Sometimes, even for seasoned collectors, tinkering is the only way to learn about a gun. For decades Air Force veteran Gayle Dinsmore thought he had a Japanese Type 98 machine gun chambered in “Jap 77,” or 7.7×58mm Arisaka, until one day he realized he didn’t.
As Dinsmore’s son, Mark Dinsmore, explained: “It wasn’t until the mid-eighties when he was fooling around at the front of end of the gun with a .30-caliber projectile, and when he put it in the barrel, it fell all the way through. He was like ‘I’ve owned the gun for this many years and it’s in 8mm.’ So, not three days later, we were out shooting it.”
Learning the correct chambering — 7.92×57mm Mauser (or 8mm) — opened up a flood of information. Mark, who acquired the gun from his late father, described the Japanese Type 98 as a licensed version of the German MG 15 machine gun. Japanese troops used the design, which fires 1,100 rounds per minute, to protect their bombers during World War II. “If you’re not careful it will climb right back in your lap. It wants to rock in behind you,” Mark said about firing it.
The decades-long misunderstanding could perhaps be attributed to the casualness of the exchange with which the machine gun was acquired. Mark explained his dad saw an ad listing the Type 98 for trade while stationed at the Alconbury Air Force base in England back in 1967. Gayle called up the colonel who was offering it and asked what he wanted. The colonel answered: “a bottle of good Kentucky bourbon.” Well, being from Kentucky himself, Gayle just happened to have a few bottles with him and the rest is history. Mark estimates the gun’s current value to be around $35,000. Not a bad trade!