Book Review
The Arisaka Rifle
The Arisaka Rifle
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]

This is a review by Randy L Harvey of The Arisaka Rifle by author Bill Harriman and illustrators Peter Dennis and Alan Gilliland.


Bill Harriman is Director of Firearms at the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, and appears regularly on British television as part of the team of experts on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow program. A former Territorial Army officer with 18 years' service, he is also a forensic scientist dealing with cases involving firearms, ammunition and other weapons.


Peter Dennis born in 1950. was inspired by contemporary magazines such as Look and Learn he studied illustration at Liverpool Art College. Peter has since contributed to hundreds of books, predominantly on historical subjects, including many Osprey titles. A keen wargamer and modelmaker, he is based in Nottinghamshire, UK.

Alan Gilliland, born in Malaya in 1949, studied photography/film and architecture, and has worked as a photojournalist and cartoonist. He also spent 18 years as the graphics editor of The Daily Telegraph, winning 19 awards in that time, including numerous UK Press Awards. He now writes, illustrates and publishes fiction (www.ravensquill.com), as well as illustrating for a variety of publishers (including Osprey, the Penguin Group, Brown Reference Group, Ivy Group and Aurum), architects and developers, such as John McAslan (Olympic Energy Centre) and Kit Martin (Prince Charles’ Phoenix Trust advisor on historic buildings). www.alangilliland.com

    ** Entering service in 1897, the Arisaka family of bolt-action rifles armed both Japanese troops and others throughout two world wars and numerous other conflicts. Issued in long and short versions – the latter for cavalry and specialists – the Type 30 was the first main Arisaka model, which armed Imperial Japan’s forces during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, and was later refined into the Type 38, which would still be in use in 1945. The Type 99, introduced in 1939, also armed Japanese troops during World War II. Lighter and more rugged that the US M1903 Springfield rifle it would face in the initial battles in the Pacific, it was produced in four main variants, including a sniping model and a take-down parachutist’s rifle.

    Featuring full-colour artwork as well as archive and close-up photographs, this is the absorbing story of the rifles which armed the forces of Imperial Japan, from the trenches of Mukden in 1905 to the beaches of Okinawa 40 years later.**
** Quoted from the back cover of the book.

Osprey Publications has released The Arisaka Rifle as Number 70 in their Weapon series. It is a soft cover book with 80 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs and color photographs, color illustrations, detailed captions and more. It has a 2019 copyright with a publication date of August 22, 2019 and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-1612-2. The book details the development, use and impact of various Japanese Arisaka rifles put to use by the Japanese Imperial armed forces.

    - Introduction
    - Development
    - A modern Japanese firearm
    - Use
    - The Arisaka goes to war
    - Impact
    - The verdict of history
    - Conclusion
    - Select Bibliography
    - Index


Author Bill Harriman does an excellent job of describing various models of Japanese Arisaka military rifles and their accessories. The author provides the history and development of several Arisaka rifles and carbines and their introduction into the Japanese military. He details each of the weapon’s attributes, shortcomings, updates and improvements, ammunition types and associated equipment such as the Type 30 bayonet, rifle mounted grenade launchers as well as telescopic sights added for use by snipers. As well as detailing the various rifles and their use by the Japanese military there is a well written history of some of the rifles being sold to other countries for use in their militaries as well as detailing how some of the rifles came to be in foreign military service due to them being captured during times of conflict.

Another section of the book that will prove to be of interest to the military firearms enthusiast is where the author details comparisons between the Arisaka and several other military firearms from various countries. He compares the weight, length, caliber, strengths, weaknesses, etc. of the firearms in comparison to the Arisaka. A section of the text that I found to be particularly interesting was the mention of Arisaka rifles being issued to Colonel T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) to arm some of his forces during the Arab revolt against the Turks. Lawrence detailed in his writings, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, that the rifles “had not been well maintained by the British and that the rifles were broken or had such heavily fouled barrels that they burst when first fired by the Arab fighters”. Another section that I found to be interesting, as I had never heard of the rifle before, was the discussion, albeit briefly in a caption, of the Japanese Type 5 rifle which was the Japanese reversed-engineered copy of the US M1 Garand rifle chambered in 7.7x58mm caliber that Japan developed in 1944-45 towards the end of World War II. Also detailed is the Japanese dating system, consisting of eras based on the reigning emperors, which is useful for discovering the date of when a particular Japanese firearm was adopted. Included as well is a chapter on how to load and shoot the Arisaka which is accompanied by a step-by-step series of color photographs which show how to load the rifle. The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed.

As I read through the text, I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. I feel that if the text is well written it shows that the author has taken the time to be professional with their writing. The only thing that I did notice when reading the book was on page 51 where the author is describing the contents of the rifle’s cleaning kit. In one paragraph the author describes one of the tools as “a hockey-stick-shaped short rod for cleaning the chamber”. In the next paragraph he refers to the same tool as “the golf club-shaped tool”. That is a minor thing and it takes nothing away from the book but I felt that I should mention it. Upon finishing the book, the reader will have gained a wealth of information on the Arisaka rifle family and their impact on military firearm history. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on various Japanese Arisaka rifles to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.

A total of 31 black and white photographs and 44 color photographs are included in this volume. I would say that the historical photographs that were chosen for this book were for the most part lesser known photographs as opposed to photographs that are featured in many other titles that deal with the same subject matter. The photographs range from wide angle photographs to close-up detailed photographs. The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable; however, a few have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and others appear too light. This is typical for the discussed periods of history and consideration needs to be given to the fact that some of the photographs are several years old and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book. I appreciate the fact that there are several photographs of just the weapons themselves as opposed to photographs that feature the weapons in a broad generalized military photograph. In my opinion it makes it much easier to study the various weapons and their details. There are also up-close photographs of various telescopic scopes, rifle mounted grenade launchers, bayonets, monopods, ammunition pouches and other such items. As well as showing the various rifles and their accessories the photographs also provide excellent details such as the various Japanese uniforms being worn in different climates. Author Bill Harriman stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to anyone interested in various types of Japanese Arisaka rifles as well as their accessories, ammunition and other items due to the details they contain.

Some of the various rifles and accessories shown and discussed are:

- Japanese Type 44 Arisaka carbine
- Japanese Type 99 Arisaka rifle
- Japanese 11mm Type 18 Murata rifle
- Japanese 8mm Type 22 Murata rifle
- Japanese Type 30 Arisaka rifle
- Japanese Type 30 Arisaka carbine
- Japanese Type 35 Arisaka rifle
- Japanese Type 38 Arisaka rifle
- Japanese Type 38 Arisaka carbine
- Japanese Type I Arisaka rifle
- Japanese Type 44 rifle folding spike bayonet
- Japanese Type 99 rifle monopod
- Japanese Type 30 bayonet
- Japanese Type 100 rifle mounted grenade launcher
- Japanese Type 2 rifle mounted grenade launcher
- Japanese fixed-zero telescopic sight for the Type 99 sniping rifle
- Japanese Type 2 two-piece paratroop rifle
- Russian Fedorov Avtomat Model 1916 rifle
- Japanese Type 5 rifle (Japanese copy of US M1 Garand rifle)

There are 4 color illustrations by illustrators Peter Dennis and Alan Gilliland. The illustrations are very well done, nicely detailed and are of:

Plate A

The Type 99 Exposed.

- A cut-away view showing the internal workings of the 7.7mm Type 99 Arisaka short rifle.

Plate B

Port Arthur

- Two-page action illustration showing Japanese infantry attacking Russian trenches during the siege of Port Arthur in the winter of 1904/05.

Plate C


- A two-page action illustration showing part of a Japanese infantry section launching a banzai charge on entrenched American troops in the early hours of 21 August 1942.

Plate D

Japanese snipers on Guam (see attached scan)

- A one-page action illustration showing two Japanese snipers during the final days of the fighting on Guam in July 1944.

The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown. The captions go into very specific detail as to the specific weapons shown, specific parts on the weapons, types of clothing being worn, equipment carried and used, dates and locations and other such pertinent information. I was very impressed by Bill Harriman’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions that I have seen that are very brief and lacking in detail.


There are 5 notes included in this volume and they are:

- The Royal Armouries
- Dedication
- Acknowledgements
- Editor’s Note
- Artist’s Note

There are 5 informational charts included in this volume and they are:

- Countries Moving To Smaller Rifle Calibres
- Countries Adopting 6.5mm Calibre
- Type 38 Production
- The Type 38 Arisaka Rifle In Context
- The Type 99 Arisaka Rifle In Context

As with the other Osprey Publishing titles I was impressed with this book. This is a very nice reference book that contains a well written informative text, many subject specific photographs and illustrations, well detailed captions and more, all detailing the history of the various types of Japanese Arisaka rifles as well as their accessories, ammunition, failures and successes and other pertinent information. As with the other Osprey Publishing titles, I would have no hesitation to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal reference library.

Osprey Publishing also offers The Arisaka Rifle as:

eBook (ePub)
eBook (PDF)

Osprey Publishing’s The Arisaka Rifle is also available as a Kindle version through Amazon.


The Military Book Club Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of WWII
Ian V. Hogg
Saturn Books Ltd.

Standard Catalog of Military Firearms
The Collectors Price And Reference Guide
Phillip Peterson
Krause Publications

Gun Digest Book Of Classic American Combat Rifles
Edited By Terry Wieland
World Publications Group, Inc

World War 2 Combat Uniforms and Insignia
Squadron/Signal Publications, #6013
Published in 1977
Martin Windrow with color illustrations by Gerry Embleton

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.


UK £13.99 / US $22.00 / CAN $29.00
Highs: Well written text and captions. Subject specific photographs and illustrations.
Lows: Nothing to mention.
Verdict: An excellent volume by Osprey Publishing. Definitely beneficial to the Imperial Japanese military and military small arms enthusiast and historian.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 978-1-4728-1612-2
  PUBLISHED: Mar 05, 2020
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


Thank you for getting this posted for me so quickly Fred. I appreciate it. You're the man!! Thank you, Randy
MAR 05, 2020 - 02:56 AM

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