Howa Machinery Ltd. M1 Carbine

Post WWII Commercially Manufactured M1 Carbines

Howa Machinery Ltd.
Nagoya, Japan


Part I: Japan, Howa, & the M1 Carbines


Howa Heavy Industries of Aichi, Japan, was established in 1941. During WWII they manufactured armament for the Imperial Japanese Army. One of the weapons they manufactured that they are well known for is the Arisaka rifle, a standard Imperial Japanese Army infantry rifle.

At the end of the war, Howa Heavy Industries changed it's name to Howa Machinery, Ltd. Since then, they have manufactured a wide variety of machinery, tools, and equipment, primarily for non-military purposes. Howa Machinery, Ltd. is a privately owned company. At various times they have been contracted by the Japanese government for the manufacture and/or refurbishing of various machines, equipment, and small arms.

Howa's history as it relates to the M1 carbine is unique, and includes military, police, and civilian versions of the M1 carbine. All of the variations were based on a central concept that was founded when Howa manufactured parts for, and serviced, U.S. M1 carbines during the Occupation of Japan and Korean War.

It is not uncommon for collectors to argue that the M1 carbines manufactured by Howa are not commercially manufactured carbines. Howa manufactured at least three variations, possibly four. One, possibly two, were exclusively for the commercial market. The difference between those made for the military/police and those made for the general public is largely superficial. Discussing one without the others would provide a fragmented history of Howa and their M1 carbines, so all will be covered here. This is the history of Howa Machinery Ltd. and the M1 carbines they manufactured.

The Allied Occupation of Japan (1945-1952)

[Historical excerpts on the Occupation of Japan taken from The Allied Occupation of Japan by Takemae Eiji, 2003]

On 13 Aug 1945 Britain, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, and the United States agreed that the main islands of Japan would be occupied by troops from the United States under the command of one Supreme Allied Commander, who would represent all of the Allied nations. The Supreme Commander was someone they also agreed upon, General Douglas MacArthur. Prior to the Japanese surrender on 02 Sep 1945, MacArthur assumed control as Supreme Commander of all Allied Powers (SCAP) in Japan. His military government became known as General Headquarters, Supreme Commander of all Allied Powers (GHQ/SCAP).

GHQ/SCAP, with the assistance of the U.S. Sixth Army and U.S. Eighth Army, oversaw the disarming and disbandment of all of Japan's military forces. Unlike the police in Germany and Austria at the end of the war in Europe, the Japanese police were not disarmed and disbanded at the end of the war with Japan. The language and cultural differences prompted GHQ/SCAP to initially leave the Japanese police in place. Reorganization of the Japanese police began in 1947.

Between 1945 and 1952, Japan was technically under the protection of the combined Allied Powers. On an operations level, the Allied Power "protecting" Japan, was America. MacArthur and the leadership of the United States wasted no time in recreating Japan as the primary American ally in the Far East.

Rebuilding Japan with U.S. Contracts

Between 1945 and 1950 it became increasingly evident that the nations to fear in the Far East were the Soviet Union and Communist China. The fear for America was the expansion of communism. The fear for Japan was invasion, retribution for the past decades, and annihilation of Japan as a nation and culture.

As tensions escalated, so did the requests from the Americans for Japan to initiate rearmament. The Americans began pouring money and military assistance, including materials, training, and manufacturing capabilities, into Japan. Given what Japan had gone through the past 20 years, the Japanese people were opposed to a Japanese military and rearmament. The Japanese government was content with America providing Japan's defense, and/or America paying for it, as long as possible. The money and military assistance was viewed by Japan as an opportunity to rebuild their privately owned commercial corporations, producing products that could be used for both commercial and military markets. Japan was far more interested in rebuilding it's commercial markets.

At some point between 1946 and 1949 Howa Machinery, Ltd. became sole licensee by the Japanese government for the repair, service, and manufacturing of replacement parts for the U.S. M1 carbines and U.S. M1 Garands being used by U.S. forces.

U.S. M1 carbine production had ceased in 1945. Nine of the ten primary contractors returned to the business they had conducted before the war, which had nothing to do with weapons. The tenth, Winchester, turned it's attention elsewhere. All of the U.S. Ordnance machinery and tooling in the possession of these companies was returned to U.S. Army Ordnance. Springfield Armory of Springfield, MA was designated by U.S. Army Ordnance as the primary facility for any further work with the M1 carbines. Springfield Armory selected the machinery and tooling they needed and did not already have, from the items returned by the primary contractors.

Of the remaining tooling and machinery, Erma Werke of Dachau, Bavaria purchased enough to service, repair, and manufacture replacement parts for the U.S. M1 carbines that had been provided to the German police in the American Occupation Zone. U.S. Army Ordnance personnel equipped Howa Machinery Ltd. with the necessary equipment and tools, then trained Howa's personnel for everything necessary for Howa to be the equivalent of a U.S. Army Ordnance Arsenal specific to the U.S. M1 carbines and U.S. M1 Garands. U.S. Ordnance personnel oversaw the entire operation at Howa during the time period Howa worked on the U.S. rifles. [Howa Machinery Ltd., brochure for the Howa Model 300 .30 caliber carbine] [Jane's Infantry Weapons, Japanese Contractors, Howa Machinery Ltd] [Hunting Rifles Reviews, undated]

During the summer of 2008, Estate Arms Company of Bellevue, Washington acquired property from a private estate that included someone's personal collection of military surplus items. Included in the estate were two identical new unissued walnut M2 carbine stocks with matching 4 rivet handguards. Both stocks had a U.S. Ordnance bomb in the slingwell along with the initials H M L (Howa Machinery Ltd.). The handguards were unmarked. For those unfamiliar with the U.S. Ordnance bomb marking, it was used as a U.S. Ordnance inspection and approval mark. One of the two stocks had a U.S. Army tag attached that identified the contractor as HOWA and the date of 1949. The fit is equivalent to the stocks manufactured during WWII by American subcontractors for U.S. Ordnance. The stocks and handguards accommodate an M1 carbine, but are cut to M2 specifications. Just like the U.S. manufactured M2 stocks. The wood was left rougher than the original GI stocks and treated with linseed oil. The rougher finish inhibits the reflection of light off the stock.

The author was able to acquire one of the two stocks. Unfortunately it was not the one with the tag. Attempts are being made to acquire a photograph of the tag and the information it details.

The Howa stock came with the handguard, barrel band spring, buttplate, buttplate screw, escutcheon nut, recoil plate screw, and recoil plate. The recoil plate is machined steel, not cast, and unmarked.

The M1 carbine has been placed in this stock for display purposes. The carbine was manufactured by Howa for the Thai Police and will be discussed further under Howa and Thailand (below).

Howa manufactured walnut M2 carbine stock & handguard, 1949

Left side of slingwell contains U.S. Ordnance bomb, letters H M L (Howa Machinery, Ltd)

Buttplate attached to stock

At this point, which parts and how many Howa manufactured for U.S. Army Ordnance is not known. This is the subject of ongoing research.

Japan's National Police Reserve
January 1951

The Korean War prompts the formation of the Japan National Police Reserve (NPR)

At the end of the war the Soviet Union and the Americans agreed to divide Korea into two occupation zones. The North was occupied by the Soviet Union, the South by the Americans. The dividing line was the 38th parallel. The occupation of Korea ended in 1948, with the north adopting a communist government and becoming the nation of North Korea, and the south adopting a democratic government and becoming the nation of South Korea.

On June 25, 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea.

U.S. Eighth Army tactical forces were moved from Japan to South Korea, setting the stage for Japan to become the primary staging, departure, supply, and support area for American forces in Korea. On 08 July 1950, General MacArthur was appointed to lead the U.N. Unified Command in Korea. The same day, he sent a letter to Prime Minister Yoshida of Japan, authorizing Yoshida to augment Japan's 125,000-strong police force with a National Police Reserve (NPR) of 75,000 men and strengthen the Maritime Safety Board (a Coast Guard) with an additional 8,000 men. Shortly thereafter, U.S. military planners urged Yoshida to expand the NPR to over 300,000 men.

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution specifically forbid a Japanese military force. As was done in occupied Austria and Germany, the method used to circumvent laws forbidding a new "military", was the word "police". In all aspects, the NPR and the Japanese police were two separate organizations with very separate missions. The NPR was the predecessor to the Japan Self Defense Forces, founded in 1954. Unlike the NPR, the Japanese police are not known to have used M1 carbines or M1 Garands.

The NPR was established 10 Aug 1950 and by the end of the month had 7,000 personnel. After visiting the NPR training camp, GHQ/SCAP Diplomatic Section's Chief is quoted, "The New Japanese Army... looked as though it had been made in the United States. I thought at first I had stumbled into an American Base, for everything from guns to fatigues was GI. Only when I saw the Japanese soldiers eating with chopsticks did I finally realize that these were indeed, soldiers of another Japanese generation, with a new mission."

By September 1951 over 400,000 Japanese had applied for the NPR, over half of them having served in the Imperial Army during WWII. Approximately 800 candidates from amongst the unpurged former officers of the Japanese led Manchukuo Army (Japanese army in Manchuria, China during WWII) were invited to apply.

The NPR moved into U.S. military bases and facilities that had been vacated by U.S. troops deployed to Korea. A special requisition program was set up to equip the NPR with military surplus and weapons from U.S. stocks in Japan. The NPR was never involved directly in the fighting in Korea, but relieved over 250,000 U.S. soldiers in Japan by taking over many functions related to supply, transportation, and other essential support functions for the American troops in Korea.

The records of the U.S. Military Assistance Program maintained by the National Archives in Bethesda, MD indicate the Japanese obtained 3,994 U.S. M1 carbines and 19,042 M1 Garands through the U.S. Dept. of Defense Military Assistance Program.

The Role of Howa: Support & Parts

Given the situation in Japan in regards to rebuilding it's commercial industries, the war in Korea was a watershed. Japanese companies manufactured many items that would have taken months to reach Korea from the United States. Japanese companies were contracted to manufacture, repair, or service everything from combat boot shoe laces to U.S. tanks. Including ammunition and ordnance. The support Howa had been providing the U.S. for it's carbines and Garand rifles went from peacetime status to war status, with a major influx of capitol for Howa.

Japan Redux (1952-1960)

[Historical excerpts on Post Occupation Japan taken from: The Allied Occupation of Japan by Takemae Eiji, 2002, and, Altered States: The United States and Japan Since the Occupation by Michael Schaller, 1997]

As the Korean War continued, the Allied occupation of Japan ended on April 28, 1952. Japan was once again an independent state. Iwo Jima remained under U.S. control until 1968, Okinawa until 1972. U.S. military personnel remained in Japan at the invitation of the Japanese government, under the terms of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.

The Korean War continued until July 27, 1953, the date the United States, North Korea and China signed an armistice, ending the war. To date, the Republic of Korea (South) and Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (North) have still not signed a peace treaty.

Japan's Internal Struggle with Small Arms Production and it's Impact on Howa

Since the end of WWII Japan has struggled internally over the production of military weapons, including small arms. Policies and laws have changed frequently, and are usually in line with the beliefs of whoever the ruling political party is at the time. Included in this struggle is the export of Japanese manufactured weapons to foreign governments. Especially weapons that could be used to wage war against another country. Japan has been very sensitive to the possibility of enraging a country by selling weapons to that country's enemy.

As a result, Japan's weapon production has been an on-again off-again proposition. Japanese companies involved in military production commonly do not rely upon that production for their continued existence. Military contracts are commonly a small percentage of what any Japanese company manufactures. Howa Machinery Ltd. is a prime example. The majority of products they manufacture are not military or weapon related. If any of their non-military products can benefit from the technology and/or knowledge Howa has gained as a result of it's military contracts and production, so much the better for Howa. This has been a common Japanese business practice since the end of WWII, and the reason for their rapid technology growth with computers, electronics, automobiles, etc.

The Japan Self Defense Forces (SDF)

On 01 Jul 1954 the Japanese Defense Agency was established. The Self Defense Forces were divided into three branches.

These forces were armed with U.S. weapons, many of which had been used by the National Police Reserve. After the end of the war in Korea, Japanese support for the weapons used by America was no longer needed. However, Japanese support continued for the American made weapons in use by Japan. The company solely responsible for the M1 carbines and M1 Garands, was Howa Machinery Ltd.

The Howa Model U3 M1 Carbine

The Howa brochure for the Model 300 commercial M1 carbine indicates Howa manufactured complete M1 carbines and M1 Garands for the SDF.

War Baby Comes Home by Larry Ruth, on page 721, indicates Howa manufactured 5,000 M1 carbines for the Japanese Self Defense Forces, and designated the rifle as the Howa Model U3 M1. The carbines were marked "U3 M1". Ruth indicates these carbines were later sent to Australia and Southeast Asia. Nothing more is known of the Howa Model U3 M1, no photographs or documentation of the carbine has been located.

The M1 carbines manufactured by Howa in the 1960's for the commercial market and the government of Thailand were manufactured to U.S. ordnance specifications and the parts are, with one or two exceptions, fully interchangeable with those of any U.S. M1 carbine. Although Japan adopted the metric system by 1958, the Howa M1 carbines manufactured after this date were measured by U.S. standards. At least some of the machines and tooling used by Howa were very likely the same they had been provided with by U.S. military assistance.

Japan Upgrades it's SDF Rifles to the NATO Standard

In 1964 Howa was contracted by the Japan Defense Agency for the manufacture of the Japan Type 64 rifle. This rifle was compatible with the NATO standards in use at that time. As production made more and more of the Type 64 rifle available, the Type 64 rifle replaced the American weapons used by the SDF. Specific details as to the disposition of the U.S. M1 carbines, Howa U3 M1 carbines, and Howa M1 Garands have not been made available.

Howa Type 64 (7.62 NATO)

During the Fall of 1973 a U.S. Air Force military policeman stationed in Japan visited Naha AFB and met with some of his Japanese counterparts, members of the Japan Air Self Defense Forces. Those guarding aircraft on the tarmac were armed with U.S. M1 carbines.

During an interview with Burton "Bob" Brenner in 2008, founder and owner of Federal Ordnance (1965-1992), this author learned Brenner had traveled to Japan in the early 1980's after receiving information Japan was in the process of disposing of the U.S. M1 Garands they had received from the Military Assistance Program. Brenner and Federal Ordnance specialized in importing military surplus to the United States, then selling it retail. American import laws at the time prevented the importation of U.S. military surplus small arms that had been provided to other nations as military assistance. Brenner related he showed the Japanese how to "demilitarize" the Garand receivers and barrels, so they would be in compliance with American laws. Brenner then purchased and imported all of the parts, demilled barrels, and demilled receivers. Brenner could not recall the exact quantity of demilled receivers, other than it was in the thousands. Brenner arranged for the receivers to be welded whole, the front half of the barrels to be fitted to the rear half of surplus 1903 barrels, assembled the rifles and sold them as complete M1 Garands with their original manufacturer markings and serial number intact.

The Caliber .30 AOA Howa Autoloading Rifle Model 300

The Model 300 is a sporterized hunting version of the .30 caliber M1 carbine manufactured by Howa. Information about this model has come in small pieces from a number of different sources, Howa included. What follows are the sources and their information.

In 1961 the American commercial M1 carbine manufacturer, National Ordnance, was owned by Robert E. Penney Jr. His partner, John Arnold, owned Alpine Sales, the sole distributor for National Ordnance. In 1961 John Arnold returned from Japan with a Howa Model 300 for evaluation with the intent of possibly importing the rifle. Penney and Arnold decided the Howa Model 300 was too expensive to import. Arnold went on to own National Ordnance in 1962 and died in 1973. The Model 300 rifle Arnold brought back with him was sold to a buyer somewhere in the United States, after his death.

In 2008 a brochure for the Howa Model 300 was purchased off Ebay by this author. The brochure cover indicates it was mailed to Kleins in Chicago from Nagoya Gun Services of Nagoya, Japan in July 1964. The date 13 Apr 1964 was handwritten on the cover. Handwritten on the inside was a personal note to Kleins requesting a catalog and export price list. Kleins was a major gun business with multiple retail locations in the Chicago area. Nagoya Gun Services appears to have been a distributor for Howa, along with other rifle manufacturers.

In War Baby Comes Home by Larry Ruth, pp. 729-732, Ruth discusses the Howa Model 300. After making an inquiry to Howa about their carbines, Ruth received a copy of the Howa Model 300 brochure, in addition to information that Howa had manufactured approximately 10,000 Model 300 M1 carbines. During personal conversations with Ruth, this author learned Ruth has seen a Howa Model 300, owned by a New York resident. This particular rifle has the words "Ithaca" and "Ithaca, NY" on the receiver and barrel. The owner purchased it from a private party and has no further information.

It's clear Howa and/or their distributor was attempting to locate a U.S. company in the early 1960's for sales of the Model 300 in the United States. Ithaca was located in Ithaca, NY until 1987, when the factory was moved to New York. Since 1967, Ithaca has been bought and sold several times. Ithaca of 2008 indicates they have no records from the previous owners and do not know if Ithaca and Howa ever did business with one another.

Howa manufactured rifles and shotguns for Smith & Wesson for several years in the early 1980's. When Smith & Wesson discontinued the weapons, Howa manufactured them for Mossberg, then Interstate Arms. The rifles and shotguns had the Howa name and "Made in Japan", along with the name of the American company and their model number. Howa now manufactures the Model 1500 under the Howa name. The rifle is imported by Legacy Sports of Reno, NV. Ruth indicated the Ithaca markings on the Howa Model 300 M1 carbine were not consistent with an importer's mark. They were more consistent with Ithaca having put their name on a Howa manufactured rifle.

Howa Autoloading Rifle Model 300
Caliber: .30 carbine (.30 AOA)
Howa Model 300 Manual download (3.78MB)
Barrel: 19.6 inches, 4 groove
Weight: 6.17 lbs
Length: 37.8 inches overall
Stock: French Walnut - Linseed oil finish
Sights: adjustable rear, hooded ramp front
Features: muzzle brake, gloss blue finish

Howa scope, scope mount,
and two replacement rear peep sights

Top of receiver at rear

Howa Proof Mark
Sometimes appears on bottom of barrel between receiver and gas cylinder

Caliber .30 AOA Soft Point (.30 caliber carbine) ammunition
manufactured exclusively by Asahi Okuma Arms Co. Ltd.
"The largest and only small arms ammunition manufacturer in Japan"

Later Version of the Howa Model 300

Carbine Club newsletter 43-4 in June 1980 included an inquiry by a member regarding a Howa M1 carbine he had purchased. The barrel is 19 1/2" in length and the receiver has been drilled and tapped for a scope mount. The holes for the scope mount are identical to the unique hole positions for the Howa Model 300 scope mount.

Howa proof mark and logo on the bottom of the barrel between the receiver and gas piston housing

Bits and pieces of information have been shared regarding several of these Howa carbines. They appear to be a later evolution of the Model 300 that were sold commercially in Japan in the 1970's. They retained the sporterized stock and finish, scope mount holes, as well as the Howa markings. The sights are consistent with those manufactured 1965-1966 under contract to the Royal Thailand Border Police (see next page).

Note stock checkering

Serial number on top of receiver behind rear sight


Part II: Howa M1 Carbines to Thailand