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MEIJI 22 MURATA MAGAZINE RIFLE (1889)
明治 二十 二 年 村田 運弾 銃
(Meiji 2O 2 Year Murata Magazine Gun)
This is the Early Production Murata Meiji 22 Rifle
This is the Later Production Murata Meiji 22 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.
As a result of its hundreds of years of isolation, the Japan of the 1880s was acutely aware of the enormous gulf in military capability between it and the vastly superior Western powers, including the United States. The 1880s were a time of furious industrial “catch-up” for the Japanese, going from a motley collection of even then obsolete imported and copied .577 rifles to near-peer 11mm cartridge rifles. The Meiji 13 Murata adopted in 1880, and the Meiji 18 Murata follow-on in 1885, both single-shot rifles, helped establish Japan’s domestic military small arms manufacturing base just as Europe was beginning to adopt and field repeaters such as the French M1878 Kropatschek and French M1884 Kropatschek, the German M1871/84 Mauser, the Austrian Mannlicher M1886 and the follow-on Mannlicher M1888, and the British M1888 Lee-Metford (the 1888 rifles firing “small-bore” 8mm cartridges) among others. Japan would not be left behind again.
If we consider the dizzying, overwhelming pace of arms development during the two decades of the 1870s and 1880 for the Europeans, it is difficult to imagine how utterly overwhelming it must have been for the previously long isolated Japanese going from matchlock tanegashima to smokeless, small bore repeaters in the space of little more than a single generation. This was an astonishing feat of cultural adaptation and competitive spirit.
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” (the same character 銃 is used to refer to both a smooth-bore gun and one that is rifled, how it is translated is context dependent). 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 gun (rifle)and Meiji 18 gun (rifle) respectively. Because the rifles are specifically marked 明治 13 年 村田 銃 (Meiji 13 Year Murata Gun) and similarly for the Meiji 18, that is how we refer to those specific firearms in their respective linked pages.
In 1889 the Japanese adopted their first cartridge repeater, the rifle profiled here, on this webpage. This rifle is receiver marked: 村田 運弾 銃 明治 二十 二 採 年 (“Murata Bullet Tube Gun Meiji 20 2 Adopted Year”) which is to say, “Murata Magazine Rifle Adopted (in) Year 22.” “22 Year” being the Japanese year 22 Meiji (1889), thus: “Murata Meiji 22 Magazine Rifle” or “Meiji 22Murata” for short.
These Japanese rifles are also commonly referred to in American collector circles as “Type 13”, “Type 18”and “Type 22”, which works for identifying and differentiating these rifles. However, we are unable to discern why they are called such and have simply chosen to refer to them as Meiji 13, Meiji 18 and Meiji 22, as that is how the rifles are Japanese Imperial Arsenal marked them and also how they are referenced in Japan.
Japan’s goal since the Meiji Restoration had been to catch up with the West's industrial and military capability, and also to reach out and acquire an empire of its own to secure the raw materials which it now understood powered the West’s industrialization. Thus, Japan not only watched western developments carefully, but also borrowed heavily from the West in terms of design during this period. Virtually every significant design element of the Meiji 13 and Meiji 18 rifles was borrowed from a European rifle. The increasingly widespread adoption of tube magazine repeaters represented by the M1871/84 German Mauser, M1878 French and M1884 Kropatscheks, and the M1884 Norwegian Jarmann led the Japanese to issue the experimental Meiji 20th Year Type tube magazine rifles for field trials barely two years after adoption of the Meiji 18. Japanese observations of ammunition and repeater evolution in Europe, including, for example, the abrupt cancellation of the indigenous designed single-shot M1885 Portuguese Guedes in favor of adoption of the 8mm M1886 Portuguese Mauser-Kropatschek, and Austria’s almost immediate replacement of the 11mm M1886 Austrian Mannlicher (the adoption of which caused great political and public turmoil on account of its obsolescence even as it was being adopted), with the improved 8mm cartridge M1888 Austrian Mannlicher rifle also did not go unnoticed.
In early Meiji 22 (1889) now full Colonel Tsuneyoshi Murata traveled to Europe to study both the repeater-type military rifles that were being fielded by European countries as well as their adoption of a new ammunition propellant first adopted by the French, nitro-based “smokeless” powder, the first true breakthrough in firearms propellant since the invention of black powder centuries before. Change had come so quickly that the Japanese would have to borrow from the Europeans once again just to stay in the race. (And make no mistake, the Europeans in these decades were fully engaged in, and committed to, an arms race every bit as serious and consuming as any 20th Century arms race would be).
The Meiji 22 Murata is yet an additional, evolutionary improvement designed by Murata, the principal designer of the Meiji 13 and Meiji 18 Murata rifles who presented his rifle for consideration to the Japanese War office. Borrowing substantially from the Austrian-designed, Steyr-built M1886 Portuguese Mauser-Kropatschek, this Murata rifle is a clear improvement over its predecessor Meiji 18 Murata Rifle adopted only four years earlier in 1885, which itself was developed almost as soon as the first Murata, the Meiji 13 Murata rifles were being fielded. Considering the state of Japanese industry only just nine year previous, this is a noteworthy accomplishment.
The new Meiji 22 Murata was just coming on-line when the Sino-Japanese war of 1894 broke out and played only a very limited role in that conflict. The pace of arms evolution during this period was so furious, however, that by the time of the Russo-Japanese war of 1905 the Meiji 22 Murata was already delegated to a secondary role. The Murata’s design limitations were made clear by the Otsumi War (Taiwan Punitive invasion of 1895) and confirmed by the North Qing Incident (the Boxer Rebellion Expedition of 1900) in which the Meiji 22 was the primary front-line rifle used by the Japanese.
Development of a replacement for the Meiji 22 Murata began in earnest in 1895. This new rifle was fielded in 1897 (30 Meiji) and became the Arisaka Year 30 rifle (commonly referred to as the “Type 30”).
A Meiji 22 carbine with a 19 ½" barrel, essentially a shortened Meiji 22 rifle, was also produced (see below).
Production of the Meiji 22 ended in October 1899; nevertheless the Meiji 22 magazine rifle was still in substantial if rear echelon use throughout the Russo-Japanese war of 1905.
Photo of Japanese Soldiers with 22 Murata rifles with the following caption: “A Japanese army unit in battle with a 22 model Murata rifle. The third soldier from the bottom is in a typical standing posture , and the bottom soldier is holding his Murata gun in a more classic arm-back style suitable for static shooting . (1894, Sino-Japanese War)” PhotoCredit: Wikipedia.jp.com
This new tubular magazine rifle is clearly based on the Steyr Portuguese Mauser-Kropatschek of 1886 in both design and function. The rifle is chambered in a Japanese proprietary cartridge of 8mm (the 8mm Murata or 8x53R, see CARTRIDGE below), the rifle holding 8 rounds in its magazine.
Like the Kropatschek (and its contemporaries, the M1888 Austrian Mannlicher and British Lee-Metford Mark I, also of 1888), the Meiji 22 as originally introduced was supplied with ammunition loaded with black powder. However, as each of the foregoing countries adopted smokeless powder, the ammunition for their respective arms was upgraded, which evolution was followed as well by Japan. The Meiji 22 was thus Japan’s first smokeless powder rifle, although there does not appear to have been a concurrent change in rear sights as took place with the Portuguese, Austrian and British rifles.
Top: Japanese Meiji 22 (Version 2) 1889
Bottom: M1886 Portuguese Mauser-Kropatschek
The clear and obvious influence of the M1886 Portuguese Mauser-Kropatschek on the 1889 adoption of the Japanese Meiji 22, as offered by Colonel Murata, its “designer.” Note especially the magazine cut-off levers, but also the differences between the Murata bolt (top) and the Mauser bolt of the Kropatschek (bottom).
Photo Credit: Nick Stanev via gunboards.com
Same two rifles, different view, except Kropatschek above and Murata below. Here note how Murata has fully committed to the Mauser’s bolt retention system of a screw-retained washer fitting into the back of the split bridge receiver.
Photo Credit: Nick Stanev via gunboards.com
Japanese sources state that because the ammunition must be loaded through the receiver it was slow to load, and could not quickly be brought into action while loading. Therefore the rifle was used almost exclusively as a single shot, with some spare cartridges in the magazine and it ultimately proved unpopular with Japanese soldiers.
This new Meiji 22 Murata, while far more modern than the earlier models, continues Japan’s practice of borrowing heavily from existing, production European contemporaries, notably, as mentioned previously, the M1886 Portuguese Mauser-Kropatschek. The tubular magazine cartridge lifter is Kropatschek and the bolt assembly, while keeping a decidedly Japanese flavor, is still Mauser in fundamental design. The actuation, as well as the single-shot cut-off system, even its lever actuator, is a close copy of the Steyr-built rifle. These features work exactly as they do in the Portuguese rifle (as well as in both the Styer-built and the French copied Kropatscheks M1878 and M1884 respectively).
Tubular magazine. Cartridge lifter and magazine cut-off lever of the Meiji 22 Murata
Photo Credit: Seller TRAPDOORMAN via GunAuction.com
Photo Credit: International Military Antiques
Improving Japanese technological capabilities allowed for the firing pin spring to be changed from the leaf spring of the single shot Muratas to a coil spring, allowing the bolt lever to be made substantially smaller. The rifling was an ambitious effort, incorporating the new concept of the Metford type, which turned out to be short-lived when used with high velocity jacketed bullets propelled by hotter, smokeless powder (see the M1888 British Lee-Metford Marks I & II).
In conjunction with its new magazine, the Murata was also equipped with a magazine cut-off mechanism, allowing the rifle to be utilized in both a single-shot role and as a repeater.
Actuating the magazine cut-off allows the bolt to be cycled without bringing a fresh cartridge up from the magazine so that the rifleman can load and fire the rifle one shot at a time, as with the two earlier Muratas. Shifting the magazine lever brings a cartridge to feeding position with each cycle of the bolt.
The tubular magazine cut-off lever is in the “down” position in this photo, locking the lifting spoon in the up/horizontal position even as the bolt is manipulated. This converts the rifle to single-shot mode, keeping the cartridges in the magazine in “reserve.”
Continuing to copy European innovation, the action of the new rifle is locked up for firing not only by the bolt handle abutting the right side of the open bridge of the receiver when closed, as in the Meiji 13 and 18 rifles, but also by an additional lug toward the back of the bolt body engaging a recess in the split receiver, below the bridge. This lug arrangement is taken directly from the M1887 Turkish Mauser repeater. The functioning of the new Murata, loading, firing, unloading, extracting and ejecting is identical to the operation of the Portuguese and Mauser rifles.
Photo showing the additional lower locking lug toward the back of the bolt which engages in the receiver below the bridge. Also evident are this rifle’s assembly number, consisting of a Japanese character followed by three digits.
Photo of a M1887 Turkish Mauser’s action area showing the additional lower locking lug toward the back of the bolt which engages in the receiver below the bridge when the bolt is locked.
One area in which the Meiji 22 continues to utilize design elements carried over from the earlier single-shot Murata rifles is in the area of gas escape vent holes in the top of the receiver ring to protect the shooter should a cartridge case rupture. The holes vent gases up, out and away from a shooter.
The ruptured case vent holes in the receiver ring of a Meiji 22 Murata
The safety mechanism adopted in the Murata dragoon short rifle of 1885 was not carried forward in the Meiji 22 Murata infantry rifle or cavalry carbine.
The Japanese Meiji 22 Murata differs substantially from its predecessors Meiji 13, and Meiji 18 Muratas. The Meiji 22 has a distinctive one piece, straight-wrist stock with a single screw-retained clamping barrel band and multi-purpose nosecap.
Magazine: The new rifle is Japan’s first magazine repeater. The Meiji 22 is chambered for an 8 mm cartridge and, like many early military repeaters, is equipped with an eight round, under barrel, tubular magazine fitted with a cut-off for use as a single shot, virtually identical to that found on the M1886 Portuguese Mauser-Kropatschek.
Originally, a “magazine” is a building or compartment in a ship, where ammunition is stored prior to being called for, distributed and utilized. In late 19th century firearms doctrine, if the pace of firing was slow, the rifleman kept rounds in his magazine in reserve in case things were to heat up. Then the soldier always has a full magazine for those occasions when there might be no time for loading rounds one at a time. With rare exceptions (e.g., French M1914 Remington Rolling Block rifles adopted in exigency in 1914 to arm rear echelon troops in early World War 1), after 1886, all military rifles featured ammunition magazines. Later, the magazine became much more easily refilled than early rifle magazines, rate of fire became far more important to modern battle, magazine cut-offs were abandoned and ammunition feeding directly from a magazine came to predominate. But that was still some years off.
Top: the Japanese Meiji 13 Murata
Center: the Japanese Meiji 18 Murata
Bottom: the Japanese Meiji 22 magazine rifle
The obvious thickness of the Meiji 22, along with its much more prominent nosecap immediately give away its status as a tubular magazine repeater.
Photo Credit: www.nambuworld.com
Bolt Assembly & Head: The Meiji 22 has a much more modern two piece bolt with rotating bolthead design. The head is a separate assembly and is held onto the main body of the bolt by a screw and washer-retained connector. To remove the bolt, removal of this screw is necessary. The connector comes off, and then the main body of the bolt can be withdrawn out the back and the head removed from the front. To reassemble, the bolt body is installed in the receiver, the head mated onto the bolt from the front, and then joined with the connector and screw.
The extractor has been relocated to the right side of the separate bolt head making room for a new, flat spring ejector riding in the area previously occupied by the Meiji 13 and Meiji 18 extractor, thus giving this rifle true automatic cartridge ejection, no longer requiring the shooter to tip out spent cartridge cases.
Views of the Meiji 22 (each version) in which the screw-attached bolt retainer washer is visible
The Murata 22 bolt head is retained only by a top tab fitting into the upper part of the bolt body. When the bolt is removed, merely rotating the bolt head will separate the two pieces.
Ironically, despite being a generational advance from the earlier Meiji 18 Murata rifle, the Meiji 22 returned to a bolt stop mechanism consisting of the aforementioned screw retained washer in the top of the bolt guide rib, emulating the Meiji 13 and even more closely the M71 German Mauser and M71/84 Mauser, as well as the previously mentioned M1886 Portuguese, which this Japanese rifle most closely resembles.
Photo of a Meiji 22 bolt stop washer nestling into its dedicated slot the split bridge receiver preventing the bolt from exiting the receiver. Photo Credit: Stephen Larry Eisel via gunbroker.com
What used to be the gas deflector plate at the rear of the bolt is now, since the ejector groove does not extend out the back of the receiver, just a retainer plate for the firing pin and spring.
View of the back end of the Meiji 22 bolt with spring retention plate
Photo Credit: Seller TRAPDOORMAN via GunAuction.com
The Meiji 22, showing return to washer-type bolt stop and the addition of fore end checkering, reminiscent of the Swiss M1869 Vetterli. The Kropatschek design magazine cut-off is here flipped up and thus "disengaged," allowing feeding from the magazine. In the down (vertical) position, the cartridge elevator spoon is locked and the rifle does not feed from the magazine, holding ammunition there “in reserve.”
Nosecap An especially notable feature is the rifle’s multi-purpose nosecap consisting of an elaborate dual pin/flat pring-retained nosecap that slips around the rifle’s barrel mounted front sight, carries a bayonet lug on the nosecap bottom and houses the end of the tubular magazine. This magazine cover/nosecap is also fitted on its right side with a smaller auxiliary bayonet tenon which receives the crossguard ring of the new Meiji 22 bayonet.
Right side view of the Meiji 22 (Ver 1) muzzle area
Notice that the upper band/nosecap is retained by two(2) pin-retainer flat springs, one on each side of the stock, the springs themselves being screw-retained, and that the spring retainers are substantially more robust than those found on most "simple" barrel bands/nosecaps.
LEFT side view of the Meiji 22 (Ver 1) muzzle area. Note retention of the nosecap springs themselves.
Fore-end & Hand Guard: The Meiji 22 fore-end stock is partially checkered. Also, the top of the barrel, from the sight to the single barrel band, carries a short, wood, spring-retained upper handguard, borrowed from the M1886 Portuguese Mauser-Kropatsched “Colonial Model” This checkering with handguard is a combination stock that became a feature of later Japanese military rifles.
The checkered foreend of the Meiji 22 rifle as well as the short upper handguard, both new features for the Murata series rifles.
The upper handguard of the m1886 Portuguese Kropatschek ‘colonial’ version
Cleaning Rod Section & Stowage: While the cleaning rod of the Kropatschek is housed in a channel along the left side of the stock, the Meiji 22 Murata, with a similar magazine tube, elects to house its single cleaning rod section in the butt stock, accessible via a trap door in the butt plate.
The butt-stock cleaning rod stowage and this rifle’s multi-piece cleaning rod was already a feature of many European carbines and short rifles, notably the M1870 Italian Vetterli series of carbines and short rifles. Because of the adoption of a tubular magazine, there was no space directly under the barrel for cleaning rod stowage. But unlike side-mounting rod as was adopted in the Portuguese Kropatschek, the Japanese approach was more like that of the Vetterli carbines. A short section of rod was stored inside a small diameter storage compartment in the buttstock, accessible through the buttplate, and several soldiers connected each of their rod segments and used them together in turns during cleaning.
Photos showing the cleaning rod storage door, note also the nice cartouche.
Photo Credit:CollectorsFirearms.com; International Military Antiques
The Meiji 22’s cleaning rod section. Each section is 250mm long. Multiple sections from different soldiers’ rifles would piece together to make a shared cleaning rod.
Photo Credit: Seller TRAPDOORMAN via GunAuction.com
During its production life, there were two distinct versions of Meiji 22 Magazine Rifle produced in quantity.* The first model, Version 1, produced up until approximately serial numbers 80,000 and thereafter, is distinguished by having a nosecap in which the front band, magazine cap and barrel sleeve are all integrated into one piece, compared with the Version 2, in which the front band only sleeves the front sight and mounts the bayonet lug.
Additionally, the Version 2 bolt is identified by the bolt handle having a prominent cut-out between the bolt handle and bolt locking washer, while the bolt handle and guide rib of the earlier Version 1 is more conventional and closer to the French Gras and German Mauser. I have been unable to discover why this bolt shape modification was made.
[*Zeilinski describes four variations of Meiji 22 rifles, an early “first variety” in which the bolt retaining disk differed from later versions, and was without handguard or buttstock cleaning rod chamber. Such rifles were likely arsenal-upgraded early during full production to the commonly seen screw-retained disk which we here denominate as Version 1. And also a much later version consisting of arsenal rebuilt Meiji 22 rifles with perhaps mis-matched serial numbered parts but with completely matching assembly numbers, which numbers consist of a Japanese character followed by a three digit Western number. These would still be considered factory “all matching.” Nevertheless, we here only discuss the two “regular production” versions.]
This series of photos depicts a Murata Meiji 22 Version 2 rifle, the most prominent distinguishing features of which are the shape of the bolt handle and the configuration of the nosecap.
Japanese Murata Type 22 1st Model and 2nd Models compared. The 1st model is the top in each of these two photos:
This cut-out was added after around 80,000 of the first version rifles had been produced. The later variant is fitted with a somewhat simplified nosecap/barrel band assembly.
Note the cut-out on the bolt guide/locking rib on the 2nd Model, bottom photo. I have been unable to determine why this modification was made.
NOTE: For some mysterious (to me) reason, bolt heads are very commonly missing on Meiji 22 Muratas. It is unusual to find these particular rifles in United States complete with the bolt heads. The answer could be as simple as that it is especially easy to lose the separate bolt head as it separates from the bolt body very easily once the bolt is removed from the receiver, or it might be related to wartime surrender, we do not know.
Nevertheless, boltheads are so commonly missing that one can buy a reproduction boltheads online!
All Murata military rifles are stamped profusely with Japanese Kanji characters. The Meiji 22 Magazine is marked quite similarly to its predecessors, the Meiji 13 and Meiji 18, with Western numeral rear sight range numbers and serial numbers along with Kanji characters along the left side of the receiver: 大日本帝 国 村田運 弾 銃 signifying “Imperial Japanese Murata Bullet Tube (Magazine) Gun (Rifle)” and 東京 砲 兵工廠 小武 ? 廠所 signifying “Tokyo Artillery Arsenal Small Arms Factory”.
“Imperial Japanese Murata Magazine Rifle”
Photo Credit: Stephen Larry Eisel via gunAuction.com
The right (lower) segment of kanji reads: “Tokyo Artillery Arsenal Small Arms Factory”
Photo Credit: Collectorsfirearms.com
The Kanji on the right side of the receiver 明 治 二十二 年 採 用 translates “Meiji 2 (10) 2 Year Adopted” (Adopted in the Year Meiji 22).
“Meiji 22 Year Adopted”
Photo Credit: Stephen Larry Eisel via gunAuction.com
Like all Japanese arms of the time, the top of the knoxform is also stamped with the Imperial Japanese Chrysanthemum, and usually, but for unknown reasons not always, like its predecessors, the Meiji 13 Murata and the Meiji 18 Murata, Colonel Murata’s kakihan.
The knoxforms of two Meiji 22 Murata rifles, a Version 1 and a Version 2, one with the Murata kakihan, and one without, but we can discern no reason for with or without, and it does not seem to be dependent on version or on when serial numbered. If you know, please send us an email!
Buttstocks: The buttstocks of all Murata series rifles are embossed with a notable cartouche roundel, and the Meiji 22 rifles are no different. In addition, rifles which were excess to active infantry service were occasionally transferred to schools and other Japanese institutions and would sometimes be buttstock-marked with such organization’s ownership markings as well.
The outside, reading counter-clockwise starting at 12 o’clock: Tokyo Artillery Arsenal Small Arms Factory
The inner circle counter-clockwise starting from the 12 o’clock: “Meiji 22”
Drawing Credit: Stanley Zeilinsky, Japanese Murata rifles 1880-1897
A well-marked Meiji 22 buttstock showing its Tokyo Imperial Arsenal roundel cartouche as well as in all likelihood a school ownership embossing, but we do not know what it says. If any reader can shed light, we would be most appreciative.
Photo Credit: John Littrell
These characters: 廃 (waste, disposable) and 銃 (gun) on either side of the
chrysanthemum translates as “obsolete” (or possibly “withdrawn”) “rifle”, with the Imperial Chrysanthemum merely cancelled, and not obliterated, means that the rifle was considered obsolete and was transferred to a school. The latter because the same rifle has a buttstock cartouche which is:
A buttstock cartouche which we have not desciphered but which is like a school ownership marking.
Another Meiji 22 Murata Rifle where the Imperial Chrysanthemum has been “cancelled” but not obliterated. Below Murata’s kaikihan is the character “hai” 廃, meaning withdrawn or similar meaning. This rifle also is school ownership marked on its buttstock.
Here yet another rifle that has had its Imperial Chrysanthemum “cancelled” but not obliterated, this one appearing on an earlier Meiji 13 Murata. On this rifle, Murata’s kaikihan has been overstruck by “廃” (Hai), thus “withdrawn” but has no school ownership cartouche suggesting that this may have been a rifle released to the civilian market or sold to Japanese emigrants, or even transferred to the Chinese.
SPECIFICATIONS, STATISTICS & DATA
Overall Length: 1,210 mm (47.6 in)
Barrel Length: 750 mm (29.5 in)
Rifling: 4-groove; Right Hand, concentric.
One Japanese source indicates that the rifling was Metford, which might be correct since Japan’s steel industry was still primitive and so its barrel blanks were obtained from Europe. Thus the barrels could well have been rifled there using Metford rifling.
Sight: Ramp-and-leaf, graduated from 300 to 2,000 meters (330 to 2,185 yds)
Weight: 3.95 Kg (8.68 lbs)
SHORT RIFLES, CARBINES & SPECIAL VERSIONS
The Meiji 22 Murata Carbine, a shortened version of the Meiji 22 rifle.
Photo Credit: Steven Larry Eisel via Gunbroker.com
The Murata Meiji 22 carbine is a true carbine-length longarm, which was adopted concurrently with the infantry rifle* (see note below). Together with the Meiji 22 rifle, it was produced at the Tokyo Imperial Artillery Arsenal in Koishikawa, a suburb of Tokyo. Receiver markings and serial numbers run intermingled with the infantry rifles as serial numbers are not necessarily consecutive but appear to all be within the same Meiji 22 rifle series.
As the cavalry carbine has a short magazine as well as a short barrel, its magazine capacity is only five as compared with the rifle’s eight. Also, since the Japanese cavalry at that time was equipped with sabers, it lacks a bayonet lug, just as the predecessor Murata 18 single-shot dragoon rifle.
Top, a Mieji 22 Cavalry Carbine Bottom: a Meiji 22 Murata Infantry rifle (albeit rifle with missing handguard and lower barrel band)
Photo Credit: Shigeo Sugawa
The Meiji 22 carbine has a one-piece stock, without the rifle’s checkering, but with a single spring-retained barrel band and the rifle’s much simplified double-pin-spring retained nosecap. Identical in design to the Rifle is an abbreviated, five-round (some sources say six-round) magazine tube which, unlike the Meiji 22 rifle, does not protrude past the nose cap. Sling swivels are mounted on the left side of the barrel band and double screw mounted to the left side of the buttstock. A short cleaning rod section and tip are stored in a buttstock compartment.
The unique to the Murata series sling swivel attachments of the Murata Meiji 22 Carbine
Photos Credit: Steven Larry Eisel via Gunbroker.com
Based on observed and recorded serial numbers, Meiji 22 carbines appear to have been produced in two different “series” at slightly different times. Like the rifles, the carbines exhibit both Version 1 and Version 2 varieties, at least with regard to bolt configurations.
To the best of our knowledge, Markings on the carbines were identical to the rifle’s Markings (see above), and are not specially marked as is the case with the Meiji 18 Murata Dragoon Rifle which has four unique kanji characters.
* For some reason, there has been a belief in the West that these carbines were adopted later, in 1894, after the rifles, which is why they are sometimes referred to in the West as “Type 27,” corresponding to Meiji 27 (1894). However all Japanese cavalry carbines that we have examined have been marked identically to 1889, Japanese sources contradict a later adoption, and neither have Western authorities on Japanese rifles been able to verify an 1894 adoption. Additionally, some carbines with early Type 1 bolts have very low Meiji 22 serial numbers suggesting, although not proving, that their production likely took place before 1894.
This set of markings on the right side of the receiver of a comparable Murata CARBINE are slightly different, but without doubt the initial characters 明治 二 十 二, spell out Mei ji 2 10 2 (Meiji 22) and not Meiji 27 (which would have been 明治 二 十 七)
Photo Credit: Steven Larry Eisel via Gunbroker.com
This set of Meiji 22 RIFLE markings on the side of the receiver behind the bolt read Mei-ji ni-ju-ni-nen sei-tei, "Mei ji 2 10 2 Adopted" (The last character, separated slightly from the others at the bottom of the photo, is interpreted as an inspection mark).
Translation & Photo Credit: www.nambuworld.com
The Murata Meiji 22 Carbine was not fitted for a bayonet and no bayonets for this type are known.
Overall length: 960 mm (37.8 in)
Barrel length: 500mm (19.6 in)
Rifling: 4-groove Metford
Magazine capacity: 5 rounds
Rear sight: Japanese sources indicate that the carbine rear sight was ranged to 1,500 meters (1,640 yards), astonishing but believable. Zeilinsky offers a grainy photo of a carbine rear sight ranged out to 2,000 meters (2,190 yards). This question remains open for us.
Japanese Meiji 22 Murata Rifle Bayonets (2 versions)
The first version Meiji 22 Murata bayonet: “Long wood, short pommel”
Photo Credits: Simpson, Ltd.
Contemporaneously with the adoption of the Meiji 22 Murata rifle in 1889 a dedicated matching bayonet was also adopted. Like its predecessor Meiji 13 and Meiji 18 bayonets, this bayonet was also a sword type with a large knobbed quillion, strong, wide t-backed blade with tip sharpened on both front edges, and blade fully fullered on both sides of the blade.
The bayonet lug is on the bottom of the nosecap such that the bayonet mounts below the barrel rather than to one side, with the length of the blade vertical, perpendicular to the ground when the rifle is shouldered. Previously, muzzleloader bayonets needed to be mounted to the side to provide access to the ramrod for reloading, and this was carried forward for quite some time into the cartridge era, despite changing the balance of the rifle. The Meiji 22 Murata was among the first rifles in the world to mount its bayonet directly below the barrel.
Because the design of the front band/nosecap of the two versions of the Meiji 22 differ depending on when they were manufactured, bayonets which fit the first Murata rifle version do not fit and are not compatible with the second rifle version!
The first version Murata Meiji 22 bayonet has an especially small handle, longer wood and a short steel pommel. The right side of the guard is stamped with the Imperial Chrysanthemum and the left side with Japanese characters. The wooden grips are especially small all and are retained by a single steel bolt set in in elliptical steel escutcheons. The blade is finished in the white, bright, and the other steel parts are blued.
About 20,000 small hilt bayonets were produced, after which manufacture was subsequently replaced by the long hilt version, which remained in production until the adoption of the Arisaka (30 Year Magazine Rifle) in 1897.
The earlier Meiji 22 bayonet with an especially short hilt.
Photos Credit: worthpoint.com
Of course, in as much as there are two versions of Meiji 22 rifles, there are, not surprisingly, two versions of Meiji 22 rifle bayonet. Both type bayonets were issued with steel scabbards.
Photo Credits: Gunbroker.com
Scabbards for both bayonets are all steel and painted dark brown.
A direct comparison of the two Meiji 22 Murata Bayonet versions:
Photo Credit: www.bayonets.pl
The first version Meiji22 bayonet (left/above) and the 2nd version (right/below), with their steel scabbards and frog.
Photo Credits: www.nambuworld.com
No Meiji 22 Cavalry Carbine bayonet was produced nor issued, nor was the carbine manufactured to be fitted with a bayonet.
Overall length: 354 mm (13.9 in) (some sources have listed length as 370mm)
Blade length: 280 mm (11.1 in)
Width: 23 mm
Muzzle ring diameter: 20mm
Overall length: 349 mm (13.75 in)
Blade length: 282.5 mm (11.1 in)
Width: 23 mm
Muzzle ring diameter: 20mm
8mm Murata (Meiji 22 Murata Cartridge) aka 8x53R, 8mm Meiji 22 Magazine; 8x52.5R
The varieties of Japanese produced Murata 22 ammunition
Photo Credit: NambuWorld.com
The varieties of Japanese produced Murata 22 ammunition
Credit: Early made Japanese Military small arms Ammunition, teruaki isomura
The 8mm Murata which began development in 1887 and was adopted in 1889 was the first small caliber ammunition used by Japan. The cartridge is proprietary, unique to Japan, and consists of a rimmed, bottlenecked brass case loaded initially with black powder and later, as it became available to Japan, with smokeless powder. Primer is the Berdan type. The bullet is a 15.2 gram flat-nosed lead projectile with a copper jacket developing a muzzle velocity of 560 m/s (1,850 fps) in the rifle. This cartridge was used only in the Meiji 22 Magazine infantry rifle and its corresponding carbine.
Bullet diameter: 8.13mm
Neck diameter: 9.17mm
Base diameter: 12.52mm
Rim diameter: 14.17mm
Case length: 52.32mm
Overall length: 74.8mm
Approximately 150,000 Murata Meiji 22 Magazine Rifles were produced by the Imperial Artillery Arsenal, Koishikawa, Tokyo, between late in 1889 an d at least 1896 but perhaps into 1897. The Meiji 22 began manufacture with its own serial number series and not as a continuation of the Meiji 13 and Meiji 18 series which had consecutive serial numbers. With serial numbers observed into the 150,000 range, it’s likely that Meiji 22 Magazine rifles were made in about those quantities, which would also include the Meiji 22 Magazine Carbines, as their serial numbers were part of the total set included in the production of the Meiji 22 Magazine rifle.
UTILIZATION BY OTHER COUNTRIES
Unlike the Meiji 13 and Meiji 18 Murata rifles, the Meiji 22 Murata was used by the army as a rear unit and training rifle even after the Arisaka was deployed. It was also exported to China through Japanese Business Unions (e.g., 昭和通商 ) but records have proven difficult to find.
Being an 8mm repeater the Meiji 22 Murata was never made into a shotgun nor circulated in the Japanese private sector, so even though they were produced and in reasonably large numbers both rifles and bayonets remain scarce.
The Murata rifle was adopted in 1889 (Meiji 22) and was Japan’s primary rifle during the Sino-Japanese War
Before and after the Russo-Japanese War, the reserve infantry, the reserve engineer, and the Navy Land Corps were equipped with the Murata repeater. During the war, it was progressively replaced with the Arisaka Infantry Rifle, the main rifle of the time, but a considerable number of reserve infantrymen who participated in the Battle of Mukden were still equipped with the older rifle.
During the Qing Incident (1900, in the West, the Boxer Rebellion), thousands of Japanese troops were deployed jointly with Western forces to northern China and these troops were primarily equipped with the Meiji 22 magazine rifle.
PREDECESSOR & FOLLOW-ON RIFLES
Predecessor Rifle: Meiji 18 Murata Rifle
Top: The immediate predecessor Meiji 13 Murata;
Center: The Immediate Follow-On Meiji 18 Murata, discussed in this page.
Bottom: The later, immediate follow-on Meiji 22 Murata
Photo Credit: www.nambuworld.com
Follow-on rifle: In his later years, General Murata’s firearms design research, development and study of manufacturing processes was taken over by his apprentice, Arisaka Nariakira who would go on to even greater fame than his mentor. The pace of firearms evolution was so rapid in this period that Murata’s last standard rifle, the Meiji 22, was replaced a scant 8 years later with the Meiji 30 Year (aka Type 30) Arisaka (三十年式歩兵銃, Sanjū-nen-shiki hoheijū, 'year 30 type infantry firearm')
A special thanks to Doss White, Dr. Stanley Zielinski, Shigeo Sugawa, Teri Jane Bryant 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)
Japanese Military Small Arms and Equipment by Shigeo Sugawa (Kokusho Kanko: Tokyo, 1995), pp. 13-17 (bayonet p. 22). Japanese text, but photos have English captions
Japanese Military Small Arms and Equipment, Shigeo Sugawa (Kokusho Kanko: Tokyo, 1995 (Japanese).
"Murata Types 13 and 18: They founded an arsenal system, part of the beginnings of empire", Charles S. Small. Gun Digest, 1983.
Page first sketched out January 27, 1999
Revised September 21, 1999
Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Updated: Feb 18, 2023