In the 1930’s the Japanese armed forces had in service a sound but unrefined pistol design known to US forces as the “Nambu.” The “Nambu” was officially known as the Type 14 Pistol and fired an 8 mm round. The “Nambu” was the most reliable pistol developed by the Japanese, however, compared to German and American semi-automatics the Nambu was almost primitive. The weapon was not balanced well and had an awkward “plunger” cocking mechanism as opposed to a traditional slide. It is hard to believe that an army could take a step back in weapon quality, but that is exactly what Japan did.

Following the Japanese invasion of China in the mid-1930s the demand for service pistols far outpaced production. The easiest solution appeared in the form of an 8 mm automatic pistol that had previously been produced commercially in 1934. Sales had been slow to the point of non-existence, this was probably due to the weapon’s clumsy feel and appearance. The Japanese army bought up the entire stock and took over production. Soon the new 94 Shiki Kenju or Pistol Type 94, became the only service pistol in production, although the Type 14 remained in service for the duration of the war. Initially the Type 94 was used only to arm tank crews and airmen, but by the time production ended in 1945 all branches of service were using the Type 94. The war ended with over 70,000 Type 94 pistols produced.

The new Type 94 did have some advantages over the Type 14. For starters, the Type 94 could be produced in half the time as the Type 14. Also, being a smaller weapon it used fewer raw materials than the Type 14. However that is where the advantages ended. The Type 94 is considered to be the worst pistol ever produced… anywhere. The basic design was flawed in many ways, the weapon handled poorly and looked worse. The Type 94 was potentially as dangerous to the user as it was to his target. Part of the weapon’s trigger system was unhoused and protruded slightly from the frame. If this mechanism was depressed while a round was chambered the pistol would fire. The problem was that if the weapon was bumped just the wrong way the unlucky soldier would end up with a bullet in his leg and a hole in his holster. The other possibility was an 8 mm round ricocheting around the inside of your tank. The other disadvantage to this exposed trigger mechanism is that is was prone to failure due to dirt and grit, two things common to every battlefield.

Another bad feature of the Type 94 was a device designed to ensure that only a single round would be fired each time the trigger was pulled. For this to happen, the mechanism would not allow the firing pin to operate unless the round was fully in the firing chamber. Similar to the difficulties with the Type 100 Submachine gun, the ammunition was mostly to blame for these problems. The bottle-shaped 8 mm round was not the easiest with which to work.

When all these faults were allied with poor manufacturing late in the war, the result was a dangerous weapon to operate or even load. The only reason troops used the Type 94 was that it was all that was being made. Some examples of the Type 94 have been found that still have filing or other machine tool marks on the frame and mechanism. The amount of “slop” in the mechanics of some weapons made them almost unfireable.

The Type 94 is a collectors piece only. Under no circumstances should a Type 94 ever be loaded with ammunition. This is a dangerous weapon and is more likely to shoot you than what ever you are aiming at.


  • Cartridge: 8 mm Taisho 14
  • Overall length: 183 mm (7.2 in)
  • Length of barrel: 96 mm (3.78 in)
  • Weight: 0.688 kg (1.52 lb)
  • Muzzle velocity: 305 m (1,000 ft) per second
  • Magazine: 6 round box

Sources and citations: specifications and other bits I didn’t know were gleamed from The Encyclopedia of World War II Weapons. Most of this came from memory and too many hours watching The History Channel.

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