It had us stumped, which is really pretty hard to do. So we asked Ian at Forgotten Weapons. Ian is to rare, obscure and downright weird military guns of all nations and eras as the Crazy Cat Lady is to “just one more adorable kitten” — but it beat him with a stick, too.
OK, here’s something that’s on display in the Special Forces Branch Museum on Ft. Bragg… this gun is featured there, in a display on the OSS Detachment 101 war in Burma against the Japanese.
Best guess is some kind of homemade, jungle workshop weapon. (Ian at Forgotten Weapons made a similar guess, but an exact ID on this piece eludes him, too. If a gun beats us and Ian, then it’s something seriously weird).
It was unlabeled in the museum, it turns out, because they had no idea what it was, either. But one of their experts came through, as USASOC’s Rodney Cox posted in the comments to that post recently:
As only 1500 of these were actually made it is no wonder that it was so difficult to ID. The reason it was the only weapon on display at the museum without a discription is that we couldn’t ID it either. Thanks to MSG (ret) Tommy Galbaith, we now know it is a Japanese Type II Hamada chambered in 8mm Nambu. Said to be a copy of the Browning M-1910 designed by Bunji Hamada. Hope this helps, and thanks to all for your interest the museum.
We hit the net for some more information, not having a reference work on Japanese pistols (the Hamadas are too rare to figure in Small Arms of the World). We found some auctions of the earlier Type 1 which was in 7.65mm Browning (.32 ACP). Here’s one. Its familial resemblance to (and similarly crude manufacture to) the weapon in the museum is clear, as is its Browning provenance.
Hamada and Son Ltd. is still in business — as, unbelievably, a vendor of extremely fine shotguns.
UPDATE: To our embarrassment, we already had information on the Hamada Type II on our shelf, although, to be sure, it was very limited information. Ezell’s Handguns of the World, a comprehensive reference from the early 1980s which we suspect to be now out of print, has a brief mention of the Hamada guns on page 626. They’re also included in a statistical table on Japanese pistols on the same page, and pages 627 and 628 are full-page photos of the Type I and Type II respectively. Interestingly, the weapons in the book seem to be much better finished that the SF Museum Type II or the auction Type I cited in this post. Next time we have an old military whatsis, we’re going straight to Ezell….