Book Review: Japanese Military Cartridge Handguns 1893-1945

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What began as Harry Derby’s “Hand Cannons of Imperial Japan” in 1981 was revised, expanded, and reprinted in collaboration with James Brown in 2003 as “Japanese Military Cartridge Handguns 1893-1945”. That new edition is both the definitive guide to Japanese military handguns, but also a great example of how to write a firearms reference book.

It is both broad in scope and deep in content, covering both major production gun like the Type 14 and Type 94 but also the minor ones like the Hino, Sugiura, and Hamada, as well as experimental variations. It includes detailed serial number and production date tables, and even detailed explanations of minor inspection marks.

The book is not just tabulated data, either – far from it, in fact. There is a tremendous amount of written history, describing the development, production, variations, and military use of the different pistols. If it has any shortcomings, it is in the illustration. Some of the photographs are color, but many are black and white, and they are not nearly as numerous as in many other books. However, they are sufficient to explain the information being given, and their absence hurts the work only in artistic way.

Anyone with an interest in handgun development in general, or Japanese arms in particular, should have a copy of Derby & Brown’s excellent work in their library.

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