Nambu World: Type 14 Rubberized Canvas Holster-JMCH IX

            I have four of these holsters, which are made of rubberized canvas (layers of canvas with latex sandwiched in between). They are often called the gtropical modelh holster, but this is a misnomer. The Japanese were just running short of leather and so started making these ones for issue wherever they had troops, not just in the tropics. Of course, by that time a lot of the fighting was in the tropics rather than China, where cold and dust had been bigger problems than rot. This substitute material was, however, better suited to tropical climates, which quickly caused leather products to deteriorate. These holsters were only made for a few years, but they were the peak years of pistol production, so they are among the more common Type 14 holsters.

 

            Letfs look at these holsters in chronological order. This is an early one dated 1942. The clamshell flap is a bit darker and more orange than the body. I got it as part of a purchase of a collection of several guns and holsters in early 2005.

 

Here is the back, showing the standard black-lacquered steel shoulder strap rings.

 

            A view of the holster open to show the interior ammo pouch and, to the right of that, the spare striker pocket made of rubberized canvas. You can see the small, black arsenal markings in the centre of the inside of the clamshell flap (see the close-up photo lower down).

 

            Here is a close-up of the closure strap. It is in reasonable shape, with a slight tear in the fine leather over one of the springs inside the closure strap (left spring). The leather here is a little darker and browner than usual because the previous owner used a high grade leather preservative on it. This made the leather more flexible, but at the cost of darkening it. I do not recommend using anything on holsters unless there is a serious problem of deterioration. Just be gentle with them.

 

In this close-up you can see the spring on the left through the small tear.

 

            Here are the arsenal markings. The blurry character in the upper left is the sho in Showa, the name of Emperor Hirohitofs reign. Next to that is the kanji for ten (it looks like a plus sign) and the kanji for seven (looks a bit like a plus sign except the vertical stroke is slanted and curves to the right at the bottom). Together these three characters signify that the holster was made in Showa 17, i.e. 1942. Below to the left of the second row is a circular symbol which is the mark of Nagoya Arsenal. There are traces of another symbol to the right of that. It was probably the kanji na, as in Nagoya, an inspection mark used by Nagoya Arsenal.

 

            Rubberized canvas tends to get rock hard after a while, and this is a problem with parts of the holster that are intended to flex, like the flap on the ammo pouch. The flap on this one is still very soft and supple, however. I think the reason is that the latex between the two layers of canvas used to make the flap is thicker than on later holsters. If the flap on your holster is stiff, donft force it. The layers will likely separate. I do not know of any way to soften this material once it goes hard.

 

            The ammo pouch and spare striker pocket on this holster show very unusual wear. I can see why the top of the striker pocket might get worn this way if the striker were inserted and removed many times. However, the rounded notch in the right edge of the ammo pouch does not seem explicable by normal wear patterns. Perhaps it was deliberately done to facilitate removal of the ammo boxes that were kept inside (two boxes of 15 rounds each).

 

 

            This next rubberized canvas holster was the first Japanese holster I ever purchased (in 2003). I chose it to start because I was not very knowledgeable and I figured people would be unlikely to try to make replicas out of this unusual material. It also had interesting markings.

 

            This photo shows the holster with the clamshell open so you can see the ammo pouch and spare firing pin pocket just to the right of it.

 

            This shot of the inside shows the block in the middle to separate the gun from the spare mag. Itfs made of several layers of leather. It also shows the loop to retain the cleaning rod at the bottom (i.e. the back of the holster when it is worn on a belt).

 

            Here is the back of the holster showing the fittings for the belt and shoulder strap. Straps are quite scarce and add substantially to the value of a holster, but most of the rubberized canvas ones have gone hard and begun to delaminate in areas where people have tried to flex them after they hardened..

 

Here is a close-up of the closure mechanism, which consists of three small coil springs with a thin leather covering.

 

            I bought this holster  in an eBay auction on July 17, 2003. It was supposed to have the cleaning rod with it, so I paid US$175, which was the reserve price, only to be told it didnft have the cleaning rod after all. On the plus side, it does have two paper tags inside with the name and rank of the soldier it was issued to and is in great condition. These name tags were quite common and herefs what the ones on my holster look like.

            First the top one:

 

            Underneath that one is this tag. You can just see a bit of the second row of markings below the tag (the Nagoya Arsenal mark and an inspection mark). Since later holsters had only one simple stamp, the fact that this one has two rows means it is probably an early one, 1942 or 1943, even though the tag covers the bulk of the area where the markings are.

 

            The top tag has the word bango, meaning number, in the upper left, presumably referring to the serial number given next to it, 19904 in red. This word is represented by the characters:

 

            In the lower left of the top tag is the word shimei, meaning name. This is represented by the characters:

           

            In the lower right of the top tag is the soldierfs name. The family name is gSayamah. The given name, which comes last in Japanese, is a character with several readings (pronunciations), but probably gToruh or gSusumuh. These are the characters:

 

            The bottom tag has the same information except the soldierfs rank is given instead of his given name, i.e. Sayama jotohei, meaning roughly gsuperior private Sayamah.  These are the characters:

 

            The body of the holster is very stiff. I am not sure how hard they were when they were new. If you look carefully at the edge of the clamshell you can see that it was made of four layers of canvas with liquid rubber applied in between. There are rows of little beads at the edge where pressure squeezed out some excess. The flap covering the ammunition pouch is still nice and flexible.

 

            I also have two later holsters of this variation. The later ones are distinguishable because they have only a single inspection mark stamped inside (see below). It came with the Toriimatsu Showa 20.5 Type 14 pistol I bought from a gentleman in Texas. His father brought the pair back from the war and after his death they had laid forgotten under a bed until the son and his smother found them while looking for a dead mouse.

 

Here is the back.

 

A shot of the holster wide open reveals the one little inspection mark in the centre of the inside of the clamshell flap.

 

The closure strap is in excellent shape.

 

Here is a tight shot of the critical part, the leather on the springs.

 

The back of the spring-loaded part of the strap (the three vertical compartments each hold a small spring about the size of the ones in ballpoint pens.

 

            That single inspection mark in the centre of the inside of the clamshell flap is the kanji na as in Nagoya, used as an inspection mark by the Nagoya Arsenal. This is usually the only marking on late rubberized canvas holsters.

 

The ammo pouch flap is quite stiff and here in this shot of the edge you can see that the latex has dried out and cracked.

 

The tip of the pouch shows wear but has not yet started to delaminate. If your strap is stiff and does not want to bend, donft force it!

 

This shot shows that the clamshell flap is made of four layers of canvas, while the body is made of three.

 

            This last holster came with the Tokyo Arsenal Papa Nambu serial number 4480 that I bought from the son of a veteran in Michigan. It is distinguishable from the others by a light horizontal white mark on the clamshell.

 

The back.

 

            The holster shown open. The ammo pouch flap is quite stiff. It should go through the loop on the front of the pouch and close on the stud on the bottom of the stud, but both the loop and the flap are too stiff to put them in that position.

 

The single Nagoya Arsenal inspection mark, na as in Nagoya, the same as on the previous holster.

 

The closure strap is reasonably sound, as you can see here.

 

If you get in really close, however, you can see that there is a bit of loose thread at the top of the spring compartments.

 

Viewing this area from the back you can see why: the top of the leather here should be tucked in and sewn down, but it has come out.

 

It may be a little easier to see in this shot.

 

Here you can see the shape in which the ammo pouch flap is frozen.

 

Like the body of the holster, the shoulder strap ring retaining loops on the back are made of three layers of canvas.

 

Same thing with the belt loop.

 

            I have given a lot of close shots of the small flaws in these holsters so that you will know what to look for if you are thinking of buying one. To recap, the key points to check are the leather on the springs in the closure strap and the degree of flexibility of the ammo pouch flap. Any shortcomings in these areas can be bargaining points if someone tries to sell you one they say is gminth. However, do not expect to find one of these that is entirely as supple as a leather holster, or you will end up never buying one. That would be a shame, as these holsters are very interesting due to the use of this unusual material.

 

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Last updated: June 29, 2006. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.