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In July 1853, American Commodore Matthew Perry’s “four black dragons spitting fire” steamed into Japan’s Uraga Harbor, near modern-day Tokyo. This event marked the beginning of the end of over 200 years of insularity for the feudal Asian nation. In this initial and in one later voyage, the Yankees established commercial and political relations with the shogunate and caused a sometimes-reluctant Japanese government to realize the time had come to enter the modern world and eschew the isolationist policies of the past. After viewing Perry’s impressive warships and state-of-the-art cannons, priority was given to modernizing the Japanese military. To achieve this goal, one of the first things officials did was upgrade the army’s small arms. In Perry’s second voyage, in 1854, he brought along with him a number of gifts for the emperor and his councilors, consisting of such things as a miniature railroad, a copper lifeboat, several barrels of whiskey, a collection of arms involving Maynard and Hall rifles, 20 “Army pistols” (probably Model 1842s), a number of cavalry swords, and several models of Colt revolvers.

All of the gifts piqued the Japanese’s interest, especially the weaponry, which encouraged them to acquire and study more and varied muskets, rifles, pistols and carbines from a number of different sources. Beginning around 1860, the Japanese accumulated a dizzying array of arms including but not limited to British Pattern 1853 Enfields, which for a time was the principal rifle carried by the imperial Japanese army, French Chassepots, Smith & Wesson revolvers, Spencer repeaters, Martini-Henry rifles, Dreyse needle guns, and Remington Rolling Blocks. These were duly tested. After 20 years and under the guidance of Tsuneyoshi Murata, who not only evaluated arms in his homeland but also traveled to Europe to further his arms education, Japan decided to adopt and produce its own rifle.

Japanese Type 13
Designed by Murata and largely based on existing foreign rifles, especially the French Chassepot/Gras and Dutch Beaumont, Japan’s Model 13 (aka the Type 13) was adopted in 1880, the 13th year of Emperor Meiji’s reign. The rifle was essentially along the lines of many other single-shots of the period. A well-made piece, the Type 13 employed a bolt action with a Beaumont-style V-spring mounted in a thick bolt handle. The extractor (there is no ejector) fit into a groove on the left side of the bolt, rode along a channel on the inside of the receiver, and was not permanently affixed to the bolt. Thus, when the bolt was removed from the action, the extractor could drop out and become lost if the user wasn’t careful —something noted by modern collectors who very often find Type 13s with the extractor missing. The Murata had no safety catch, and all parts were serial numbered. Receiver characters consisted of the rifle’s basic model designation and Tokyo artillery arsenal markings on the left, and “Meiji Year 13” on the right…

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In July 1853, American Commodore Matthew Perry’s “four black dragons spitting fire” steamed into Japan’s…