Explanation of the shortcomings of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces Type 20 rifle


“This text is a translation of my Japanese blog post into English.

Please note that it may not be entirely accurate as it was translated using a translation tool.”

The Self-Defense Forces have recently updated their main rifle for the first time in about 30 years.

The rifle officially adopted in 2020 is named the Type 20 5.56mm rifle, and the phased replacement update with the Type 89 rifle is underway.

While most active-duty personnel in the Self-Defense Forces have not used this rifle, many are already concerned about its shortcomings.

However, it’s essential to note that only users can truly state, “This is a flaw!” and outsiders like us shouldn’t make definitive statements.

It’s akin to an middle school student who has never stepped into society thinking they understand the darkness of Japanese society—it’s embarrassing.

Well, it’s understandable to be curious about the performance of the main rifle that forms the foundation of defending the country.

Nevertheless, even those without significant influence in the Self-Defense Forces are expressing various opinions about the shortcomings of the Type 20, so let’s consider the “assumed shortcomings of the Type 20 rifle.”

However, I’ll say upfront that I feel it’s not a flaw but rather a “baseless accusation.”

It seems like someone is actively searching for faults.

The whimsical musings of “the strongest rifle I imagined” are not something we should entertain.


Folding Stock Not Included

The currently announced Type 20 rifle is only available with a fixed stock.

Is that a flaw?

It’s unnecessary for all Self-Defense Force members to carry rifles with folding stocks.

This would increase the number of components, raising costs, and the increased movable parts could lead to a decrease in strength.

It could be considered a special specification for members with space constraints, like airborne or vehicle crew.

While compactness is undoubtedly beneficial, I believe the associated cost and strength issues do not warrant a warm welcome.

Cocking Handle Moves in Conjunction with Ejection

Belgium’s FN-made SCAR had the same issue.

The bolt handle moves vigorously back and forth during firing, posing the risk of injury or damage to hands or objects.

Therefore, the current SCAR has been improved to decouple the bolt’s back-and-forth movement from the handle.

Certainly, this is not a favorable aspect, but the situation is different from the SCAR.

The SCAR is produced more than the Type 20, and it has sales outlets overseas and in the civilian market, so there is a merit in incurring costs for improvements.

On the other hand, the Type 20 has extremely limited sales outlets, and the absolute number of units available for sale is also limited.

In the first place, if the bolt moves, all you need to do is handle it accordingly.

A gun where ejection and bolt handle movement are linked is not particularly unusual.

Different Rotation Angles of the Selector Switch

The selector switch on the Type 20 needs to be rotated 45° from the safety position to single-shot.

However, to go from single-shot to full-auto, you need to rotate it about 160°, a longer distance.

Certainly, an inexperienced person might find it confusing.

However, users are Self-Defense Force members who use the rifle as a professional tool.

Especially, members in occupations that should be proficient in rifle shooting undergo training almost every day.

Professionals become accustomed to using the gun without feeling awkward.

If a Self-Defense Force member insists that this is a flaw, I think it’s akin to making excuses for a lack of training and familiarity.

Originally, both the Type 89 and the Type 64 had highly unusual selectors, but many Self-Defense Force members underwent training to eliminate any disadvantages and were able to handle them freely in practice, didn’t they?

Short Handguard

As a recent trend, there are long handguards that almost cover the barrel.

This has benefits like protecting the barrel, providing flexibility in holding, and facilitating the attachment of accessories.

The Type 20 has a relatively short handguard, even with a shorter barrel.

Certainly, it’s challenging to obtain the mentioned benefits.

However, from the design perspective of the Type 20, it is considered appropriate.

The Type 20 is optimized for island defense missions, considering drainage and rust resistance when exposed to seawater.

Main rifles reflect the military philosophies of various countries, and just because a rifle is adopted by the U.S. military doesn’t mean it is without flaws.

A short handguard facilitates quicker water drainage.

Also, a short barrel is less likely to hinder movement in forested areas, providing a merit.

It’s undoubtedly suitable for CQB.

Moreover, would the general units of the Self-Defense Forces load their rifles with so many accessories?

And why claim that the Type 20’s rail is short? What is the basis for that statement?

Perhaps it’s a relative perspective.

Compared to products like URGI that emphasize length, it might be short.

However, it’s much more expandable than the Type 89.


A military’s main rifle doesn’t need to be the top-of-the-line product.

What is sought is “adequate performance” and “a price that fits the budget,” and there is no need for a custom-made, one-off product.

If there are dissatisfactions with a rifle that possesses “adequate performance,” one should overcome them with wisdom and ingenuity.

In this regard, the Type 20 rifle focuses on island defense, excelling in drainage, rust resistance, having a certain level of expandability, and meeting various requirements of modern military rifles.

Sticking to domestic production is not entirely a bad thing, considering the aspects of technology inheritance and procurement stability.

Shortcomings become apparent as you use a deployed rifle, and there are rarely visible landmines.

Accusing a newly deployed rifle of having flaws is quite unreasonable.

In essence, only Self-Defense Force members who actually use it should discuss the shortcomings of the Type 20 rifle, and outsiders shouldn’t interfere.

After all, in discussions, even if an excellent product is created, there will always be some improvement points.

Moreover, the concept of “improvement points” is tricky. Even if a product has adequate performance and cost, personal preferences or misconceptions can turn them into “flaws.”

I believe that in evaluating anything, there are both “good points” and “bad points,” and one should weigh them on the scales.

Focusing only on the negatives leads to an endless list of flaws, and by only looking at the positives, you may overlook the true flaws.