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The history of automatic weapon usage by the Japanese indicates in the beginning there were a variety of many foreign weapons imported; some later adopted or licensed for manufacture. Covered herein, are those weapons known and recorded which the Japanese imported for testing, adoption and direct purchase for issuance to the air and ground military services.
   The coverage does not include sample weapons, which were purchased for test purposes only and not accepted unless associated to later development of their own ordnance.

   During the Japanese territorial expansions of their warring periods they confiscated enemy ordnance that included European and American small arms of the automatic variety. Bergmann, Bren, Breda, Browning, Colt, Johnson, Hotchkiss, Lewis, Madsen, Maxim, Reising, Schmeisser, Thompson, Vickers, to name a few.  In turn some of this ordnance was used in extended expansion, during occupation and in defense of the occupied territories.  Referral to such weapons has been mentioned occasionally in historical accountings. Included herein are those in this category which correlate to Japanese produced weapons or to reference them in retrospect as a weapon included their troop organizations.



GERMAN/SWISS/AUSTRIAN/BELGIAN MACHINE PISTOLS used by the Japanese in the 1920’s and through World War II. 
Top to bottom:  M.P. 18,I; [Luger drum feed], Theodor Bergmann production; M.P.18,I; [Box magazine feed], C.G. Haenel; M.P.18,I; system Schmeisser, C.G. Haenel; M.P.18,I; system Schmeisser, C.G. Haenel; M.P. 28,II; 9 mm Parabellum, C.G. Haenel; M.P.28,II; 7.63 mm, C.G. Haenel; M.P.28,II; Anciens Etablissement Pieper S.A, [Belgium]; Model 1920, Swiss Industrial Company [Switzerland]; Steyr-Solothurn Model 1930, Steyr-Daimler-Puch A.G. [Austria]. 

The full automatic pistol, known as machine pistol, machine carbine, and submachine gun, in its infancy in World War I was just that as the few designs and finished products were of character born by the developers and not much more than potential exploitation by their makers. They were mostly of steel forgings machined to blueprint specifications.  Although finished by hand and of high quality parts were rarely interchangeable among themselves.  These methods were time consuming and very expensive.  After the “Great War” seriousness of the automatic weapon gained momentum in development, cost and marketing.  Eventually mass production became as standard and by the start of World War II material forgings were replaced with welding and stamping techniques to curb the economical effort of cost.  The Bergmann series of machine pistols designed by Hugo Schmeisser began in 1916 and developed into the model M.P.18,1.  It has been dubbed by historians as a landmark weapon because of it being the first full automatic firearm in the pistol cartridge class produced.   The Schmeisser/Bergmann reputation started this new evolution, which was to set the criteria for the future of the full automatic pistol.  
Machine pistol usage came late to the Japanese military as did the organization of a central government in need to formulate such plans as their internal problems and territorial expansion would soon provide an incentive and demand for such a commodity.  The usage of this kind of firearm by the Japanese military would seem to have been well suited for jungle warfare activities as the ideal gun to fit their tactical principles along with a military aggressive spirit.  The reluctance of the Japanese High Command to authorize the development in the early years has long been debated for their lack of interest in such weapons.  The origin of the species for Japanese machine pistol involvement emanated with German and Swiss ordnance products of the 1920’s.  The Navy experimented with them first in purchasing of Bergmann and Steyr Solothurn weapons from the Swiss and issuing them to their Marines for landing party activities.  The first organized use was the Navy’s involvement in the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1939.  Captured Thompson Submachine Guns utilized by the Chinese in this war also added to the Japanese inventory of foreign automatic weapons.  The Imperial Japanese Navy, beginning in their years of armament and throughout World War II, relied on the army arsenals for their small arms, [rifle, handgun], requirements.  This would prove to be a grave misjudgment in the ensuing years when the need arose for both military services to become involved in the aggressive expansion of Japan’s borders.
These early events also prompted the Army’s interest but it was not cultivated until the early 1930’s when they first procured and began to experiment with the early foreign machine pistols.  Some Bergmann M.P.28, II weapons in calibers 7.63 mm and 7.65 mm were imported for research, however because of discouragement in their trials the lack of interest continued.


Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 NOTE:  Many historical references have indicated the Japanese TYPE BE Machine Pistol was derived from the M.P. 28,II weapon. This is incorrect.  The Japanese imported the M.P.18,I style weapons produced by the SIG firm in the 1920’s before the M.P.28,II was offered on the world market

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Left:  Original model produced by Theodor Bergmann factories with Luger snail drum cartridge feed.  Stamped 1920 indicate it was produced for and issued to the German Police. 

Right:  Modified model with sheet metal box magazine in 20 and 32 round capacities. C.G. Haenel of Suhl Germany made the modifications under Hugo Schmeisser direction.  Note the magazine housing is marked with “System Schmeisser”.

TOP:  The magazine designed for the German Luger Pistol in a "snail" configuration with single row feed and 32 round cartridge capacity.  The use in the M.P.18.I weapon required a special adapter fitted to the extension portion of the magazine.  Its purpose is to prevent the magazine from interference with the bolt.  BOTTOM:  20 round cartridge magazine for the later modified model.  They were also produced in 32 round capacities.
NOTE: the Luger snail drum 32 round cartridge magazine. 
The adapter allowing it to fit this machine pistol is pictured just above the snail drum. 
Issued to German troops in World War I, approximately 35,000 were produced in 9 mm Parabellum caliber by Theodor Bergmann plants before the November 11, 1918 armistice.


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[Luger snail drum cartridge magazine feed]

Country of source:                             Germany

Caliber:                                               9 mm Parabellum

Length overall:                                   32.10 inches, [812 mm]

 Barrel length:                                    7.88 inches, [200mm]

Barrel groves:                                    6

Grove twist:                                       Right hand

Magazine style:                                  Luger snail drum design

Magazine capacity:                            32 cartridges

Weight without:                                9.20 pounds, [4.177 Kg]

Weight with ammunition:                  11.55 pounds, [5.244 Kg]

Magazine loaded weight:                   2.35 pounds, [1.067 Kg]

Muzzle velocity:                                 1250 Feet Per Second, [365m/sec]

Front sight:                                       Blade

Rear sight:                                        Open “V” notch, flip leafs of 100 and 200 meters

Rate of fire:                                      350/450 rounds per minute

Operation:                                        Blowback full-automatic only
REFERENCE:  This works is adopted from the soon to be published book:

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