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Probably the worst handgun ever made – what made Nambu Type 94 so terrible?

Posted May 24, 2019

There have been many poorly designed weapons, but none of them reached production levels of the Nambu Type 94, produced in 1935-1945. It was a truly terrible pistol and yet it was widely used by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War. But why? And what exactly qualifies the Nambu Type 94 as one of the worst handguns in the history of the world?

Nambu Type 94 had huge design flaws, but still reached substantial production numbers. Image credit: Vitaly V. Kuzmin via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Nambu Type 94 was a semi-automatic pistol, developed by a retired army veteran Kijirō Nambu and his associates. It was meant to be small, light and very effective, but only two of these criteria were ever met. It was definitely small, but not effective at all. In fact, it was quite dangerous for its users.

First of all, its compact size caused some undesirable side effects. It had a small grip, which was perfectly comfortable for smaller hands of Japanese soldiers. However, the magazine could hold only 6 rounds. Furthermore, because of the pressure of the bolt, magazine was difficult to insert – you had to use a substantial amount of force just to jam it back in. And then soldiers had to be careful putting the pistol in its holster or even placing it on a hard surface, because the magazine catch was protruding and could be easily hit causing the magazine to simply jump out of the gun.

But the issues of this design don’t end here. Many internal components were small and delicate. It was way too easy to break them during disassembly, which was necessary for cleaning. In fact, putting the pistol back together was a complicated process in itself, especially in field conditions.

And then there is a problem of unintentional firing. If Nambu Type 94 was not jamming, spitting out its magazine or breaking itself apart during disassembly it was shooting without being asked to. The problem was the sear bar, which was mounted on the outside of the pistol. It could be easily pressed if the pistol was dropped or handled carelessly. In fact, there are many stories of the gun firing when soldiers squeezed the sear bar on purpose, pretending to be surrendering.

Nambu Type 94 was really a terrible design, but a lot of issues stem from poor production quality too. For example, sights were poorly made from the very beginning, but the quality declined as the war progressed. The last batch of Type 94 pistols had all kinds of components combined with even worse sights and quality.

Of course, Type 94 still worked most of the time – it was a real semi-automatic pistol. There are worse guns out there. But Nambu Type 94 deserves to be called the worst because its production levels reached something around 71 thousand and it was a handgun of choice in Japanese Army during the Second World War. No other bad weapon was used so commonly.

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