Howa Machinery Ltd. M1 Carbine

Post WWII Commercially Manufactured M1 Carbines

Howa Machinery Ltd.
Nagoya, Japan









 



Part II: Howa M1 Carbines to Thailand


The July 1966 issue of The American Rifleman includes an article entitled Thailand Infantry Weapons [pp. 24-27]. The article is a review of the infantry weapons in use by Thailand. The article indicates, "The Thais like the M1 Carbine and are presently purchasing them newly manufactured in Japan". Unfortunately the article doesn't provide further details.

The records of the U.S. Military Assistance Program maintained by the National Archives indicate that between 1950 and 1963 Thailand received 48,421 U.S. M1 and M2 carbines from the U.S. Dept. of Defense. Between 1967 and 1976 Thailand received an additional 15,066 U.S. M1 carbines and 9,525 U.S. M2 carbines from the DoD. Thailand's army is known to have received a large number of U.S. M1 and U.S. M2 carbines which they used during the Vietnam War. It is unknown if Thailand issued any of these U.S. carbines to any of the other various government agencies in Thailand.

Quebec, Canada 1995

In late 1994 or early 1995 Larry Ruth, author of War Baby! and War Baby Comes Home, received information that a Canadian firearms import/export dealer was in possession of a number of M1 carbines manufactured by Howa that had the logo of the Royal Thai Police on the receiver ring. On 28 Feb 1995 Ruth received a reply to an inquiry he had made regarding purchasing one of the Howas, to/from the Firearms Section, Centre of Forensic Sciences, Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services for Ontario, Canada. The reply indicated the carbines were for sale in Canada and included a number of photographs of one of the carbines.

On 15 Mar 1995 Ruth learned the name of the Canadian importer/exporter was Districorp Enterprises Inc. of Laval, Quebec.

Between March 1995 and September 1996 Ruth and another interested party in New Mexico attempted to get approval from BATF to purchase a number of the carbines and bring them into the United States. In an attempt to meet the requirements set forth by BATF to purchase and import the carbines, Howa Manufacturing Ltd. was contacted. During this time Ruth learned Districorp had approximately 9000 Howa M1 carbines.

During the time period the Howa carbines from the Thai Police were at Districorp in Quebec, Districorp sold approximately half of the carbines to other importers/exporters. Several of these carbines are owned by individuals in France, several are owned by individuals in New Zealand.

Howa Responds

Howa responded on 29 Mar 1995, indicating the following. "We received your fax letter dated March 21 [1995] and copies of the pictures. We investigated your information to the related sections and older workers. At first, it is clear that our Model 300 Carbines does not have manufactured for Japan Self Defence Agency or Japanese Police Agency. All guns had sold to civilian people in domestic market. But there was only one case that this model was exported to foreign countries. 10,000 units of our carbine in total had exported to Thailand government in 1965 and 1966. There are not any records on specification, marking, serial number and etc. of these because they have already been scrapped. As a result we cannot identify whether your inquired model is our product or not." Signed M. Nozu, Firearms Sales Division, Howa Machinery Ltd., Aichi, Japan.

The photographs had included the distinctive bayonet lug and rear sight manufactured only by Howa. The Howa name does not appear anywhere on these carbines. The rifle had not been disassembled for the photographs, thus the photographs did not include the bottom of the barrel showing the Howa proof mark. By "scrapped", it is believed Mr. Nozu was referring to the production records. Keep in mind, these carbines were manufactured at a time when Japan was highly sensitive about any country identifying their enemies weapons as having been made by a Japanese company. This may explain why the Howa name and location does not appear on these particular carbines.

BATF Responds


Shotgun News
October 1, 1996
In a communication from BATF, dated 15 Nov 1995, Ruth was advised the Howa carbine(s) could not be imported as they were military surplus firearms precluded from importation into the United States by Section 925(d)(3) of Title 18 of the U.S. Code. The letter goes on to indicate the rifles could be imported legally if the barrel was welded to the receiver, the chamber was welded closed, and the underside of the receiver was welded with the bolt in the closed position.

On O1 Oct 1996 Shotgun News carried an advertisement from Old Sacramento Armoury of Sacramento, CA that listed the same Howa M1 carbines for sale in the United States.

On contacting BATF it was learned Sacramento Armoury's request to import the carbines had been approved as it had indicated the carbines had been used by the Thailand Police. The U.S. Code that prevents the importation of military surplus does not apply to police surplus. The only BATF requirement was the bayonet lugs had to be removed from the rifles.

Ruth learned Districorp in Quebec had approximately a dozen of the carbines left. Ruth's contact in New Mexico purchased three of the Howa M1 carbines from Districorp. BATF approved their import into the United States as police surplus, minus the bayonet lugs.

Sacramento, CA 1996

Old Sacramento Armoury incorporated in California in January 1972 at 2215 "J" St. in Sacramento, where it remained in business until 2007. The business was owned by Edward Faust, who had been in business as a retailer since at least the early 1960's. Over the years Faust had expanded his business to include military surplus imports. Faust distributed his imports under a variety of different corporate names, including Pacific International Merchandise, ARMEX International, GFCC Corp. of California, Alpha America Trade Group Ltd., New Helvetia Trade Group, and New Helvetia Mercantile Corporation. Before he acquired the M1 carbines made by Howa and used in Thailand, Faust had imported surplus U.S. M1 and U.S. M2 carbines into the United States from a number of different countries, distributing them in several of the above company names. If an M1 carbine has an import mark from any of the above companies, it does not mean the carbine was made by Howa.

The company name used by Faust to import the Howa carbines from Canada to the U.S.A. was the New Helvetia Mercantile Corporation (NHM CO) of Sacramento, CA. The importers mark, required by U.S. law, appears discretely in one of two places and is often overlooked. One location, is the bottom of the barrel just forward of the barrel band (I don't have a photo yet). The other location is depicted below. In both cases, the marking is "NHM CO SAC CA".


Importer marking on the right side of the receiver to the rear of the slide groove

A number of employees worked on the Howa carbines. Several internet discussion groups have posts regarding the Howa's at Old Sac Armoury, most of which provide conflicting information. The employee below worked at Old Sac Armoury from 1987-1996 and was kind enough to answer a number of questions and offer information regarding the Howas.

"There were 2 batches of them that came in about 6 months apart. I can't remember the amount but I'm pretty sure it's close to 4000 pcs. The rifles came in crates of 30 guns. The crates were long enough to accommodate larger guns like M1s or '03s and each crate came with a plastic bag or cardboard box with the appropriate amount of slings and oilers (or wood dowels). I never saw one that was sporterized in any way and every one of them had the Royal Thai crest. I had to match serials to manifests and I don't remember any going over 10,000."

"There were varying shades of finish ranging from pretty dark grey to almost a silvery park. About 3 in 10 had rings in the barrel, one had 14 bulges. Many were rebarreled due to being ruined by blockages or rings. A lot of the handguards were replaced too because the wood spacers in the crates frequently were broken up and the rifles ended up jumbled together. More than a few oprods that were bent, worn or otherwise wouldn't stay in the grooves so those were replaced as needed with U.S. parts. We used anything we could find for parts, mostly from Blue Sky Korean import guns that were crapped out. You'll probably hear of somebody having a Royal Thai carbine that has Korean markings on the stock too. We wouldn't bother with redoing [refinishing] a stock if replacing it with another one was a viable option. I'd say that most if not all of the US parts found on the Howa Royal Thai police guns were installed by the guys at Old Sac."

Much of this information was corroborated by a second employee, independently. This employee added that if a Howa with Royal Thai markings has any U.S. GI or commercial parts, it's because they were used as replacements by Old Sac Armory or a later owner. Many of the carbines were missing various parts that needed to be replaced before the carbines could be sold as functional.

The bulges and/or rings in the barrels had been caused by someone firing the carbine when something obstructed the inside of the barrel. One cause for this is poor ammunition that fails to send the bullet out of the barrel before the next round is fired. Another cause could be mud or debris in the barrel. Given the number of barrels with multiple bulges, these probably occurred while the carbines were in use by Thailand.

Thailand

The logo on the receiver ring of the Howa carbines used in Thailand is the symbol used by the Royal Thai Police. The Royal Thai Police logo has a number of variations. The meaning of the variations is not yet known. It is also not known which unit(s) within the Royal Thai Police used the Howa carbines. This is the focus of ongoing research.

From 1947-1973, and 1976-1992, Thailand had a military controlled government. The police in Thailand are a national police force with a headquarters and Central Investigative Branch located in Bangkok, along with the Bangkok Metropolitan Police. The Thai police handle immigration, nationwide narcotics enforcement, and court security. They have marine and aviation divisions, along with a special division that handles tourist areas, known as the Tourist Police. Thailand has seventy-five Provinces that are divided into nine regions. Each region has a Provincial Police that are also part of the national police force.

The Royal Thai Police include the Border Patrol Police, which is a para-military police unit. The Border Police are supported by a para-military Volunteer Defense Corp during a time of emergency or disaster. The Border Police handle everything from normal border policing duties to support for the Thai military during operations involving the borders. The Thai Border Police are known to have used M1 carbines, but it is not known if their carbines were those obtained by Thailand from the U.S. as military assistance.

Information regarding the history of the Royal Thai Police is not readily available. Unlike many national police agencies, they do not publicize their historical operations. Especially the history of the Border Patrol Police.


Configuration of the Howa M1 Carbine as used by the Royal Thai Police

The Howa Thai Police carbines are a good example of the receiver and internal parts used on all of the Howa manufactured carbines. The Model 300 sporterized version is the same, internally.

These carbines were built using the U.S. measurement system, not the metric system. All of the parts are interchangeable with the parts manufactured under contract to U.S. Ordnance during WWII. Several of the parts are different than their U.S. counterparts, however, they are still interchangeable. This carbine is unique enough that it merits a detailed description.

The carbine has no markings that identify who manufactured it or where it was manufactured. With one small exception. The letters HP have been stamped in the bottom of the barrel between the receiver and the gas piston housing. There are no markings that indicate a model number or the caliber of the rifle. Each carbine has a five digit serial number.

Howa M1 Carbine with Royal Thai Police logo
Barrel: 18 inches, 4 groove
Weight: 5 lbs, 11 oz's
Length: 35 3/4 inches overall
Stock: Walnut
Sights: flipsight rear adjustable for windage, GI style front

The lowest serial number found so far is 0012x which is owned by an individual in France. The highest serial number found so far is 0968x, owned by an individual in the United States. As indicated previously, owners have also been found in New Zealand.

The carbine depicted below was purchased in 2008 from a Gunbroker auction. The bayonet lug was located separately, from another auction several months later. Except for a few GI parts, which will be detailed below, no parts had any markings, other than the HP on the bottom of the barrel. At some point the metal parts were refinished.


The Barrel Group


The front sight is milled, not cast. It is held in place by a front sight key and pin. The distinctive twin stake marks on either side are specific to Howa. The grooves on the muzzle that look like threading, are tool marks made during the manufacture of the barrel. A number of original GI barrels have the same tool marks in the same location.


The barrel band is consistent with what is commonly referred to on the GI carbines as a type II or type "B" band. The barrel band screw is identical to the GI equivalent.


About 4.5" from the muzzle the barrel has an area wider in diameter with an inlet for a front sight key. The bayonet lug fits snugly over this area and is held in place by the key and a pin, similar to those used for the front sight. The bayonet lug is milled and equal to the length of the wider diameter, at .83 inches. The position of the bayonet lug is the same as the bayonet lug on the U.S. GI carbines that have them. The GI barrel band is interchangeable with the Howa barrel band and can replace the Howa bayonet lug.


The gas cylinder is swaged on.


The gas piston nut has two notches instead of three. It is strongly staked in place.


The Howa Proof mark


The slide is the M2 style, with a distinctive handle having grooves on the front. The slide is machined, not cast.


Stock Group

The stock, handguard, and buttplate that were on this carbine when it was purchased were of U.S. commercial manufacture. The recoil plate was GI.

I'm seeking a quality photograph of the stock and handguard that were imported with the Howa Thai carbines, for display here.


Receiver Group

The receiver was made from forged steel and machined meticulously. The rear sight platform has been extended in length, behind the dovetail, to support the rear sight (see below).


The Howa rear sight is a flip sight within a milled enclosure. It is adjustable for windage. It can be replaced with a GI flip sight, but not a GI adjustable sight, due to the length of the rear sight platform behind the dovetail.


Not all of the Howa's used by Thailand had a flip peep sight.
This sight is similar to the GI adjustable sight with graduations
for distance. The base and protective wings are the same on both,
the peep sight and graduation are interchangeable on the same base.
[Photo provided courtesy of Macgunner]


Bolt Group

The bolt is round, unmarked, and made from machined steel. The firing pin and extractor are GI.


Trigger Housing Group

The trigger housing is cast. The rear lug that fits into the rear of the receiver has a slight "step" down on the rear half.

The hammer is cast, the sear is machined steel and an M2 configuration. The trigger and rotary safety are GI. The mag catch is for an M2 and it appears someone lightly etched an M on it's face.

Return to Part I