View Full Version : Rebarrelling Jap Arisaka's

Unkel Gilbey
February 26, 1999, 05:48 AM
Yeah, I know! "Why in the world would you want to take the time to rebarrel a Type 38 or Type 99 in the first place?" Right? Well, humor me! I'd like to trade notes with anyone who's done it and/or has any experience with it. I will be able to put my hands on a bunch of T38's/T99's when I get back from Japan, and I'm interested in sporterizing them. Nothing too fancy, I don't intend to modify them into the 21st century - just get them working as good, reliable, STRONG shooters. Thanks for your input.

Daniel Watters
February 28, 1999, 04:42 PM
Well, the Arisaka actions are definitely strong. In his book _Bolt Action Rifles_, Frank de Haas recounts a 1959 _American Rifleman_ article in which a 6.5mm Type 38 was rechambered to .30-06 by an idiot. The problem?...the bore was not rerifled to the larger diameter! At each shot the .308" bullet was swaged down to .264". Yet, even the NRA staff was not able to destroy it.

de Haas suggests that the actions can be rebarreled to any cartridge using the .308 Win/.30-06 rim diameter that will fit in the magazine. He also states that he rechambered 6.5mm Type 38 rifles to take a 6.5mm/.257 Roberts wildcat (pretty close to the modern .260 Remington) and 7.7mm Type 99 rifles to .30-06. He advises that you will likely have to tweak the cartridge guide lips and the feed ramp to insure reliable feeding.

de Haas also warns against getting stuck with the pot metal training rifles, notable by their smooth bores and integrally cast or welded-on tangs.

The Type 99 barrels are threaded at almost 17 tpi over a length of .700" and a diameter of 1.050". Most sources indicate that the receiver threads are hard enough that they will swage the barrel threads into the correct pitch.

The Type 38 barrels are threaded at 14 tpi over a length of .708" and a diameter of 1.025".

Michael Carlin
March 13, 1999, 10:52 PM
30 years ago or so I had a chance to examine a Arisaka which had been rebarreled to .338 Winchester Magnum. According to Hatcher's Notebook, "testing to destruction" of the Arisaka actions showed the actions to be incredibly strong, loads which literally vaporized the brass in 125,000 psi range were contained by the action easily. Strong indeed!

Ni ellegimit carborundum esse!

Yours In Marksmanship


James K
March 18, 1999, 04:24 PM
I was once accused of having a negative personality, so I'll blame that for what follows. The Japanese actions are very strong, but not in practice any more so than many more modern actions. But the economics have to raise a question. First is the cost of the original gun. Then, Japanese actions can't use the pre-threaded barrels, most of which are for Mauser actions, so you have to start with a blank and spend a lot of lathe time to cut threads. Then sights, then bolt bending (and still not low enough for good scope mounting), then a sporter stock and --- $500 pretty quick, not counting shop, insurance, etc. And you end up with a converted Japanese rifle (like tens of thousands of others) worth maybe $250 on a dark day. Plus the actions may be strong, but they are (except for some pre-war ones) pretty rough, and they can't easily be slicked up. The rifle cocks on closing, and the safety is - well, different. I also like to have fun playing with something, but in economic terms, I don't see how this idea works. (The old gunsmiths didn't bother rebarreling, they just rechambered and let the customer fire .308 bullets in a .311 bore or use a 6.5/257 wildcat. They didn't have so many liability lawyers to worry about.)

[This message has been edited by Jim Keenan (edited March 18, 1999).]

Unkel Gilbey
March 18, 1999, 10:29 PM
Thanks so far for the comments, I appreciate the time and effort it takes to dig this info up. I know all about digging up the facts as I have a copy of Roy Dunlaps "Gunsmithing" book, A copy of the de Haas "Bolt Action Rifles", a copy of "Rifle Smithing" and a couple copies of "Home Gunsmithing", amongst others. All in all, it's turning into quite the collection of gunsmithing books, and this is (in part) the driving force behind wanting to talk to someone who's done this sort of conversion. In all of the before mentioned books, plus may magazine articles, a majority of the writers state that although the Jap actions are among the strongest and safest to come out of WWII, they're often overlooked as a basis for a sporter. Part of the reason for this because of a misplaced bias that people like Hatcher, Ackley, and MacFarland (to name a few) have worked hard to dispell. The bias (of course) being that the Jap actions were all made of pot metal and were junk. Another reason, and probably the main reason why Jap actions are passed over, is because of the fact that their barrel threads are not standard, and because of the complex breeching. It takes too much time to match the original breeching if the original barrel is set back a few threads, and if a new Bbl is used, then there is the dual problem of matching the threads AND then the breeching. It's much easier to rebarrel a M98, or a Win70, or Rem 700. True, all of it.
One of you mentioned cost. Surely finding a 'smith that would even attempt the work would be a difficult task, and it would take a really BIG pile of Komrade Klinton's new quarters to pay for it. But I have a few aces up my sleeve. One: I have a source of a type 38's and 99's that I can have my pick of for a really decent price. Two: GPC sells Bbl blanks for a decent price ($30-40) last time I checked. Three: Any after Mkt stock made for a Mauser can be modified (inletting changed, Glass bedded, etc) to suit. Four: With the exception of the chambering and throating, and quite possibly the Bbl threading, all of the other chores are well within my ability, and my labor is free. I have access to machine tools, and expert help if the need arises, I have better than adequate welding experience, and my other hobby is Cabinetmaking - so the wood work is a breeze.
You see, I want something unique, a Sporterized Arisaka, in a custom caliber, like .257 Ackley Improved. I really don't have the means to pay someone else to do all the work, and I don't learn anything that way. I am at heart a Tinkerer, and I suspect that all of you are also, or else you wouldn't be here at this site. So I am really interested to see if anyone out there has actually done the conversion, so that I can trade notes, and possibly avoid any pitfalls along the way. Once again, thanks for the info to date, and thanks for taking the time to answer. Unkel Gilbey

James K
March 19, 1999, 02:39 PM
I don't mean to put down anyone, but I really think you have a lot of book knowledge and not a lot of experience. I too have all those books, and they make it sound very easy, but I also have some 30 years experience as a gunsmith and 50 years of shooting experience. The prejudice against Japanese rifles was real, as I well remember, and unwarranted on the basis of strength. But strength is not all that is involved in making a good and saleable sporting rifle. The Winchester 70 was not especially good at handling cartridge failure, but it was "The Rifleman's Rifle" for 30 years. The main prejudice against the Type 38 and Type 99 was and is that they simply don't work up very well to the modern American idea of good sporters; I previously mentioned some of the reasons. Have a go at it, but (to carry a concealed cliche) don't quit your day job.

June 11, 2013, 02:11 PM
old thread, as old as the net practically- but worth reviving

the Jap rifle would be a great rifle to upgrade to cock on opening, and change the safety to side tang, and rebarrel or rechamber to a 300 magnum family, or even a 375 H&H

the problem is, there are no barrels, safety kits, or bolt kits available for it- so it would be a custom job, and quite expensive to do.

so you either have to ante up and pay about 3x what it would cost to upgrade a Mauser or Enfield, or own the machine shop tools and do it yourself, by making everything from scratch.

I once saw a beautiful Arisaka Type 38 that had been rechambered to 260 Remington, reblued, new stock, d/t with a nice scope. The guy wanted $300 for it. It looked like a brand new gun. He dragged that around from gun show to gun show, and no one wanted it. I saw it at another show with the scope sold off it, but still for sale. I think he finally sold it but it took a year just to sell the gun.

I should have bought the damned thing for $300 when I had the chance.

believe it or not, I have heard from old timers that there was a cock on opening, and side tang safety kit available for the Jap rifles, back in the days after WWII- when thousands of those rifles were brought back from the Pacific Theater and Japanese Occupation.

I've had (5) Jap sporter rifles, 3-99's and 2-38's. I just sold the scoped 99 rifle for $300, pret-ty darned good price considering what it is. They are starting to come into their own and will continue to appreciate.

Basic rule now, don't sporterize any military rifle unless it's got a shot out barrel or broken parts and is un-useable or worthless. Even then, if it's numbers matched it's worth re-boring to another caliber and kept original.

If you "have to" the best way to sport a Jap rifle, is retain the original caliber, and put them in a nice stock, d/t for scope, reblue/refinish, and put it in a nice stock if you can find one. Jap rifles need a nice stock to look good, the factory wood was really mundane. One of my 38's was put in a vintage Winchester M70 stock, with a peep receiver sight, by a previous owner- and is beautiful. Another one is a Type 99 vet bring-back sporter, in a vintage Fajen stock, with a turn down bolt, and open sights. It's a damned nice looking gun. Another is a Type 38 a plumber sold me for $100, it belonged to his Dad war vet, chambered in 6.5 x 257 wildcat. But they all have the original safety and cock on closing.

If I had the chance and could find the parts, I'd convert them to cock-on-opening and side tang safety.

that's one thing about the USA- when we beat a country in a war, we make sure to take all their rifles....:D There's more Mausers, Arisakas, and Carcanos in the USA, than there is in Germany, Japan, and Italy combined.;)

James K
June 11, 2013, 02:37 PM
FWIW, I know of no cock on opening "kit" for the Japanese rifles. There was one for the M1917 Enfield (which will also work on the Pattern 1914 and 1913)but not for the Arisakas. The Enfield kits work simply by changing the sear and cocking piece so the gun fires off the firing pin retraction cam. That means a very short firing pin movement and requires a stronger mainspring, which in turn makes bolt opening more difficult. (No free lunch, here, folks.)


F. Guffey
June 11, 2013, 11:32 PM
Daniel Watters
Senior Member

Join Date: February 7, 1999
Location: USA
Posts: 644 Well, the Arisaka actions are definitely strong. In his book _Bolt Action Rifles_, Frank de Haas recounts a 1959 _American Rifleman_ article in which a 6.5mm Type 38 was rechambered to .30-06 by an idiot. The problem?...the bore was not rerifled to the larger diameter! At each shot the .308" bullet was swaged down to .264". Yet, even the NRA staff was not able to destroy it.

It is assumed the bullet was swaged down and increased in length, as in “Can you imagine how long that bullet was when it left the barrel?” and I always say ‘No! Because that is not what happens’.

F. Guffey

June 12, 2013, 12:45 PM
Sounds like a whole lot of "Book knowledge" going on here. I have done dozens of Arisakas into deer rifles. It is the lightest, least expensive to work on, and strongest military action of the time. To the best of my knowledge they had the highest quality of steel of all the period military rifles. "You need to weld a new bolt handle on to mount a scope." So what. Go to gun shows and you find them or gun parts companies. How many guys retain the factory bolt handle on an '03 or Mauser when they scope it? The original safety works fine with a scope. Anybody that can't use the factory safety probably has arthritis or maybe should not be using a rifle. A stupid design? Have you looked at a Russian or British .303 safety? I probably do have an aftermarket side safety somewhere if I looked hard enough. They were made. Cock on closing? Why. It is a deer rifle. Oddball threads? Have you pulled an '03 or Krag barrel lately? Arisakas are metric. Maybe it is time to update your equipment. Over the years I have put together: 6.5x55, .257R, 7x57, 6MM Rem, .308, 8x57, 7.65 Mauser, 7.62x39 (Cut/Shortened), 7.62x54R, 8x54R, 7mm Rem Mag (Cut/Lengthened) and who knows what else. I picked up some that were already done. Couple 30-06 (One done by the U.S. Army), two .300 Savage with set back factory barrels. I still have the one in .300 Savage and at 100 yards it shoots great with .308 bullets.
Arisakas are good medium size cartridge change overs. .300 mag family, not so much unless you are ready to cut/weld 2 receivers. They are what they are. If you want pretty, start with a Mauser. Arisakas really can't be beat for a cheap, lightweight, "Walking around hunting gun".

F. Guffey
June 13, 2013, 08:06 AM
“At each shot the .308" bullet was swaged down to .264". Yet, even the NRA staff was not able to destroy it”

Forget the rifle, I want the cases, I want the cases that did not fail, I want the cases that did not show a sign of overpressure, I want the cases that did not cause bolt opening difficulty.

I have at least 3 Japanese receivers without barrels installed, all three have the appearance that have receiver rings that are compromised, all three are cut down the right side with a wide/deep slot that reduces the thickness by more than half, could be another one of those ‘not fair’ things.

F. Guffey

June 13, 2013, 09:46 AM
I intimately know the WW2’s generation hatred and prejudice of all things Japanese.

This rifle helped the impression that Japanese service rifles were junk:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Rifles%20various/JapTrainerFullLength2.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/SlamFire/media/Rifles%20various/JapTrainerFullLength2.jpg.html)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Rifles%20various/RightsideactionDSCN0717JapTrainer.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/SlamFire/media/Rifles%20various/RightsideactionDSCN0717JapTrainer.jpg.html)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Rifles%20various/ActionTopDSCN0721.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/SlamFire/media/Rifles%20various/ActionTopDSCN0721.jpg.html)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Rifles%20various/BoltRightSideDSCN0735.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/SlamFire/media/Rifles%20various/BoltRightSideDSCN0735.jpg.html)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Rifles%20various/SafetyDSCN0744.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/SlamFire/media/Rifles%20various/SafetyDSCN0744.jpg.html)

It looks like a rifle but it is not. The store that sold it thought it was a real rifle, but they were mistaken. And I probably overpaid for what I got. Fools all around:rolleyes: This is a training rifle. I have not tried to feed a 6.5 cartridge but I bet it will feed, chamber, and go bang. Doing such will blow everything to kingdom come. The barrel is not threaded to the cast iron receiver. The barrel is not rifled either. I think this rifle was designed to shoot blanks.

Understand all those books, articles, by gunsmiths giving advice on how to covert military actions into sporter rifles, that information is primarily advertizing media and these guys were shilling for work. Human psychology is a funny thing, if an authority figure puts a suggestion in people's heads, many people will go out and do it. I found the books interesting and it does "motivate" one in spending the money for a “project”. You need to take a couple of deep breaths on this. I don’t recommend chopping up a full military collectable because some dead gunsmith wants you to send business his way, but if you have a butched example, well the only thing that will be hurt is your checkbook.

Still, as strong as Japanese actions were compared to WW1 M1903’s, M1917’s, and M98 Mausers, the whole lot of them were made from plain carbon steels and modern rifles, made of modern alloy steels, having better breeching designs, are a better starting point for a customized rifle.

And, regardless of what you start with, you will sell it for less than what you put into it. Sorry.

June 13, 2013, 09:49 AM
Here are some more pictures, stupid system would not let more than five pictures in the previous post :mad:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Rifles%20various/RearSightDSCN0722.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/SlamFire/media/Rifles%20various/RearSightDSCN0722.jpg.html)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Rifles%20various/FrontSightDSCN0726.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/SlamFire/media/Rifles%20various/FrontSightDSCN0726.jpg.html)

June 13, 2013, 12:28 PM
Slamfire, you are also misinformed. The receivers on T-38's and T-99's are carbon steel alright, but it is in the 4140 range (Chrome Molly). The only other military receiver of the period that MAY have been of the same material is the MAS39. I never tried to re-heat treat one so I don't know. The '03s may have had quality steel, (Nickel?) but the heat treating was really hit or miss and I would not trust them without serious research and testing. I see a lot of actions are still made of Chrome Moly. Some went to 8620 or other hybrid steels. I would have to admit the heat treating processes got better. Nothing wrong with new action, if that is what you want. That is just me, you do as you want. The fact that you mistook a cast receiver rifle for a battle rifle tells me you are no one to give advice. "Fools all around". You bet. That is how you learn. I have done my share of stupid things, but learned from them and did not try to shift the blame. I realize it is hard to research because of all the BS floating around. I should have $20 for every Occupation "Last Ditch" rifle brought to me that "Gran Pa took off a dead sniper". When any country started losing the war, their weapons started to suffer. Look for a '99 made no later than 1943 if you want to shoot the original barrel. The quality of steel in the barrels was reduced late in 43' sometime. Even what are called "Last ditch" receivers seem solid, although the Korean last ditch are really scarey looking. There are hundreds of thousands of stripped/cut down receiver and barrel assemblies out there to use. Cheap.
I have never read some of the books you guys are quoting from and by the comments made, I don't want to. I doubt if it is in print anymore, but try P.O.Ackley's "Handbook for shooters and reloaders-Volume II". He was not correct all the time, but at least he had solid experience with the Arisakas and other rifles.
Guffy, Ackley re-cut the neck and throat of a 30-06 to accept .35 caliber bullets. He expanded the necks on (Your favorite) military '06 brass and fired away. If the neck and throat of the chamber were reamed to the .35 cal. size, there was no indication on the case of "Undue pressure". Also, the slot you mentioned in the receivers was probably inside the receiver ring? This is the clearance for the extractor. Only the T-99's were the length of the receiver ring. Done to ease manufacture. The t-38's only had a partial slot.
I know of no documented case of serious injury related to firing a factory or sporterized Arisaka, including negligence or outright stupidity of the shooter. Post it if you have it.

June 13, 2013, 01:13 PM
The fact that you mistook a cast receiver rifle for a battle rifle tells me you are no one to give advice. "Fools all around".

Perhaps you failed reading comprehension, or my post is poorly worded. I picked that rifle up and knew what it was. I have several real Arisaka rifles and knew of, but had never seen a Japanese training rifle. That is the reason I put all those pictures on the web, in case someone comes across one of these, maybe they will recognize it and not put a 6.5 Arisaka round in it.

I paid $75.00 for the training rifle and have no idea if it was worth $75.00 or $7.50.

I also read Ackley's section on blow up tests on the Arisaka. I don't remember nor am I going to look right now to see if my memory that the materials in these things were anything but carbon steel.

If you did not catch it, M1917's were not made of carbon steel, but nickle steel. That I remember. It really does not matter, I am not a fan of sporterizing military actions for more than just the reasons in my previous post.

F. Guffey
June 13, 2013, 08:58 PM
“Guffy, Ackley re-cut the neck and throat of a 30-06 to accept .35 caliber bullets” I am not impressed, if he was looking for excitement he should have left the chamber alone and chamber an 8mm57, back to the part where I responded to an earlier post.

Daniel Watters
Senior Member

Join Date: February 7, 1999
Location: USA
Posts: 644 Well, the Arisaka actions are definitely strong. In his book _Bolt Action Rifles_, Frank de Haas recounts a 1959 _American Rifleman_ article in which a 6.5mm Type 38 was rechambered to .30-06 by an idiot. The problem?...the bore was not rerifled to the larger diameter! At each shot the .308" bullet was swaged down to .264". Yet, even the NRA staff was not able to destroy it.

It is assumed the bullet was swaged down and increased in length, as in “Can you imagine how long that bullet was when it left the barrel?” and I always say ‘No! Because that is not what happens’.

F. Guffey
F. Guffey is offline

It was not my intentions to miss you on that one now I assume you believe the bullet got longer.

F. Guffey

June 13, 2013, 10:08 PM
Nickel steel is carbon steel. Kinda like a hamburger (Chrome Molly) with more seasoning in it. Did you get that?

Guffy, what the heck are you talking about. I don't know if the bullet elongates, but it is a reasonable possibility. Ackley did start with an 8mm bullet, but did open the neck and throat to 8mm specs. He was trying to duplicate what the NRA deal was all about, not blow the case up. I can't say as I ever tried to do it either with intent or by mistake. What do you think happens to that bullet?

F. Guffey
June 15, 2013, 09:04 AM

Air conditioning, in search of a means to seal a compressor as in a porus metal will not allow a compressor to hole ‘its gas’ through trial and error, finally nickel was added, then John Browning, in his search for something new that would work with smokeless ammo, he added nickel to the Model 94, that did not make Winchester happy, after all the 94 was named the 94, not the model 95, Browning would not allow the Model 94 to go into production until it was ‘fixed’. According to Browning the Model 94 was fixed after he added a little nickel. That was in 1895. Springfield, as in Mass. is only a short drive down the freeway, back then it was a short buggy drive down the pike, no matter how short Springfield, the armory, did not find nickel for steel until the early twenties. Back to the short drive, Browning found nickel steel at the patent office, Springfield, the armory could not find Browning or Winchester just short buggy drive down the pike.

Then there are all those stories about the battle ship ‘MAIN’ it was claimed it was strong because nickel was used in the construction, nickel made salvage work of the MAIN worth while.

What do I think, I think it is a good ideal to walk the lane.

F. Guffey

F. Guffey
June 15, 2013, 09:20 AM

“ Ritchie relates that Gamgee threw up his hands and shouted: "Eureka! I have found at last an alloy strong enough and hard enough to resist anything and close enough in texture to resist the escape of any form of gas!" “

And I wonder, would anyone have recognized someone from Springfield at the patent office, as the story goes Smith and Wesson and Browning spent more time at the patent office than they die at their day job.

F. Guffey

June 15, 2013, 10:48 AM
Nickel steel is only as good as the people heat treating it. Chrome Moly has a better track record than nickel steel when it comes to guns. Makes me wonder why more companies did not use nickel steel in their barrels? I think the '94 is a low pressure design and nickel steel will not help it much.

F. Guffey
June 15, 2013, 02:24 PM
“I think the '94 is a low pressure design and nickel steel will not help it much”

Too late, When the Model 94 was to be released as the first rifle to use smokeless powder it failed according to John Browning, in his opinion smokeless powder was too hard on the black powder design. John Browning discovered nickel steel at the patent office.

F. Guffey

Evan Thomas
June 16, 2013, 11:51 AM
Let's see... we've wandered off topic (you'll never convince me that the original Model 94 was made in Japan ;))... we're getting a bit testy...

I think we're done here, but feel free to continue the discussion of metallurgy via PM.