Collector rewards

 

One of the main reasons we collect is the friends that we make. This story appeared in the August 2021 issue of BANZAI and shows the kind of comradeship and friendship that can develop among collectors.

At the request of the individuals concerned, names in the published article have been replaced here by initials.

 

A Type 14 Nambu Magazine Match Story or

How One Magazine Out Of 556,000 Possible Magazines Was Found!

By D. L.

A few months ago, I was contacted by a deceased veterans son who had inherited a Kokubunji Factory 13.8-date (1938.Aug) Type 14 Nambu. The owner wanted general information about the pistol and requested any assistance to spruce it up, as it was dirty and had surface blemishes. He also wanted to eventually make it function. I replied with general Type 14 production information and data, disassembly images and cleaning instructions, and I also requested he provide me with some images of the pistol for further discussions. Our email interactions progressed over several weeks as we traded information and images. We eventually came to two trade agreements for parts in his pistol.

I was very surprised with the left side image the sear bar pin had been replaced with a very obvious small bolt, washer, and nut, and the grip had been replaced with a loose grip from a cutaway pistol! Also, the pistol looked to be in generally poor condition and had some surface rust. Really, it was kind of ugly. I could also tell by the base style that the magazine was not original to the pistol. By this time, he had also worked on the pistol itself and disassembled and cleaned it thoroughly. He found other mismatched parts including the cocking knob and magazine release. I requested additional images of the cutaway grip and the magazine and advised the owner that those parts were not original to the pistols manufacture. I also asked if he knew anything about the pistols acquisition by his father during the war.

He replied that his father was an Army infantry officer during the Philippine campaign and had served for a while in the occupation of Japan in the Yokohama and Atsugi areas near Tokyo before returning home sometime in 1946 . He believed that his father acquired the pistol with some other souvenirs while in Japan (also brought home was a rifle, flag, and sword only the flag and pistol remain).

The additional images of the cutaway grip and mismatched magazine only peaked my interest. The grip was a legitimate very rare cutaway variation which had somehow been separated from its original pistol which is unknown (cutaway grips are not numbered). What is known is that the cutaway pistol variation is very rare the highest known reported serial number is 19 with around half that number known to have survived. Unfortunately, the magazine image was inconclusive in that it was out of focus and didnt show the magazine spine number/mark clearly. All that could be noted was a single blurry imprint. But, I was really interested to find out more information. I could tell by the base style that the magazine was one of two recognized early types, and I suspected that the blurry mark was a single inspection mark only that the magazine was unnumbered. Those possible facts made me think the magazine was a very scarce kit or armorers field replacement magazine it was something worth trying to acquire. I requested better detailed images of the magazine.

In the meantime, our discussions centered on the replacement of the grips and on the replacement or repair of the sear bar pin. I offered to find a correct Kokubunji grip or grips replacement and to pay an extra value amount for the rare cutaway grip. He agreed to the trade, and I subsequently located a

correct set of grips from an advanced Type 14 collector friend. That friend also supplied a replacement sear bar pin. Over the next week, I received the trade parts and prepared a package for mailing. So, at this point, the cutaway grip acquisition was a done-deal except for actual possession. (The replacement grips and sear pin were subsequently installed in the pistol and work well.)

It took a while to get good images of the mismatched magazine. The high-resolution images he sent were in a very large file that my computer would not accept. I got that part fixed but then couldnt contact him for several days (he was out of town). By the time he finally re-sent the detailed images separately, more than a week had passed. Then, I opened the image files and immediately became very excited. I just couldnt believe what I was seeing. It was not a kit magazine it was something better!

Advanced Type 14 collectors can easily identify individual magazines and classify them into their types (there are eight general types) and their sub-types by their physical and marking features. Collectors are always on the lookout for scarce and rare magazines. For example, Chigusa Factory magazines (Type I) are in demand and bring extra value. This is because Chigusa was the first producer of the Type 14 and production was low (around 7,8xx pistols). Some other magazine types are popular because of their high quality finish and/or lower production amounts (the Tokyo Type II, Kokura Type III, and Kokubunji Type IV are examples). Some individual magazine inspection marks are also recognized as scare or rare due to low production and the fact that they only can be matched to very few pistols. This last rarity identifier applied to the magazine found in this 13.8-date Kokubunji pistol.

What I saw in the clearer images confirmed that the magazine was a Type II for pistols produced at the Tokyo Factory between 3.5 (1928.May) and 7.8 (1932.Aug). But, what really caught my attention was the lack of an inspection mark and the number on the magazine spine. This magazine was what advanced collectors refer to as a Tokyo or Type II No Mark magazine only produced in 3.5 and into 3.6 (1928.Jun). A little-known fact is that, when the Tokyo Factory started production in 3.5, the first magazines did not have an inspection mark. Somewhere in 3.6 between pistols #211 and #281, a corresponding inspection mark was added to the frame and to the magazine. With a run of only around 2xx pistols, these No Mark magazines are the rarest production Type 14 magazines to be found. That also means that, for this early production range, the magazines produced can only be properly matched to one pistol. And, in this case, the number on the magazine was 2 which only goes to pistol serial number 2! Even more exciting to me was that a good friend and fellow collector owns Tokyo 3.5 #2.

This magazine was the second or spare magazine with the dot over the number. Coincidentally, another Japanese pistol collector and good friend was visiting at my home when the images arrived, and he had images of pistol 3.5 #2 in his laptop computer. In those images was a

close-up of the magazine in the pistol which is the primary magazine #2 without the dot. We were both very astonished, as I had found the second matching magazine to pistol 3.5 #2! The number marks are identical (see images). The odds of this magazine match happening we figured at approximately one in 556,000. That is for approximately 278,000 Type 14 pistols

produced with two matching magazines and for only one of those magazines being correct. This was all very exciting for my collector friend and me. But, the next big step was to acquire the magazine.

Acquiring magazine #2 took several more steps and another couple weeks to complete. I was honest with the magazine owner advising him that it was a rare early production magazine and that I was interested. I offered to send him a selection of correct Type IV magazines for his pistol and some extra money for the rarer magazine. He could then fit the magazines to his pistol keeping the best one and then return the extra magazines and magazine #2. He agreed to this process, and I immediately mailed to him the extra magazines, the replacement grips and sear bar pin, and the money for the exchange of both items. Then, I very anxiously waited over a week to receive magazine #2 and the cutaway grip.

The cutaway grip is well-used and has slight damage to its front edge. Its condition is not unexpected. Most cutaway pistol examples found are in mediocre condition, as they were a training tool and saw extensive use. I hope someday an exchange can be made to find this rare grip a home. I know of cutaway pistol #18 with a missing grip which is located in a museum in Australia. Magazine #2 is in pretty good condition finish-wise, but, it does have some metal damage with a broken edge corner on the body at a base pin juncture. It is repairable by a competent restorer which I assume will happen.

The visiting friendly competitor collector and I had several discussions about the pistol itself with its many odd parts and how we would present magazine #2 to our owner friend. We proposed all sorts of theories as to how the rare grip and rare magazine found their way to this pistol. What we think is the most plausible theory, albeit full of conjecture, is that this pistol was purposefully assembled after the war as a souvenir from available parts including making the odd sear bar pin repair. That process could explain how the odd parts were mated to an older incomplete pistol. Well never know for sure, but, the possibilities are fun to discuss. Also, as our pistol 3.5 #2 owner friend was out of the country for another two months, we wanted to keep the find of magazine #2 a secret until we could arrange a reveal event. Secrecy proved to be a difficult undertaking for us, as we so much wanted to share this neat story with other collector friends.

It took four weeks for this whole transaction to run its course from first notice to actual possession. For the last week or so of that process, and being pretty sure the acquisition would be successful, our planning turned to the mechanics of putting the pistol and its two original magazines together. My friend and I worked-through several different scenarios where we could surprise our mutual good friend, the owner of 3.5 #2. Since we had to wait a few months for our owner friend to be available anyway, we decided the reveal of magazine #2 would be at the large gun show in Reno where we would all be together along with other collector friends.

Almost three months after acquiring magazine #2, it was finally reunited with pistol 3.5 #2. For the reveal event in Reno at the show tables of other good friends, we initiated a discussion of the production peculiarities of the earliest Tokyo magazines (no inspection mark and odd base/body alignment). We had asked (more accurately, insisted) our owner friend bring pistol #2 to the show, and we used that pistol and its magazine as a reference in our discussion. Previous to this discussion, the second magazine #2 had been inserted into a Tokyo pistol located in our mutual friends show case. During the magazine specifics discussion, we asked our owner friend to retrieve the pistol in the case to compare its magazine construction specifics. All of us were watching closely to see his reactions as he removed the second magazine #2. First, he seemed puzzled (he told us later that his first thought was that wed somehow put his magazine #2 into that pistol to play a joke on him). Then, he seemed confused as he reached for his pistol #2 to inspect its magazine. He looked puzzled as he stared at the two magazines together. He grabbed a loupe to closely view the magazine markings and then just stared at us with a disbelieving look. Seeing our smiles and hearing our congratulatory comments, he then knew his suspicions were correct that his second matching magazine was in his hands. A range of emotions ensued, and it was a heartfelt moment for T. J. and for all of us. Now, T. knew why R. and I had wanted him to bring Type 14 Nambu 3.5 #2 to the gun show. For us all, this whole event and moment among friends will be long-remembered.

The two original matching magazines were together with pistol Tokyo 3.5 #2 for the first time in at least 76 years (probably many more years for the newly-found magazine). During later inspection of the two magazines, it was noticed that the two magazine slider buttons did not fully-match their respective magazine they had been swapped at their original assembly in May 1928 the primary magazines slider has a dot, and the secondary magazines slider dot is missing. These two magazines truly are a matched pair.

Star and Cast

Contemplation

Is This Real?

 

Suspicions Being

Confirmed

Conspirators And Victim Friends All

DL & DL, TJ, WM & SM, RC

 

 

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