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North China Type 19: The Improved Nambu Pistol

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The North China Type 19 pistol (not to be confused with the North China Type 19 rifle) is an improvement on the Type 14 Nambu pistol design which was manufactured in very small numbers in Japanese-occupied China late in World War Two. With shipping connections between Japanese troops in China and the Japanese home islands cut off by US naval activity, plans were put in place to expand Japanese-run arms manufacturing in China and the Type 19 pistol was part of those plans.

The two major improvements to the Nambu design that the Type 19 incorporates are a solid frame with a disassembly lever in place of the removable trigger guard, and a redesign of the manual safety to be much more ergonomic. The magazine retention spring was also wisely discarded. Two distinct types of these pistols are known; one very well made with a bullseye style of final acceptance mark and one of very poor machining quality with a Japanese “2” character as a final proof, presumably indicating second quality. Both types have independent serial number ranges, with recorded numbers from 4 to 55 on the high quality guns and 004 to 093 on the poor ones. The explanation for these two distinct types is not known.

The intention was to produce 5,000 Type 19 pistols, but judging from the known surviving examples no more than about 200 were actually made. This is one of the scarcest Japanese WW2 pistols, and very interesting as an improvement to the Nambu design.

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