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The Nambu Type 94

By Will Dabbs, MD

A Basic Treatise on the Worst Combat Handgun in Military History

Its reputation is legendary. An extensive review of a variety of respected firearms reference texts fails to uncover anything positive written about the Japanese Type 94 handgun. Everybody with access to a typewriter, word processor or computer seems to despise it. Where Georg Luger’s Parabellum oozes a sensual elegance and John Browning’s 1911 personifies utilitarian effectiveness, the Nambu 94 is simply viscerally repugnant. As such, when a low-mileage copy popped up on Gunbroker.com it was time to see what all the fuss was about.

The Type 94 was designed by the esteemed Japanese firearms designer Kijiro Nambu as a commercial venture in 1934. Not surprisingly, the 94 Shiki Kenju or Pistol Type 94 sold poorly early on, but as the fortunes of war turned against the Japanese they had to take what they could get. By the time the American juggernaut crushed Japanese industry in 1945, around 70,000 copies had been produced. Early specimens were issued to aircrews and tank personnel, presumably in the forlorn hope that they might not actually have to be used. However, the design eventually found its way into all arms of the Japanese military.

Broad brush, this pistol is simply wretched in all respects. The 8mm cartridge it fires has a nominal diameter of 0.315 inches and is fairly underpowered for general military use, particularly with full-metal jacket rounds. The round was likely adequate for coward control and summary executions, but for combat use it must have been pitiful. The magazine holds six rounds when fully loaded.

Where shall we start? The first time I drew the action back and released it, the gun pinched the holy bejeebers out of my hand. This heralded an ignoble start to our relationship. The magazine on my gun is ridiculously tight and must be vigorously wrestled for removal. There will be no fast magazine changes executed with this bizarre design. The magazine does have an exposed button to assist in depressing the follower for loading, and that counts for something. However, the magazine floorplate has...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N7 (August 2018)
and was posted online on June 22, 2018

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