When Dad came home from Tokyo in 1946 he brought a few souvenirs with him, an Arisaka 99 being one of them. When he died, he left it to my nephew, who doesn't care about guns. So it came to live with me.
The Arisaka rifle was named after Colonel Nariakara Arisaka, who headed a commission during the 1890s that was tasked with developing a new model rifle to replace older ones. Arisakas were designated with the year of the current emperor's reign. Thus, the Arisaka Type 38 rifle was designed in the 38th year of the reign of Emperor Meiji (1852 - 1912), and the Type 44 was adopted in the 44th year of his reign. Under his grandson Hirohito, the rifles were designated by the last one or two digits of the model adoption year: the Type 99 was adopted in the Japanese calendar year 2599, Western calendar year 1939.
The Arisaka Type 38, which first went into use in 1905, was the rifle of choice for the Japanese army for 30 years. But during the Sino-Japanese War, which began in 1937, the Chinese 7.9 mm cartridge made the Japanese rethink the 38's 6.5 mm round and work began on a replacement cartridge. The 7.7 x 58 mm cartridge resulted, and the Type 99 evolved out of the Type 38, chambering the new cartridge.
As anyone who wants to shoot one of these knows, the 7.7 Arisaka cartridge, although available, is expensive. But fortunately, Murphy's Law is an expert on making Arisaka ammo out of 30-06 cases and he took time out from his frantic packing before he left and gave me a hands-on demo that resulted in me having about 80 rounds. And so I finally got the 99 out yesterday.
I don't know anything about the gun except it came back with Dad. Fortunately, various stamps told me a fair amount.
First, apparently these symbols say that it was an early 1939 version:
They did a good job of grinding off the chrysanthemum that indicated that the gun belonged to the emperor - you really can't see where it was unless the light hits it just right. It would have looked like this, otherwise:
It was made at the Nagoya Arsenal:
The stamp to the left of the serial number shows that it was from the series 5 run:
Its serial number is actually 75473, but it was number 75474 of the run. Each series was run in a block of 100000, starting at 0. Series 5 came off the line in 1943.
Initially, the 99 came with an attached monopod and with flip up anti-aircraft sights. Mine lacks the monopod and I don't see any sign of an attachment, but the sights are still intact. I need to be careful of them - I'm betting they snap off way too easily.
It was also the first mass produced infantry rifle to have a chrome lined bore. I can't take a pic of that, but I can tell you that it's really bright and shiny in there. Bright, shiny, and as far as I can see as I wave it at the light, clean and lacking pits. The cleaning rod is still with it, but it's been bent. I've fiddled with it just a little to see if it would slide out, but no go and I'm not forcing it.
There are details that show that it was made before exterior quality dropped. The butt plate is a bolted on piece of steel rather than wood nailed on, and the bolt is much nicer than the rough, slap-dash looking ones turned out later in the war.
The wood is pretty beat up. I don't know how much of that happened before it left Japan. It sat in the corner of Grandma's house for about 50 years and "soldier" was our favorite game when growing up. Grandma's farm might not have looked much like Pacific jungles, but we fought plenty of imaginary battles there and the Arisaka got dragged all over the place.
I took the dust cover off because it was mostly a nuisance. But the bayonet is left off because I'd probably stab something accidentally with it.
I treated it somewhat more gently than in years past when I took it out to see what it would do when it could actually go BANG. I set up on the 100 yard line and, assuming it had a default sighting of 300 yards, aimed very low. The trigger is a really hard pull for me and it has a bit of a kick, but not as much of a thump as a Girand. I like the heft and feel of the gun. But five precious rounds later I hadn't even put a shot on the cardboard, let alone the target. Fa. Moved over to the 50 yard line. Ah! Much better. I didn't have any support so I was wandering a bit, but I think once I convert the legs of my torn up blue jeans to sand bags things will get better.
Now I need to get dies and a case trimmer and turn out enough ammo to keep this good old gun in action.