The Type 26 or Model 26 “hammerless” revolver (二十六年式拳銃 Nijuuroku-nen-shiki kenjuu) was the first modern revolver adopted by the Imperial Japanese Army. It was developed at the Koishikawa Arsenal and is named for its year of adoption in the Japanese dating system (the 26th year of the reign of the Meiji emperor, i.e., 1893). The revolver saw action in conflicts including the Russo-Japanese War, World War I and World War II.
It is an amalgamation of design features from other revolvers made during the time period. The revolver has a design flaw in that the cylinder freewheels when not engaged, so during movement (such as in combat) it may rotate to an already fired chamber. Five distinct phases of production have different markings depending on the time and individual Type 26 produced. The 9mm Japanese revolver ammunition used is unique to the weapon. The Type 26 has a double-action only mechanism and is therefore difficult to aim accurately. The Type 26 was replaced by the Nambu pistol in the first half of the 20th century.
Known as the Meiji 26 Nen Ken Ju (meaning “Pistol, Pattern of the 26th year of the Meiji era”), the Type 26 revolver was the first indigenous revolver adopted by the Japanese military. The Type 26 was produced to replace the aging Smith & Wesson New Model No. 3 and was officially adopted March 29, 1894. The design is widely believed to be a mixture of features taken from other revolvers. The lock design is similar to Galand designs, the hinged frame is similar to Smith & Wesson designs, and the hinged side plate covering the lock is similar to the Modèle 1892 revolver. The cartridge was loaded with black powder until 1900 when the cartridges began to be loaded with smokeless powder. The Type 26 is considered a remarkable leap in Japanese pistol development despite the international influence, with the matchlock being the most common domestic Japanese handgun 40 years earlier. Production stopped after 1923 when much of the Koishikawa Arsenal was destroyed in the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, with assembly continuing until the exhaustion of stockpiled parts. Approximately 59,000 Type 26 revolvers were produced and an additional 900 revolvers were made in pre-production. Restoration and re-issue of revolvers that had been removed from service because of damage or wear, was carried out on an as needed basis over a period of many years. The original Type 26s are missing the external markings of later produced revolvers and are identifiable by numbers stamped on internal parts. Type 26s were still being used in 1945 which, according to firearms expert and author Ian Hogg, is considered a testament to their original workmanship and a much more suitable combat weapon than later Japanese produced pistols.
All standard production Type 26s have checked pattern grip panels as well as original finished characteristics. Most standard production revolvers have a serial number that is between 1,000 and 58,900. Many of the standard production models suffered from extreme wear because of the long military service the revolvers served.
Arsenal reworked Type 26s lack the bright charcoal blue finish or standard checked patterned grip panels. Serrated grip panels are common among reworked Type 26s and the marking of the Nagoya Arsenal indicate repairing of the Type 26 past its production at the Koshikawa Arsenal. Two existing arsenal reworked Type 26s show stampings of Siamese numerals on the front grips indicating official procurement by the Thai government. Two additional reworked Type 26s have a five-pointed star stamped on the side plate of the revolver indicating Indonesian service after World War II.