Japanese Pedersen Semi Auto Rifles & Carbines.
By Cliff Carlisle
John D. Pedersen was a US arms designer. One of his notable inventions was the Pedersen Device for the M1903 Springfield rifle in WW1. To help keep the device secret it was given the designation “Automatic Pistol, Caliber .30, Model of 1918”. To use the device you removed the Springfield bolt, inserted the Pedersen device in its place, inserted the 40 round magazine into the device & you had a 40 shot semi auto rifle shooting a .30 cal pistol cartridge. The idea was to have the semi auto device to repel the German attacks on the US trenches. Each man would have 40 shots without reloading to stop the attack. 65,000 had been produced when the war ended but only a few sent for demonstration purposes made it overseas. The devices were placed in storage until the 1930s when the decision was made that they were no longer needed & then they were destroyed. Only a few survived, mostly in military museums.
In the 1920s Pedersen designed a semi auto rifle to compete with the Garand. Both were in .276 Pedersen caliber, a cartridge he had designed. The Garand was a gas operated design. The Pedersen was a retarded blowback. His rifle had a toggle action similar to the German Luger. This type of action has no slow initial extraction (the Garand used a turning bolt that moved the case slightly to the rear as it turned) so it tended to tear the head off the cartridge case during the extraction cycle. The answer was to use a lubricated case. Pedersen used a powdered wax to coat the ammo.
Pedersen took his rifle design to England & signed a contract with Vickers to produce both rifles & carbines to try and sell on the world market. Nobody adopted them but these Vickers Pedersen rifles & carbines are the most common Pedersen rifles. Even they are very difficult to find.
When Pedersen left England in 1932 he went to Japan to try and interest them in his rifle. They experimented with the design from 1932 until 1936 when WW2 started for them. One of their design changes was the use of a 10 round Mannlicher style rotary magazine instead of the 10 round (8 round when the Garand was changed to 30-06) en bloc clip that both the Garand & Pedersen used. The Japanese Pedersen is the only one that has the spool magazine.
Apparently Pedersen never told the Japanese about the need for lubricated ammo & they never figured it out. So the rifle never performed to their satisfaction. By 1935 it had progressed to the point that they made 12 rifles & 12 carbines for field testing. In 1936 Japan invaded China and all semi auto rifle development work came to a halt at that time.
I recently received an inquiry to my Arisaka Carbines & Rifles article asking if I could help in identifying a Japanese rifle that had been obtained on Mindanao, Philippine Islands in 1945. The rifle was described as a semi-automatic with a bulbous stock that contains a cylinder that can be removed from the bottom of the rifle. The bolt folds up into an inverted V exposing the receiver & cylinder from the top of the rifle. From this description, it could only have been a Japanese Pedersen rifle or carbine.
I emailed back with a tentative ID & a request for photos and any other information to confirm that it was indeed a Pedersen. The following photos show that it is obviously a Japanese Pedersen carbine.
Right side view.
Left side view.
The veteran who acquired it was a medic in the US Army in a surgical unit (by the Korean War called a MASH unit) who assisted the surgeons just behind the lines on Mindanao in 1945. After the area was secured the captured rifles were put in stacks & the men were allowed to pick one of their choice. The veteran picked this Pedersen carbine out of one of the piles. It’s serial number 5 & has the 21.5 inch barrel.
The only marking other than the serial number is the Japanese character for “Safe” which is above the safety lever.
Right side angled view.
Left side angled view with bolt open. Note the sights offset to the left & the screw for the lower tang through the top of the wrist of the stock. The lower tang is part of the trigger guard like the Type 99 rifle and not a separate piece like the Type 38.
Left side view with bolt open & magazine removed. The magazine is removed by pushing a latch that is forward of the magazine toward the muzzle. The button in the trigger guard should release the rear of the magazine but is missing a piece.
Right side view. Note the stock cut out above the trigger. This allows access to the safety lever. This lever is turned up which applies the safety & locks the toggle from being opened. The knurled knob at the rear of the receiver is the adjusting knob for the rear sight. To adjust the sight, the button above the knurled knob must be pushed & then the knob turned.
Left side view. Note the offset rear sight at the rear of the receiver. The sight is graduated with markings from 3 through 12 for elevation. There is a small knurled knob at the top right of the sight that is turned to adjust the windage. The windage graduations are from 0 through 4.
The rectangular tab directly in front of the rear sight is the release for the bolt hinge pin. Pushing it in releases the hinge pin & it can be pushed out through the receiver allowing the toggle assembly to be removed.
The stock cut out above the rear of the magazine is for access to the bolt hold open. When the magazine is empty, the bolt locks in the open position. Pushing the button above the cut out releases the bolt & allows it to close.
Magazine & toggle assembly removed from the carbine. Note the similarity to the Luger toggle system.
More Pedersen Photos
© Carbines for Collectors 2005