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Nambu: The Worst Military Gun To Ever Fire A Shot

Just glancing at the Japanese Nambu pistol makes you wonder. How could such a bad design become a standard issue for the Japanese military?

Nambu gun. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Nambu gun. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Worst Military Gun To Ever? Meet the World War Two Japanese Nambu: Just glancing at the Japanese Nambu pistol makes you wonder. How could such a bad design become a standard issue for the Japanese military?

It just looks ugly. And the final variant of the World War Two-era pistol often created accidental discharges making it dangerous to carry. It has the appearance of a German Luger P-08, without the quality. Chambered in a weak round and difficult to load and unload, the Nambu has to get the dishonorable ranking of the worst military pistol of all time.

Nambu: No Way Was It Combat Effective

Removing the magazine was slow and cumbersome and it was difficult to imagine this pistol thriving in combat. The magazine held only six rounds and it required a strong push to insert it. The gun often malfunctioned and misfired. The balance and handling were abysmal.

It Gets Even Worse

It wasn’t safe in a holster because if the user bumped or jostled the exposed sear bar that was mounted outside the weapon, the pistol could go off and shoot someone’s leg. Soldiers had to be extra careful not to drop it or even place it on a flat surface. Doing so could cause an accidental firing. The 8mm (.32 caliber) round had low muzzle velocity and little stopping power. The sights were unsophisticated and didn’t add to the pistol’s accuracy.

The Nambu Had Problems With Maintenance

The Nambu family of pistols were small and light and these were traits that the designer was aiming for, but the internal components were not well made. Users could break parts during disassembly. Putting it back together required extra time and effort – making maintenance difficult.

History of the Nambu Family of Pistols

Japan had wanted to produce a home-grown pistol for its army and navy in efforts that dated back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Major Kijirõ Nambu was considered the top talent for firearm production in the army. He was even compared to the “John M. Browning of Japan,” after the famous American gun designer. The military wanted a semi-automatic pistol. What resulted was a curiosity that resembled a Luger but shared more in common with a Mauser C96.

The first pistol Nambu produced in 1902 was the Type A. This was operated by recoil and had a locked-breech. Japanese military offices were not attracted to it. They had to pay for sidearms with their own money and the Type A did not inspire confidence. Many were sold to the Chinese instead.

An updated Nambu Type A emerged in 1906 and 1907. This was designed for officers in mind. It had a protruding trigger guard in case the operator was wearing gloves. The magazines were improved by adding aluminum to the bottom. These additions made a costly gun even more expensive, and the army did not purchase it in large numbers.

A Type B Nambu came out in 1909. This still did not alleviate many concerns and it was even more expensive than the Type A, but Japanese officers had no choice but to buy it even though it cost more than two times a lieutenant’s monthly salary.

Instead of discarding the design and going back to the drawing board, the Nambu was updated again as the Type 14 in 1925. The Type 14s were relatively better than the Type A and B. They were made until the end of World War Two with 200,000 pistols produced.

The Type 94 Nambu was used by tankers and pilots as it was more compact. But the sights and overall quality were still poor. Just 71,000 were made. This issue makes for a popular collector’s piece today since it was somewhat rare as few survived after World War Two. But it’s not popular because of its quality, it is more valued as a cautionary tale of how not to make a sidearm.

Today’s Collectors Want to See Just How Bad the Nambu Is

Reviewers are often curious when they hear about the Nambu. And some even buy one to see how awful it really is. This review came from The Firearms Blog and makes a final determination on the Nambu’s poor appearance and lack of quality.

“Ok, so that is pretty much the ugliest firearm I have ever seen as it looks like it was made by a man with a grinder and a file. I stretched the title by saying that the Type 94 is the worst pistol ever, but I can probably declare without much criticism that the Type 94 is the worst service pistol ever adopted. Even the late gun writer Ian V. Hogg had nothing positive to say about it, noting that it was one of the world’s worst semi-automatic pistols.”

Bonus Photo Essay: Meet the Glock 19X

Glock 19X

Glock 19X. Image Credit: 19FortyFive.

Glock 19X

Glock 19X marketing package. Image Credit: Glock.

Glock 19X

Glock 19X. Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot.

Glock 19X

Glock 19X. Image Credit: Glock.

Glock 19X

Glock 19X. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

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Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.

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