Arisaka Rifles
Arisaka rifle family
The Evolution of the Arisaka Rifle Family
Type Bolt-action rifle
Place of origin Empire of Japan
Service history
In service 1898 - 1945
Production history
Designer Nariakira Arisaka
Designed 1897
Variants Type 30, 38, 44, 97, 99, TERA
Weight 4100 g Long Version
Length 1270 mm (50 in) Long Version
Barrel length 798 mm (31.4 in) Long Version

Cartridge 6.5x50mm Arisaka
7.7x58mm Arisaka
Action Bolt Action
Rate of fire N/A
Muzzle velocity 730 m/s (2400 ft/s)
Effective range 400 m
Feed system 5-Round Internal Magazine/stripper clip
Sights Rear: Sliding Tangent with Anti-Aircraft Calipers
Front: Fixed Covered Post
Sniper Variants: Factory-Zeroed Scope

Arisaka (有坂銃 Arisaka-jū) is a family of Japanese military bolt action rifles, in production from approximately 1898, when it replaced the Murata rifle], until the end of World War II in 1945. The most common specimens include the Type 38 rifle chambered in the 6.5x50mm Arisaka cartridge, and the Type 99 rifle chambered in the 7.7x58mm Japanese cartridge, which was as powerful as a modern .308. Many thousands of Type 99s were brought to the United States by soldiers during and after World War II.


The Arisaka Rifle was designed by Colonel Nariakira Arisaka (有坂 成章; 1852–1915), who was later promoted to Lieutenant General and also received the title of baron from Emperor Meiji, in 1907. Over the course of various wars several productions runs and variants were made, including the transition from the 6.5mm Type 38 to the larger 7.7mm Type 99, and the introduction of a paratrooper rifle that could be disassembled into a compact shape for air-drop. Tests on samples of Arisaka rifles conducted after the war showed that their bolts and receivers were constructed of carbon steel "similar to SAE No. 1085 with a carbon content of 0.80% to 0.90%, and a manganese content of 0.60% to 0.90%."[1] During destructive tests, the Arisakas were shown to be stronger than most allied rifles.[2] Some of the early issue Type 99 rifles were fitted with a folding-wire monopod to improve accuracy in the prone position, but due to the fragile nature of the wire, it is at best a wobbly firing platform. The rear sights also featured folding horizontal extensions to give a degree of lead suitable for firing against aircraft. By the end of World War II, new ersatz models were being made with the goal of cheaply bolstering the Imperial armed forces; for example the ovoid bulb-shaped bolt of earlier runs was replaced by a smaller and utilitarian cylindrical shape, the hand guard on the barrel was omitted, and crude fixed sights were fitted.

Arisaka Type 99 mum

Ground "Mum"

The Arisaka bolt-action rifle was used heavily everywhere the Imperial Japanese Army fought. Prior to World War II, Arisakas were used by the British Navy and Russian Army, in Finland and Albania. The Czech Legion that fought in the Russian Revolution was almost entirely armed with Type 30 and 38 Arisakas. Many captured Arisaka rifles were employed by neighboring countries both during and after World War II, in places such as China, Thailand and Cambodia. However, after the Japanese surrender in the summer of 1945, all manufacturing of rifles and ammunition stopped abruptly, and the Arisaka quickly became obsolete. Since most Imperial Japanese Armory contents were thrown into Tokyo Harbor after the signing of the surrender, spare ammunition also became rare. Additional 6.5×50mm Arisaka ammunition was, however, produced in China for use in their captured Arisaka rifles.

Arisaka with chrysanthemum intact

Intact "Mum"

The Imperial ownership mark, a 16-petal chrysanthemum known as the Mon, has often been defaced by filing or grinding on surviving rifles. There are conflicting claims that this was done on the orders of the Japanese military prior to surrender, or by US occupation personnel prior to approving a US soldier's permit to take home a rifle as a souvenir. No documentation from either Japanese or US forces has been found that required the defacing. The only insignias that survive on Arisakas are in Japan, though there are a few on rifles taken as war trophies before the surrender, and those captured by Chinese forces. Some of the Chinese captured Arisakas were later exported to the United States, including some Type 38 carbines re-barrelled and re-chambered for the standard Chinese 7.62x39mm round. Some Type 38 rifles captured by Kuomintang forces were converted to fire the 8×57mm Mauser round.

Many of the chrysanthemum insignia were completely ground off, but some were merely defaced with a chisel or had the number "0" stamped repeatedly along the edges. The latter was usually done with rifles removed from Japanese military service (and thus no longer the Emperor's property), including rifles given to schools or rifles sold to other nations, such as the British Royal Navy's purchase of many Type 38s in World War I to free up SMLE rifles for British land forces.

A very small run of Type 38 rifles was also manufactured for export to Mexico in 1910, with the Mexican coat of arms instead of the Imperial Chrysanthemum, though few arrived before the Mexican revolution and the bulk remained in Japan until World War I, when they were sold to Imperial Russia.


Type 30Edit

This was the first rifle of the Arisaka family and the first rifle chambered in 6.5x50mm Arisaka.

Type 38Edit

A common model produced for a long time. Also in 6.5x50mm Arisaka.

Type 44Edit

This is a carbine chambered in 6.5x50mm Arisaka. It is notable for its folding bayonet.

Type 99Edit

Japan's main battle rifle for WWII. Several variants exist. It was chambered in 7.7x58mm Arisaka.


As with all captured foreign firearms they may be dangerous when fired, due both to the lower quality of the "last-ditch" rifles produced by Germany (often using slave labor) and Japan during the end of World War II, and to modifications performed by returning US servicemen on those rifles. Ammunition for Arisaka rifles, which were often battlefield pick-ups, or souvenirs, was not readily available after the end of the war. Consequently, many were rebored or rechambered for readily available calibers. Additionally, Arisakas were sometimes rendered inoperable prior to being shipped home, or even potentially sabotaged. The manner in which rifles may have been demilled can include permanently damaging the receiver or removal of parts.


Type 99 sights with anti-aircraft calipers intact and deployed

Type 38 Arisakas in particular were commonly rechambered to 6.5x257 Roberts, using the readily available .257 Roberts cases with neck expanded to use 6.5 bullets and the existing barrel. Likewise the Japanese Type 99 in 7.7x58mm was sometimes converted to .30-06, which is again of similar but not identical dimensions. While the .30-06 can be fired by lengthening the chamber of the rifle slightly (from 58 to 63mm), the 7.7 case is slightly wider than the .30-06 and uses a slightly larger-diameter bullet, meaning a .30-06 cartridge case will swell slightly to fit the over-sized chamber, and a standard .30-06 bullet with a .308 diameter will not provide a good fit to the .310-312 diameter rifling.

Those seeking ammunition for their Type 99 Arisakas often manufacture it by modifying .30-06 cases. The German 7.92 Mauser cartridge may also be used with the proper .311 diameter bullet. The widely available British .303 bullets provide a proper fit for the firearm's rifling. Norma manufactures loaded ammunition for the 7.7x58mm, as well as making new brass available for reloaders. Hornady also manufactures new Arisaka ammunition in both 6.5mm and 7.7mm calibers. Since the base of the 7.7x58mm is slightly larger than the .30-06 (thereby causing varying amounts of bulging of reformed brass), some owners may find it preferable to use proper brass or new factory cartridges. Bullets and powder charges of surplus .303 British ammunition may also be loaded into proper 7.7x58mm cases to produce rifle cartridges with ballistics that are similar to the original Japanese military load.



  1. Hatcher p. 231
  2. Hatcher p. 206
  • Hatcher, Julian, Major General, (USA Ret). Hatcher's Notebook. Stackpole Publishing, Harrisburg, PA USA; 1962. Library of Congress number 62-12654.

External linksEdit

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