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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all.

I'm a semi-auto collector and have been fascinated by the countries that did not pursue semi-auto technology during the war. England and Italy were two prominent armies equipt with bolt rifles or smgs but no semi-autos. Even the Swedes had the AG42b but it never saw service.

So, my question to you all is, why didn't the Japanese design a semi-auto rifle? I know about the reverse-engineered Garand but that was an experiment for the most part. What was their thinking? Was it similar to Hitler's thinking that front-line troops would waste ammo? Even he eventually relented and the 41 and 43 were fielded albeit it too late to make a difference. In the German's case, too, they would field captured SVT40s from the Russians. There was a need for them to be sure.

Just curious about your replies. I do lecture on the history of the semi-auto from time to time and would like to know more about the lack of semi-autos in Japan.

Rome
 

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I have thought the same questions as Cabinetman. In one book I have read, the rifle was not as important as the Spirit of the soldier which was supposed to overcome mechanical objects. Although for anti-aircraft and aircraft use, they had no problem designing modern machine guns. Maybe it goes to the age old prejudice that the infantryman seems to always be at the bottom of the supply pile and gets the worst of everything.
 

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The Japanese had 1 LMG for every 10 bolt action rifles & I guess they thought that was enough firepower. Hard to beat a determined aimed shot!
This photo of a SNLF plattoon bears this out. There about 50 guys here and down in front are 5 Lewis style LMGs
 

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What was their thinking? Was it similar to Hitler's thinking that front-line troops would waste ammo?
that wasn't hitler's thinking at all, hitler wanted more machine guns built, MP (machine pistol) 40 then rifles......there is a reason why the MP44 is called a machine pistol 44 instead of a G(gewhr (rifle)whatever, to keep the fact that the german ordnance board OK'd a rifle for fielding.


as for why the japanese didn't go the semi automatic rifle route......the answer is simplier then you think, ordnance boards were made up of old codgers, generals and such, they had the mind set, if a bolt action rifle was good enough for me during my career, and it functioned and performed very well, then it is still good enough now for out forces, no need to have these fancy do dad semi automatic nonsense, that is unproven, and maybe full of bugs, so get on with making more bolt action rifles and forget this semi-auto nonsense.
 

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Seems strange that a people that could design, build and put into service ships such as the Musashi and Yamato could not design a proper, working home grown semi-auto rifle. Perhaps there just was not the will or perceived need for it! Good thing or we wouldn't be able to afford to be in this hobby.
 

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Cabinetman :
You should read the semi-automatic chapters in the latest edition of " Military Rifles of Japan " by Fred Honeycutt Jr., ther you will see the tests and problems encountered by the Japanese Armament Department in designing home grown semi / auto designs, there you will get answers to your questions.
Vicasoto
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Well thank you all. I do appreciate the replies and I'm going to "invest" in Mr. Honeycutt's book for my library. And I will read the appropriate paragraphs.

SfcRet, your answer is simple and most probably accurate. I have read, however, that early on, Hitler felt the same way about arming his soldiers with semi-auto rifles. I'm aware of his desire for MGs but the semi-auto faced a steep uphill battle to get built, much to our benefit. The Gewehr 43 was envisioned as the replacement for the K98 but never met production goals. The Japanese were even more hierarchal and probably stymied development in a similar fashion. The book will shed some light on that for sure. Still, without the facts in front of me, it is strange that Japan couldn't "borrow" some of the tons of technology about semi-autos out in the world already (especially from the Germans!)to design their own, rapid fire rifle. Our troops faced them with Garands and Carbines along with the other smgs they had. The Japanese had their bolt rifles and their mgs. Surely those were devastating but clearly our weapons were superior.

Thanks, guys for your thoughts.
 

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I believe that by the time the Japanese met the garand and carbine in the hands of US soldiers, it was way too late in the war to undertake a new rifle program.

They did not think the war would last as long as it did and were not prepared to fight a long war.
 

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they tried. Called Type 5(Some say it was actually called Type 4)
The Type 5 Rifle was an experimental semi-automatic rifle produced in 1944. It was a copy of the M1 Garand, with a 10 round charger-loading magazine and Japanese style tangent sights, which had been developed alongside several other experimental semi-automatic rifles. However, none of the rifles entered into service before the end of the war, with only 250 made and many never assembled. There were several problems with jamming and feed systems, which delayed its testing
Only pic i've ever seen of Type 4 semi auto



 

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In the US Army Ordnance report #19 that I got from Doss White it states that during wartime the Japanese were having problems getting arms factories tooled up for mass production, which was apparently meant that new designs were nearly impossible to get tooled up and into production. Instead older designs were improved upon and changed in production. This may have something to do with why no perfected semi-auto rifles came out of Japan prior to the war's end.

Even though the Japanese Ordnance worked on and had trouble with semi-auto rifles earlier on, I cannot believe they would have been unable to perfect a design at some point. It appears, to me at least, that once the war started and the reverses and shortages began it became less likely that an all new design could be created, perfected and put into production with the sytem and limitations then in place.
 

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In the US Army Ordnance report #19 that I got from Doss White it states that during wartime the Japanese were having problems getting arms factories tooled up for mass production, which was apparently meant that new designs were nearly impossible to get tooled up and into production. Instead older designs were improved upon and changed in production. This may have something to do with why no perfected semi-auto rifles came out of Japan prior to the war's end.

Even though the Japanese Ordnance worked on and had trouble with semi-auto rifles earlier on, I cannot believe they would have been unable to perfect a design at some point. It appears, to me at least, that once the war started and the reverses and shortages began it became less likely that an all new design could be created, perfected and put into production with the sytem and limitations then in place.
I for one am glad they didn't come out with anything comparable to our M-1. Some of us here may never have been if they had.
 

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I for one am glad they didn't come out with anything comparable to our M-1. Some of us here may never have been if they had.
I agree wholeheartedly with you Adog. I am MOST glad they stayed with an obsolete weapon rather than arm the troops properly.

Was there much use of captured M1s by Japanese troops? Maybe its hard to know since we always ended up over running virtually every Japanese force we came across, eventually, in the Pacific. My father in law, who was a Filipino guerilla, said he and the other guerillas did not use captured Japanese weapons, only American weapons.
 

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I agree wholeheartedly with you Adog. I am MOST glad they stayed with an obsolete weapon rather than arm the troops properly.

Was there much use of captured M1s by Japanese troops? Maybe its hard to know since we always ended up over running virtually every Japanese force we came across, eventually, in the Pacific. My father in law, who was a Filipino guerilla, said he and the other guerillas did not use captured Japanese weapons, only American weapons.
well, even if they did, i don't think they would have figure out the most efficient ways to incorprate it in to type of battle which they were engaged in, and they prolly not gonna be able to supply enough ammo to make it effective...

I mean Japan did have Type 100 submachine gun, which was never used to its full potential..
 

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Semi Auto or Not to Semi-Auto?

That is the question....whether it is nobler to keep using last war's Bolt action, or grab the problem by the throat, and field even a defective(but improvable) semi-auto....

The answer to this question is multifaceted and complex.
Posters above have hinted to the various factors affecting the failure of Japan, Italy, and yto a lesser extent, Germany on the Axis side, and the British Empire on the Allied side.

One must remeber that the Semi-Auto rifle designs of the 1920s and 30s had one thing in common...Fragility combined with Old world design parameters...leading to a rifle which was heavy, of little cartridge capacity, and prone to breakage under consistent firing and wartime conditions.
The US was fortunate, having some 4 years of "running in" for the Garand (Gas trap Model) before it was wisely thought to convert production to the "Gas Port" system, just as WW II was getting started. The Russians , in the Simonov and the Tokarev, good designs, but plagued by Political infighting and fragile internal parts; even the AVT40, with Full auto fire, was soon relegated to Semi only, due to high parts breakage.

The Germans were plagued by several problems...Very fine machining ( Pre-WW I technology), and the absolute refusal to use Gas Port technology (Prototypes of recoiliong barrel and Gas trap systems abound.)...and of course the "General's mentality" regarding Bolt actions...the German Army was a Machine gunner's Army...Riflemen were merely there to protect the MG Gunners.

The Italians and the Japanese both suffered from Inertia at the Higher levels...the Italians because Auto rifles cost much to make, and required hard to get alloys ( The Bolt Parts of the M91 Carcano came out of steel supplied by Poldi of Bohemia (AH Empire, then Czechoslovakia); Japanese Technology relied on the Czech and Swiss designs to develop Auto rifles...There doesn't seem ( Fred H will confirm this) to be any truely "Native" Japanese Auto designs. And also the "retooling" problem.

And it wasn't that these two countries could not have designed a decent SA rilfe...Italy had Scotti, Beretta, Sossi, Breda, ArmaGuerra, all produced both production and prototype SA/FA Light rifles well before 1940... But a combination of Political demagoguery ( 8 million Bayonets!!!) and Industrial self interest, coupled to a General Staff still fighting the Austrians of WW I, led to potentially valuable SA Designs going the way of the Dodo...

Imagine, a 7,35x51 Carbine with a 20 round mag ( Cei Rigotti of 1900, or Armaguerra M1937 or Breda PG) instead of 6 shot Carcano rifles of varying sizes; The closest to an Assault rifle the Italians came to was the Beretta MAB 38A...well designed, amenable to production variation for efficent manufacture, and easy to use, but employed mostly as a Submachine gun, and only rarely by Special Forces( Paratroopers and Naval Assault Tems) in quantity.

The british are the best examples of "Bureaucratic inertia" possible... The 1930-31 SemiAuto rifle trials became a non-event ( Nothing was suitable, out of such trials rifles as the Vickers Pedersen, CZ ZH29 and 31, etc), and in anycase, they had millions of .303 (Rimmed) calibre rifles in store, and were about to commence production of a "New" model as well (Mark VI, then Rifle No4)...can't have a rimless cartridge rifle to confuse the manufacturers, what? (or the troops, for that matter).
Even during WW II when Saive and other Belgian designers from FN brought their ideas for a SL rifle (the "SLEM"..Self Loading Experimental Model, predecessor of the FN49), the British pacified them by giving them some facilioties, and promptly forgot about them. Much to their chagrin, after WW II, FN got out its FN 49, quickly followed by the FN FAL ( which the British grudgingly adopted in the early 1950s ( under Churchill's insistence), when all its own native "EM-1"and "EM2" designs were found wanting.

Only the Germans and the Americans ( and a heck of a lot of Americans trace their ancestry to Germany) triumphed over adversity to design, develop and produce valid combat Auto rifles During WWII...the Americans succeeded because of the fore-sight of both Government and Manufacturers (Winchester had the working M1 Carbine test rifle made in days, and working designs in a few weeks); The Germans could have succeeded
with there MP/StG desings if they had been able to start production a couple of years earlier...the basic designs (ammo and guns) had been "in virtual reality" by 1940...but real production only started in mid-1943...by then the cause was lost.( too little---to late).

Which goes to show that Rifle ( and gun design in general) is to important a matter to be left to the Beaurocrats and Politicians and Generals ( Remember the M14 Fiasco of the 50s and 60s, or the AR15/M16 problems caused by Beaurocrats)... Only those countries with a free, inventive society will develop new and efficient Military rifles...look at the 6,8SPC cartridge and accompanying platform...designed by a Marine (or two) using case designs of almost a century ago, ( 1906 Browning .30 Rem Auto case, cut back and necked to .270 ("6,8mm"), bundled up with modern powder, and " retrofitted" to an M16/M4 Platform...with very little modification ( Barrel, Bolt face, springs.)
The important thing here is that it was designed by a Ex- marine ( "combat experience") and Proceded with by a Traditional and experience ammo company (Remington)...Not a Burocrat or General in sight.
Only the Future will tell if the idea is valid....

I would like to see a Newly engineered StG44 using 6,8SPC...for a realy robust General purpose Assault rifle....( all steel, receiver and body, for ease of manufacture, Zytel mags (USE'N'Lose), and Steel cased ammo (cheaper)...Berdan , of course, so that those nasty "Handloaders" have all hades' chances of relaoding the ammo....


Regards, Doc AV

AV Ballistics.
 

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Did the Japanese use the M1? Probably and certainly the carbine. In "The Rising Sun" by Toland, there is a chapter by an IJA soldier that survived the war (obviously). In the Philippines, during a battle, he picked up and used an M1 carbine and was very pleased with it.
 

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I remenber reading somewhere that in liimited occasion, JIS did use picked up weapon. Not because it was better, but due to very distinctive "ping" of Garand, they used it to confuse GI. SO i heard.
 

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Uh oh, the old "Garand ping" myth again.:rolleyes:
 
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