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This is an exceptionally rare pre-war Japanese semi-automatic rifle that was manufactured by the Koishikawa (Tokyo) Arsenal for the Japanese Test Trials in 1935. There were approximately 24 of these Pedersen rifles designed and manufactured in total: 12 with the shorter length (22.5 inch) barrels and 12 with the longer (26.5 inch) barrels, such as this one. This example carries serial number 5. Both the rifles and carbines were numbered 1-12 in their own separate serial ranges. Only a handful of these models survive today. These experimental rifles and carbines were actually based on the early semi-automatic rifle designs by John D. Pedersen. Of interesting note, the serial number "1" experimental rifle that is identical to this example is pictured on page 166 of the book "Military Rifles of Japan" second edition by Honeycutt/Anthony. The Japanese embarked on an experimental semi-automatic rifle program at the beginning of the 1930s after following the U.S. semi-automatic rifle trials and noting some of the various designs. The Pedersen rifle was developed in the mid to late 1920s and competed against but lost out to the M1 Garand rifle officially adopted for U.S. Military service. After teaming up with the Vickers Company in England to produce the "toggle-bolt" mechanism, Mr. Pedersen traveled to Japan in 1932 to demonstrate his rifle in the hopes of gaining foreign sales. General Yoshida, who was in charge of manufacturing at the Tokyo Arsenal, was impressed with the Pedersen rifle design and chose to copy it. He redesigned the mechanism to fire the 6.5 mm Japanese cartridge, and instead of the original 10 round magazine, he designed it to only hold five rounds. This design was also submitted in the 1936 test, but all testing on a semi-automatic rifle was halted when hostilities broke out between the Japanese and Chinese forces in July 1936 near Peking. The testing program was eventually reinstated in 1942/43, but it was so late in the war that the Japanese abandoned all earlier designs and decided to convert existing M1 Garand rifles to the Japanese 7.7mm round and eventually designed their own version of the U.S. M1 rifle. This design uses a swing-breech bolt mechanism, which pivots in the center of the bolt during the cycling operation. The entire design was revolutionary for the time but was difficult and complicated to manufacture and had a lot of individual parts. This rifle has serial number "5" stamped on top of the receiver as well as the other visibly numbered parts. Additionally, the right side of the receiver has two additional Kana markings next to the bolt locking mechanism, probably indicating "on" and "off", similar to what is on the 1903 Springfield rifle. It employs the same swing breech mechanism with a rather unique gear driven rear sight and a blade front sight, both offset to the left. Also noted is that this model was obviously developed with a rotary box magazine very similar in design to the Johnson rifles also being developed during this same time frame. It has a full length stock and handguard; both the stock and handguards have cooling vents. This rare rifle is complete with an original cleaning rod and a leather sling. Accompanying this rifle is a typed and signed bringback provenance document from an Andrew Yorke Wilson of Fayetteville, Pennsylvania, who was a U.S. Army surgical technician in the 99th Medical Evacuation Unit, in which he states, "I saw my first combat in 1943 when my unit followed MacArthur's invasion forces ashore at Leyte, Philippines. From Leyte, my unit followed invasion forces into the Philippine islands of Mindoro, Mindanao and Manila. The casualties on Mindanao were by far the worst. I scrubbed, wore a surgical mask and gown assisting the primary surgeon operate on casualties. There were a lot of head wounds. We set up our field hospital right behind the front lines; we were constantly moving. The Japanese were reinforced with fresh troops and they overran our infantry, causing my unit to be caught behind Japanese lines. It was over 30 days before we could escape. At one point we crawled from the jungle near an airfield and were then taken from the island by PT boat. While waiting to evacuate from Mindanao, we saw stacks of weapons taken from Japanese prisoners. U.S. Army personnel were invited to take any of the confiscated weapons as souvenirs. I was able to obtain the 6.5 mm semiautomatic weapon, serial number 5, with the ventilated stock, which I've since learned is called an Experimental Japanese/Pedersen Carbine."
Very fine with 98% of the professionally restored/refurbished metal finish with a professionally restored/replaced stock. Undoubtedly this rifle saw considerable use during testing, and it having survived at all after the war is actually quite miraculous. It is now available on the collecting market! The markings are clear and discernible, and the mechanism functions correctly. This is a very rare and interesting pre-war Japanese experimental Pedersen Test/Trails rifle missing from even the most advanced military collections!
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