Arguably the most successful of Japanese firearm wonk Kijirō Nambu’s pistols, the Type 14 saw lots of use in World War II and is seriously collectible today. Nambu is associated with at least a half-dozen different machine guns, the Arisaka rifle series, a submachine gun and four pistols that reached service.
Nambu, a general in the Imperial Army who died just a year shy of becoming at octogenarian in 1924, is often described as the “John Browning of Japan” due to his prolific gun designs. The Type 14, itself a simplified update to Nambu’s own Type A pistol, was designed in the general’s last days and was first produced by the Chigusa Arsenal for service with the Imperial Army in 1926.
Striker fired with a very light trigger pull, the Nambu Type 14 resembled the German Luger but used an entirely different action with a cocking handle at the rear of the pistol. Chambered in 8x22mm Nambu, a round that is on the pipsqueak end of ballistic performance when stacked against 9mm Luger, the Type 14 carried eight rounds in a single stack magazine. Its name comes from the fact that it was adopted in the 14th year of the reign of Emperor Taishō.
While NCOs were issued a sidearm, officers had to buy their own through the Kaikosha association. As such, many opted to go with European-made pistols from FN, Germany or Spain, as they had to open their wallet anyway.
While exact factory data is not available, an estimated 400,000 Type 14s were produced by Chigusa, Tokyo Arsenal, Nagoya Arsenal, Kokura Arsenal, and by Kokubunji until the last days of WWII.
Although VJ Day was something of a death sentence for Japanese arms– many were destroyed or simply thrown in the ocean during the disarmament in late 1945– uncounted thousands of Nambus came back to the U.S. with GIs, Marines, and Sailors taking the “Magic Carpet Ride” back home.
A great souvenir that took up little space in a duffle bag, it made the ideal war trophy.
One such war bring-back was used by Bill Ruger as something of an inspiration for the gun that ultimately became his Ruger Standard or Mark I .22LR pistol. You can see much the influence of the Nambu series in that very American plinker.
Estimates of Gunto and other “samurai” swords coming home as trophies out of Japan during the American occupation range as high as 3 million– which makes Nambu T14s actually much more rare.
The guns also proved popular in film and TV series, with dozens of war movies set during the Pacific campaigns having the Nambu as a guest star. Today, you can see the Type 14 regularly in the Amazon Prime show Man in the High Castle, used by the 1960s Japanese occupation forces in the fictionalized Japanese Pacific States.
The Type 14 is also seen in a Galaxy Far, Far Away in Disney’s The Mandalorian, with Cara Dune’s (Gina Carano) blaster pistol based on the gun. It makes sense as the Star Wars franchise has long used classic firearms as the basis for sci-fi blasters (C96 Broomhandle ala Solo, anyone?).
As production ended in 1945 and no source of new parts exist, Nambus floating around in the U.S. are often in pretty poor condition. That, coupled with the fact that ammo is hard to find, has given these guns a reputation in recent years as being unreliable.
When compared to military surplus handguns like the Luger and P-38– which take readily available ammunition, were made in the millions and continued commercial production in addition to those made for wartime service– the Type 14 Nambu is generally not considered a “shooter” these days.
However, they are a solid collectible with rock-solid history to boot. And that never goes out of style.
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