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Japanese Matchlock Guns

by Dean Wayland (click to email)


Please note that the table of musket ball diameters and gun calibres that appears below, is currently undergoing a full revision. The ball weights and diameters themselves are spot on, but the windage allowance and resulting calibres are not. So for the time being please ignore those sections. I have placed a reminder at the top of the table. When the full corrections are finished I will remove these warnings. Meanwhile enjoy the rest of my article.

Above left: Night firing, using cords tied to the muzzle of their guns, so as to ensure the correct elevation.


The purpose of this article is to provide a very brief outline of the history, types and performance of Japanese firearms during the latter part of the long civil wars fought by the SAMURAI warriors of Japan through the 15th, 16th and early 17th centuries, known as The Age of The Country at War or SENGOKU JIDAI. It is intended for both beginners as well as more knowledgeable readers. You do not need to grasp the terminology or read Japanese scripts. But if you want to understand it more, then you need to read the section at the bottom of the SHOGUN homepage first. If you don't, then read on and enjoy...

A Very Brief History

First a word about gunpowder. Despite China having had gunpowder from as early as the 9th century, it did not cross the sea to Japan until the late 13th century. In 1274 and 1281, the Mongols introduced the Japanese to the idea of explosive grenades during their two abortive invaisions. However, there is no evidence to date that they ever took up the new technology, until the 16th century.

In the west this compound was known as gunpowder as its principle use was in firearms, which first appeared in the late 13th century. However, you will also see it referred to simply as powder, and post the introduction of smokeless powder in the late 19th century, as blackpowder.

There appears to be something of a question as to when exactly the gun first arived in Japan. It was once firmly believed that the Portuguese introduced the weapon in 1543 following the wreck of a Chinese junk carrying two gun bearing European traders on the island of TANEGASHIMA just south of the main island of 九州 KYŪSHŪ, but this may not have been quite the first.

Many years ago I heard it suggested at a seminar that there is evidence for example that wealthy lords like ODA NOBUNAGA, the first of the three great unifiers of Japan, may have had access to Chinese bronze firearms prior to the arrival of the Europeans with their iron guns. What we can be certain of, is that that the Portuguese did introduce in to Japan a significant improvement in the method of construction and performance. Indeed the presence of non iron guns is possibly supported by the fact that the Japanese coined a special word for the new weapons TEPPŌ meaning "iron guns".

So, first let us entertain the idea that if indeed early Japanese firearms had been like those of the Chinese, made of bronze, then they would be weak in comparison to iron or steel, requiring a great deal of metal to produce a safe and effective weapon. Alternatively, one that was light enough to be easily carried by the warrior, suffered with a poor or potencially hazardous performance. This would have been one of the reasons why, for the SAMURAI before the arrival of the Portuguese, firearms were not a major element in battle strategy. Of course the other answer could be that they did not have the gun.

The ideal material for gun barrels was iron or steel, but prior to the arrival of the Europeans the Japanese had no method for sealing the breech end of the barrel, without making it a hazard to use, presuming that they already had the knowledge of the gun. In Europe during the 14th century armourers had developed the technique of manufacturing the iron or steel screw breech plug that could be threaded in to the rear of the gun barrel. This resulted in powerful yet lightweight and portable firearms. Within six months of the arrival of the first Europeans in 1543, mass production of these new improved "Iron Guns" or TEPPŌ began, and by the end of the 16th century it has estimated that there were over 300,000 guns in Japan. A higher proportion by head of population than even in Europe. The result was that the humble ASHIGARU (light feet), the peasant infantry, could be quickly trained to function effectively on the battlefield as gunners as part of the newly formed TEPPŌTAI "Iron Gun Groups". Thereafter armies increased massively in size, with between a third and a half of troops equipped with these new iron guns, and the result was carnage.

This slaughter did not begin immediately, its use in war grew slowly over about 20 years. It seems that the Japanese were not convinced of their utility as mass weapons of war, preferring instead to use them as either diplomatic gifts, or for hunting, sometimes referring to them as TORI JŪ "bird guns".

The first to take these weapons to heart were people like the warrior Buddhist monks or SŌHEI, who in 1570 used massed gunnery against ODA NOBUNAGA. Then he in turn, in 1575, likewise used the same tactic to devastate the TAKEDA clan at the battle of NAGASHINO. The gun was thus by then central to SAMURAI strategic thinking.

With the end of the civil wars in the early 17th century, military guns were confined to their owner's castles, used for practise and only carried publicly for display in the annual marches from home to the capital EDO, a practise known as the alternate attendance system. A system designed to break the bank of any would be rebellious lords. During the closed era of the EDO period, guns were still made and sold, but they tended to be the small calibre so-called TORI JŪ "bird guns" intended for hunting. But from then until the latter 19th century, there was essentially no real development of the Japanese firearm. And when Commodore Mathew Perry and the American Navy arrived in EDO bay (modern TOKYŌ) in 1853 with the latest weaponry and demanded trade at the barrel of a modern cannon, the Japanese had no answer, but that's a different story.

Above: a very long 鉄砲 TEPPŌ, also known as a 火縄銃 HINAWAJŪ or 種子島 TANEGASHIMA.

The Guns

Known today in Japan mainly as HINAWAJŪ 火縄銃 literally "fire rope gun", or as TEPPŌ 鉄砲 meaning "iron gun", or less often as TANEGASHIMA 種子島, that is the name of the island where the Portuguese traditionally first brought this type of weapon to Japan, and the island's name has been used as a noun for them ever since, especially amongst collectors.

They were relatively simple weapons, see the diagram at the bottom of this page. Consisting of an iron or steel barrel deeply set into a full length wooden stock, fitted with an external firing mechanism or lock. This "lock", usually entirely of brass or rarely iron, was of what is known here in the West as the snapping matchlock design. A spring loaded snake like arm or claw called a serpentine here in the West, held a length of smouldering cord, the HINAWA "fire rope" or match, a finely woven cord which has been soaked in saltpetre, that is potassium nitrate solution. This burns very slowly and is used to ignite a tiny priming charge of extremely fine gunpowder stored in a lidded pan on the side of the lock plate. Firing happens when the shooter flips aside the pan cover with their thumb, squeezes the trigger, releasing the spring loaded serpentine, the burning match snaps down in to the fine priming powder, and then, part of the resulting flame passes through the Touch Hole, a vent in the side of the barrel, igniting the main charge of gunpowder. This propels a spherical Lead ball or TAMA, down the barrel and out of the muzzle towards its hapless victim.

Quality varied as ever, ranging from exquisite works of art, through to weapons that were very simple, intended for issue to the common foot soldiers serving as gunners. One type, had barrels so thin, that with continuous use in battle, they would overheat and flex, gaining the nickname of noodle guns.

In form the TEPPŌ or "Iron Gun" was very similar to the European sporting style of matchlock musket. That is it was fitted with a wooden stock that ended in just a cheek rest and grip, without any kind of butt that could be rested against the shooters shoulder. Thus the recoil was taken up by the shooter's arms, making for a lighter and more compact weapon. For the standard issue guns their barrels typically ranged from around 90cm (36") to 105cm (42") long, and the guns overall weight was circa 3kg (6.6 lbs) to 5kg (11 lbs), depending upon its calibre, that is the diameter of the barrel and it's ball. Some barrels of regular guns could be as short as 60cm (24") or so, while others could be up to 160cm (63") or longer.

The diameter of the barrel or its calibre was unlike today, not the means by which a gun was defined. Instead the Japanese like the Europeans of this era measured the size of the ball, not in units of length, but by weight. In England, the bore of a musket was described as a fraction of a pound of Lead. So, for example a 12 bore musket, fired a ball 1/12th of a pound in weight, that is 18.5mm or 0.729" in diameter. With Japanese gunnery the standard unit of measure is the MONME (匁), sometimes spelt MOMME, which equals 3.75 grams today. The equivalent of the most common English musket, the 12 bore would be a 10 MONME gun. The majority of battlefield guns were either 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 MONME weapons, that is shooting balls weighing between 18.75~37.5 grams (290~578 grains). Pistols and other small guns would often be between 1 and 5 MONME 3.75~18.75g (58~290 gr). While others were in effect hand cannons, shooting balls from 15 to 100 MONME, 56~375G (870~5,787 grains). See the table and the comparative illustrations of bullet diameters at the bottom of this article.

Surprisingly the Japanese were very lax with their sizing terminology. A 1 MONME gun, covered any weapon from the absolute smallest that a 1 MONME ball would fit, up to just below 2 MONME! So, care in use was vital. This may also be in part because there was some variation in ball sizes due to differences in the purity of the Lead used, and in the definition of the MONME. Today it is defined as exactly 3.75 grams, but in the past this could have been up to circa 3.76 grams. Not much of a difference you may say, but it will vary the size of the ammunition and the guns that use it. In this article I use the modern 3.75 gram definition, as this gives the smallest possible results, which is a good place to start.

Above: a hand held cannon known as a ŌZUTSU, meaning great barrel.

As indicated guns ran from tiny curios, pocket pistols firing 1 MONME balls, through practical muskets, right on up to massive wall guns, called ŌZUTSU. These were essentially hand held cannon, firing 15 to 100 MONME Lead balls from barrels as short as 19cm (7.5"), through to around 70cm (27.5") or so. Such guns could weigh up to 10~30 kilograms (22~66 lbs). They were used in defence from castle walls, upon ships and as assault weapons to blast through door locks or hinges, or to launch fire arrows to set fires during sieges.

There is reportedly a 1,000 MONME ŌZUTSU that was made during the EDO era, firing a 86mm (3.4") 3.75 kg (8.25 lbs) ball. This was, I believe a novelty weapon, intended to amuse their wealthy owners. If such ammunition was seriously deployed, I suspect it was in a regular cannon, not a hand held weapon, well at least, I hope so.

Above: a TANZUTSU or matchlock pistol.

The Japanese manufactured matchlock pistols, that is TANZUTSU, literally "short barrel", which sometimes were carried in lacquered holsters, slung from the right hip of wealthy SAMURAI. But these weapons were more of a novelty, and then really only in the post-war EDO period (1603~1868). In practise for most warriors a matchlock pistol was simply too much grief to use on the battlefield. Europeans solved this problem with highly technical and very expensive wheel-locks, which used a clockwork mechanism to spin a wheel against a piece of iron-pyrites held in a jaw to create the sparks to ignite the priming powder in the pan. The wheel-lock was later superseded by the simpler and more reliable flintlock in Europe. Apart from a few gifts and the odd native version, this class of gun was never widely adopted by the SAMURAI. TANZUTSU, were normally in small calibres, between 1 and 5 MONME, with barrels under about 30cm (12").

In addition to the full length muskets used by the infantry and the wall guns, there were also carbines, which are more compact weapons for mounted troops, with barrels as short as 35cm (13.77") called BAJŌZUTSU or "horseback barrel". Sometimes in texts you may find the term BAJŌZUTSU also used for pistols (TANZUTSU).

Cannon or TAIHŌ were relatively uncommon, but usually small in size, when compared to European artillery. This was due to problems in casting large quantities of bronze, and sealing large iron bores, as well as a need for easily transportable guns, remember, Japan is 80% mountains. A number of small European naval guns were acquired and adapted for use by the Japanese on the battlefield, but mainly for siege work. One interesting weapon was known as either a HIYAZUTSU, or "Fire Arrow Barrel", or a HIYA TAIHŌ "Fire Arrow Cannon". A tiny cannon used for launching signalling rockets, festive fireworks and maroons to raise the alarm at castles, but especially for launching the incendiary HIYA or "Fire Arrows" during a siege.

Some nice illustrations of large "hand cannon" ŌZUTSU, and TAIHŌ can be found HERE.

Performance & Tactical Applications

Some sources state that the Japanese were able to produce barrels and balls of a regular size and shape, meaning that they could achieve a surprising degree of range and accuracy. Many years ago I saw a Japanese book detailing tests, which claimed that a TEPPŌ was capable of hitting a man high/wide target (1.5x1.5m) at 300m. This is extraordinary, as such weapons normally only manage a maximum effective range of 100m. I suspect these figures are for target guns with a tight fit between ball and bore. Although saying that Japanese gunners were trained to value accuracy over firepower. In practise most gunners would only fire at ranges of less than one CHŌ 109m, and could achieve about 2~2.5 shots per minute.

In smoothbore weapons there is a term called windage, which has two meanings:

  • The first, and the most well known today is the need to adjust the sights of a weapon to allow for any cross wind that may effect the point of impact of a projectile.
  • The second and less well known meaning is the difference between the diameter of the barrel or bore, and the slightly smaller diameter of the ball in smoothbore weapons.

A smaller ball is a vital requirement in a muzzle loaded weapon, as you have to force the ball down the tube to the bottom. If it is too tight, then you can't do this without the aid of a mallet, and possibly destroying the ball in the process. Usually, the windage was sufficient, that you could just simply drop the ball in and easily ram it home with a ramrod.This was done like this to ensure reliability and rapidity of fire, and to make an allowance for a build up of unburnt powder that would restrict the bore size. Smoothbores used for target shooting had very little windage, just enough that you could just about force it down with your ramrod. Such guns need cleaning almost after each shot. In guns with a large windage the balls could, when fired from an over-sized gun, end up rattling their way down the barrel, and spinning well off target, this was called chattering here in the West. This is why gunners were trained to line up and shoot at one another at relatively close range (circa 30~100m), as it was the only way to ensure that they would actually hit something. Balls were launched, not with someones name on them, but labelled "To whom it may concern!"

As mentioned, the other universal issue with gunpowder weapons was fouling, that is the build up of dirt, the residue of partially burnt powder in the bore, that iregularly reduced the windage, degrading performance, and often required gunners to use smaller balls as the battle progressed. Needless to say, accuracy, range and hitting power went down. An example from British history is the so-called Brown Bess musket. This was a .75" calibre weapon aka 11 Bore, but the standard issue ammunition was only .69 or 14 Bore. In a clean barrel you could have used 11 (.75), 12 (.729), 13 (.71) or 14 (.69) Bore balls. This is the largest windage I have found to date. The smallest being 0.005" of a custom made matchlock target pistol (TANZUTSU) with a calibre of .40, using a ball of .395" diameter.

Windage was and is calculated as a ratio of the ball diameter. So these two extreme examples would be: 12.5:11.5 for the larger windage necessary for a battlefield weapon, and 80:79 for a target grade weapon. To do the maths, simply take the ball diameter, divide it by the lower figure of the ratio to give the actual windage. If you then multiply the resulting windage by the upper figure of the ratio, this will give you the guns calibre.

Left to Right: a musket ball, a Minié ball, and a diagram.

FYI Incidentally, although rifling, the act of grooving the inside of the barrel of a gun originally intended to solve this problem, by giving the dirt somewhere to go, was discovered to impart spin to tight fitting bullets, thus dramatically increasing range and accuracy. This was known by the Europeans at this time, I do not yet know if such technology was available to the Japanese. However, in Europe rifled muskets, were only regularly used by hunters, as the need for zero windage, to ensure the Lead ball "bit" in to the rifling, meant that shooters had to carry a very stout ram-rod and a mallet to drive the ball down the rifled bore. This slowed the rate of fire dramatically, as well as making the gun extremely expensive. Also there was not enough surface of the ball in contact with the rifling to get its full potential. Rifles firing round ball bullets were effective out to about 300m. It was not until the introduction of the Minié Ball by Claude-Étienne Minié of France in 1848, that rifles became common on the battlefield. The Minié ball was small enough to drop down the bore, but it had a base that would expand upon firing, and thus with its extra surface gripped the rifling well. Such weapons radically changed warfare in the mid 19th century, with some rifles that could hit a man-sized targets out to 1,000m. The use of this devastating technology, together with traditional tactics, more appropriate to smoothbore guns, was the reason for the terrible casualty figures of the American Civil War (1861~1865).

"Quick Loading Tubes"

Above: pre-prepared reusable cartridges called "Quick Loading Tubes" or HAYAGO. Note ball or Lead bullets called a TAMA at the bottom of the image.
One advance the Japanese deployed comparatively early was the pre-prepared quick loading tube or HAYAGO. This was a reusable stout paper or bamboo tube containing the main charge, the ball and two wads in a single unit. This quick loading tube was open at both ends, with a piece of wadding protruding from one end, with a rip-off paper seal at the other. These tubes were often lacquered with URUSHI (Japanese lacquer) to waterproof or stiffen them. The ball had two wads glued to it, top and bottom, to ensure a good gas seal upon firing.

These quick loading tubes are not like the similar type of cartridge used from 1586 in Europe, which was a light paper or cloth tube, that was, once empty of powder, rammed together with its ball down the bore to serve as a wad or patch. A patch was a portion of oiled paper or cloth used to make the ball fit tighter in the bore.

To use the HAYAGO to load their weapon, the gunner would first remove the burning match from its holder of the gun, the other end commonly being either wrapped around the wrist, or threaded through a hole in the butt. Then they would take a quick loading tube (HAYAGO) out of their "Belt Box" (HAYAGO DŌRAN) carried on their hip, tear it open, pore in the powder, then while holding it over the mouth of the barrel, use a wooden ram-rod, that was housed under the barrel for storage, to push the ball and its wadding out of the tube directly in to the muzzle of the gun. The tube would then be put away for reloading or discarded depending upon the intensity of combat. The ramrod would then be used to drive the ball and wads down the barrel to firmly seat them upon the gunpowder charge. I cannot help thinking that under the stress of battle, when the situation demands urgency, that some gunners may just have placed the unopened tube over the muzzle and then have rammed the entire contents fully to the bottom of the barrel. Only then removing the now empty HAYAGO from the top of the ramrod and discarding it.

Next they would lift the match holder, locking it in the ready to fire position, and then using a small flask of fine priming powder, fill the pan and close its lid. The warrior would then replace the still burning match in to the jaws of the holder, thus the gun was ready to fire. This was much safer and faster than having another flask of powder for the main charge, as it ensured that the gun was not over-loaded, nor that the contents of the flask could be set off by a stray ember. A typical cartridge would weigh about 50~75 grams for a 10 MONME load, and they would have carried at least 10 or more cartridges in a "Belt Box" or DŌ, totaling about 750 grams (1.65 LBS). For those of you who know your black powder ballistics, the proceeding load would be about a 37.5 gram or 578 grain 12 bore Lead ball over a charge of about 6~6.5 grams or 90~100 grains of Fg black powder, which should produce a velocity of at least 1,000~1,200 feet per second, and quite a thump!

Weather, Swords, Sights & Slings

As in Europe, gunners faced the ever present problems of the weather. Rain that dampened the powder, wind that made it impossible to prime the pan of the guns. You find illustrations of little lacquered boxes secured to the tops of guns to ward off water, but exactly how well these worked is unknown.

In Europe musketeers often resorted to employing their muskets as clubs in hand to hand fighting, whether the Japanese did this as well, I do not yet know, however they are always illustrated bearing one or two swords as their back up weapons.

Other features of Japanese guns included the use of adjustable sights. This was achieved by having a fixed blade type foresight at the muzzle, which was made with a groove down the centre, and a block with a similar slot part way down the barrel. In some designs this latter took pre-cut bamboo inserts, that provided the correct elevation for longer ranges. Some guns were made with three or even four sets of sights along the top of the barrel. The illustration at the top of this page shows troops using pre-cut strings or cords, to control the muzzle of the weapon at night, again to provide the desired elevation. Finally, period illustrations also show gunners using a cord as a sling, to carry the gun over the shoulder across the back.


On the battlefield, matchlock armed troops were organised in to well disciplined units called TEPPŌTAI or "Iron Gun Groups", normally on foot, but sometimes mounted on horseback. As mentioned above, they usually were also armed with swords, but they would also typically wear simple armours, comprising a helmet, body armour (that also protected the hips and groin), full arm protection, and shin guards. These swords and armours could be paid for and owned by the soldier themselves, or issued to them by their lord.

The common infantry that is the peasant soldiers known as ASHIGARU, who were commanded by SAMURAI officers. Cavalry units were exclusively of the SAMURAI class.

As early as 1575, we see the ASHIGARU units using volley fire. Troops would discharge their guns in turn, by rank, so that a steady stream of death could be sent down range. The front rank fires, while the rear ranks loaded their guns, then stepped forward in to the front line to shoot. With three or four ranks of gunners, a withering hail of bullets could be unleashed.

Shown in some later 17th century manuals of war, one warrior within a musket unit would carry a pack upon their back, containing spare quick loading tubes, match and priming powder for their comrades to replenish their ammunition supply. How practical this was in battle is debatable, as fouling could render a musket useless relatively quickly, sometimes in as few as a dozen shots. However, it would serve well as a resupply point, when on the march.

In addition to the gunners themselves, the unit would have had all the usual extras, musical instruments and banners for signalling, porters, carts and horses to ship all the war and camp kit.

"Bullet Proof Armour"

The widespread usage of guns resulted in the production of bullet resistant body armours and helmets for those who could afford it. Unlike in Europe the Japanese were actually successful in creating such armours that were light enough to be worn daily in the field. This was in some expensive examples, achieved by using the same forging and folding techniques applied to the Japanese sword. An outer steel plate was made very hard, and backed up with a resilient soft iron plate, hammer welded to the back. No more than 2mm thick in total, such a body armour would only weigh 10 kg or 22 pounds, which is lighter than those worn today. Note these are not bullet-proof despite the armourers advertising. Some armours had what is called a proof mark that is a dent proving that the piece had actually defeated a bullet. Others, have both a proof mark and a hole! During one battle the famous final unifier of Japan, TOKUGAWA IEYASU, was struck in his breastplate by musket fire. Surprised, but unharmed, he fought on. After the battle, upon removing his armour, two spent and flattened bullets fell out of his clothing. The armour had a single neat little hole. He was very lucky, the gunner, it is assumed, accidentally double loaded his gun, a common problem, when all around you, are shooting and fear is leaning over your shoulder as you try to desperately reload.


Top Row: Some of the procedures for the loading and shooting of a Japanese snapping matchlock gun. Left to Right: the ammunition, loading, ramming, priming the pan, shooting.

Above: a plate from the book " Ashigaru: 1467-1649" by Stephen Turnbull (Author) and Howard Gerrard (Illustrator), published in 2001, by Osprey Books in their 'Warrior Series' (#29), Priced at £11.99 from Amazon.co.uk.

1. TEPPŌ ASHIGARU "Iron Gun Light Foot". Armed with his issue "Iron Gun" a BANZUTSU "Numbered Gun", a single OKASHI GATANA or "loan long sword". He wears a OKASHI GUSOKU, a lightweight "loan set of armour" comprising: a conical iron helmet called a JINGASA, a iron plate body armour called a OKEGAWADŌ, plus a pair of iron armoured sleeves called SHINO GOTE and shin guards or SHINO SUNATE. "SHINO" means "thin leaves", which in the West we would call this form "splints". Around his neck and crossing his back is a long cloth bag containing his dry rice ration, tied in to convenient one meal balls.

2. "Quick Loading Tubes" or HAYAGO. Pre loaded reusable bamboo cartridge containing two wads glued to a ball, and one main charge of Corse Powder.

3. "Quick Loading Tube Belt Box" or HAYAGO DŌRAN. Carried on the right hip with at least 10 HAYAGO.

4. Gunpowder Flask or KAYAKU IRE "Corse Powder Container", for use as the main charge, when not using HAYAGO.

5. Priming Powder Flask, or KOYAKU IRE "Little Powder Container", for filling the priming pan of his gun.

6. Ball Bag of the KARASU GUCHI style "Crows Mouth/Beak" for loading balls in to his gun when not using HAYAGO.

7. Ammunition box or DANYAKU BAKO. Shown with its door open revealing four drawers. Note the iron carrying loops on top, through which a rectangular wooden pole is passed, and two porters then lift and place the pole upon their shoulders. This chest would carry spare balls, wadding, powder and match. Plus a ladle for melting Lead along with a bullet mould and other essential tools.

8. Match Cord or HINAWA "Fire Rope" 火縄

9. Ramrod or KARUKA. Stored in a tubular slot under the barrel of the gun.

10. Not shown, but every gunner would carry a pricker to clear the Touch Hole of their gun, plus a fire lighting kit to ignite their match.

Of Powder & Shot

Left: a pile of gun (black) powder. Right: a pile of musket balls.

As I understand it, like most nations the Japanese only ever used 100% pure Lead in their musket balls. It was cheap, easy to acquire, melt and to mould in to ammunition. As long as you kept the power down to a maximum velocity of about 450 metres per second (m/s) or 1,500 feet per second (fps), then the pure Lead balls performed extremely well. Indeed their relative softness made for devastating wounds, especially in larger calibres like 5 to10 MONME. Increasing the charge to improve velocity tended to rupture the barrels or destroy the balls in the bore, again due to their softness. So gunners tended to launch their balls at speeds of 245~365 m/s or 800~1,200 fps. And if you wanted to hit harder, use bigger balls.

To date I have no evidence that the Japanese ever attempted to add Tin or Antimony to their Lead mix. Adding a small amount of Tin would have provided some limited advantages to the user of a smootbore gun. Firstly it helped the metal flow more evenly in the mould, producing higher quality balls. Secondly it gave a measure of protection from Lead deposits in the barrel, and finally allowed you to increase the muzzle velocity beyond 450m/s (c.1,500 fps) up to about 600 m/s (c.2,000 fps). Although according to trials conducted by both the French and British armies in the early 19th century, the increase in velocity did not significantly improve accuracy or hitting power. But where people did do it, this came at a cost, not only was it more expensive, it also reduced the ball's effectiveness upon impact due to an increase in hardness. However these were all features that were to bear fruit with the introduction of the rifle in to general military service in the mid 19th century. But the SAMURAI era was to end shortly after in 1868.

Regarding powder, both here in the UK and across the pond in the USA there is a controversy amongst Black Powder shooters concerning the issue of measuring your powder either by weight or by volume. When not using pre-prepare devices like the HAYAGO, I have been unable to discover how the SAMURAI and the ASHIGARU gunners solved this tricky question. They had access to similar kit to our ancestors, powder flasks, measures, scales etc., but what were their solutions? On the face of it, weighing the powder is far safer, as it allows for the variations in quality, corsness etc., that will cause the powder to have different volumes. On the other hand it is very convenient to load by volume as this is far easier to do in the field compared to using weighing equipment. In the absense of evidence, we are left with examining the units of measure available to the Japanese of the era.

Corse to fine gunpowder weighs almost exactly the same as water, 1 gram per cubic centimetre. As most shooting data is discussed in the old Imperial unit, the grain (gr), this is what I will do here. So, there are 15.432358 grains to the gram, which fortunately is the average specific gravity for gunpowder. As I understand it the finest weight unit available to the Japanese in the past was the FUN 分 which was 0.375 grams or 5.78713 grains, whereas the smallest unit of volume was the SAI 才 which is 1.804 ml, and could therefore have held 27.84 grains of powder.

Based on these figures, using scales would give finer control. Typical loads for a 10 MONME gun would include around 90 grains of powder, say 3 SAI 才 or 16 FUN 分. A pistol (TANZUTSU) may only take 20~30 grains that is about 5 FUN 分 or just 1 SAI 才, which would require some care to ensure a safe load. Some of the really large hand-cannon (ŌZUTSU) may take as much as 150 grains of powder, that is almost 6 SAI 才or 25 FUN 分, boom...

Anyway, for those of you who maybe interested in exploring more about Japanese units of measure, I have thoroughly updated my article on the subject; CLICK HERE. If you spot any errors there, please do not hesitate to email me so I can fix or improve it.

Japanese Ball Weights, Diameters & Gun Calibres

The data in the following table was calculated by myself using the Japanese round ball weights as the starting point. It is intended as a rough guide for re-enactors, scholars and shooters.

Please note that the following explanatory text relates to the first of the two tables below, which shows the proposed final format. It will take a little time for me to calculate and add in all the extra data. As it is done I will take the material out of the second table and place it in the first. Eventually, the task will be completed.

In all cases the Japanese and metric figures are exact, while the Imperial numbers are approximate, having been rounded up or down, see methodology below.

Listed down the left hand side of the table are the various Japanese ball weights, starting with the 1,000 MONME ball and ending with the 1 MONME ball. The central part of each entry is divided in to three sections detailing the ball weight, diameter, upper and lower limits for windage, and the resulting calibres.

At the far right of the table is the US or British "bore" or "gauge", as used for shooting single projectiles from shotguns which are also smoothbore weapons, giving the equivalent size. This serves as a useful comparison for Western shooters. This figure is the number of balls to the pound that you get for that ball size. So, you can see that the 10 MONME ball is very similar to the western 12 bore or gauge.

Under each heading related to lengths, the Japanese equivalent, the SHAKKANHŌ system, where I have used the units called SUN 寸 (30.3mm), BU 分 (3.03mm), RIN 厘 (0.303mm), and MŌ 毫 (0.0303mm). For clarity I have included "0" values as well. This the Japanese would not have done, instead they would have restricted themselves to only the relevant units.

Be aware that the weight and size of the balls and resulting calibres would have varied due to the purity of the balls, the windage allowances and the skill of the gunmakers, we also have to take in to account differences in the definition of a MONME. This may result in an extra fraction of a millimetre, or sometimes a whole one or two for the calibre of a larger gun. I have not made an allowance for this, as it would be nothing more than pure guesswork.

As a visual guide just above the table itself I have included a row of silouettes representing musket balls drawn to scale from 1 MONME (8.6mm), through 10 MONME (18.5mm), up to 100 MONME (40mm). And then finally right at the end is the 1,000 MONME ball at 86mm, made, because they could! See also the article Measure It In Japanese, a comprehensive page on this website concerning Japanese units of measure.

Sometime over the next year, I hope to put together some examples of Japanese gunnery equipment; a gun, some ammunition and accessories for our SHŌGUN displays, either real or replica, and possibly ones that can even actually be shot.

Below the chart you will find first Notes To The Table, second a description of the Methodology used to perform the calculations, so if you wish you can check my figures. Then a diagram of the parts of a gun, followed by a glossary of gun terms. And lastly acknowledgements as Links, Books and Videos.

Finally, if anyone reading this, has any evidence, comments, observations, one way or another, please get in touch, as I would like to improve this article and most importantly its data. Meanwhile I hope you find this piece useful, or at least entertaining.

1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5 6 7 8 9 10 15 20 30 50 70 80 100 1,000


There is an error in my calculations of windage allowances and the resulting calibres in the following two tables. The ball weights and diameters are fine, but please, for the time being ignore the rest. I will fix the errors over the next couple of weeks - apologies.

Weight of Ball Diameter of a 100% Pure Lead Ball Maximum amp; Minimum Windage Maximum & Minimum TEPPŌ Calibre Bore /
MONME Grams Grains Millimetres Inches SHAKKANHŌ
Millimetres Inches SHAKKANHŌ
Millimetres Inches SHAKKANHŌ
1,000 匁 3,750 g 57,871.3 gr 85.7187mm 3.37475" 2 寸 8 分 2 厘 9 毫 4.5147mm
1 分 4 厘 9 毫
0 分 3 厘 5 毫
2 寸 9 分 7 厘 8 毫
2 寸 8 分 6 厘 4 毫
100 匁 375 g 5,787.13 gr 39.7839mm 1.56629" 1 寸 3 分 1 厘 3 毫 2.0907mm
0 分 6 厘 9 毫
0 分 1 厘 7 毫
1 寸 3 分 8 厘 2 毫
1 寸 3 分 3 厘 0 毫
80 匁 300 g 4,630.71 gr 36.9357mm 1.45416" 1 寸 2 分 1 厘 9 毫 1.9392mm
0 分 6 厘 4 毫
0 分 1 厘 5 毫
1 寸 2 分 8 厘 3 毫
1 寸 2 分 3 厘 4 毫
70 匁 262.5 g 4,050.99 gr 35.3298mm 1.39094" 1 寸 1 分 6 厘 6 毫 1.8483mm
0 分 6 厘 1 毫
0 分 1 厘 5 毫
1 寸 2 分 2 厘 7 毫
1 寸 1 分 8 厘 1 毫
50 匁 187.5 g 2,893.57 gr 31.5726mm 1.24302" 1 寸 0 分 4 厘 2 毫 1.6665mm
0 分 5 厘 5 毫
0 分 1 厘 3 毫
1 寸 0 分 9 厘 7 毫
1 寸 0 分 5 厘 5 毫

The contents in the following table will be updated and transferred to the one above as and when I have sufficient time.

Weight of Ball Diameter of a 100% Pure Lead Ball Maximum & Minimum Windage Maximum & Minimum TEPPŌ Calibre Bore /
MONME Grams Grains Millimetres Inches SHAKKANHŌ
Millimetres Inches SHAKKANHŌ
Millimetres Inches SHAKKANHŌ
30 匁 112.5 g 1,736.14 gr 26.6337mm 1.0486" 8 BU 7 RIN 9 MŌ 1.3332mm 0.0525" 4 RIN 4 MŌ 28.179mm 1.1094" 9 BU 2 RIN 3 MŌ 4.0319
20 匁 75 g 1,157.43 gr 23.2704mm 0.9162" 7 BU 6 RIN 8 MŌ 1.1817mm 0.0465" 3 RIN 9 MŌ 24.4521mm 0.9627" 8 BU 7 MŌ 6.0479
15 匁 56.25 g 868.07 gr 21.1494mm 0.8327" 6 BU 9 RIN 8 MŌ 1.0605mm 0.0417" 3 RIN 5 MŌ 22.2099mm 0.8744" 7 BU 3 RIN 3 MŌ 8.0639
10 匁 37.5 g 578.713 gr 18.4527mm 0.7265" 6 BU 9 MŌ 0.9393mm 0.0370" 3 RIN 1 MŌ 19.392mm 0.7635" 6 BU 4 RIN 12.096
9 匁 33.75 g 520.84 gr 17.8164mm 0.7014" 5 BU 8 RIN 8 MŌ 0.909mm 0.0358" 3 RIN 18.7254mm 0.7372" 6 BU 1 RIN 8 MŌ 13.440
8 匁 30 g 462.97 gr 17.1498mm 0.6752" 5 BU 6 RIN 6 MŌ 0.8787mm 0.0346" 2 RIN 9 MŌ 18.0285mm 0.7098" 5 BU 9 RIN 5 MŌ 15.120
7 匁 26.25 g 405.10 gr 16.3923mm 0.6454" 5 BU 4 RIN 1 MŌ 0.8484mm 0.0334" 2 RIN 8 MŌ 17.2407mm 0.6788" 5 BU 6 RIN 9 MŌ 17.280
6 匁 22.5 g 347.23 gr 15.5742mm 0.6132" 5 BU 1 RIN 4 MŌ 0.8181mm 0.0322" 2 RIN 7 MŌ 16.3923mm 0.6454" 5 BU 4 RIN 1 MŌ: 20.160
5 匁 18.75 g 289.36 gr 14.6652mm 0.5773" 4 BU 8 RIN 4 MŌ 0.7878mm 0.0310" 2 RIN 6 MŌ 15.453mm 0.6083" 5 BU 1 RIN 24.191
4.5 匁 16.875 g 260.42 gr 14.1501mm 0.5571" 4 BU 6 RIN 7 MŌ 0.7575mm 0.0298" 2 RIN 5 MŌ 14.9076mm 0.5869" 4 BU 9 RIN 2 MŌ 26.880
4 匁 15 g 231.49 gr 13.6047mm 0.5356" 4 BU 4 RIN 9 MŌ 0.7272mm 0.0286" 2 RIN 4 MŌ 14.3319mm 0.5642" 4 BU 7 RIN 3 MŌ 30.239
3.5 匁 13.125 g 202.55 gr 13.029mm 0.5129" 4 BU 3 RIN 0.6969mm 0.0274" 2 RIN 3 MŌ 13.7259mm 0.5403" 4 BU 5 RIN 3 MŌ 34.559
3 匁 11.25 g 173.61 gr 12.3624mm 0.4867" 4 BU 8 MŌ 0.6666mm 0.0262" 2 RIN 2 MŌ 13.029mm 0.5129" 4 BU 3 RIN 40.320
2.5 匁 9.375 g 144.68 gr 11.6352mm 0.4580" 3 BU 8 RIN 4 MŌ 0.6363mm 0.0251" 2 RIN 1 MŌ 12.2715mm 0.4831" 4 BU 5 MŌ 48.383
2 匁 7.5 g 115.74 gr 10.8171mm 0.4258" 3 BU 5 RIN 7 MŌ 0.606mm 0.0239" 2 RIN 11.4231mm 0.4497" 3 BU 7 RIN 7 MŌ 60.480
1.5 匁 5.625 g 86.81 gr 9.7869mm 0.3853" 3 BU 2 RIN 3 MŌ 0.5757mm 0.0226" 1 RIN 9 MŌ 10.3626mm 0.4079" 3 BU 4 RIN 2 MŌ 80.636
1 匁 3.75 g 57.87 gr 8.5446mm 0.3364" 2 BU 8 RIN 2 MŌ 0.5454mm 0.0214" 1 RIN 8 MŌ 9.09mm 0.3578" 3 BU 120.96

Notes To The Table

Measurements & Conversions

  • Note that the word MONME, is, in some transcriptions written as MOMME.
  • 1 MONME 匁 equals 3.75 grams (g) exactly, or 57.8713 grains (gr) approx. That is 120.96 bore/gauge/balls to the pound approx.
  • 1 Gram (g) equals 15.432358 grains (gr) approx.
  • 1 Grain (gr) equals 0.06479891 grams exactly.
  • 1 kilogram (kg) equals 2.2046226 Pounds (lbs) approx, or 15,432.358 grains (gr) approx.
  • 1 Pound (lbs) equals 453.59237 grams (g) exactly, or 7,000 grains (gr) exactly, or 16 Ounces (oz).
  • 1 Ounce (oz), equals 437.5 grains (gr) exactly, which equals 28.349523125 grams (g) exactly.
  • 1 Inch (") = 25.4 mm exactly.
  • 1 Foot (') = 304.8 mm exactly.
  • 1 Millimetre (mm) = 0.039370078740 Inches approx.
  • 1 Metre (m) = 39.370078740 Inches approx.
  • 1 Metre (m) = 3.2808398950 feet (') approx.
  • The metric Specific Gravity (SG) of 100% pure Lead (Pb) is 11.345 grams per cubic centimetre. (cc)
  • Specific Gravity (SG) of 100% pure Tin (Sn) is 5.769 grams per cubic centimetre (cc).
  • Specific Gravity (SG) of 100% pure Antimony (Sb) is 6.697 grams per cubic centimetre (cc).
  • Specific Gravity (SG) of a 1:10 ratio mix of Tin (Sn) and Lead (Pb) is 10.8381 grams per cubic centimetre (cc).
  • 1 MŌ 毫 = 0.0303mm exactly, or 0.0011929" approx.
  • 1 RIN 厘 = 0.303mm exactly, or 0.011929" approx.
  • 1 BU 分 = 3.03mm exactly, or 0.11929" approx.
  • 1 SUN 寸 = 30.3mm exactly, or 1.1929" approx.
  • 1 SHAKU 尺 = 303mm exactly or 11.929" approx. That is circa 1 foot.
  • 1 JŌ 丈 = 3.03 metres (m) exactly, or 119.29" approx. That is circa 10 feet.
  • 1 CHŌ 町 = 36 JŌ = 109.08 metres (m) exactly, = 119.29 yards approx., or about 357.8740 feet.


If you wish to check my figures or work up a set of your own for ammunition or windage values not listed, then here is my methodology.
  • Take the Japanese ball weight in MONME and convert it in to exact grams, and then to grains. Round off the grains to 2 decimal places.[1] NB: 1 MONME = 3.75 grams, or 57.8713 grains.
  • Using the Round Ball Calculator, set to "Pure Lead" determine the inch calibre that matches the ball's grain weight. Use the 2 decimal places to refine the final digits of the ball's diameter. I felt it necessary because the calculator only deals in whole units of grain weight, and I wanted to be as accurate as possible.
  • Convert the result to millimetres, and then divide this by 0.0303, the value of the finest unit of Japanese measure, the MŌ. [2] Round off the result to the nearest whole number [1], thus giving us the ball's size in Japanese units.
  • Convert this figure in to exact millimetres by multiplying it by 0.303 and record the result. NB: it will always run to no more than 4 decimal places.
  • Take this last figure and convert it in to inches by dividing by 25.4, and then round it off to 5 decimal places [1] and record the result.
  • Determine the maximum and minimum windage for each ball by dividing its final diameter in millimetres by 11.5 for the largest, and 79 for the smallest.[3] Take each result in turn and divide by 0.0303 and then round off to the nearest whole number. Convert these Japanese units in to the exact millimetre figures (4 decimal places) and in to inches, rounded off to 5 decimal places. Record the results.
  • Add the ball diameter to the maximum and minimum windage values and record the results in each unit type.
  • Finally, divide 7,000 by the ball's grain weight to determine its bore/gauge and, round off and record the result. Here I used no more than 5 digits to note the result.

[1] Regarding rounding off the digit to be excluded in a result. Round up the result when the remainder is a "5" or greater, and down when it is a "4". For example for a five decimal number entry, then 0.123456789 becomes 0.12346, whereas 7.65432109 becomes 7.65432.

[2] The reason for dividing the millimetre size by 0.0303mm that is the MŌ, is that this approach is to reflect the Japanese units of the SHAKKANHŌ system of traditional weights and measures, as these are what would have been used to measure and manufacture the guns and ammunition at the time.

[3] The resulting gun calibres are based upon the addition of first a minimum then a maximum value for windage. Remember that "windage" is the required space between ball and barrel. The minimum windage was calculated at a ratio of 80:79 which was the tightest I found in use in a smoothbore matchlock target pistol. This was a custom made TANZUTSU with a calibre of 0.40" and a ball diameter of 0.395". While the maximum was calculated at a ratio of 12.5:11.5, which was the loosest fit that I found for a battlefield musket. This was the British Brown Bess musket with a calibre of 0.75" and ball diameter of 0.69". All other weapons, including cannon, fell between these two ratios, which would have been for clean bores prior to shooting.

To calculate a balls windage divide its diameter by the lower figure of the ratio. To calculate the calibre of the gun multiply the resulting windage by the larger number of that ratio.

For Windage:
Ball diameter / 11.5 = loose windage
Ball diameter / 34.7 = medium windage
Ball diameter / 79 = tight windage

For Calibre:
Ball diameter / 11.5 x 12.5 = calibre of a gun with a loose windage
Ball diameter / 34.7 x 35.7 = calibre of a gun with medium windage
Ball diameter / 79 x 80 = calibre of a gun with a tight windage

For windage: a 12 Bore ball of 0.729" / 34.7 = 0.021" i.e. a medium windage.
For calibre: a 12 Bore ball of 0.729" / 34.7 = 0.021 x 35.7 = 0.75" i.e. the calibre of a gun with medium windage.

Parts of the TEPPŌ.

The following image was found on the net. The original appeared in Shigeo Sugawa's The Japanese Matchlock Gun published in 2001 (see the links below), then updated and corrected by the members of the TANEGASHIMA forum of the Nihonto Message Board, and uploaded on numerous websites, and finally tweaked by my other half Mary Gentle. Further alterations are en-route. Thanks to all for making this knowledge available.

Glossary of Gun Terms

Before you start going through this glossary, if you have not yet read the piece about reading Japanese words and scripts on this website, then please go to the SHOGUN homepage and do so, I promise it will help you now and in the future. Click HERE.

Below are two tables of terms, "Table 1: English to Japanese", and "Table 2: Japanese to English". Table 1 has more detailed descriptions/explanations, where as Table 2 serves mainly as a cross referencing tool.

Where a word is in quotes, it means that the English expression is functionally the same as the Japanese. For example HINAWA 火縄translates as "Fire Rope", which is the Japanese name for Match Cord.

Words in brackets are alternate terms for the same object.

For ease of searching the web I have included the common yet incorrect spellings without acsents or vowel extensions which I have shown in lower case italics.

The data has been collected by myself from both the net, as well as numerous books, over the last thirty years or so. Treat it with caution as I neither read nor write KANJI, and I am not entirely sure of all of the spellings, but it is a start. The barrel lengths and calibres given are for guidance only, and should not be treated as gospel. If and when I ever get the chance, I would like to add the KANJI and HIRAGANA to these entries too. HIRAGANA is the Japanese phonetic script, which aids understanding of unfamiliar and specialist KANJI.

Ironically, in the last few days I found an old forum page, detailing about half of these terms. So I would like to acknowledge the TANEGASHIMA forum of the Nihonto Message Boards, for numerous corrections that I found to date. NB: I unfortunately am unable to join and partake, of what appears to be a wonderful group, but as I am blind, my computer's speech and text enlargement programs have coniption fits when trying to read such sites. I have to copy and paste the text in to a Notepad file, then edit out all the crap etc., oh what fun I have had... But then at least I am getting and spreading the knowledge.

Table 1: English to Japanese

English Japanese
Agate - a stone used as HIUCHI-ISHI or "Fire Stone" in fire lighting. See also: Quartz. MENO
"Ball" - the spherical Lead bullets used in matchlock guns. TAMA
"Ball and Powder Chest" - a portable ammunition box. DANYAKUBAKO
"BallBag" - a soft cloth or leather bag for storing and carrying bullets. TAMABUKURO
"Ball Container" - a hard container for storing bullets. TAMAIRE.
Ball Dispensing Bag - or more correctly "Crows Mouth/Beak". A bag with a crows beak shaped tool at its neck for dispensing bullets. KARASUGUCHI
"Ball Ladle" - used for melting Lead over charcoal. TAMAINABE
"Ball Mould" - a hand tool for moulding bullets. TAMAIGATA.
"Barrel" - the tube down which the bullets fly. NB: -ZUTSU is the suffix form of TSUTSU, e.g. TANZUTSU. TSUTSU (JUSHO)
Barrel Exterior Surface - the outside surface finish of the barrel. KOJI
Barrel Retaining Peg Escutcheon. ZAGANE
"Belt Box" - used for carrying ammunition and other shooting essentials. DŌRAN, DOURAN, doran
"Belt Box" - with an internal wooden frame for carrying at least ten "Quick Loading Tubes" or HAYAGO. HAYAGO DŌRAN, HAYAGO DOURAN, hayago doran
"Big Barrel" - more correctly "Great Barrel", an extremely heavy, normally short hand cannon, being any gun of 15 MONME or over, with a barrel from as little as 190~900mm. ŌZUTSU, OOZUTSU, ozutsu, (KAKAEZUTSU)
"Bird Gun" - a hunting gun, in the 1~3.5 MONME range. Given as gifts, or purchased and owned by wealthy persons, especially merchants. Also used by professional hunters. TORIJŪ, TORIJUU,toriju. 鳥銃
Breech Plug - the seal at the rear of the barrel. BISEN
Butt - or more correctly "Stock Butt", the rear most portion of the wooden stock. DAIKABU
Butt Plate - the metal protective cover on the wooden butt. SHIBAHIKIGANE
Calibre - expressed as the weight of the ball in a unit equal to 3.75 grams. *NB: Alternate spelling. MONME, MOMME.*
"Cannon" - guns too large and heavy to be carried by a single soldier. TAIHŌ, TAIHOU, taiho
Carbine or more correctly "Horseback Barrel", a short gun in the 5~10 MONME range, with a barrel around 300~600mm, for use by cavalry. The term BAJŌZUTSU can be found being used to describe a "Pistol" or "TANZUTSU". BAJŌZUTSU, BAJOUZUTSU, bajozutsu
"Chest Guard" - a cloth or leather rain and dirt cover for a chest. MUNEATE
"Corse Powder" - Gunpowder, as used for the main charge. KAYAKU 火薬
"Corse Powder Container" - or Gunpowder Flask. A container for storing the corse powder used for the main charge when not using HAYAGO. KAYAKUIRE
"Corse Powder Tester" - or Gunpowder Tester, a device to measure the quality of the corse powder used for the main charge. KAYAKUDAMESHI
"Crest" - a family/clan emblem, often inlaid in to stocks and or barrels of guns. Sometimes called KAMON "family crest". MON
"Crows Mouth/Beak" - A Ball Dispensing Bag with a crows beak shaped tool at its neck for dispensing bullets. KARASUGUCHI
"Family Crest" - or "Clan Crest", a family/clan emblem, often in-laid in to stocks and or barrels of guns. Sometimes called just MON or "crest". KAMON
"Fire-Arrow" - an incendiary projectile. HIYA (BO HIYA)
"Fire Arrow Barrel" - a light cannon. HIYAZUTSU
"Fire Arrow Cannon" - a light cannon. HIYATAIHŌ, HIYATAIHOU, hiyataiho
"Fire Lighting Set" - the Japanese equivalent of the "flint and steel" in the west. However, Japan has little flint and so other stones were used, Agate or MENO and Quartz or SEKEIE. HIUCHIGAMA
"Fire Lighting Steel/Striker" - the steel tool used to strike a spark with a stone. HIUCHIGANE
"Fire Lighting Stone" - used as part of the Japanese equivalent of the "flint and steel" in the west. However, Japan has little flint and so other stones were used, Agate or MENO and Quartz or SEKEIE. HIUCHI-ISHI
"Fire Lighting Tool" - generic term for such. HIUCHI DOGU
"Fire Path" - See: Touch Hole. HIMICHI
"Fire Rope" - See: Match Cord. HINAWA 火縄
"Fire Rope Container" - See: Match Cord Container. HINAWAIRE
"Fire Rope Gun" - See: Matchlock Gun. HINAWAJŪ, HINAWAJUU, hinawaju 火縄銃
"Fire Rope Hole" - See: Match Cord Hole. HINAWA TO-USHI ANA
"Fire Stone" - used as part of the Japanese equivalent of the "flint and steel" in the west. However, Japan has little flint and so other stones were used, Agate or MENO and Quartz or SEKEIE. HIUCHI-ISHI
"Flint and Steel" - the Japanese equivalent of the western "flint and steel" set was the HIUCHIGAMA, but because Japan has little flint other stones had to be used, Agate or MENO and Quartz or SEKEIE. HIUCHIGAMA
"Front Sight" - the front sight mounted above the Muzzle of the gun. SAKI MEATE
"Great Barrel" - sometimes referred to as a "Big Barrel", an extremely heavy, normally short hand cannon, being any gun of 15 MONME or over, with a barrel from as little as 190~900mm. ŌZUTSU, OOZUTSU, ozutsu, (KAKAEZUTSU)
"Group Leader" - unit commander or officer. TAICHŌ, TAICHOU, taicho
"Gun" - but also a cannon. NB: When prefixed by TETSU "Iron" it gives us the word TEPPŌ, TEPPOU teppo "Iron Gun". HŌ, HOU, ho
"Gun" - When prefixed by 火縄 HINAWA "Fire Rope" it gives us the word 火縄銃 HINAWAJŪ, HINWAJUU hinawaju "Fire Rope Gun", or matchlock. JŪ, JUU, ju
Gunpowder - "Corse Powder", used as the main charge. KAYAKU 火薬
Gunpowder Flask - "Corse Powder Container". A container for storing the powder used in the main charge, when not using HAYAGO. KAYAKUIRE
Gunpowder Tester - "Corse Powder Tester", a device to measure the quality of the powder used for the main charge. KAYAKUDAMESHI
"Hole" - any socket or recess used to take a peg, pin or the like. ANA
"Horsebak" - a rider. BAJŌ, BAJOU, bajo.
"Horseback Barrel" - see: Carbine. This term is cometimes met used to describe a Pistol, or TANZUTSU that is "Short Barrel". BAJŌZUTSU, BAJOUZUTSU, bajozutsu.
"Iron" - the metal. NB: when suffixed by 砲 HŌ, HOU ho "Gun", gives us 鉄砲 TEPPŌ, TEPPOU, teppo that is "Iron Gun". TETSU 鉄
"Iron Gun" - the initial term for the first guns made after the introduction of European technology. TEPPŌ, TEPPOU, teppo 鉄砲
"Iron Gun Group" - a unit of gunners. TEPPŌTAI, TEPPOUTAI, teppotai
Lacquer - the sap from a tree that produces a rich and tough finish to any product, gun stocks, sword scabbards, armour and eating bowls. Comes in gloss, satin and matt, in black, red, brown, gold and numerous other finishes. URUSHI
"Lanyard. WASOKU
"Lanyard Hole". WASOKU ANA
"Little Powder" - or Priming Powder. The fine gunpowder that is ignited by the burning Match Cord, and in turn passes a flame through the Touch Hole to the main charge in the barrel and firing the gun. KOYAKU
"Little Powder Container" - or Priming Powder Flask. A container used to store and dispense the fine priming powder in to the Priming Pan. KOYAKUIRE
"Lock" - the mechanism that fires the snapping matchlock gun. KARAKURI
"Lock Plate" - the brass plate on the right side of the gun, to which all the mechanical components are mounted. JI-ITA
" Lock Plate Rivet". JI-ITA BYO
"Lock Retaining Peg" - the removable peg that enables stripping of the gun's mechanism. KARAKURI MEKUGI
"Long Barrel" - a 5~10 MONME gun with an extra long barrel about 1,100~1,600mm or more. SHIZUTSU
"Loop Hole Gun" - or "Wall Gun". A heavyweight high powered gun of medium calibre 5~10 MONME, with a barrel of about 600~1,100mm. HAZAMAZUTSU
Match Cord - or more correctly "Fire Rope", the saltpetre impregnated cord that burns very slowly, and is used to ignite the gunpowder in the Priming Pan, which in turn sets off the main charge. HINAWA 火縄
Match Cord Container - or more correctly "Fire Rope Container". HINAWAIRE
Match Cord Hole - or more correctly "Fire Rope Hole", a hole in the stock for retaining the loose end of match. HINAWA TOUSHI ANA
Match Extinguishing Hole - a shallow metal lined depression, on the left side of the gun used for putting the match out. HIKESHI NO ANA
Matchlock Gun - or more correctly "Fire Rope Gun", the descriptive term for the Japanese snapping matchlock gun. HINAWAJUİ, HINAWAJUU, hinawaju 火縄銃
"Medium Barrel" - a light gun with a barrel between 600~1,100mm, of 5~10 MONME. CHUZUTSU
"Metal" - meaning any kind of metal. NB: -GANE is the suffix form of KANE. KANE
"Middle Sight" - an additional sight, partway down the barrel. Sometimes there are none, on others there may be one or two. NAKA MEATE
Muzzle - the opening at the end of the barrel from whence the bullets fly. SUGUCHI (JUKO)
Muzzle Exterior - the flared end of the muzzle.. KO-UJI
"Numbered Barrel" - a gun issued by a lord to a one of his soldiers. BANZUTSU
Oil of Cloves - a delicate and distinctively Japanese oil, used for cleaning and preserving guns, swords and armour. Note that it is not the same as the European variety, use of this will seriously damage your equipment. CHOJI
Pan Cover - a brass cover for the Priming Pan, to prevent the powder stored within, from getting wet, being dropped or being blown away by the wind. HIBUTA
Peg - a tapering peg normally of bamboo, wood, horn or copper. MEKUGI
Peg Hole - a tapering hole for holding the barrel, lock and stock together. MEKUGI ANA, MEKUGI NO ANA.
Peg Hammer - a tiny brass hammer specially made for removing and installing Pegs (MEKUGI) in to guns and swords etc. The handle is tapered so it can be used to drive Pegs out of their holes from the oposite side to the one in to which they were installed. MEKUGI NUKI
Pistol - or "Short Barrel" - a gun under 350mm, and of 1~5 MONME. Sometimes called a BAJŌZUTSU, see Carbine. TANZUTSU
"Plate" - flat metalwork ITA
Priming Pan - normally of brass, sometimes of iron, which sits next to the Touch Hole on the side of the barrel, and holds the Priming Powder. HIZARA
Priming Powder - or "Little Powder". The fine gunpowder that is ignited by the burning Match Cord, and in turn passes a flame through the Touch Hole to the main charge in the barrel and firing the gun. KOYAKU
Priming Powder Flask - or "Little Powder Container". A container used to store and dispense the fine priming powder in to the Priming Pan. KOYAKUIRE
Pricker - a tool for clearing the Touch Hole to ensure that the flame passes from the Priming Pan to the main charge. SESERI
Quartz - a stone used as HIUCHI-ISHI "Fire Stone" in fire lighting. See also Agate. SEKIEI
"Quick Loading Tubes" - lacquered bamboo or paper tubes containing the main charge, ball and two wads for rapid loading and easy distribution in the field. HAYAGO
"Quick Loading Tube Belt Box" - a "Belt Box" with internal wooden frame for taking at least 10 "Quick Loading Tubes" or HAYAGO. HAYAGO DŌRAN, HAYAGO DOURAN, hayago doran
"Rain Guard" - a brass plate that protects the Touch Hole from rain and wind. AMA ŌI, AMA OOI, ama oi
"Rain Guard Wedge" - a device that locks the "Rain Guard" in place. AMA ŌI KUSABI, AMA OOI KUSABI, ama oi kusabi
"Ramrod - a thin pole normally of wood, sometimes metal, used to ram the ammunition down the barrel. It is stored in a tube under the barrel when not in use. KARUKA (SAKUJO)
"Rear Sight" - the rear most aiming device. MOTO MEATE
"Ring" - usually of soft metal like brass. Purpose unknown. KAN (WA)
"Rivet". BYO
"Rod Fire Arrow" - a variation of the incendiary "Fire Arrow" ammunition. BO HIYA
Sear - the link between trigger, spring and serpentine KANIME
Sear Protector. IBO KAKUSHI
Serpentine - the snake-like arm that holds the burning Match Cord, and snaps down in to the Priming Pan when the Trigger is squeezed. HIBASAMI
"Short Barrel" - See Pistol. TANZUTSU
Sight - an aiming device. MEATE
Sight, Front - the front sight mounted above the Muzzle of the gun. SAKI MEATE
Sight, Middle - an additional sight, partway down the barrel. Sometimes there are none, on others there may be one or two. NAKA MEATE
Sight, Rear - the rear most aiming device. MOTO MEATE
"Signiture" - the makers name. MEI
"Sling" - a cord for securing the gun to a cavalry soldiers arm, or for carrying it across an infantry soldier's back. UDENUKI
"Sling Hole" - used on cavalry guns for securing it to the users arm. UDENUKI ANA
"Stock" - the wooden portion of the gun used to support the barrel and prevent the shooter being burned if the gun overheats. DAI (JUSHŌ:, JUSHOU, jusho)
Stock Butt - or just "Butt", the rear most portion of the wooden stock. DAIKABU
Stock Ring. DŌGANE, DOUGANE, dogane, (ZUGANE)
Stock Ring. ZUGANE (DŌGANE, DOUGANE, dogane)
"Stone" - In Japan Flint was rare and so Agate or Quartz were used as HIUCHI-ISHI "Fire Stone" in fire lighting, much like the European Flint and Steel. ISHI
"Tanegashima" - the name of an island, used as a noun for the Japanese matchlock gun. Tanegashima lies just to the south of the main island of 九州 KYŪSHŪ. TANEGASHIMA 種子島
"Target Barrel" - a light target gun of 1~5 MONME. SHATEKIZUTSU
"Thrice Wrapped" - or "Tripple Bound" a technique of barrel making. SO MAKIBARI
"Tool" - a generic term. DOGU
"Trigger" - the means by which the shooter fires their gun. HIKIGANE
Trigger Guard - a metal band that prevents accidental activation of the Trigger. YŌJINTETSU, YOUJINTETSU, yojintetsu, yuojintetsu
Touch Hole - or "Fire Path", the hole or vent in the side of the barrel next to the Priming Pan through which the ignition flame passes to fire the gun. HIMICHI
"Two Wraps" - or "Double Layer" a technique of barrel making. NIJU MAKIBARI
"Wall Gun" - see "Loop Hole Gun". HAZAMAZUTSU
Weight Unit - See also Calibre. The standard expression of weight, wherein 1 MONME is equal to 3.75 grams exactly. Used to express the size of the Ball used in a given gun, in the same way as was done in Europe at the time. *MOMME is an alternate spelling. MONME, MOMME*.
  • The difference in diameter between the larger bore of a smoothbore gun and the slightly smaller Ball. This feature is necessary to ensure that the shooter can push the Ball all the way to the bottom of the barrel. If it is too tight, it may be too dangerous to discharge the weapon.
  • The allowance made when aiming for any cross winds, motion of shooter or target, that may effect the point of impact of the Ball.
Worm - a tool for removing stuck Balls from a loaded gun. ?

Table 2: Japanese to English

Japanese English
AMA ŌI, AMA OOI, ama oi. "Rain Guard"
AMA ŌI KUSABI, AMA OOI KUSABI, ama oi kusabi. "Rain Guard Wedge"
ANA "Hole"
BAJŌ, BAJOU, bajo. "Horseback" a rider
BAJŌZUTSU, BAJŌ-ZUTSU, BAJOUZUTSU, BAJOU-ZUTSU, bajozutsu, bajo-zutsu. Carbine or "Horseback Barrel"
BANZUTSU "Numbered Barrel"
BISEN Breech Plug
BO HIYA "Rod Fire Arrow"
BYO Rivet
CHOJI Oil of Cloves
CHUZUTSU "Medium Barrel"
DAI Stock (JUSHŌ:, JUSHOU, jusho)
DAIKABU "Stock Butt"
DANYAKUBAKO "Ball and Powder Chest"
DŌGANE, DOUGANE, dogane. Stock Ring (ZUGANE)
DŌRAN, DOURAN, doran. "Belt Box"
DOGU "Tool" - generic
-GANE Metal (suffix form of KANE)
HAYAGO "Quick loading tube"
HAYAGO DŌ, HAYAGO DOURAN, hayago doran. "Quick Loading Tube Belt Box"
HAZAMAZUTSU "Loop Hole Gun" or "Wall Gun"
HIBASAMI Serpentine
HIBUTA Pan Cover
HIKESHI NO ANA Match Extinguishing Hole
HIMICHI "Fire Path" or Touch Hole/Vent
HINAWA 火縄 "Fire Rope" or Match Cord
HINAWAIRE "Fire Rope Container" or Match Cord Container
HINAWAJŪ, HINAWAJUU, hinawaju 火縄銃 "Fire Rope Gun" or Matchlock Gun
HINAWA TO-USHI ANA "Fire Rope Hole" or Match Cord Hole
HIUCHI DOGU "Fire Lighting Tool"
HIUCHIGAMA "Fire Lighting Set"
HIUCHIGANE "Fire Lighting Steel/Striker"
HIUCHI-ISHI "Fire Lighting Stone" or "Fire Stone"
HIYA "Fire Arrow" (BO HIYA)
HIYA TAIHŌ, HIYA TAIHOU, hiya taiho. "Fire Arrow Cannon"
HIYAZUTSU "Fire Arrow Barrel"
HIZARA Priming Pan
HŌ, HOU, ho Gun (銃 JŪ, JUU, ju)
IBO KAKUSHI Sear Protector
ISHI Stone - See also MENO and SEKIEI
ITA Plate - metalwork
JI-ITA "Lock Plate"
JI-ITA BYO " Lock Plate Rivet"
JŪ, JUU, ju "Gun" (砲 HŌ, HOU, ho)
JUSHŌ, JUSHOU, jusho. Stock (DAI)
KAMON "Family Crest" or "Clan Crest" (MON)
KAN Ring (WA)
KANE Metal (suffix form is -GANE)
KARAKURI MEKUGI "Lock Retaining Peg"
KARASUGUCHI "Crows Mouth/Beak" or Ball Dispensing Bag
KAYAKU 火薬 "Corse Powder" or Gunpowder
KAYAKUDAMESHI "Corse Powder Tester" or Gunpowder Tester
KAYAKUIRE "Corse Powder Container" or Gunpowder Flask
KOJI Barrel Exterior Surface
KO-UJI Muzzle Exterior
KOYAKU "Little Powder" or Priming Powder
KOYAKUIRE "Little Powder Container" or Ppriming Powder Flask
MEI Signiture
MENO Agate - a Stone ISHI
MON "Crest" (KAMON)
MONME, MOMME*. Weight Unit - see also Calibre. Equals 3.75 grams. *MOMME is an alternate spelling.
MUNEATE "Chest Guard" - a box cover.
NAKA MEATE Middle Sight
NIJU MAKIBARI "Two Wraps" or "Double Layer"
ŌZUTSU, OOZUTSU, ozutsu. "Great Barrel" or "Big Barrel" a hand cannon (KAKAEZUTSU)
SAKI MEATE Front Sight
SEKIEI Quartz - a Stone ISHI.
SESERI Pricker
SHATEKIZUTSU "Target Barrel"
SHIZUTSU "Long Barrel"
SO MAKIBARI "Thrice Wrapped" or "Tripple Bound"
TAICHŌ, TAICHOU, taicho. "Group Leader" an officer
TAIHŌ, TAIHOU, taiho. Cannon
TAMA "Ball" - a bullet.
TAMAIGATA "Ball Mould"
TAMAINABE "Ball Ladle"
TAMAIRE "Ball Container"
TANEGASHIMA 種子島 An islands name used as a noun for the Japanese matchlock gun. Tanegashima lies just to the south of the main island of 九州 KYŪSHŪ.
TANZUTSU "Short Barrel" or Pistol. See also BAJŌZUTSU, BAJOUZUTSU, bajozutsu.
TETSU 鉄 "Iron"
TEPPŌ, TEPPOU, teppo 鉄砲. "Iron Gun"
TEPPŌTAI, TEPPOUTAI, teppotai. "Iron Gun Group"
TORIJŪ, TORIJUU, toriju. 鳥銃 "Bird Gun"
UDENUKI ANA "Sling Hole"
URUSHI Lacquer
WA Ring (KAN)
WASOKU "Lanyard"
WASOKU ANA "Lanyard Hole"
YŌJINTETSU, YOUJINTETSU, yojintetsu, yuojintetsu. Trigger Guard
ZAGANE Barrel retaining peg escutcheon
ZUGANE Stock Ring (DŌGANE, DOUGANE, dogane)
-ZUTSU Barrel - a suffix.


If you can recommend any links, videos, books etc., that should be on this list, please email me the details.


Measure It In Japanese an extensive article on this website concerning Japanese units of measure.

The Muzzle Loaders Association of Great Britain

The Muzzle Loaders Shooting Association of Japan

Nihonto Message Board: a link to this excellent and informative forum regarding "TANEGASHIMA/TEPPO/HINAWAJU" on the NMB pages. This site is also invaluable for students of the Japanese sword, armour and other weapons.

The Samurai Armour Forum: the latest edition of the gun diagram. Again in general, an invaluable site.

Samurai Antique World Proboards: an article on large hand-guns and small cannon, on a forum page.

Stephen Turnbulls Website Also see the link to his bookshop page with his "ASHIGARU" book below.

Round Ball Calculator: Bear Tooth Bullets extremely useful on-line calculator for converting calibres in inches to bullet weights in grains. Obviously you would need to convert the results as desired.


The Japanese Matchlock
By Shigeo Sugawa, published in 2001 in English, 60 pages.
Available direct from the author by clicking the book title to email him.
Priced at $100 plus $30~$40 shipping, circa £90 in total.

Arms and Armor of the Samurai
by Ian Bottomley (Author) and Anthony (Jock) Hopson (Author).
Published 1993. Priced at £24.90 from amazon.co.uk.

Ashigaru: 1467-1649
by Stephen Turnbull (Author) and Howard Gerrard (Illustrator)
Published in 2001, by Osprey Books, as part of their 'Warrior Series' (#29).
Priced at £11.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
See also: Stephen Turnbulls Bookshop for other titles.


Dramatic Demonstration Short, sharp and to the point, dramatic music and TEPPŌ, to get you in the mood.
Run time: 1 min 24 sec.

TEPPŌ Demonstration A video of a TEPPŌTAI ("Gun Group") in Japan, including a section viewed from an aerial drone. NB: the first few seconds are silent.
Run time: 2 min 50 sec.

Nagashino Musket Festival Many guns including ŌZUTSU "Great Barrels" with TAIKO drummers on the field with them.
Run time: 20 min 27 sec.

Nagashino Musket Festival A more detailed video of various guns being loaded and fired.
Run time: 8 min 24 sec.

Battle of KAWANAKAJIMA 2015 A final short video of guns in action, including a slow motion sequence.
Run time: 1 min 20 sec.

Unlikely as you may think, KTW a well known manufacturer of exotic airsoft guns has released their version of a "TANEGASHIMA". Expensive, and not really in the spirit of the original as it is a repeater with an internal magazine, but it is a first. Click the image to see a review in Japanese on YouTube (10 min. 56 sec), or see the gun on sale here in the UK at Wolf Armouries.

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