The Japanese Type I rifle - a Carcano in Far Eastern costume
In 1938 and 1939, the Japanese armed forces desperately craved for
weaponry (wars being waged against China and Russia). The existing
Japanese Arisaka production was consumed for the largest part by the
demands of the ever-hungry Army.
So, the Navy decided to shop abroad. They not only bought Czech Vz. 24 and German Kar 98k rifles, but also gave a large order to Italy (benefitting from the political propaganda effect of "Axis solidarity", one may presume). The major Italian small arms factories collaborated in designing and producing (with shared responsibilities, as it appears), a new Japanese rifle. Military inspectors from Japan oversaw and directed the production in these two years.
This gun employs a slighly altered Carcano bolt and receiver, a Japanese stock (hardware, sights) which is quite alike to the Mod. 38 Arisaka rifle (including the buttstock made of two parts mortised together), and a Japanese box magazine for the 6,5 x 50 SR Arisaka. Two different stock lengths exist, but the difference is small. They take ordinary Arisaka Model 30 bayonets.
The number of guns produced is still disputed. Serial number collations suggest a much higher number than the figure of 60,000 found in Italian secondary sources, but we do not know whether all the prefix letters really had the full 10,000 guns assigned to them. That's why we are urgently seeking entries of more Type I rifles into our Carcano database - please help us, dear reader.
The rifles are reputed to be accurate, maybe better than the Arisakas:
As much as we know, these naval contract rifles were used by the Base Defence Force (Naval Guard Troops) and Special Naval Landing Force (the Japanese Marines); some are marked with the Naval anchor. There are a few Italian subcontractor and factory assembly marks on single parts (e.g. rear sight), and these may serve to establish how many guns were made in Terni, Gardone and Brescia, but otherwise the rifles impress with a conspicuous absence of marks and stampings on barrel and stock, except for the bare serial number.
Usual US prices range from $ 50 (sporterized, fair condition) to $ 250 (absolutely mint, unfired).