Type 11 light machine gun

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Type 11 light machine gun
Japanese Type 11 LMG from 1933 book.jpg
Type 11 Light machine gun
Type Light machine gun
Place of origin  Empire of Japan
Service history
In service 1922–1945
Used by Japan Imperial Japan
Manchukuo Manchukuo
Flag of the National Revolutionary Army National Revolutionary Army
PLA Chinese Red Army
Wars Second Sino-Japanese War, Soviet-Japanese Border Wars, World War II, Chinese Civil War
Production history
Designer Kijiro Nambu
Designed 1922
Produced 1922–1941
Number built 29,000
Weight 10.2 kg (22.49 lb)
Length 1,100 mm (43.3 in)
Barrel length 443 mm (17.4 in)

Cartridge 6.5×50mm Arisaka
Action Gas-operated
Rate of fire 400–450 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity 730 m/s (2,395 ft/s)
Feed system 30-round, hopper system

The Type 11 light machine gun (十一年式軽機関銃 Jyūichinen-shiki Kei-kikanjū?) was a light machine gun used by the Imperial Japanese Army in the interwar period and during World War II.[1]


Combat experience in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905 had convinced the Japanese of the utility of machine guns to provide covering fire for advancing infantry.[2] This was reinforced by the first-hand observations of European combat tactics by Japanese military attachés during the First World War, and the Army Technical Bureau was tasked with the development of a lightweight machine gun, which could be easily transportable by an infantry squad. The resultant “Type 11 light machine gun” (named after the 11th year of the reign of Emperor Taishō, or 1922) was the first light machine gun to be mass-produced in Japan [3] and the oldest Japanese light machine gun design to see service in the Pacific War. It was superseded by the Type 96 light machine gun in 1936.

Design details

File:Japanese Type 11 LMG.jpg
Imperial Japanese Army soldiers with the Type 11 LMG in 1924

The Type 11 light machine gun was a design by famed arms designer Kijirō Nambu, based on a modification of the French Hotchkiss machine gun. It was an air-cooled, gas-operated design, using the same 6.5×50mm Arisaka cartridges as the Type 38 infantry rifle.[4]

A feature of the Type 11 machine gun is its detachable hopper; it can be refilled while attached and does not require removal during operation. Instead of a belt or box magazine, the Type 11 was designed to hold up to six of the same cartridge clips used on the Type 38 rifle. The five-round clips were stacked lying flat above the receiver, secured by a spring arm, and the rounds were stripped from the lowest clip one at a time, with the empty clip thrown clear and the next clip automatically falling into place as the gun was fired. The system had the advantage that any squad member could supply ammunition and that the hopper could be replenished at any time, but later the Japanese had to design a less powerful round because the original round was causing reliability problems, thus eliminating the advantage of compatibility. This new round was called the 6.5×50mm Arisaka genso round, the cartons identified by a circled "G".[citation needed]

The inherent disadvantage of the hopper was that the open feeder box allowed dust and grit to enter the gun, which was liable to jam in muddy or dirty conditions due to issues with poor dimensional tolerances, which gave the weapon a bad reputation with Japanese troops.[5] Another issue was that the weight of the rifle cartridges in the side-mounted hopper unbalanced the weapon when fully loaded. To compensate, the buttstock was designed in a way that it bent to the right, leading to the Chinese nickname for the weapon "bent buttstock" (Chinese: 歪把子). Reloading the weapon during an assault charge proved impossible due to the clip feeding system.


Type 89 "flexible" – two Type 11 actions mounted on a flexible mounting for anti-aircraft use and as a rear-defense aerial gun. The machine gun was chambered for the 7.7x58mmSR Type 89 cartridge. It was equipped with a metallic Y-shaped stock and two spade grips, the barrels had no cooling fins. It was fed from two 45-round quadrant-shaped pan magazines (each magazine had a place for nine five-round stripper clips). The double-barrelled machine gun weighted about 28 kg and had a rate of fire of around 1,400 rpm.[6]

Type 91 – was a modified Type 11 for use on tanks and armoured vehicles. The machine gun was equipped with an angled pistol grip, the stock and bipod were removed.[7] Additionally, the machine gun was equipped with two brackets (on the right side) for mounting a 1.5x30 scope manufactured by Tomioka Kogaku.[8]

Te-4 – a modified Type 11 which was designed to replace the Type 89 "flexible" due to the excessive weight of the latter. It used a different flexible mounting, had a shorter wooden stock and a straight pistol grip with an enlarged trigger guard, the barrel had no cooling fins. It was chambered for the 7.7x58mmSR Type 89 cartridge and fed from 70-round pan magazine. It is uncertain whether the Te-4 was made by splitting the Type 89 "flexible" or was a direct derivative of Type 11.[6]

Combat record

The Type 11 came into active service in 1922, and some 29,000 were produced by the time production stopped in 1941. It was the primary Japanese light machine gun through the Manchurian Incident and in the early stages of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Although superseded by the Type 96 light machine gun in production in 1936, it remained in service with front-line combat through the end of World War II. Many were captured by the Chinese and were used against the Japanese.


  1. Bishop, The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II
  2. Meyer, The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan. pg.53
  3. Taki’s Imperial Japanese Army page
  4. TM-E 30–480 (1945)
  5. Meyer, The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan. pg.55
  6. 6.0 6.1 Mikesh, Robert C. (2004). Japanese Aircraft Equipment 1940 – 1945. Shiffer Publishing. pp. 115–116. ISBN 0-7643-2097-1. 
  7. https://web.archive.org/20140427011545/http://dl.zhishi.sina.com.cn/upload/19/50/91/1220195091.1027914646.jpg. Archived from the original on April 27, 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. "Machine Gun Equipment". Japanese Weapons.net. Retrieved 2015-12-11. 


  • Bishop, Chris (eds) (1998). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II. Barnes & Nobel. ISBN 0-7607-1022-8. 
  • Mayer, S.L. (1984). The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan. The Military Press. ISBN 0-517-42313-8. 
  • Morse, D.R. (1996). Japanese Small Arms of WW2; Light Machine Guns Models 11, 96, 99 97 & 92. Firing Pin Enterprizes. ASIN: B000KFVGSU. 
  • Popenker, Maxim (2008). Machine Gun: The Development of the Machine Gun from the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day. Crowood. ISBN 1-84797-030-3. 
  • Rottman, Gordon L. (2005). Japanese Infantryman 1937–1945. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-818-9. 
  • US Department of War (1994). Handbook on Japanese Military Forces, TM-E 30–480 (1945) (reprint ed.). Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-2013-8. 

External links