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The character shown is found on many Japanese ordnance items of various descriptions from handguns to cannons. There has been controversy for many years among language students and military collectors as to the proper English designation of either model or type.

The Japanese character is written as Shiki. According to Japanese-English translation dictionaries of the World War II era, among other definitions it includes the English word model without the mention of type. A 1942 “Dictionary of Military Terms” translates Shiki into meaning type or model. The dictionary’s English translation for the word type is Shiki, however the word model does not mention Shiki in its definition. The character Kata is shown in both the English definitions and defined as type, pattern, mark, model.

An English translation of a manual published by Nagoya Army Arsenal in April 1940 refers to the subject: as Model 94 Pistol. Translation date is unknown. The Office of the Chief of Ordnance, Washington D.C. in their publication of August 1945, “Translations of Japanese Ordnance Markings” uses the Shiki word as type and states: “Only one character is used to indicate type classification. “ This character is ‘Shiki’. It appears on artillery shells, bombs, small arms, guns, howitzers, fuses, etc”…. However in their table of type designation using the word Shiki, they translate it as model and again in their table of numbers Shiki “meaning is model”.

The “Handbook on Japanese Military forces” War department [U.S.] Technical Manual TM-E-30-480, October 1944- September 1945 in the equipment section refers mostly to ordnance items as models such as the Model 96 and 99 light machine guns. The section on weapons however refers to them as types. This includes small arms, cannon, artillery, ammunition and heavy armored equipment. The book “The Machine Gun” by Lieutenant Colonel George M. Chinn in volume 1 refers to the Japanese Weapons as types, and in the same section refers to the same weapon as models. The photo captions also refer to them as models.

The Government Technical manual TM-E-30-480 in the communication equipment section refers to model as the basic designation of an item and type for its secondary usage such as “Model 94, Type 1 Transmitter”. The Department of the Army [U.S.] Technical Manual, FM 9-1985-4 of March 1953, includes type as the basic designation and model as the secondary usage. Example: Type 100 Model 2, 20-mm.

To trace the history through some chronological order it would be of benefit to observe a published history of firearms from an early start through conversion to the apparent common usage of type as the proper and generally accepted translation of the character Shiki. Perhaps the most common known works is “Small Arms of the World”, by W.H.B. Smith who started with his first book in 1943. His forward does reference closeness with U.S. military and other foreign manuals. When referring to a firearm the term model is used such as the Model 94 pistol. The 1948 version of the book refers to all of the firearms in the Japanese section with number designations as models. By 1973 the tenth edition lists all weapons from handguns to machineguns as types with the appropriate number designation. The author’s note in the 1943 edition mentions briefly the Japanese method of weapon identification “by class name” followed by the adoption year associated with a particular emperors reign. An example is cited of the Ariska rifle adopted in 1905 and called the “Year” or “Pattern” 38. These same comments continue through the 1948 fourth edition.

It is apparent the term model was first used in the identity of ordnance especially firearms. The western world long before the Japanese involvement of firearms had identified firearms with the term use of model. Major world powers such as France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States used the term as a primary identification of firearms. The one major power exception was Great Britain, who chose to follow their long standing tradition of utilizing the Roman term of Mark.

To add some meaning to the historical significant of usage reasoning requires some background of the Japanese introduction and involvement in their firearms history. In 1859 a reoccurring movement introduced foreign sources of firearms to Japan. Their first adoption in 1880 was firearms from western countries of France, Germany, Great Britain Holland, Russia, Portugal, and the United State, some with and some without a primary identity other than style of firearm and year of public appearance. Those firearms sourced with a particular system used model as the primary identification such as the model 1873 Winchester rifles supplied by the United States.
It follows that in keeping identity with foreign designation of firearms the first Japanese produced firearms in their arsenals in 1880 was termed the Model 13 rifle and continued with the Model 22. By 1895 when the first Magazine-fed rifle began production at Koishikawa Arsenal, it was officially designated as the Type 30 infantry rifle. In 1893 after importation of large quantities of Smith & Wesson Model series of Russian revolvers, Japan’s Koishikawa Arsenal started production on an S &W patterned revolver. It was officially designated as Type 26. These appear to be the first of indications by the Japanese using the official term type in their firearm designations.

An additional example in transition of identity is Japan’s use of the Model 1900 Hotchkiss Machine Gun manufactured by the Hotchkiss firm of Paris, France. The Japanese used the Model 1900 extensively in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. Then under a license agreement with the Hotchkiss firm they started production in 1914 in their own arsenals with their own version and officially designated it as the Type 3.
It is apparent that the Japanese Government with arsenal development and production had decided upon a term separating their own designed and manufactured firearms from those of foreign adoption in previous years. If this was the intent it had taken a long time to obtain acceptance of the specific term as its many years of warring during the growth period caused confusion and prevented widespread recognition. Perhaps translators have contributed most to the problem, as their interpretation is just that.

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