#lookback: Japanese Arisaka Type 38

    A series where we take a #lookback at the stories and history of our community, brought to you by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

    This rifle, a Japanese Arisaka Type 38, is presumed to be a war trophy. It was brought to Fremont County from Leyte Island, Philippines by Lyndall Collins – a Riverton resident – who served in the 105th Naval Construction Battalion during World War II. The Arisaka’s Mauser-influenced design dates back to the Arisaka Type 30 of 1898. Following the Russo-Japanese War, the design was improved significantly, and the Type 38 became Japan’s primary infantry rifle starting in 1906. This particular rifle was made in Tokyo sometime prior to 1935. It is likely that this rifle was produced early enough to see combat duty in both World Wars.

    This particular rifle also still bears an intact chrysanthemum symbol (pictured on the left), which indicates that it was captured during combat. The chrysanthemum was a symbol of the Emperor of Japan, and on rifles surrendered after the war, the flower was at least partly ground off or stamped over.

    Many Arisaka Type 38 rifles made their way to American shores after World War II, both as captured trophies, and as cheap surplus rifles available through catalogs and firearms dealers. Due to wartime anti-Japanese sentiment, many regarded these rifles to be of poor quality, but post-war testing demonstrated them to be extremely robust firearms. In the late 1950s, a man brought a Type 38 to his gunsmith complaining that it kicked too hard after he converted it to .30-06. The gunsmith thought at first that he brought in the wrong rifle. The later Type 99 Arisaka rifles could be converted, but the Type 38’s barrel was significantly more narrow. The gunsmith believed that the gun would explode before a .30 caliber bullet would go down the .256 caliber barrel of the Type 38. As it turns out, he had indeed converted his Type 38 by unsafely modifying the tools used for the conversion. The gunsmith sent the rifle to the NRA which test fired the rifle and recovered the bullets, finding that they had stretched out significantly, but that the rifle did indeed shoot 30.06 ammunition, but that it was extremely unsafe to do so.

    Many other Type 38 rifles were cut down, put into new stocks, scoped, and used as hunting and sporting rifles. Fortunately, this Arisaka has been preserved, and looks probably as it did more than 70 years ago on the date of its capture.

    Next up for the Fremont County Museums

    February 7, 7pm at the Dubois Museum, “Bats in the Wind River Range”

    Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    February 8, 6pm “What are Those White Lights in the Winter Sky”

    Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    February 9, 6pm at the Riverton Museum, “Murder Mystery Event”

    The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum need your financial support. In the current economic environment the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last three and half years. Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.


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