Nambu World: Researching Your Japanese Handgun

            If you are visiting this site to research basic information on a Japanese handgun you have just inherited or acquired, this section is for you. It is a guide to where to find information on the site. This photo shows the main types of Japanese handguns.


What model is it?

            You should be able to spot your gun in the photo above: Top row: Type 26 revolver, Papa Nambu, Baby Nambu. Bottom row: small and large trigger guard Type 14 pistols and a Type 94.

            You can also check the section on history Nambu World: A Brief History of Japanese Handguns to identify the model (most collectors refer to “Type” rather than “Model” when speaking of Japanese handguns). You can get additional information by examining the photo galleries of my guns of each type (go back to the main page to find them listed).

            There are a few rather rare guns that are not shown here, like the Hino-Komuro, Hamada, Sugiura, etc.; if you think you have one, contact me using the e-mail link at the bottom of the main page and I’ll help you identify it.


Where was it made?

            The markings on Type 14s tell the story. See Nambu World: Type 14 Markings-A Brief Overview.

            Essentially all Type 94s were made by the private firm Chuo Kogyo (or its predecessor, the Nambu Gun Mfg. Company) at their Kokubunji factory under Nagoya Arsenal supervision.

            Some Papa Nambus and Baby Nambus were made by Tokyo Gas & Electric; they have the English letters TGE on top. Almost all other Japanese handguns you are likely to find were made by Tokyo Arsenal at Koishikawa (a district of Tokyo).


When was it made?

            If you have a Type 14 or Type 94 pistol, you are in luck. Almost all of them have the date on the right side. It is a number with a decimal point (or comma), like 5.9 or 17.2 or 19.10 or 3,6. This is the date given in the Japanese system based on the reign of the Emperor. To convert the year to the Western system, add 1925 to the part of the number in front of the decimal (or comma). For example, in the number 19.6, add 1925 to 19 and you get the year 1944. The part of the number after the decimal point is the month: 1=January, 2=February, etc. in the 19.6 example, the month of production is June, the 6th month.

            If you have a Japanese gun other than a Type 14 or Type 94, the exact date of production cannot generally be determined. The best one can do is estimate based on whether the serial number is early or late in the known range. Most Type 26 revolvers were produced from 1894 to 1925; Grandpa Nambus were produced from 1903 to 1906; Papa Nambus from 1906 to 1923 (Tokyo Arsenal) or 1909 to 1928 (TGE); Baby Nambus from 1903 to 1923 (Tokyo Arsenal), or 1923 to 1929 (TGE). TGE stands for “Tokyo Gas & Electric” as noted above.


How many like it were made?

            See the section on production figures: Nambu World: Japanese Handgun Production Figures


What is it worth?

            This question is impossible to answer without a detailed inspection and also depends on how and to whom you are selling it. Condition and matching numbers on the parts are extremely important: the same gun could sell for $60 or $600 depending on condition. Tiny differences in condition that the average person would not notice can make a big difference in the amount a collector will pay. Also, price depends on the relative bargaining skills and motivation of the buyer and seller. Sometimes a collector will knowingly pay “over the market” if the piece is one he has been looking for for a long time; on the other hand, a seller who needs money urgently will probably fare poorly in any negotiation. Accordingly, the information below is only a very rough guide in US$ and is provided for information purposes only with no liability on my part.

            Most common date Type 26s, Type 14s and Type 94s that are complete, in decent condition, and matching (possibly excepting the magazine, especially on earlier guns) go for US$500-700. The ones that bring more are mostly very early and very late guns, although a full discussion of this topic would take a book. Most of the holsters go for $200-300 on eBay ($50-100 more with the shoulder strap), spare mags $100. Type 14 cleaning rods and spare firing pins (strikers) around $100. Type 94 cleaning rods are much scarcer and run over $100. Bring-back papers for a gun add $50-100 to its value. When a whole rig (gun, holster & accessories) is sold as a unit it usually goes for a little less than when the individual items are sold individually, unless the holster is matched by number to the gun.

            Papa Nambus are mostly very beat up. Ones in that kind of condition are relatively cheap, sometimes less than $500. Nice ones start at  $1000. Really nice ones can go for over $2,000. Parts for these are hard to come by, so ones that are missing parts seldom bring good prices. Complete holsters are worth a minimum of $300 even if beat up, and up to $900 if mint. However, Papa Nambus fit in Type 14 holsters and are often found in these later, less valuable holsters. Spare Papa mags are $300 or more for a good one.

            Nice Baby Nambus are usually $3,000 or more. TGE Babys bring a premium. Baby holsters run around $1000 or more and spare mags about $500. Grandpa Nambus are very hard to find and decent ones will probably be over $7,000 (sometimes much more). The shoulder stock-holsters are also rare and worth a similar amount.

            The above are retail prices when you are selling directly to someone who wants the piece for his collection. If you are selling the gun to a dealer or someone who intends to resell it, they will typically offer around half to two-thirds of the values shown here.


How can I sell it?

            The worst way is to walk into a gun show and offer it to someone. Dealers and collectors who dabble in re-selling typically view such “walk-ups” as easy marks and low-ball their offer prices. On the other hand, you do walk in with something to sell and walk out with cash.

            If you live in Canada and your Japanese handgun or rifle or other gun is legally registered in Canada, I will probably be interested in buying it, so contact me using the e-mail link at the end of the main page. The very high cost of getting a gun through the US export permit process makes it impractical for me to buy guns from the USA in most cases unless it is a really key item for me (see my wish list for the rare exceptions): Nambu World: Teri's Wish List

            Of course, most Japanese handguns are in the USA. Assuming you live in the USA, as a first step, I would try the Japanese Trade Board, as it is free:

            GunBoards Firearms of the Rising Sun

            Ebay will not allow the sales of guns or ammunition, but you can sell accessories there like holsters. There are some gun auction sites like:

   Online Gun Auction


   - Online Gun Auction

            I personally do not like these sites as I have found they are not nearly as tightly run as eBay and undesirable behaviour by both buyers and sellers is much more common. Of course, there would also be fees to pay. On the other hand, there is nothing like an auction to motivate someone to dig into their pocket for that extra $20 if they really want something.

            For high-end items, it may be worthwhile contacting a top auction firm like:

            Rock Island Auction Company

            There are other auction houses you might consider that advertise in the Shotgun News, a large newspaper of classified ads for firearms that is available on many newsstands in the USA (rather hard to get elsewhere, though), or Gun Digest. I have singled out the above auctioneer because they publish large, glossy catalogues that some people buy just as a reference since so much beautiful stuff appears in them that they would never otherwise get to see.

            If your gun has a family history, do think seriously before selling it; once it is gone, it is gone. Also, be sure you comply with all national, state and local laws.


To return to the Main Page, please click here: Nambu World: Teri's WWII Japanese Handgun Website


All contents are copyright Teri 2007 unless otherwise specified and may not be copied in any form without prior permission. last Updated: March 17, 2007.