Japanese pistols aren’t limited to the Nambu. Before that, there was the Type 26 revolver. Yes, a Japanese revolver.
We tend to think of the revolver as an American arm. There’s a lot to be said for that point of view: while there were revolver-like firearms made as early as the 16th century, the patent for the first commercially successful revolver (and what we’d recognize as a being a modern revolver) belonged to Samuel Colt, and his company (along with others like Remington, Smith & Wesson, Harrington & Richardson — to name but a few) made the revolver a practical, top-selling arm.
When we think of Europe, on the other hand, we tend to think of semiautomatic pistols. The Austrian Schönberger-Laumann was the first, followed rapidly by Hugo Borchardt’s C-93 (German), Bergmann’s 1896 (German) and Mauser’s C-96 (German, again.) They in turn were followed by scores of others, and adoption of the semiautomatic as a military arm happened in various countries in Europe long before it did here.
It’s not that Americans were completely absent from the semiautomatic pistol craze, of course, but we really didn’t get seriously into that market until after the turn of the century. It’s also not fair to say that the revolver was an exclusively American arm, either. Of course the British Empire had their Webleys and Enfields, while the Russians issued their Nagant; the French and Swiss fielded several service revolvers, while the Belgians made cheap wheelguns en masse.
Still, we think revolver=America and autopistol=Europe. So, where does that leave Japan?
It’s probably normal to imagine Japanese handguns as starting and ending with the Nambu and the justly maligned Model 94. Both semiautomatics, of course, but wait — they also issued revolvers to their troops!
Early on the Japanese government bought Smith & Wesson #3 revolvers for their soldiers, but in 1893 introduced their indigenous Type 26 revolver. (Though it appears to owe a lot to the Webley and Smith & Wesson top breaks in common use at the time. Still, they did design and manufacture it on their own and it was ingenious in several ways.) It was double action only and fired a unique (and not terribly powerful, by modern standards) 9×22 rimmed cartridge.
In 1930 they were officially replaced by the aforementioned Nambu and Model 94, but were still in use clear through World War II. Today they are uncommon, and ammunition is no longer made; absent running across some very hard-to-get factory ammo, shooting a Type 26 pretty much requires that one be a proficient handloader (or know someone who is.)
Ian McCollum (forgottenweapons.com), naturally, has a video of the Type 26 in action. He’s got a great article and some good links at his site as well.
-=[ Grant ]=-