top of page

Please Note:  This site is best viewed on a desktop, laptop or tablet computer. We have made every effort to make this site friendly to cellphone users, but it's really designed to be viewed with a larger screen.  Thank you.

MEIJI 13 YEAR MURATA RIFLE (1885)

明治 十三 年  村田 銃

(Meiji  13  Year  Murata  Gun)

IMG_6190.JPG
IMG_6191.JPG

The Murata Meiji 13th Year Type Rifle.  Also referred to as the "Murata Type 13"

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

   While Japanese emperors can be traced as far back as 660 BC, little actual detail is known of Japan’s early history.  The first Chinese Buddhist came to Japan in 552 A.D.  Subsequent Buddhists brought with them Japan’s first written language as well as introducing Chinese arts and crafts.  Beginning around 800, Japan began being ruled by different families of feudal lords.  The title of Shogun (meaning “great general”) first came into use only in 1192.  In the early 1600s Iyeyasu seized control as Shogun and his family, the Tokugawa, ruled Japan until the emperor’s power was restored under Mutsuhito in 1867.  This is known as the Meiji restoration.

 

   European contact with Japan began in 1542, when Portuguese sailors first reached the islands.  Seven years later, the Spanish Jesuit priest Saint Francis Xavier began to preach Christianity in southern Kyushu.  In 1614, Iyeyasu ordered all Christian priests to leave Japan and ordered the Japanese to renounce Christianity.  The country was sealed off, except for one Dutch ship per year allowed to dock at Nagasaki.  Foreign sailors shipwrecked on Japan’s shores were usually killed.

 

   In 1853, US Commodore Matthew C. Perry was sent to Japan with 4 warships in response to the mistreatment of shipwrecked American sailors.  He had been directed to open diplomatic relationships with Japan and to secure fair treatment of American traders and sailors, but these overtures were resisted by the Japanese government.

 

   The following year, Perry returned with more ships and anchored them in Tokyo bay.  The weak Japanese government of the Tokugawas was unable to mount an effective response and unwillingly signed a treaty opening a number of ports to American trade in 1857.  The major European powers followed with similar agreements shortly thereafter.

The Boshin War and the Meiji Period

  The Boshin War (1868-69), developed from dissatisfaction among segments of the nobility and samurai classes with how the shogunate responded to foreigners during  the Late Tokugawa shogunate, the decade after Japan was opened to trade.  During this period Japan underwent significant rearming with imported weapons.   Traditional Tanegashima guns (smooth-bore matchlocks developed from the Dutch period 250 years previous, before Japan's borders were closed off) were used side-by-side with modern Western breech-loading rifles imported from all over Europe and the United States.   In 1867, orders were placed for 40,000 state-of-the-art French Chassepot rifles, a part of which reached Edo by year's end. 

 

   The Boshin War, a  civil war between the Tokugawa shogunate, which had been in power for the last 250 years, and an alliance of nobles and samurai seeking to assert political power in the name of the Imperial Court and the young Emperor Meiji erupted in 1868.  The alliance secured control of the Imperial Court and forced the Shogun to resign.  The Emperor then declared that he was reasserting his “traditional” powers, thus beginning what is commonly referred to as the Meiji Restoration.

The Meiji Period

  Over the following years, Meiji and the Imperial Court remade Japanese society, adopting many Western ideas, and practically abolished the samurai  and the feudal system.  For our purposes, the Meiji court also established a modern army and navy along European lines.  Western experts were brought in from Europe and America to both teach Western methods and to establish Western industry.

 

   One final note regarding this period is that not all Japanese accepted the dramatic societal changes brought about by the Meiji Restoration.  A revolt took place in 1877 by rebellious traditional samurai, referred to as the Satsuma Rebellion in which the Imperial Japanese Army utilized its more modern firearms against the more traditionally armed Samurai, whom they subdued comparatively quickly.  [The Satsuma Rebellion is the centerpiece of the Tom Cruise 2003 period epic movie:  The Last Samurai, in which the arms of the opposing forces are presented with only a minimal of Hollywood "liberty."]

 

   In the 1890s, Japan began adopting an aggressive foreign policy along with a Japanese militarism leading to recurring wars with China, Russia, struggles over Korea, and ultimately participation in World War II, resulting in Japan’s utter defeat and territorial reduction to its four main islands and surrounding small ones.

  A word about nomenclature:  There was no official designation for the first Murata rifle of 1880, it being referred to simply as the “Murata gun" (rifle).  Indeed, that is specifically how it is engraved on the rifle's markings, along with, on the opposite side of the receiver, the year introduced (the year Meiji 13, which is 1880 in the West.  When the follow-on rifle was adopted in the year Meiji 18, there needed to be a way to distinguish between the two so they became 13 Year Gun (rifle) and 18 Year Gun (rifle) respectively.   Because the rifles are specifically marked 明治 十三 年  村田銃 (Meiji  13  Year  Murata  Gun) and likewise for the 18 year this is how we have chosen to refer to these firearms.

   These rifles are also commonly referred to in American and European collector circles as “Type 13” and “Type 18” which seems like equally good nomenclature.  However, we’ve simply chosen "13 Year" and "18 Year " as that is how the rifles are Imperial Japanese arsenal marked.

DEVELOPMENT

  Initially after the Meiji Restoration, Japan remained reliant on imported weapons.   After the Satsuma rebellion, Japan extensively relied on such weapons as the French Chassepot and quantities of Turkish Peabody Martinis.

 

   Nevertheless, Japan began developing its own indigenous relatively modern rifle, the Murata, derived from the French Mle1874 Gras, itself a derivative of the Chassepot.   But given Japan's lack of an industrial infrastructure, Imperial armories such as what would become the Koishikawa arsenal, had to be established pretty much from scratch.

 

   As the Japanese were only just beginning to develop an industrial base in the mid-19th Century, the Murata rifles were slow to develop and slow to be built in quantity.  To fill their needs and to arm more quickly, Japan purchased a significant number of arms from both Europe and the United States for testing.  These included quantities each of a large variety of weapons, everything from M1866 Austrian Wanzls and Belgian M1867 Albini-Braendlins to American Rolling Blocks and Remington-Lee bolt action repeaters.

   The Murata rifle was designed by Major (later General) Tsuneyoshi Murata, who traveled extensively throughout Europe in the late 1870s studying the designs of various European inventors and manufacturers.  Not surprisingly, especially given Japan’s serious lack of industrialization at the time, this design borrowed heavily from the European rifles then in regular service; principally the M1871 Dutch Beaumont, the M1874 French Gras and, to a lesser extent, the M1871 German Mauser.  Although not widely known, the Winchester Company of the United States was contracted to provide the machinery and tooling necessary for Japan to manufacture the Murata rifle. Very much like Russia, which imported British machinery to build its M1870 Russian Berdan II rifles, Japan required western industrial support to initially arm itself.  Winchester also supplied some 10 million rounds of 11mm Murata ammunition as well as the machinery for ammunition manufacturing.

GENERALLY

  The nomenclature for Japanese rifles beginning with the Murata derives from the year of the reign of the Emperor, starting with the Meiji Restoration in 1867.  At this time, Japan was just emerging from 200 years of self-imposed isolation and was obsessively driven by a desire to catch up industrially and militarily with the great western powers.  Although Japan had purchased a wide variety of arms on the European market, she was anxious to begin developing her own industrial base.  The Murata 13 Year Rifle was Japan's first attempt at a home designed, home produced, standard infantry rifle.  Initially it was referred to by the Japanese merely as the Murata Rifle.  However, after adoption of the improved Murata rifle in the 18th year of Meiji, there needed to be some way of referencing them individually.  Thus, this rifle became referred to by the Japanese as the 13 Year Rifle, and the newer rifle as the 18 Year Rifle.  The 13 Year rifle was accepted for service in March of 1880, thus its designation 13 Year comes from being formally introduced in the 13th year of the Meiji Period.  In keeping with European and American practice, its manufacture, model are ownership inscribed on the receiver and barrel.

 

   Among Japan’s purchases of European arms during this period were 6,000 French Chassepot needle fire rifles.  During the 1880s, these were converted to utilize the M1880 Murata cartridge (which borrows heavily from the French 1874 Gras cartridge - see below), and used by Japan to supplement the slowly arriving Muratas.  Conversion took the form of re-chambering to the new cartridge and by installation of a new Murata bolt in lieu of the Chassepot bolt (which new Murata bolt includes a leaf-type firing pin mounted inside the bolt head, an arrangement copied directly from the Dutch M1871 Beaumont rifle).

 

   These early days of Japanese rearmament also saw the importation of a large quantity of M1872 Turkish Peabody-Martini rifles, presumably purchased from captured Russian stores acquired  from Turkey via capture during, or at the conclusion of, the Russo-Turkish War of 1877.  Many are marked with Kanji denoting Japanese naval use and subsequent school, cadet or military academy use.

 

   The 13 Year Murata was shortly supplemented by the closely similar and only evolutionarily improved also single shot Murata 18 Year, adopted in the Western Year 1885.

DC

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

Description:   This is a highly conventional, simple, easy to manufacture bolt-action rifle that could serve as a quintessential black powder, metallic cartridge, military rifle of the 1870s.  This design contains no unique features.  Every component is "borrowed" from a pre-existing European military rifle.  These features do flow together, however, into a pleasing and functional design.

 

  The stock is a single piece of (usually) walnut, again entirely conventional for its time.  The barrel is retained by two screw retained, clamping bands, with the rifle’s upper sling swivel fixed beneath the lower band and the lower sling swivel being wood-screw mounted low along the lower edge of the buttstock.  The end of the stock is fitted with a very conventional, Chassepot/Gras style nosecap, except without a cleaning rod detent tab as the slotted  cleaning rod is threaded for stowage conventionally beneath the barrel.

 

   The bolt is retained in the split-bridge receiver by a top mounted bolt retaining block and screw, in a manner very similar to the I.G. Mod. 71 Mauser and the Mauser's successor, the Mod. 71/84 Mauser.  However, where the Mausers have a round bolt retaining washer, the Murata retainer is a somewhat rectangular block that juts out perpendicularly to the left across the bolt, which stops it against the left side of the upper receiver bridge. 

PaDY5qx_a.jpg

A nice view of the right side of the Murata 13 year rifle's action clearly showing the 13 Year's bolt-retaining cross-block, ruptured cartridge gas port cut around the bolt head and the two ports drilled into the upper receiver ring, and the markings along the right rear receiver wall denoting "Meiji 13 Year" and on the flat of the chamber area, the Imperial Chrysanthemum below which is the smaller mark of Tsuneyoshi Murata's kakihan.

  The chamber of the 13 Year Rifle barrel is manufactured with a flat top which is marked with the Imperial Chrysanthemum  and a smaller mark which is is Murata's own kakihan (a Japanese person's personal seal or monogram, which is is sometimes used as a signature.)

IMG_6193.JPG
IMG_6208.JPG
IMG_6209.JPG

Meiji 13 showing gas venting channel, one of the two gas ports and the distinctive bolt stop.  Kanji reads " Meiji 1 3 Year”

  Not unexpectedly, the design of the receiver borrows heavily from the French M1874 Gras experience (just as the Gras is pretty much a metallic cartridge version of the M1866 Chassepot), including the M80 Gras modification, by having a gas pressure relief port machined into the floor of the receiver behind the chamber as well as around the bolt, and, in a both "belt and suspenders" ode to safety, also by having two small gas relief ports drilled through the top of the receiver.  Suggesting that the Japanese had challenging experiences with ammunition, and wanting to be doubly sure, the M80-type modification was borrowed from the French M1874 Gras, and the gas relief ports were copied from modifications made to later Dutch M1871/88 Beaumonts.   See the latter two webpages for examples.

IMG_6208.JPG
IMG_6218.JPG

The two gas relief ports drilled into the upper left and right sides of the receiver ring, as well as the gas relief channel cut around the inside of the receiver behind the chamber.  The Murata 13 boltstop, a distinctive characteristic.  Note also the space of the gas escape channel on the left receiver wall, just behind the chamber. 

Distinguishing Between the Year 13 Murata and the year 18 Murata:

  These two rifles are closely related and at first blush may not seem easy to differentiate.  Still, even if you are unable to read the slightly different kanji markings of these two Murata rifle versions, there are  distinguishing features between the two.  While overall length is not easy to distinguish, being only an inch different (the 13 Year Murata is longer at 1,308 mm (51.5 in) overall compared to the 1283mm (50.5 in) of the 18 Year Murata, and the 13 Year’s barrel length of  ~ 822 mm (32 3/8 in) is almost identical to the 18 Year’s barrel of 818 mm (32 5/16 in)), there are five notable differences.

IMG_6193.JPG
IMG_2381.JPG

Two bolts:  The bolt-stop-retention system has been completely redesigned.  The block on top of the bolt of the 13 Year has been removed and a transverse cross-bolt through stock and receiver has replaced it.  

IMG_6221.JPG
IMG_8837_a.jpg
IMG_8852.JPG

Two left sides of the stock below the receiver. There is no bolt on the left side of the stock of the 13 Year rifle.  For the 18 Year, the previous bolt block has been removed and a transverse cross-bolt through stock and receiver has replaced it, clearly evident here.

  The 13 Year Murata rifle suffered from a relatively weak wrist leading to cracks and the need for stock replacement (which may account in part for many of these rifles being found without stock cartouches).  The 18 Year model addressed this with a newly designed upper tang which relocated the main tang screw further down the stock and added an additional tang wood screw yet again further down the stock.

qqHmmJu__a.jpg
20190717134905-9787.jpg

Note the substantial differences between the upper tang of the (Left) 13 Year rifle and the (Right) 18 Year rifle.

Photo Credits:   User OyabunRyo@Reddit & Imgur (left) & JackTheDog@gunauction (Right)

  Likewise, the trigger guard attachment is newly re-designed, simplified, and mounted on considerably shorter lower tangs.

IMG_6204.JPG
20190717134925-4704.jpg

There are substantial differences between the 13 Year rifle's lower tang and trigger mounting method and that of the 18 Year rifle.

Photo Credit:    JackTheDog Museum 18 Year @ gunauction (left)

  Additionally, and a bit surprisingly, unlike the French Mle1866 Chassepot and Mle 1874 Gras from which is copied, the Murata 13 was produced without an auxiliary bayonet lug on the left side of the muzzle.  The follow-on Murata 18 Year rifle decides to add just such an auxiliary bayonet lug.

IMG_6215.JPG
IMG_2392.JPG

 The left side of the muzzle of the Murata 13 Year rifle.  Note lack of an auxiliary bayonet lug, compared to the left side of the 18 Year model.

  An interesting feature of the 13 Year rifle, one that might actually be considered unique to this Japanese rifle, is one more device to protect against a ruptured case (I sense a theme here!).  Because of how long the Murata extractor is, the groove cut into the left sidewall of the receiver must extend right out the back of the receiver bridge.  Should a cartridge case rupture, this groove  provides a channel for escaping gasses to be release out the back of the receiver directly into the shooter.  To protect against such gasses the back of the bolt is fitted with a kind of shield, a gas deflector plate, that would guide hot gasses outward, the way a muzzle break might.  With minor improvement, this gas deflector plate was also carried over to the Murata 18 Year rifle.

20221228_141926.jpg
20221228_141950.jpg

View of the left receiver wall extractor groove and the bolt's gas deflector plate with the rifle ready to fire (Left).  Right:  View with the rifle fired showing s space reserved open to allow gas to escape to the sides in the event of a case rupture.

A Note Regarding the Japanese Chrysanthemum (The “Mum”)

  Up until the end of World War II, and even to the end of the 20th Century, the Emperor was held to be such a spiritual being that even the symbol of his family, The Chrysanthemum deserved reverence.  Indeed, the 16-pedal chrysanthemum is the Imperial seal of Japan itself.  The Chrysanthemum (mum) was the insignia of the Emperor’s ownership. This mark was stamped on the barrel or the receiver of all Murata and Arisaka rifles as well as other Imperial Japanese armaments through WWII.

 

    The mums on most Japanese rifles brought back to the United States following World War II have had their mums “removed” by being defaced.  For years collectors had believed that General MacArthur had ordered their removal before the rifles could be shipped home.   After extensive research by collectors of Japanese arms including the interview of numerous WWII Japanese and American veterans it is now known that both the Japanese government ordered the defacing of the mum before the rifles were surrendered, and that individual Japanese soldiers defaced the mums before surrendering their weapons at the end of the war. That is, to keep from surrendering the Emperor’s property, the mum was defaced.   

 

    Considerable numbers of Japanese rifles evaded this action by either being captured rather than having been surrendered, or that were stored in sufficiently remote or unconsidered spots that they were released to transit to America long enough after the war that this act was not as symbolic as it had been and so they were not so mutilated.

MEI-378-14.JPG
Jap355-06.JPG
OM

OPERATING MECHANISM

  Like the M1871 Dutch Beaumont series, the Meiji 13's large bolt handle is hollow and contains a conventional flat spring which drives the firing pin.  The Murata differs from the Beaumont in the spring's mounting and assembly (the retaining screw is on the end of the bolt handle rather than through its face), but operates identically.  Like the Beaumont, Gras and Mauser, the Murata’s long bolt handle and guide rib lock forward of the split receiver as the bolt handle turns down, and acts as the rifle's sole locking lug.  The single piece/ solid bolt head further borrows its operation directly from the Beaumont-Gras-Mauser methods.  Again like the Gras and Beaumont, the Meiji 13 has neither safety nor ejector, and spent cases must be tipped out of the receiver.

IMG_6220.JPG
IMG_6223.JPG
IMG_6221.JPG
IMG_6224.JPG

   Interestingly however, the system of bayonet mount is more closely related to the British M1871 Mark I-IV series Martini-Henry system with the lug being mounted on the foremost barrel band rather than being welded or brazed to the barrel itself. 

IMG_6195.JPG
IMG_6213.JPG

View of the bayonet mounting lug affixed to the upper band, and of the upper screw-retained clamping band and the slotted cleaning rod stowed conventionally beneath the barrel

  A major shortcoming of the 13 Year Murata's action regards the extractor.  The separate extractor piece fits into a dedicated groove machined into the inner left receiver wall, and is held in place by a small curved tab on the back end of the extractor that wraps partially around the bolt body.  However, there is nothing retaining the extractor except its fit between the bolt body and receiver wall, so that when the bolt is removed the extractor simply falls away.  The cumulative effect of this is that, should the bolt stop block come loose at any point and the operator pull the bolt back to work the action, the bolt will simply come out of the receiver and the extractor will fall away, rendering the firearm pretty much useless until reassembled.  This shortcoming was addressed in the modified and updated 18 Year Rifle.

muratat13bolt2.jpg
muratat13bolt1.jpg

Photo Credit:  Nambuworld.com

M

MARKINGS

  The Murata series of rifles, while substantially marked in Japanese Kanji characters, is also serial numbered with western numerals.  In fact, most parts are serial numbered where space permits.  The top flat of the knoxform is marked with the Japanese Royal Chrysanthemum (the “mum” to collectors).  The long line of Kanji along the left side of the receiver loosely translates as “Great Nippon Empire Murata Rifle” while the right side of the receiver is marked in Kanji “Meiji 1 3 Year.”

 

   The characters 十 三 (juu-san or 1 3) on the receiver indicate the year of official adoption (the 13th year of the Meiji reign) per the Japanese calendar.  

 

    Superficial improvements such as components, bayonet lugs, and minor configurations led to the redesignation of the 13 Year Rifle to the 18 Year Rifle 1885, and these newly produced rifles were receiver marked 十 八 (juu-hachi or 1 8) to signify the year of adoption.

IMG_6206.JPG

明    Mei

治    Ji

十    1

三    3

年    Year

    Superficial improvements such as components, bayonet lugs, and minor configurations led to the redesignation of the 13 Year Rifle to the 18 Year Rifle 1885, and these newly produced rifles were receiver marked 十 八 (juu-hachi or 1 8) to signify the year of adoption.

IMG_6218.JPG
IMG_6217.JPG

Well marked left side of the Meiji 13.  From left to right:  Serial number ahead of  the barrel knoxform, inspection marks on left knoxform, the Imperial Chrysanthemum on the top knoxform flat, matching serial number on the receiver and a long line of Kanji which reads:  "Great Nippon Empire Murata Rifle."

  The buttstock cartouche reads “Tokyo Artillery Arsenal Small Arms Factory” around the outside and the inside circle indicates “Meiji 13 Year".   Note that being Japanese, the kanji are read counter-clockwise, opposite of how Western cartouches would usually be read.

IMG_6200.JPG
MVC-282X.JPG

The buttstock cartouche of a Murata 13 Year rifle.  The white paint characters, sometimes in yellow, are very often found on the buttstocks of Japanese rifles,  and are believed to be somehow related to WWII surrender, but we are unable to verify this.

20221226_141028_a.jpg

Photo Credit:  Stan Zeilinski – Japanese Murata Rifles 1880-1897

AI

SPECIFICATIONS, STATISTICS & DATA

Overall Length:  1,308 mm (51.5 in)

Barrel Length:  ~ 822 mm (32 3/8 in)

Rifling:  5-groove; LH, concentric

Weight, empty:  4.3 Kg (9.1 lbs)

Sight:  Ramp-and-leaf with slider, graduated from 200 to 1,500 m (220 to 1,640 yds)

Muzzle velocity:  400.2m/sec  (1,312 ft/sec)

IMG_6216.JPG
IMG_6211.JPG

 Rear sight showing western ranging numerals.  The sight is marked with dots on the right side of the ladder, which are half-marks between the 100 meter ranges.

IMG_6210.JPG

 Note that the RIGHT side of the long sight base is serialized, the left side is range marked

T

SHORT RIFLES, CARBINES & SPECIAL VERSIONS

Murata 16th Year Cavalry Carbine (1883)

  As noted above, like the French, Germans after the Franco-Prussian War, and numerous others, the Japanese converted their stock of French M1866 Chassepots needle rifles to metallic cartridge, some being converted to a Cavalry rifle.  In 1883 Japan adopted a carbine of unknown official designation but commonly referred to as the Year 16 cavalry carbine.

 

   Official Japanese sources clearly indicate that such a carbine was adopted and did exist, but information about it is as rare as are such carbines. Numbers produced would have been very small.  It is believed to have a 508 mm (20in) barrel and a stock extending to the muzzle, a carbine rear sight, lower sling swivel just ahead of the trigger guard

We have no reliable statistics regarding this carbine.

 

No other short rifles or carbines are known.

B

BAYONETS

   This first domestically developed and manufactured sword bayonet, just like the first domestically produced Murata 13 year rifle discussed here, clearly shows its European roots and influence.  The bayonet has a strong German influence and it has been speculated that some early production may have in fact been German-made. This bayonet also reflects strong influence from the Italian M1870 Vetterli’s bayonet, or at least strong convergence.

 

  The 13 Year bayonet was of course manufactured to fit the 13 Year rifle and such rifle, unlike the later 18 Year model, does not have a small auxiliary tenon on the left side of the rifle muzzle, opposite the main bayonet mounting tenon which is integral to the top barrel band.  However, some 13 Year bayonets have been seen which have a small rectangular cut-out in the inside of their muzzle rings.  We don't know why. 

 

   While it might seem that this cut-out would be specifically to allow the 13 Year bayonet to be affixed to the 18 Year rifle, the barrel of the 18 Year rifle is about an inch shorter than that of the 13 Year, and this shortening occurs directly at the muzzle, so a 13 Year bayonet being fixed to the primary bayonet lug of an 18 Year rifle would still leave the muzzle ring of the bayonet floating in the air short of the 18 Year's would barrel.  Additionally, the diameter of the barrel at the muzzle of the 18 Year is sufficiently smaller (by 0.5 mm maybe?) that it would leave a 13 Year bayonet rattling around even if the hilt were shortened.   [We have no idea what is going on]

s-l1600_10.jpg
s-l1600_09.jpg

The checkered wood or composite grips and the  tenon slot of an early 13 Year bayonet

Photos Credit:   Steven Larry Eisel

IMG_7422.JPG

The left side of a M1874 French Gras rifle showing the auxiliary bayonet mounting tenon copied directly by the Japanese in their early Murata 13 Year rifles.

   The pommel and guard are of steel, polished bright, and the grips are checkered composition retained by steel rivets.  The right side of the guard is stamped with the Imperial chrysanthemum and the left side marked with characters denoting the manufacturing armory.  Serial numbers are stamped on the right side of the pommel just about the leaf-type retainer spring.

 

   The blade is straight and is fullered on both sides along roughly two-thirds its length, noticeably less so than the later Year 18 Murata bayonet.

s-l1600_01_a.jpg

Overall length: 714 mm  (28 ¼ in)

Blade length: 574 mm  (22 9/16 in)

Blade width: 29.9 mm  (1 3/16 in)

Muzzle ring dia:  18 mm  (11/16 in)

CARTRIDGE

13 Year Cartridge

Aka:  11x60R; 11mm Murata

 

   The Murata 13 Year cartridge (1880), commonly referred to as the 11mm Murata, was adopted concurrently with the 13 Year rifle, and is a near exact copy of the French M1874 Gras cartridge.  Its total length is only slightly smaller than its French parent, to the effect that the two cartridges are practically interchangeable.  The rim of the Japanese cartridge, like that of the Gras, is of the Mauser “A” base design.

 

   Japan contracted for the Murata cartridge to be manufactured outside of Japan during the early years of Murata production, mainly in Great Britain and the US, as well as having been offered by the French S.F.M. firm.

 

   The American company Winchester provided the machinery for manufacturing both the new rifle as well as its new cartridge and was directly involved in the installation of this machinery in the Tokyo Arsenal.

 

   In adopting its new, “national” metallic cartridge rifle, with its new peer to Western nations cartridge, the Japanese also worked to standardize many of its stocks of other previously imported rifles to chamber the new cartridge, including that the Tokyo Arsenal remodeled over 8,000 Chassepots in 1882 to fire the 11mm Cartridge.  Sources indicate that they also altered many of their Gras and even Peabody-Martini rifles to fire the new cartridge.

 

   Murata and Winchester continued working on improving the basic Murata rifle design through several iteration leading the official adoption of a “new” rifle, the improved 18 Year Type rifle, (also a single-shot) although this 11x60R cartridge was carried over to the new rifle unchanged.

 

   The 11mm Murata cartridge case is a brass, rimmed, bottleneck, with a cylindrical body and Mauser “A” base.  The bullet is a conventional design 417 grain, soft lead, round-nosed, paper-patched projectile loaded with 82 grains of black powder.  In the Murata 13 this load develops a muzzle velocity of about 453 m/sec (1,485 fps).

Dimensions:

 

Bullet diameter:  11.22mm

Neck diameter:  11.75mm

Base diameter:  14.64mm

Rim diameter:  15.85mm

Case length:  59.6mm

Total length:  72.3mm

11mm Murata - User 'William lorg' _ shootersforum.com 100_6565.jpg
11mm Murata headstamp 2 - User 'Historian' _ IAA-forums.webp
11mm Murata headstamp - User 'Historian' _ IAA-forums.webp
pix1198617343.jpg
pix1198617250.jpg

MANUFACTURING DATA

  The first major Japanese government arsenal was Koishikawa Artillery Arsenal established at Koishikawa, Tokyo.  It was established in 1870 by the Meiji government and they initially produced a copy of the Model 1855 British rifled musket which was manufactured by the Japanese from about 1870 to 1880.  In March, 1880, a single shot, bolt action rifle designed by Tsuneyoshi Murata chambered to fire Murata's indigenous designed 11mm Murata cartridge was adopted by the government as the "Murata Gun" (the 13 year rifle, commonly the "Type 13").  By 1885 over 58,000 Meiji 13's had been produced.  during its production run, the 13 Year had several minor modifications made to it.  After a significant number of additional modifications were made, a new model was introduced in 1885 as the 18 Year rifle (aka the "Type 18").

 

   The industrial expertise for the manufacture of the Murata series came directly from the United States in the form of Winchester Company supplied manufacturing machinery as well as design expertise.

 

   Between 1880 and 1885 some  60,000 Murata 13 rifles were produced by the Japanese Imperial Ordnance Factory, Koishikawa, Tokyo utilizing machinery supplied and installed by Winchester.

UTILIZATION BY OTHER COUNTRIES

  During this period Japan was in its industrial infancy, and production was slow.  Although eventually produced in relatively large numbers, the indigenous Murata was never plentiful enough to be sold abroad and was adopted only by Japan.

PREDECESSOR & FOLLOW-ON RIFLES

Predecessor Rifle: 

  The Predecessor Rifles, plural, include a large number of different action types adapted to generic .577 cartridge chambered short-rifles, most likely produced at the Koishikawa Artillery Arsenal in Koishikawa, Tokyo between 1870 to 1880.  These would be the models detailed at (or to be detailed at when we are able to get them done!)  Japan / Pre-Murata Japanese Cartridge Rifles of the Meiji Period.  This is an example of such a rifle:

IMG_6249.JPG

Believed to be a Japanese P53/Albini-Braendlin

  More directly, the French Chassepot, vast quantities were available on the open market, disposed of by both the French and the Germans in the mid to late 1870s and its own follow-on rifle, the M1874 and specifically the M1874 M.80 French Gras served as the lineal ancestor of the Murata 13 Year.

22164_14.jpg
22164_12.jpg
22164_9.jpg
22164_8.jpg

The Japanese Chassepot-Murata conversion

Photo Credit:   ProxiBid.com

IMG_1991_a.jpg

  An additional predecessor rifle would certainly also include the Turkish Peabody-Martini, a fairly large number of which Japan acquired shortly after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 and which were assigned to the Japanese Navy.

IMG_2561.JPG
IMG_2571.JPG
IMG_2573.JPG
IMG_2380.JPG

The Japanese Murata Type 18

th-2551639663 _nambuworld.com.jpg

Top:  The Murata 13 Year

Center:  The Immediate Follow-On Murata 18 Year

Bottom:  The later follow-on to the Murata 18 Year, the 8mm Murata 22 Year

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

A special thanks to Doss White, Dr. Stanley Zielinski, and Chip Goddard for their information!

REFERENCES

Japanese Murata rifles 1880 -1897, Stanley Zeilinski, Lodestone, 2010

Military rifles of Japan, 5th Ed., Honeycutt & Anthony, Julien books, 2001

Page first sketched out January 27, 1999.
Fully revised August 26, 2008

Updated: Nov 5, 2021

Updated: December 29, 2022

bottom of page