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The Four Worst Military Pistols of the 20th Century

The Type 94 Shiki Kenju

Certainly one of the ugliest pistols ever manufactured, this weapon made the list of worst military pistols because its dangerous design easily surpassed its repellant appearance. Designed to be smaller and more compact than the Nambu 14 for use by armored vehicle crewmen and pilots, the pistol had design flaws that caused it to be inherently unsafe. A good portion of the Type 94’s sear, part of its trigger mechanism, lay exposed along the left side of the receiver, and if this was pushed in or struck, the pistol could fire. While the portion of the sear that projected from the side of the receiver was machined flush in later models, it could still be pushed in to cause an accidental discharge. Another poorly designed mechanism in the pistol allowed a round to be fired before the breech was locked, with serious consequences for the user.

Hear enough stories about the Type 94 and the pistol begins to take on an aura of malevolence that suggests simply giving it a funny look could provoke a loud report and an 8mm slug making a beeline for your femoral artery.

Type 94 8mm left side

The Type 94. The long exposed sear bar lies beneath the slide. Bob Adams/adamsguns.com photo

Accounts exist of Japanese officers stumbling and falling on their holsters and the pistol going off, of users’ thumbs brushing the sear and the pistol going off, of officers simply replacing the pistol in its holster and having it go off. Hear enough stories about the Type 94 and the pistol begins to take on an aura of malevolence that suggests simply giving it a funny look could provoke a loud report and an 8mm slug making a beeline for your femoral artery.

Type 94 8mm right side

Defenders of the Type 94 point out that, as sidearms for armored crewmen and pilots, they were rarely used, and most rode out the war in their holsters, which was undeniably the best place for them. Bob Adams/adamsguns.com photo

Field stripping is also a chore, with a number of small parts and a small, easily-lost pin basically holding everything together under tension. For all this, you get a semiautomatic pistol with a magazine capacity of six 8mm cartridges – each about as powerful as a .380 – when virtually every other nation’s pistols held eight or more 9mm or .45 ACP cartridges with much more stopping power.

Defenders of the pistol point out that the Type 94 was meant only as a backup weapon, usually holstered, and that it couldn’t go off if carried according to regulations, with the safety on and an empty chamber. Since any weapon is safe if unloaded and with the safety on, that’s hardly a recommendation. On top of the appalling design, the quality of manufacture was often substandard, sometimes employing poor quality steel. Surviving examples are considered collectors’ pieces and should be fired with extreme caution.

Type 94 Shiki Kenju

Type: Semiautomatic Pistol
Operating System: Recoil, locked breech
Weight: 25.4 ounces
Length: 7.1 inches
Barrel length: 3.74 inches
Cartridge: 8mm Nambu
Muzzle velocity: 950 fps
Magazine: Six-round detachable box

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