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Military Rifles in the Age of Transition
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1865 to 1890
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Meiji 13 MURATA (1880)
明治 十三 年 村田 銃
(Meiji 13 Year Murata Gun)
(Murata 13 Year Rifle)
The Meiji 13th Year Murata Rifle.
For an extensive discussion of the Historical Context in which Japan was immersed during the era of converting to and adopting metallic cartridge rifles please see the most interesting section titled HISTORICAL CONTEXT at Pre-Murata Japanese Military Cartridge Rifles.
That section covers Pre-Commodore Perry’s first and second “visits” to Japan, the shock of encountering the militarily overwhelming West, the unrest leading to the Boshin War, the overthrow of the Shogun, the Meiji Restoration and touches on the Satsuma Rebellion, all of which were important developments in setting the stage for Japan’s military ascendancy.
DEVELOPMENT of the MEIJI 13 MURATA
Initially after the Meiji Restoration, Japan remained reliant on imported weapons, especially such extensive imports as the British Pattern 1860 Enfield short rifles, the mle1866 French Chassepots previously imported (these in use by the Japanese Army), and later quantities of M1874 Turkish Peabody Martinis (which had been adopted by the Japanese navy).
Nevertheless, Japan rather quickly began developing its own indigenous, relatively modern rifle, the Murata, derived from the French Mle1874 Gras, itself a derivative of the Chassepot, and with a bolt system derived from the Dutch M1871 Beaumont. But given Japan's lack of an industrial infrastructure, its Imperial armories such as what would become the Koishikawa arsenal, later the Japanese Imperial 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 and to finally begin the standardization of army weapons (especially in the immediate aftermath of the Satsuma rebellion, an uprising/civil war in 1877 against the Meiji government resulting from widespread dissatisfaction with westernizing reforms), Japan purchased a significant number of arms from both Europe and the United States for evaluation and 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 was one of the world's best rifle shots in that period, and who spent 10 months traveling extensively throughout Europe in the late 1870s garnering fame for winning multiple shooting tournament, but also studying the designs of various European inventors and manufacturers. Not surprisingly, especially given Japan’s serious lack of machine industrialization at the time, Murata’s own 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.
Tsuneyoshi Murata came to adulthood as a vassal of the Satsuma Domain who, during the Tokugawa shogunate promoted the Japanese adopted of large-scale industrialization. Murata developed a wealth of firearms knowledge and excellent shooting skills. Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868 he converted from being a Satsuma clan soldier to becoming an officer of the newly organized Japanese army. He became the overseer of the Japanese army's firearms related purchasing, operations, and repair. This gave Murata a broad overview of the complete state of Japanese military firearms and the direction in which Japan’s future firearms requirements needed to evolve.
This period in Europe was undergoing massive shifts in firearms development, very quickly going from percussion breechloaders to early transitional muzzleloaders to smokeless magazine repeaters in the space of only a single human generation. If this “Age of Transition”™was dizzying for Europe, it was near-overwhelming for Japan. The success of Japan in meeting the West peer-to-peer by the end of this period is in no small measure thanks to the tireless work of Tsuneyoshi Murata.
In 1874, Murata learned of the French re-modeling of their Chassepot design to utilize a self-contained metal cartridge and began planning to remodel the Japanese Army's Chassepots similarly by domestically producing a new bolt for it and new ammunition. His efforts were sidetracked by his required participation in the Seinan War (the Satsuma Rebellionin the West) but afterward he shifted from simply modifying Chassepots to work on designing a complete, new Japanese rifle. In 1880 he succeeded and the Meiji 13 Murata was born.
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 the initially British BSA manufactured M1870 Russian Berdan I rifles, Japan also required Western industrial support to indigenously arm itself. Winchester in addition supplied some 10 million rounds of 11mm Murata ammunition as well as the machinery needed for Murata ammunition manufacturing as that involved producing drawn brass cases in lieu of the coiled brass cases of Japan’s predecessor standard rifles, the Japanese Enfield Conversion rifles.
During the Sino-Japanese War, the Muratas, Meiji 13 and Meiji 18, were the Japanese Imperial Army’s main battler rifle.
Japanese sources indicated that due to a shortage of firearms near the end of World War II, Murata rifles, along with other obsolete types, were pulled from stores and re-deployed to local soldiers in preparation for the “mainland battle” (i.e., the American invasion of the Japanese home islands). ( https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/村田銃)
A word about nomenclature: There is some disagreement regarding the official nomenclature of this rifle, Western sources suggesting that there was no official designation for the first Murata rifle of 1880, it being referred to simply as the “Murata gun" (rifle). Japanese sources state that originally the 13 Year model was officially referred to as "Meiji 13 Imperial Japanese Murata Gun" ( 正式には「明治十三年 大日本帝國村田銃」), but that after the adoption of the 18 Year model it was renamed to simply 13 Year Murata Gun (十三年式村田銃). Indeed, that is specifically how it is engraved on the rifle's markings, along with the year introduced on the opposite side of the receiver which was the year Meiji 13 (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 (Meiji) 13 Year Gun (rifle) and (Meiji) 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 Meiji 18, we have chosen to refer to these firearms as the Meiji 13 Murata and the Meiji 18 Murata.
These rifles are also commonly referred to in American and European collector circles as “Type 13” and “Type 18” which serves the collector community in distinguishing these rifles, although we don’t know where those designations came from. However, we’ve simply chosen "Meiji 13" and "Meiji 18" as that is how the rifles are marked by the Imperial Japanese Arsenal which produced them, and how the Japanese refer to them as well.
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, which is the Japanese year: 1 Meiji. At this time, Japan was just emerging from 250 years of self-imposed isolation and was obsessively driven by a desire to catch up industrially and militarily with the great Western powers and to fulfill dreams of establishing its own East Asian Empire, again on the European model. Although Japan had purchased a wide variety of arms on the European market, she was anxious to begin developing her own industrial base. The Japanese response to contact with the industrialized West was in rather sharp contrast to that of the Chinese, who resisted Western influence, mostly unsuccessfully, while the Japanese embraced most of it obsessively.
The Meiji 13 Murata was Japan's first attempt at a home designed, home produced, standard infantry rifle that was, when introduced, a peer to European and American weapons. 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, this rifle became referred to as the 13 Year Murata, and the newer rifle as the 18 Year Rifle. It was accepted for service in March of 1880.
Among Japan’s purchases of European arms during this period were initially 6,000 French Chassepot needle fire rifles, later imports to grow to some 20,000 Chassepots. Starting in 1880, these were converted to utilize the Meiji 13 Murata cartridge (which borrows heavily from the M1874 French Gras cartridge - see below), by rechambering the barrel and by substituting the Murata bolt with firing pin for the Chassepot’s needle-fire system. The new Murata bolt includes a leaf-type firing pin mounted inside the bolt head, an arrangement copied directly from the Dutch M1871 Beaumont rifle but noticeably simplified for manufacture by Murata. The converted Chassepot-Muratas were used by Japan to supplement the slowly arriving Muratas.
A M1866 French Chassepot as imported by Japan
The bolt of a French Chassepot
The action, including bolt, of the Dutch M1871 Beaumont rifle, which contributed to the design of the Meiji 13 rifle.
The Dutch M1871 Bolt assembly. See the section: M1871 & M1871/88 Dutch Beaumont Bolt Assembly in the webpage M1871 Beaumont in this website.
In these early days of domestic Japanese rifle development, for producing the new Murata rifle, the Japanese imported the barrels from Belgium, but all other parts were manufactured in Japan. Japan manufactured all of the parts necessary to produce all subsequent rifles, although it still relied on imported steel until effective Japanese steel plants came online at the turn of the century.
This modern Japanese rearmament also saw the importation of a large quantity of M1872 Turkish Peabody-Martini rifles, presumably purchased from Russian stores of rifles captured from Turkey 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 Meiji 13 Murata was shortly supplemented by the closely similar and only evolutionarily improved, also single shot, Meiji 18 Murata (M1885).
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 M1871 Mauser which also contributed to Murata’s design, 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 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 manually.
Interesting Note: Flat springs are relatively easy to make, relatively easy to temper into strong, resilient, “springy” pieces. Gunsmiths have been making them for a century or more. Coil springs on the other hand, such as powers the firing pins of nearly all bolt-action rifles, are a far more sophisticated technology, much more difficult for small gunmaking shops to undertake. This is one reason for the choice of a flat-spring to power the Murata’s firing pin; Japan’s industry just wasn’t quite ready yet to make small yet strong and reliable coil springs. This is absolutely the reason that, for example, the Nepalese Gahendra rifle’s hammer/ firing pin is powered by a flat spring, and why, despite appearances, the Gahendra is a Peabody-Henry, but emphatically not a Martini.
In case you might have doubts, here is a study discussing the side-by-side evolution of spring-making technology and firearms.
An emphatic point is that machinegums would be substantially impossible without coil spring technology.
Maybe not surprising, given how many European rifles contributed to the Murata, is that the system of bayonet mount is 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.
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 Meiji 13 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 Meiji 18 Rifle.
Photo Credit: Nambuworld.com
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 almost no unique features. Every component is "borrowed" from a pre-existing European military rifle. These features do, however, flow together 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. A slotted cleaning rod is stowed conventionally beneath the barrel passing beneath the simple iron nosecap.
Photo Credit: Nambuworld.com
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.
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 Meiji 13 Murata barrel is manufactured with a flat top which is marked with the Imperial Chrysanthemum and a smaller mark which is Murata's own kakihan (a Japanese person's personal seal or monogram, sometimes used as a signature.)
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 section borrows heavily from the M1874 French Gras experience (just as the Gras is pretty much a metallic cartridge version of the M1866 French Chassepot) including the French rifle’s 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, the Murata action also has 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 Beaumonts which are universally seen in the modified Dutch M1871/88 Beaumonts. See the M1874 French Gras and M1871/88 Dutch Beaumonts webpages for examples.
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.
The Meiji 13 Murata differs from Japan’s Chassepot rifles in a couple of additional ways: The Chassepots were finished “in the white” (that is, with a matte polished raw steel surface, without bluing or other protective finish) while the Meiji 13 is blued to better resist the more corrosive Japanese climate. Additionally, for ease of manufacture, the knob at the back end of the bolt is only a simple knurled cylinder, more like the Beaumont than like a Chassepot or even a Gras.
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 versions, there are distinguishing features between the two. While overall length is not easy to visualize, being only an inch different (the Meiji 13 Murata is longer at 1,308 mm (51.5 in) overall compared to the 1283mm (50.5 in) of the Meiji 18 Murata, and the Meiji 13”s barrel length of ~ 822 mm (32 3/8 in) is almost identical to the Meiji 18’s barrel of 818 mm (32 5/16 in)), there are two notable differences:
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.
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 Meiji 13 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 Meiji 18 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.
Note the substantial differences between the upper tang of the (Left) Meiji 13 rifle and the (Right) Meiji 18 rifle.
Photo Credits: User OyabunRyo@Reddit & Imgur JackTheDog Museum Meiji 18 @ gunauction.com
Likewise, the trigger guard attachment is newly re-designed, simplified, and mounted on considerably shorter lower tangs.
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 (right)
Additionally, and a bit surprisingly, unlike the Mle1866 French Chassepot and Mle1874 French Gras from which the Meiji 13 Murata is substantially copied, the Meiji 13 was produced without an auxiliary bayonet lug on the left side of the muzzle. And yet, the follow-on Meiji 18 Murata rifle decides to add just such an auxiliary bayonet lug.
The left side of the muzzle of the Murata Meiji 13 rifle. Note lack of an auxiliary bayonet lug, compared to the left side of the Meiji 18, which has such an auxiliary lug.
An interesting feature of the Meiji 13 and follow-on Meiji 18 Murata, one that might actually be considered unique to these Japanese rifles, is one more device to protect the shooter 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 in the event of a case rupture would guide hot gasses outward perpendicularly, the way a muzzle break might. With minor improvement, this gas deflector plate was also carried over to the Meiji 18 rifle. However, because of both changes to the bolt and extractor as well as continuing improvements in cartridge manufacturing technology by the Japanese, this plate was unnecessary and omitted on the later Meiji 22 Murata repeater rifle.
Views of the left receiver wall extractor groove and the bolt's gas deflector plate
For a more extensive comparison and review of the Japanese Meiji 13 and Meiji Murata rifles (there referred to as “Type 13” and “Type 18”) visit: https://www.nambuworld.com/muratat13t18comparisonpix.htm
The Murata series of rifles, while substantially marked in Japanese Kanji characters, is also serial numbered as well as sighted with western numerals. In fact, most parts are serial numbered where space permits.
The top flat of the chamber, or knoxform, is marked with the Japanese Royal Chrysanthemum (the “mum” to collectors) coupled with the Murata family kakihan (an individual or family seal of sorts).
This rifle was the first to be officially marked with the Emperor’s chrysanthemum crest, although some Japanese Enfield conversions do carry a chrysanthemum marking. Those may have been so marked after adoption of the Meiji 13 Murata, or they were not marked pursuant to an official directive.
Imperial Chrysanthemum alongside the Murata kakihan
A Japanese story, likely apocryphal, relates that during certain actions during the Seinan War, (in which Murata participated and was wounded) some soldiers dropped their rifles and fled. It is said that Murata thereafter marked his rifles with his kakihan so that soldiers would not to throw his guns away!
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 many 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 evident 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.
A less destructive “defacing” is sometimes found on former Imperial Army rifles, and that is in regards to rifles “sold out of Imperial Service.” Occasionally these are see with only an “X” or a “+” struck through the mum. Obsolete rifles were sometimes sold (see USE BY OTHER COUNTRIES, below, and at least some Muratas were sold to Emigrants going to South America (Peru, Brazil), to China and South East Asia. Additionally, rifles used by schools such as colleges and universities were also Xed out and marked “学校“, the character Gakkō (School). Even the mum defacement by grinding after the war was not especially widespread, whether or not it was general policy of either government.
Below the mum, mostly on top of Murata’s kakihan, is a later-applied, larger marking which is a now obsolete kanji character for “Hai”, meaning "obsolete", or "discarded". In this case it can be interpreted as "withdrawn from service". (This marking appears on a Meiji 18 rifle, but would have been similar if applied to a Meiji 13).
Photo Credit: www.nambuworld.com
The long line of Kanji along the left side of the receiver loosely translates as “Great Nippon Empire Murata Gun” (dai nip pon tei koku mura ta ju, alternatively: "Empire of Greater Japan, Murata Rifle") while the right side of the receiver is marked in Kanji “Meiji 1 3 Year.”
The characters 十 三 (juu san or 10 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 re-designation of the Meiji 13 Murata to the Meiji 18 Murata Rifle in 1885, and these newly produced rifles were receiver marked 十 八 (juu hachi or 10 8) to signify the year of adoption.
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 can translate to: "Great Nippon Empire Murata Rifle."
A Meiji 13 rifle on which its Imperial Chrysanthemum has been “cancelled” but not obliterated, There has been no attempt to hide that this was an Empire-owned rifle. Interestingly, on this rifle Murata’s kaikihan has been overstruck by “廃” (Hai, meaning “withdrawn” or “discarded”) but it has no school ownership cartouche suggesting that this rifle was not later transferred to a school for training but may have been a rifle released to the civilian market or sold to Japanese emigrants, or even transferred to the Chinese.
Another rifle where the Imperial Chrysanthemum has been “cancelled” but not obliterated, this time appearing on a Meiji 22 Murata rifle. Below Murata’s kaikihan is the character “hai”廃, meaning withdrawn or similar meaning. This rifle is school ownership marked on its buttstock meaning that once released as obsolete for army use, it was transferred to a school for military training purposes.
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.
The buttstock cartouche of a Murata Meiji 13 Murata. 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.
Stanley Zeilinski – “Japanese Murata Rifles 1880-1897 “ see: REFERENCES below
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)
Muzzle velocity: 400.2m/sec (1,312 ft/sec)
Sight: Ramp-and-leaf with slider, graduated from 200 to 1,500 m (220 to 1,640 yds)
At ranges beyond ~700-800 meters, riflemen were not expected to hit targets via aimed fire. This was an era when “volley fire,” using a mass of troops shooting at high elevation like light artillery (think a mass of bowmen shooting a single mass of arrows) was still considered to be a viable tactic.
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.
Note that the RIGHT side of the long sight base is serialized, the left side is range marked
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 presumably being converted to a Cavalry rifle. But in 1883, Japan supposedly adopted a carbine of unknown official designation but commonly referred to in the West as the Meiji 16 (or type 16) Cavalry Carbine.
Zielinsky states that official Japanese sources 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, and lower sling swivel just ahead of the trigger guard.
Presumably, the 16-year cavalry gun based on the 13-year model ” was developed and deployed in cavalry and artillery units as a successor to the Spencer rifle.
We have no reliable statistics regarding this carbine. However, Japanese sources tentatively offer the following:
Overall Length: 1,178mm
Barrel Length: 740mm
Chambering: Single shot, 11mm Murata
Muzzle velocity: 400 m/s
Sights: Ranged to 1,500 meters
No other Meiji 13 derived short rifles or carbines are known.
NOTE: Japanese sources state that the cavalry continued to use the Spencer Rifle until the adoption of the Meiji 18 Murata cavalry rifle. Further, that the “16-year cavalry gun appears only in US documents as a ‘Type 16 Murata Carbine’ with a barrel shortened to 25 inches” and cite the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records (、アジア歴史資料センターなど) as the basis for referencing such a carbine, which in turn cites"Standard Catalog of Military Firearms: The Collector's Price and Reference Guide," et al. by Ned Schwing (https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki//村田銃). No direct Japanese sources are cited.
Despite what was stated above, there may be a bit of circular citing going on without any actual direct confirmation from Japanese sources.
With any certainty at this time, only the Meiji 18 Murata Short Rifle, based on the Meiji 18 Murata can be confirmed.
If anyone is able to shed any light on this question, we would very much like to hear from you.
Meiji 13 Sword Bayonet
The Meiji 13 Murata rifle Bayonet
Photo Credit: www.CollectorsFirearms.com
This first domestically developed and manufactured sword bayonet, just like the first domestically produced Meiji 13 Murata discussed here, clearly shows its European roots and influence. The bayonet was formalized in 1881, shortly after the rifle went into production. The bayonet has a strong German influence and it appears 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.
There are two versions of the Meiji 13 bayonet, the first manufactured with a small cut-out in the top of the muzzle ring which mates to a similarly small auxiliary tenon on the left side of the rifle muzzle, opposite the main bayonet mounting tenon integral to the top barrel band (the latter idea borrowed from the British). This system can be clearly seen in the muzzles of French M1874 rifles which, of course, were one of the principal patterns on which the Murata was based.
When mounted, the bayonet is attached to the right side of the muzzle with the blade fixed horizontally.
The checkered wood or composite grips and the tenon slot of an early Meiji 13 bayonet
Photo Credit: Steven Larry Eisel
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 half its length, noticeably less so than the later Meiji 18 Murata bayonet.
For Japanese readers: The first Murata bayonet was a large wakizashi-sized sword, approaching that of an Uchigatana.
Photo Credit: Steven Larry Eisel
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)
Meiji 13 Cartridge
Aka: 11x60R; 11mm Murata
The Meiji 13 Murata cartridge (1880), commonly referred to as the 11mm Murata, was adopted concurrently with the Meiji 13 rifle, and is a near exact copy of the French M1874 Gras cartridge. Its total length is only very slightly less than its French parent (11x59.5mm) and its paper-wrapped soft lead bullet is likewise almost identical to the French bullet, 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. These included the Tokyo Arsenal remodel of over 8,000 Chassepots in 1882 to fire the 11mm Cartridge via a new Murata bolt install. Sources indicate that the Japanese also altered many of their Gras (thought we are not sure why that would have been necessary) 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 Meiji 18 Murata 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 Meiji 13 Murata this load develops a muzzle velocity of about 453 m/sec (1,485 fps).
The Murata cartridge is not surprisingly very much like the cartridges developed by the French for their mle1874 French Gras rifles, the cartridges for which were derived from and dimensionally not much different from those utilized by their arch enemies in the M1871 German Mauser.
The base of the cartridge is what is known as an “A” base, wherein the bottom of the rim has a central raised or thickened center section supporting the primer protrudes slightly. The base of the cartridge is stamped with four characters in the same arrangement as the currency of the Edo period, such as a Kan'ei Tsuho (a small copper Japanese mon coin with a square hole in the center, in use during the Edo period, from 1626 until 1868). In general, Chinese numerals such as 'Ming' representing the Meiji era and '23', which is a two-digit era name that is reduced to one character, are always engraved as the manufacturing year name. The remaining two characters are ``jit suho'' ' or 'Mura ta', a coined word borrowed from Murata's reading. (He was influential enough at this point that he could put his name on all of the rifle’s ammunition . . . after all, Winchester did!)
Bullet diameter: 11.22mm
Neck diameter: 11.75mm
Base diameter: 14.64mm
Rim diameter: 15.85mm
Case length: 59.6mm
Total length: 72.3mm
Photo Credits: User 'William lorg' @ shootersforum.com;
User 'Historian' @ IAA-forums.com
Early made Japanese Military small arms Ammunition, teruaki isomura
The industrial expertise for the manufacture of the Murata series came directly from the United States in the form of Winchester supplied manufacturing machinery as well as design expertise.
The first major Japanese government arsenal was Koishikawa Artillery Arsenal established at Koishikawa, a suburb Tokyo, which grew into the Tokyo Imperial Artillery Arsenal. It was established in 1870 by the Meiji government and they both initially produced a copy of the Pattern 1860 British Enfield two-band short rifle as well as converting large numbers of previously imported Pattern 1860s from muzzloaders to breechloaders between about 1870 to 1880. See Japan Pre-Murata Japanese Cartidge Rifles of the Meiji Period
The Japanese government adopted the Meiji 13 Murata rifle and its 11mm cartridge in March of 1880. By 1885 over 58,000 Meiji 13’s had been produced. In 1885 the Meiji 13 had several minor modifications made to it. The modified rifle was adopted as the Meiji 18 Murata.
In total, between 60,000 and 70,000 Meiji 13 Murata rifles were produced between 1880 and 1886 by the Imperial Ordnance Factory, Koishikawa, Tokyo, utilizing machinery supplied and installed by the Winchester Company, U.S.A.
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 in large numbers abroad and was formally adopted only by Japan.
However, some numbers of obsolete and surplus Meiji 13 (and Meiji 18) Murata rifles were sold to the Katipunan, a Philippine secret revolutionary society founded by anti-Spanish colonialist Filipinos in Manila in 1892 with a goal of gaining independence from Spain through a revolution. Its discovery in 1896 led to the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution.
First Republic of the Philippines
The Philippines declared its independence on June 12, 1898, and on June 23, a revolutionary government headed by Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo replaced the previous dictatorship. First Republic of the Philippines was formally established by the Malolos Constitution, proclaimed on January 21, 1899 in the city of Malolos, Bulacan. The establishment of the Republic of the Philippines was the culmination of the Philippine Revolution for Independence against the rule of the Spanish Empire.
After the establishment of the Republic of the Philippines, Mariano Ponce was dispatched to Japan to seek weapons and ammunition (obsolete Murata rifles ) for the Philippine War of Independence against the Americans. The arms were loaded onto the Japanese ship Nunobiki Maru which departed Nagasaki on July 19, 1899, but two days later, en route to the Philippines, she sank in a storm in the East China Sea with the loss of 19 men, including the captain. Some Japanese had also been on board to participate in the Philippine Revolution.
Shortly afterwards, the Americans learned of the rifles purchase, the sinking, and the attempt by the Japanese to join the Philippine Revolution. The United States lodged a strong protest against Japan, heightening tensions and mutual surveillance, and the Filipinos’ plans to purchase and transport weapons from Japan ended.
The Republic was effectively dissolved on March 23, 1901, when Emilio Aguinaldo was arrested by American forces. In 1899, the United States abolished the Republic of the Philippines and occupied it until it gained independence in 1946.
The remaining firearms purchased by Ponce in Japan were stored in the Okura-gumi warehouse without being transported to the Philippines. These were later diverted, to the Huizhou Incident of Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen, who had a close relationship with Ponce. However, when it was time to transport the rifles, it was discovered that they had already been sold without permission and had disappeared, causing a major scandal. It is uncertain whether the rifles ever made it to china or not.
PREDECESSOR & FOLLOW-ON RIFLES
The Predecessor Rifles, include a large number of different action types converted to chamber .577 Snider cartridges, almost all such modified rifles being commercially produced British Enfield-Pattern 1860 short-rifles and French Chassepot needle-fire rifles previously imported during the Tokugawas shogonate. Large quantities were available on the open market, disposed of by both the French and the Germans in the mid to late 1870s.
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.
A Japanese imported British Pattern 1860 Enfield short rifle, converted by the Japanese to chamber the .577 Snider metallic cartridge.
See: Pre-Murata Japanese Cartridge Rifles of the Meiji Period
Photos of a Japanese Chassepot-Murata conversion’s Japanese Markings
Photos Credit: ProxiBid.com
The Mle1874 M.80 French Gras. Japan also imported a small quantity of these chassepot-based French rifles also, which served as a substantial template for major Murata’s design of what would become the Meiji 13 Murata rifle.
An Imperial Japanese Navy marked M1874 Turkish Peabody-Martini
Follow-On Rifle: Murata 18 Year rifle, adopted in 1885
The Japanese Murata Type 18
Top: The Meiji 13 Murata
Center: The Immediate Follow-On Meiji 18 Murata
Bottom: The later follow-on to the Murata Meiji 18, the 8mm Meiji 22 Murata repeater rifle
Photo Credit: NambuWorld.com
A special thanks to Doss White, Dr. Stanley Zielinski, and Chip Goddard for their help and information!
Japanese Imported Arms of the Early Meiji Era, Edited by Joseph P. Koss, Jr, Francis C. Allen Press, 2011
Japanese Murata rifles 1880 -1897, Dr. Stanley Zeilinski, Lodestone, 2010
Military Rifles of Japan, 5th Ed., Honeycutt & Anthony, Julien books, 2001
Early Made Japanese Military Small Arms Ammunition, Teruaki Isomura, Tokyo, 1984; US reprint)
If some of you are young enough, and were ever into such things, check out:
イッテイ―13年式村田歩兵銃の創製 (Ittei - Creation of the 13Year Murata Infantry Rifle)