During the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05, the Imperial Japanese Army used the Type 30 rifle, designed in 1897 by a commission led by Colonel Nariake Arisaka, but this weapon showed various reliability problems during the war. This led to the Type 30 being redesigned by Major Kijiro Nambu into the Type 38, which was adopted by the Japanese army in 1905 (the 38th year of the Meiji period). It was a bolt-action rifle, loaded with the relatively mild 6.5x50SR cartridge from 5-round clips. Based on earlier experience with harsh conditions, the Type 38 was equipped with a sliding bolt cover to protect the internal mechanism, but this cover would tend to rattle and was often removed by soldiers.
The Type 38 gained a reputation of accuracy and reliability, but with a length of 1,275 mm plus a 400 mm bayonet the rifle was very long, and a shorter Type 38 carbine was also adopted. Many other nations used the Type 38, like Mexico from 1913, and Britain which used it as a training rifle during WW1. From 1915, Imperial Russia purchased about 600,000 of the rifles from Japan. In 1939, the Type 38 was updated into the Type 99 using a more powerful 7.7 mm cartridge, but the earlier rifle kept on serving with Japan throughout WW2, with over 3,000,000 Type 38’s produced by 1940.