One of the many 6.5mm smallbores adopted worldwide at the end of the 19th century.
While we readily associate the name Arisaka with Japan’s familiar Type 38 (6.5mm) and Type 99 (7.7mm) rifles and carbines, Artillery Colonel Nariaki Arisaka’s rise to prominence in the small arms field is marked earlier with the design of the Type 30 infantry rifle and cavalry carbine of the late 1890s. Commonly referred to as the “hooked safety model,” the Type 30 is significant because it ushered in a new small-bore cartridge, the 6.5×50, to replace the older 8mm Japanese round chambered in the outdated, tubular magazine, Portuguese Kropatschek-looking Type 22 rifle and carbine.
The 6.5mm was certainly the hot caliber of the 1890s. Military arms designers were intrigued with smaller caliber bullets exhibiting high sectional densities, high ballistic coefficients and high retained kinetic energies. Sequentially, we have the 6.5×52 Carcano (1891), the 6.5x54R Mannlicher (1892), 6.5×55 Swedish (1894), 6.5x50SR Arisaka (1897), 6.5×54 Mannlicher-Schonauer (1900) and the 6.5×58 Portuguese (1904). Less we forget, the US itself entered the small-bore craze with the adoption of the ultra-radical, 6mm Lee Navy in 1895.
The Type 30 rifle derives its name from the 30th year of the Meiji reign (1867-1912) under Emperor Mutsuhito, which also corresponds to the year 1897, the year in which the new rifle design was adopted. Subsequently, the Type 38 and Type 44 rifles and carbines also reflect the 38th (1905) and 44th (1911) years of the Meiji era. Nomenclature changed after the end of the Meiji reign. Under the following Emperor, Hirohito, firearm types were designated after digits in the Japanese calendar year. For example, the well known Type 99 of WWII in 7.7mm was adopted in the Japanese year 2599 (1939) and so forth.
The role and symbolism of the Emperor can’t be overstressed in the context of small arms furnished to the Imperial Japanese Army. The familiar 16-petal chrysanthemum, commonly referred to as the “mum,” stamped on the front receiver rings of Japanese rifles and carbines is the symbol of the Japanese Emperor. So marked, Japanese arms were considered the Emperor’s property and so the soldier understood he was personally entrusted with the arms of his Emperor.
Story By: Holt Bodinson
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