Japanese Type 1 HMG

I was recently contacted by a fellow looking for information on the Japanese Type 1 heavy machine gun – a replacement for the Type 92 whose name would suggest it was adopted in 1941, but which never seems to have been put into mass production. This fellow was able to track down the only known surviving example at the US Army Ordnance Training and Heritage Center, where the staff was very helpfully willing to pull it out of storage and take some photos.

Japanese experimental Type 1 HMG
(photo: US Army Ordnance Training and Heritage Center)

The main source of we know about this gun is an article in the June 1945 edition of the US Army Intelligence Bulletin, which is very helpfully reproduced on LoneSentry.com. Here is the text, along with a scan of the one photo in the article:

Weight Reduced by 52 Pounds

Soldiers who are familiar with the Juki—the rather cumbersome Model 92 (1932) standard heavy machine gun—will be interested to learn that the Japanese have produced a new, handier model of their heavy machine gun. The new weapon is designated the Model 01 (1941).

The outstanding features of the Model 01 are its removable barrel and the reduction made in weight over the Juki, for the Model 01 weighs nearly 50 percent less than the Model 92. The reduction in weight has been accomplished by a lightening of the weight of most component parts. In turn, reductions in the moving parts has produced a somewhat higher rate of fire than the Model 92’s, but since the Model 01’s barrel is shorter, it is believed that the newer gun has less range than the Model 92, which is practically a copy of the Model 3 (1914) Hotchkiss-type heavy machine gun.

[WWII Japanese Model 01 (1941) Heavy Machine Gun]
The new Model 01 (1941) Japanese heavy machine gun.

The new gun is gas-operated and air-cooled, but dispenses with the very heavy barrel jacket which permits the Model 92 to maintain a steady rate of fire without excessive heating. The introduction of the removable barrel is supposed to compensate for the loss of barrel jacket. However, it is estimated that trained crews should require approximately 1 minute to effect the barrel change, for the barrel lock is definitely not of the quick-release type.

Though the Juki takes both rimmed and rimless caliber 7.7-mm ammunition, the new Model 01 (for reasons best known to the Japanese) takes only rimless ammunition. This ammunition is fed from the left side in the usual 30-round metal strips. Fire is controlled by a thumbpiece-trigger, but the thumbpiece does not also serve as the safety. The safety device consists of a lever on the left side of the receiver.

The Model 01’s tripod, though similar to that of its predecessor, is generally improved. It shows that consideration has been given to carefully calibrated indirect fire along fixed lines, if not for accurate searching fire. A telescopic sight may be fitted.

These figures compare the Model 01 and the Model 92:

Model 01 Model 92
Weight of tripod 36.3 pounds 61 pounds
Weight of gun 33.6 pounds 61 pounds
Total weight 69.9 pounds 122 pounds
Length without flash hider 38 inches 45 inches
Length of barrel 23.9 inches 29.5 inches
Total traverse 45 degrees 33.5 degrees

Only one sample of a Model 01 has so far been encountered. This one was found on Luzon. Though it was numbered “Serial 1”, the weapon was a production job, and not just an experimental item hand-made by some arsenal. It is not known whether the Japanese have produced the Model 01 in any quantity, or whether they consider it superior enough to the Juki to warrant replacement of the latter in spite of deterioration of production facilities and of increasing need for artillery, antitank, antiaircraft, and armored vehicles.

This article does not clearly mention that the Type 1 retains the same basic mechanical design as the Type 92, including its use of cartridge trays for feeding (presumably the exact same trays used by the Type92, for logistical simplicity). The Type 1 also was intended to be fitted with a 4x periscope-style optical sight.

Interestingly, the 1945 article mentions that the captured gun is serial number 1 – as is the gun we Ordnance center has. These are almost certainly the exact same gun. What we’re all wondering is, are there any others out there that survived the war? Nobody seems to know what the total production quantity was for this model, and any additional information would be much appreciated!

Here are the other photos provided of the known example:

I did find one other reference to the Type 1, in Ordnance Technical Intelligence Report Number 19 (a document printed by the Office of the Chief Ordnance Officer in Tokyo in January of 1946). This document has a bit more information, claiming that the need for a lighter replacement for the Type 92 was recognized as early as 1937. Initial trials of the new gun were first held in March of 1940, along with a new style of mount patterned after the German MG08 sled mount. These trials were unsatisfactory, with the mount being deemed not stable enough and the gun not operating reliably. A second set of trial was held in June of 1940 which were better, but still not ideal. These trials used a modified sled-type mount, and an improved version of the gun (including the use of spade grips in place of the original shoulder stock and pistol grip).

March 1940 first trials model of the Japanese Type 1 HMG
March 1940 first trials model – note shoulder stock, pistol grip, and sled mount
June 1940 second trials model of the Japanese Type 1 HMG
June 1940 second trials model – note the traditional-style spade grips and modified sled mount

Apparently the Infantry School disliked the sled mount, and development along those lines was halted (until 1942, when a request from paratroop command restarted it, although with no known final product). The final trial model of the gun was fitted to a lightened version of the Type 92 mount, and this version was found acceptable and formally adopted in November of  1942. It was slated to go into mass production and replace all Type 92 guns in service, but a lack of material meant that the plan was never actually put into motion.

Production model of the Japanese Type 1 HMG
Production model of the Japanese Type 1 HMG – note modified Type 92 mount, which is not the same as the tripod on the captured surviving gun. Also note the change to folding grips and the mounted optic.