During World War II, the U.S. Army was one of the first armies to adopt a semi-automatic rifle as its standard infantry arm. This was a big deal because during the war, most countries were still fighting with bolt action rifles, which are slower and don’t have quite as much fire power.
The only other country that was able to adopt semi-automatic rifles on a large scale was the Soviet Union. But Danny Michael, the assistant curator of the Cody Firearms Museum, said Japan did attempt to produce semi-automatic rifles.
“The Japanese had experimented with semi-automatic rifles, but they are more expensive to make and design,” said Michael. “They never really progressed in that project until they captured U.S. rifles during the Pacific Campaign.”
During the Pacific Campaign, the Japanese captured the M1 Garand rifle, which was the U.S.’s service rifle, and they attempted to reengineer the guns.
“They took captured American rifles back to their arsenals in Japan, examined them and tried to rebuild them and adopt them for their own ammunition,” said Michael.
The project was not successful. The Japanese built in between 100 to 200 of these rifles, but they didn’t work well.
“At the end of the war, the U.S. troops when they occupied Japan and the arsenals, [they] captured these rifles and a few were picked up by G.I.s and brought stateside,” said Michael.
The Japanese guns are rare, but the Cody Firearms Museum has one in its collection.
Museum Minute was a series co-produced with Wyoming Public Media (WPM).