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Kokura Arsenal manufactured Type 96 weapon dated March 1943. The serial number is the highest number manufactured by that arsenal recorded.

 Note the receiver/barrel locking pinhole is changed to accept the Type 99 style headspace locking pin wedge assembly.

The Type 96 Japanese light machine gun was the invention of General Kijiro Nambu whose company he organized in1927, Nambu-Ju Seiosho, located in Nakano, Tokyo to manufacture ordnance under the supervision and contracts issued by the Imperial Japanese Army. In 1929 it was relocated to Kokubunji, Tokyo.

His first automatic weapon adopted by the Government was a hopper fed light machine gun in 6.5mm caliber and designated as Type 11 [1922].


The weapon was developed during his Lieutenant General tenure as commander at the Tokyo Artillery Arsenal. He continued the initiative to improve automatic weapon armament with a new machine gun in development to replace the Type 11. Under pressure from the government for expansion, his firm merged with two other companies in 1936 to form Chuo Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha. In the same year he succeeded in obtaining acceptance and a manufacturing contract for his new light machine gun, designated as Type 96.

Like the Type 11 of having no provision for headspace adjustment which required lubrication of cartridges, the new weapon however incorporated several improvements including replacing the old hopper cartridge system with a top magazine feed styled after the Czech Brno Model 26 light machine gun.

Three manufacturers produced the Type 96 light machine gun. Kokura Rikugun Zoheisho [army arsenal] was the only military arsenal to produce the weapon along with two private companies under the arsenals’ control.

Chuo Kogyo KK started production in 1937. Kokura Arsenal commenced manufacturing in 1938 and Hoten Zohei-sho KK, [Mukden], started in 1939. The Mukden facility located in Fengtien Province of Manchuria was occupied in 1931 by the Japanese and produced ordnance under their control for the Manchoukuoan Army and their use against the Chinese.

In early 1939 changes started to occur on weapons manufactured by the Kokura Arsenal authorized by their Department of Control:

The sear safety bar was changed from flat stock with external side spring actuation to a round pin with the tension spring surrounding the bar. This eliminated additional machining of the receiver and simplified the bar spring assembly.

Left hand threading was installed on the barrel muzzle to accept a flash hider.

A rod was incorporated in the ejection port cover to open it by bolt retraction rather than manually, or pressure from first case ejection.


The Kokura Arsenal continued to make changes to the weapon and starting in April 1942:


Barrel ribbing sizes were changed from two different outside diameters to one between the muzzle and gas piston band.


Additional mass was added for strength in the receiver to the ejector lever pivot pin shoulder and the ejector cover width was increased to compensate for the change.


The last changes were made between August 1942 and January 1943 by the arsenal before discontinuing its production in favor of the new Type 99 light machine gun:

The barrel-receiver crank type locking pin configuration was changed to a new style tapered pin with graduated nut for controlled adjustment and shim stock added to the barrel for headspacing requirements. A cover was also added to the receiver at the pin entrance.

The ejection port and magazine covers included springs mounted on the axis pin to act as a hold open feature.

The gas regulator plug was changed by decreasing shoulder stock thickness and increasing thread length.

The bipod was modified by eliminating the latch plate protector housing.
A monopod was added to the buttstock.


It is to be mentioned that the magazine for certain weapons were serial numbered to match a particular gun.  Depending upon requirements, if multiple magazines were ordered with the gun they contained the gun’s serial number and also included a separate number listing through 9 or 12.

The changes were made only to the Kokura produced weapons and most would be incorporated as a permanent improvement in the new Type 99 light machine gun which was adopted in 1939 and entered into first production by the Kokura facility in April 1942.


Serial numbering of weapons generally followed the same procedure as used in the Type 11 production.  The Government adopted the serial numbers assigned by each manufacturer in their control sequence.  Although duplicate serial numbers would exist, they would be separately identified by the manufacturers’ symbol, which appeared preceding the type designation.  An exception to the sequence was with Kokura Arsenal who serial numbered their first weapons through 10,000 and then skipped to restart at 40,000. This was to allow the Hoten Zohei-sho manufacturing facility, to use the serial numbers from 10,000 to 40,000 providing total separation, as Kokura Arsenal would eventually be discontinuing the Type 96 manufacturing and transferring those inventories to the Hoten firm.   Serial numbering of barrels is another story.


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