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Concept of Poor Quality and the 1947 Gun Digest

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Topic author: Quigley
Subject: Concept of Poor Quality and the 1947 Gun Digest
Posted on: 05/26/2006 10:31:25 AM
Message:

Friends, I have wondered about the original publication of the concept suggesting poor workmanship and dangerous actions on ALL Japanese rifles.

I look for early comments in the post WWII gun literature for examples.
I recently came across the 1947 Edition of The Gun Digest (3rd Annual Edition, Copyright 1947, Klein’s Sporting Goods) and found these references to poor quality Japanese military rifles in three separate articles.
I suspect there are earlier examples out there, but I have not been able to find them yet.
Please share earlier quotes to document this issue.

C.I.: Rifles for the Ex-G.I., by Don Martin 1947:4 (C.I. means Civilian Issue)
“Did you, by any chance, bring home an enemy gun that you think might make a hunting rifle? If your gun is German you may have something.”
“If it is a Jap, it is definitely dangerous. Don’t shoot it.”
“You will find a fine article by Charles T. Haven elsewhere in this book on the subject. Don’t fail to read it.”

Military Small Arms of World War II, by Charles T. Haven 1947:22
“Japanese rifles are of very poor quality and workmanship––they should be considered as relics only!”

From Military to Sporter, by Charles T. Haven 1947:35
“The Japanese military rifle is a Mauser type arm in two models: Model 1907 and 1939 in .25 and .31 caliber. However, the quality of most Japanese rifles is such that it is inadvisable to convert them to any American caliber.”
“Most gunsmithing concerns will not take the responsibility of converting Japanese weapons as there is so much chance that any individual arm will be a poor one.”

Charles T. Haven was a respected authority in the first half of the 20th century on both the Colt Revolver and the history and use of automatic weapons.

He is the co-author of The History of the Colt Revolver, New York, Charles T. Haven & Frank A. Belden. 1940, and many other books on the Colt revolver.
He is the co-author of Automatic Weapons of the World, by Melvin M. Johnson and Charles T. Haven, published by William Morrow and Company, New York, 1945.

Haven’s opinion had to carry weight with both the public and other authors.
Is it possible that Haven’s statements in the Gun Digest launched this concept?
Q



Replies:

Reply author: fingolfen
Replied on: 05/26/2006 11:43:13 AM
Message:
Interesting and possible, but I'm not sure that there's just one source of the "Jap rifles are dangerous" perception. All during WW2 the "Japs" were portrayed as an inferior race by U.S. Propagandists. Throw in a few last ditch rifles with that prejudice intact and you solidify the opinion.

Reply author: Quigley
Replied on: 05/26/2006 11:55:11 AM
Message:
Mike, thank you. I agree that the perception issue is important, and I am interested in when the perceptions got first published and by whom.
Q

Reply author: fredh
Replied on: 05/26/2006 1:41:24 PM
Message:
Quig,when I was a kid back in the '50's, the idea that Japanese rifles were dangerous seemed to be a universal feeling among vets and hunters. Vets were giving me their souvenirs or letting them go at $5-$10, whereas Mausers were bringing $35 since their reputation was secure, and ammo was readily available at any hardware store. On the trading post mid-morning program at the radio station, my dad kept a want ad in place that "Fred's son wants a Japanese rifle. Anybody got one they want to let go?" Then in the evenings Dad would drive me around to look at them, and if I bought one, bitch at me some for wasting my money on something I didn't need. However, when we sat down to clean it up or check it out, and I pointed out what the vets were saying about them, his casual response normally was that "They sure killed a lot of our boys." So when I was about 12, he picked up some Norma ammo somewhere, and I was a little goosey on the first 7.7mm. round fired but was ready to shoot from then on. Another contribution to that post-war feeling about Japanese rifles was the bad reputation Japanese made goods had before the war. Anything made in Japan was considered junk, and that spilled over to the post-war period, until stuff like Nikon cameras, for example, hit the market, and then later the autos.

A couple years ago, I bought a copy of Alvin Linden's book on Stockmaking. He did not share the opinion of others on Japanese rifles. I found comments in his book published in 1942 that were interesting: "This action is really good, it has interesting remodeling possibilities which will be fully covered in a forthcoming booklet and pattern sheets. Something tells us that there will be lots and lots of these Arisakas available, before much longer, for you boys to paw over and restock."

Reply author: red one
Replied on: 05/26/2006 8:20:13 PM
Message:
Quig, thats strange that you mentioned Kleins sporting goods, if I am not mistaken,I think that is were LH Oswald purchased his rifle?

Reply author: christian rifle
Replied on: 05/26/2006 9:23:13 PM
Message:
From 'A Basic Manual Of military Small Arms' by W.H.B. Smith
C 1943.
"....practically all the Japanese weapons are merely modifications of French, British and American second class arms..."

Reply author: Quigley
Replied on: 05/26/2006 11:53:24 PM
Message:
Christian Rifle, good catch, and a 1943 date. Thank you. Q

Reply author: pacific-war44
Replied on: 05/27/2006 02:01:56 AM
Message:
Something I remeber my late dad telling me about the "dangers" of the Japanese rifles,was that since there wasn't a lot of ammo available post-war for them,shooters "improvised".Unlike easier to find 8m/m,Arisaka shooters were prone to expierement with all sorts of mixed bag ammo,7m/m mauser,8m/m,obscure western period lever gun rounds,so no wonder they all BLEW-UP as it seemed,as few shooters actually attempted to fire PROPER ammo in these guns! My dad wasn't able to shoot his early '99 pick-up from '45 till 1975,when the local pawn shop started carrying Norma.I still remember him cussing the price,$7.50 a box! Scott.

Reply author: christian rifle
Replied on: 05/27/2006 10:13:34 AM
Message:





quote: Originally posted by Quigley
Christian Rifle, good catch, and a 1943 date. Thank you. Q
I'll look in my book collection for anything else


Reply author: markus
Replied on: 05/27/2006 8:47:34 PM
Message:
I remember when i was a young teenager,there was a gun/military surplus store that mt father shoped at.There were pretty nice racks for the military surplus.All except the Japanese t38's and 99's.They were relegated to a couple "whiskey"barrels in the corner.I think they were 15-20 bucks a piece.I would save up my grass cutting money and got my dad to buy me two.They also had military ammo in wedge boxes with Japanese charecters on it they(shop owners) called training ammo.I think they were a couple of dollars a box.I probabally could'nt count how many of those i shot.I still wish you could find them like that at that price!(and it wasn't that long ago,early 80's)

Reply author: Ronin48
Replied on: 05/28/2006 6:59:04 PM
Message:
Did not read the above, seen enough of this bull-shit. Willie/Joe brought back a trainer and some ammo, took it out to shoot it. You know the results. "All Japaneses rifles are dangerous." Read last words in my first sentence, and read P. O. Ackley's "blow-up test results of WW II bolt rifles. In case you can't find it, 38 strongest action and 99 2nd !!!!!!!!!!!

I may say the grasshopper is an h-a, but until it is proven it's just my idea (and the truth!)

Reply author: Quigley
Replied on: 05/28/2006 9:05:26 PM
Message:
Yes, El Viejo, blown-up training rifles gave Japanese rifles a bad name, but when did that information first get published?
Christian Rifle finds a 1943 reference to second class arms, that is bolt action.
Fredh has a 1942 book by the master stockmaker Alvin Linden that shows he knew the quality of the rifles.
Neither of those two early quotes say "poor quality" like the 1947 Gun Digest articles.
I knew many WWII vets in the 1950's and I cannot recall talking to any pacific theater vets who told me that the Japanese rifles seemed like junk.
The concept got picked up by some gun writers, who, in spite of the P.O. Ackley report, spread the word.
When, and by whom, did those concepts first get published so as to become conventional wisdom?
Q


Reply author: christian rifle
Replied on: 05/28/2006 10:46:37 PM
Message:





quote: Originally posted by Bill In Indiana
Mix that in with most Americans not being able to read kanji to translate "blank ammunition only" and the crude looks of the late war rifles, and most people will easily believe the poor reputation they have heard about Japanese rifles without ever digging into the matter further. It becomes an accepted conclusion that is simply repeated by lazy gun writers.
From 'Touched With Fire, The Land War In The South Pacific' c 1996 by Eric Bergerud :

" Because production techniques were poor in Japan, and the Japanese Army was determined to build its own weapons, it made many compromises.The sights were poor as was the ' fit and finish' of the weapon. More important, Japanese industry was unable to produce a 30 caliber rifle that was strong enough to stand up to the stress caused by repeated firing of a large shell without making the barrel thicker and the rifle much heavier than others of its type. "

It gets better.....

"Neither the Model 38 nor the light machine gun that fired the same round possessed the fine tolerences required to gain the very high muzzle velocity theoretically possible from the light round. "



Reply author: arisakadogs
Replied on: 05/29/2006 12:45:42 AM
Message:
Yep, junk all right.
http://forums.gunboards.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=10028&stc=1&d=1191803481

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http://forums.gunboards.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=10029&stc=1&d=1191803481

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Reply author: fredh
Replied on: 05/29/2006 2:12:48 PM
Message:
In the past I have avoided this discussion along with some others, but caught myself making the posting above. So, here I'm involved. Really, the early reputation that Japanese rifles had was due not to 1) late war quality, 2) trying to cram a cartridge into a trainer chamber and fire, 3) field experience, or 4) many other stories told. It was primarily as I told it above. When I was a kid, stuff from Japan was called "Jap crap." In saying that, I am not trying to step on toes, slander, bruise egos, or otherwise defame. The expression is still used by some collectors today. Back in the '50's and '60's, and still occassionally today, someone was always asking me if I was still collecting that "Jap crap." In 1941 as the war clouds gathered, newspaper articles usually had some quote from someone saying, "We could whip the Japanese before breakfast with one hand tied behind our back." Having heard all those stories from my family, I can remember at about age 10 years or so wondering how the Japanese were ever able to make a military rifle. My buddies and I had some truly high power as we played army, and someone was always lugging a Japanese rifle around. And when I asked my dad about the rifles, he advised me to not believe everything I heard. Prewar Japan export goods had a very bad reputation. The electronics were especially bad. My father worked as an engineer in the radar labs at Norfolk Naval Ship Yards during WW2 and Korea, and the lab was still evaluating Japanese electronics from WW2 during the Korean Conflict. He took me to the labs on occasion and showed the gear to me. Was it any good? No, compared to ours it was junk (his words). So, you see, the reputation preceded the rifle and really has little to do with the rifle, except that the rifles are different (palm safety, cocking on closing motion, noisy, etc.).

Now, fast forward to today. I am saying the same thing about Chinese imports today. I know some quality stuff is coming out of China, especially where Western know-how and factory set-up is involved. In my case I'm a tool freak. Where I know I won't use a tool very much, I go down to Harbor Freight. My Brad points, Forstner bits, even the recriprocating saw I bought last October to cut up my pool enclosure that came down during the hurricane is "Chinese junk." The drill bit shafts are soft and bend; the saw broke, and I repaired it.

Ok, enough bad stuff said. I think the Japanese have surpassed us in quality. Since '02, I've bought 2 Camrys. Neither went back to the dealer. We just drive them. My '03 Explorer lost the rear end first month of driving, but otherwise has been pretty decent, much better than the '97 Explorer, which seemed to have been Fixed Or Repaired Daily. Most of my better tools are Japanese. The Chinese are coming along, and they will surpass us in the not too distant future. In 1985, I was sitting in Dr. Kawamura's office in Tokyo, and he had just returned from a government sponsored goodwill trip to China. He had in particular been there to advise on Chinese improvements in earthmoving equipment. His words to me were that the Chinese were way behind the curve and had a long ways to go. We all know that's not true anymore!

So, again, I didn't have to read anything to get negative vibs about Japanese weapons. The reputation preceded the rifle. The authors quoted had a similar prejudice. The simple fact is that the Japanese government put the know-how and quality into the areas that mattered most to them at the time, and that was armaments. The rifles had a reputation not based on fact.

Reply author: pacific-war44
Replied on: 05/29/2006 8:35:33 PM
Message:
Here, here to what Fred says about Nippon autos! My 1993 Nissan 240SX CAN'T DIE! At 240,000 on the clock,it's been to the moon,literally,and hasn't cost me more than a starter,water pump and a fuse to keep going.After 25 yrs of driveing everything from Chevys to Harleys,my beloved Nissan double-outlived them all.If the Japanese put HALF of their quality control into my Arisakas,Nambus and swords as they did this car,I'm set for life with weapons! My dad would be spinning like a propeller in his grave right about now for expounding on these Japanese goods,but before he passed in '77,a Toyota was a bit wonky for a car,if could only have lived to see what the future held.....Scott

Reply author: Quigley
Replied on: 05/29/2006 8:35:35 PM
Message:
Fred, thank you for your insights.
My query had to do with when the concept first got published, not the truth of the matter, but the thrust of this thread has changed to how the 1947 articles reflected the attitudes of the period.
Anthropologists call this sort of cultural concept a “meme” that has a life of it’s own.
My working hypothesis is that the publication of the articles by the respected author Charles T. Haven in the 1947 Gun Digest™ is one of the first printed sources suggesting “poor quality.”
Your working hypothesis, if I correctly capture it, is that our WWII prejudice generalized to all Japanese goods, including rifles.
This makes a great deal of sense to me and mirrors my experiences.
While a teenager in Japan in 1952, this meme started to change.
Life™ Korean war photographers discovered Nikon cameras. I recall my surprise then that Japanese cameras equaled the best of the German. Now they pretty much own the professional market.
I find it interesting that your father worked as an engineer in the radar labs during WWII. Both he and the Japanese engineers knew that their ideas were better than their products.
Yasuzo Nakagawa notes “…radar salvaged for Japan a peaceful victory from the ashes of defeat. The technical officers and civilian engineers created a new form of consumer electronics, which was a final link in the industrial chain that had raised their land to heights undreamed of by any of the survivors who had seen their homes and industry in ruins in 1945.”
It was Nikon and Sony, I think, that led the way to a realization that Japan did not produce junk.
But the Japanese rifles meme still lives on.
I completely agree with you that “The rifles had a reputation not based on fact.”
Quig

Reply author: fredh
Replied on: 05/30/2006 6:22:22 PM
Message:
Scott, I have always made sure my wife had the good running car. I can fix most anything but don't want her sitting on the side of the road. I drove my '85 Toyota Cressida "sport model" with a stick tranny 'til '03 when she won the argument, and I bought the next Explorer. I really miss that Cressida. That was my baby, drove it 18 years, and looked new 'til the day it went on down the road.

Quig, you hit the nail on the head. You should have seen my dad's reaction when he discovered Nikon cameras. If you remember, it was Sears and Roebuck that introduced them to us in the '50's. And, yep, all my electronics are Sony. Maybe, we can get some closure on this subject. And, jeez, the stories my father told about radar, IFF gear, and sonar development during WW2. That was the lab's concentration, and he was one of the supervisors.



Reply author: petersalt
Replied on: 05/31/2006 3:01:07 PM
Message:





quote: Originally posted by fredh
Really, the reputation that Japanese rifles had was due not to 1) late war quality, 2) trying to cram a cartridge into a trainer chamber and fire, 3) field experience, or 4) many other stories told.
Fred, I'm only a couple years your junior, and I was also there in the 'Jap stuff is junk' era; we all had that attitude. Yet I must respectfully disagree on the Arisaka attitudes. It WAS the trainers blowing up that gave rise to the 'Jap rifles blow up' stories. My great-great-uncle, the gunsmith, had maybe a half dozen exploded trainers come into his shop for post-mortem diagnosis in the 1946 to 1955 period.

I worked in his gunshop, making deer rifles out of 7mm Spanish and Chilean Mausers [I know.. I know; forgive me]. He would pay me with Arisakas, giving customers a $5 or $10 trade-in credit on Japanese rifles, as he knew I wanted them all. We even did some 7.7 reloading, as he was quite aware of the quality of the T99s. He had been an accurizing armorer at Camp Perry in 1917-1921, and he regarded the T99s as quite accurate and super-strong. [He did not attempt to educate the masses of customers, as that would have ruined my source of $5 and $10 rifles. He would give credit up to $25 or 30 on a T2, depending on condition.]
gluck, peterNaCl

Reply author: fredh
Replied on: 05/31/2006 6:41:54 PM
Message:
Peter, I don't disagree with you. I'm talking 1948 period. In my hometown we weren't blowing up trainers. The subject I'm talking has its own pedigree. I guess what you might say is that blowing up trainers didn't help the situation any, only added fuel to the fire. A sample statement I can make is that when the family was visiting relatives, as a 6 year old or so, I could be found checking out closets looking for guns, and when finding my cousins or uncles war souvenirs, being told you don't want those, they're just Japanese junk. Then a long conversation about Japanese stuff begins, and I watch. All my buddies were carrying some real hardware around, and I wanted something also. But watching the family talk this subject, and the neighbors, and on and on, does impress a kid. We had a cabin on the lake near the hometown at that time, and every weekend, friends got together there. I was a bystander watching all the action. Usually a vet would bring along something to shoot, and as a kid crazy about this subject, would just drool. None of this stuff was ever Japanese. I saw some wild stuff. Every tree was loaded with lead!

Reply author: Quigley
Replied on: 06/01/2006 4:37:06 PM
Message:
Friends, here is a wonderful source for the stuff fredh's father was looking at after WWII.
Japanese Radar And Related Weapons Of World War II,
by Yasuzo Nakagawa,
Aegean Park Press,
1997 ISBN
0-89412-271-1.
Q

Reply author: fredh
Replied on: 06/01/2006 7:04:07 PM
Message:
Quig, one of the stories dad told me about was in preparation for D-day invasion. Electronically controlled boats were designed and prepared by the labs there at the shipyard to be sent into ports in the invasion area. It didn't go off as planned. The Germans were already aware of the effort and had more powerful transmitters on the same frequency prepared to send the explosive loaded boats back to sea. I've never read a thing about this. Dad said this country was loaded with German sympathizers during the war, and he thought half of them were at the ship yards. It seemed like every day there was a power outage because some jerk ran a metal wire into a conduit and shorted out everything in the area.

Reply author: Ronin48
Replied on: 06/02/2006 6:15:08 PM
Message:
Hard to imagine a Pacific War vet who fought the Arisaka and Nambu lights calling them junk. But I do agree with Fred, I was born in 37 so have very little memory of the pre-war period (do remember Dad buying a new Ford on Saturday 12/6/41) All through the war we were told we were superior, Japanese were sneaky and inferior, sub-humans. This carried over into the thinking and writing of the 50s. Remember winning a prize at a birthday party when I was in the 3rd grade (war ended when I was in the 2nd) Item was stamped "Made in Occupied Japan." Other kids wanted me to smash it because it was Japanese.

The Brits got the crap kicked out of them by the Japanese so after they ended up on the victor's side their gun writers called the Japanese war materials 'junk.' (Wouldn't want to tell folks I got my ass 'whupped' by junk!) "Arisaka rear sights not adjustable for windage" What about the kraut rifles?

It wasn't until the late 1970s when a guy named Honeycutt down in FL came out with a book on Japanese rifles did they began to be appreciated for what they are by the masses, most anyway. Still a few that have all their taste in their mouth, had two dealers at shows last year tell me the "Jap rifle" was the ugliest ever manufactured!!!



Reply author: fredh
Replied on: 06/03/2006 08:38:01 AM
Message:
I knew both warriors and occupiers after the war. Even as a kid I was able to discern who did what. Generally, the fellows who fought the battle did not bring home souvenirs. They also wouldn't talk the subject. The fellows who came in after the battle was over brought home everything but the kitchen sink. That's just a generalization, not a fact, but does help explain why negative comments were made about the rifle.

There's another contributing factor that we haven't talked about. The vets returning with rifles/pistols also brought ammo back. I accumulated a lot of that stuff. Vets normally gave me the ammo even if I didn't buy the rifle/pistol. "Won't fire," they said. "It's as bad as the rifle." So, ammo not sealed properly, etc., helped create the bad image. Never found a fireable 8mm. Nambu round, and probably less than 10% of the rifle rounds went off. Maybe someone else has had that experience. I gotta admit that the first time I fired a Japanese rifle, I was very concerned. The image of the rifle at that time was really tarnished but has been polished significantly since then.

Reply author: Quigley
Replied on: 06/03/2006 6:17:07 PM
Message:
Friends, this thread started out asking the question, When was the first publication of the low quality concept?

The thread then considered the origin of the low quality concept.

I thought I would look at market value in the early 1950’s to test whether or not 1952 prices actually reflected the low quality concept. They do!

Market value determines the relative value of military Japanese firearms by comparing other military firearms at the same time, taking individual judgments out of the equation.

For example, for every 10 German rifles or US rifles, how many Japanese rifles could we have in 1952?

I calculate using prices from a 1952 Martin B. Retting Catalog. I averaged the prices of non-sniper bolt-action rifles, excluding paratroopers and trainers from the Japanese arms. I added an inflation factor of 7.3 to express the 1952 prices in 2005 dollars.

I found that the market valued Japanese second to the bottom, just ahead of Italian rifles.

Country... Average Price in 2005 Dollars
Italian...... $168.88
Japanese..$179.76
Austrian...$187.65
French......$203.06
Dutch.......$206.08
Canadian..$231.21
Russian.....$241.26
Hungarian .$247.96
Danish......$274.77
German.....$284.15
Yugoslav...$288.18
Belgium.....$296.55
Greek........$301.58
English......$325.06
US.............$336.76

This means that 10 German rifles equaled 16 Japanese rifles and 10 US rifles equaled 19 Japanese rifles.

The 1952 market place put Japanese rifles near the bottom of the heap.

I used the low quality concept to my benefit.
A gun-show hawk told me that he had some “Jap crap.”
I said, “Ain’t that the truth. I just want one like my dad brought home. I won’t spend much money on crap. Wha’cha got?”
He said, “This one doesn’t even have the flower on top, just a couple of circles. How about eighty-five?”
The low quality concept helps a lot.
Quig


Reply author: arisakadogs
Replied on: 06/03/2006 9:17:00 PM
Message:
You're a bandit! Good work!


Reply author: Quigley
Replied on: 06/03/2006 9:50:26 PM
Message:
A'dogs, that was his asking price.
You don't think I would pay $85 for crap without even a flower, do you?
Quig
http://forums.gunboards.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=10031&stc=1&d=1191803481
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Reply author: arisakadogs
Replied on: 06/03/2006 9:59:58 PM
Message:
Like I said.
A CC for $85. I want to go to the shows you go to!


Reply author: Hotelfinder
Replied on: 06/07/2006 01:46:37 AM
Message:
very good thread...


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The "Jap crap" theory that was prevalant for so many years is no doubt responsible for so many pristine or unused bringback Arisakas that have come into collections. People were afraid to shoot or modify them I suppose. I would guess that just leaving it sitting in the closet/attic/basement was preferable to many folks then when the vet passed on, the widow or family would get rid of it at junk prices. All for our good!
 

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For years my main hunting rifle was a Type 38 that had been converted to 7mm Ackley Improved. On the outside the rifle looked as issued, even had the mum. Someone did an outstanding job of honing out the bore, re-rifling and re-chambering the rifle. Frankly I always liked to think it was one of old PO Ackleys students in Colorado. Maybe made a practice run on this $5 Arisaka before he made his dream gun on a Mauser action.
 
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