with the protection of Japan’s outer islands.

    Matthew Moss

    _________________________________________________________________________ – Managing Editor – Managing Editor

    Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. He also runs Historical Firearms, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of The Armourer’s Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms.

    Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news.

    Reach Matt at: [email protected]