The Type 94 Nambu 8 mm Pistol (Type 94 Handgun, Japanese: 九四式拳銃 Kyūyon-Shiki Kenjū) is a semiautomatic pistol developed by Kijirō Nambu and his associates for the Imperial Japanese Army. Development of the Type 94 pistol began in 1929, and after several redesigns the final prototype was tested and officially adopted by the Japanese Army in late 1934 (Japanese calendar, 2594). The Type 94 pistol entered production in 1935. Approximately 71,000 pistols were manufactured before production ended in 1945.
The Type 94 pistol was designed for (and popular among) Japanese tank and aircraft crews who preferred a smaller, lightweight design. Japanese weapons experts have subsequently criticized some design elements of the Type 94; in particular the pistol could be fired unintentionally before the breech was fully locked if the sear bar on the side of the receiver was jarred loose and the pistol was improperly handled. Additionally, the process to disassemble the pistol is overly complex and awkward. The build quality of the Type 94 pistol declined over its production run; “last ditch” pistols made in 1945 were crudely manufactured.
The Type 94 Nambu pistol was designed by Kojiro Nambu after he retired from the Japanese Army and founded the Nambu Rifle Manufacturing Company. Design for the Type 94 Nambu pistol commenced in 1929 with the goal of reducing the bulk and price of previous Nambu designs. The Imperial Japanese Army felt a smaller pistol of domestic design that could accommodate the standard 8×22mm Nambu cartridge was needed to substitute the larger, heavier, and only official military pistol, the Type 14 Nambu. The demand for officer’s handguns had increased as a result of Japan’s invasion of Manchuria during the Second Sino-Japanese War. A new design was also wanted by the Japanese Army to include a magazine safety, to prevent unintentional discharges during cleaning that were common among Japanese personnel. Naming of the Type 94 pistol reflects the change in Japanese nomenclature with the 94 reckoning back to the mythical foundation of Japan in 660 BC therefore year 2594 instead of the traditional emperor reign period used to name the Type 26 revolver or Type 14 Nambu pistol. The final prototype for the Type 94 was officially adopted by the Japanese Army in late 1934 after several redesigns. Production began under the supervision of the Nagoya Army Arsenal at the Nambu Rifle Manufacturing Company and later its successor, Chuo Kogyo Company, Ltd. An estimated 71,000 pistols were produced for the military but the exact quantity is unknown because of the production of unserialized pistols and undated pistols. During World War II the pistol became a preferred weapon for tank crews and paratroopers who required a smaller, more convenient pistol. The Type 94 was never officially adopted by the Imperial Japanese Navy but was available to officers through the Japanese officers’ union.