I noticed:

  1. Private citizens with small pistols
  2. Private citizens with hand-cranked machine guns
  3. Soldiers of the old order with guns killing Sano's friends
  4. Soldiers of the new order storming Yutaro's mansion after the rebels camped in it
  5. Revolutionary soldiers practising stabbing motions with special sticks, while the teenage Kenshin practises swordsmanship in Trust and Betrayal

Seems like the opposing factions could acquire guns in the Kenshin universe; it seemed to come from totally unregulated trade with foreigners, or the same army which is in #2, #3 and maybe #4. Is this historically accurate? Where did they all get their guns from?

  • The series is set 11 year into Meiji period (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rurouni_Kenshin), and during this period, there are moves to modernize the army: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – nhahtdh
    Feb 20, 2015 at 18:32
  • Actually, firearm has been in Japan since earlier, during Sengoku era (in Edo period). Thought the use of firearm stopped until several years before Meiji. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearms_of_Japan However, I haven't read the series, so I don't know whether the type of the gun is historically correct.
    – nhahtdh
    Feb 20, 2015 at 18:45
  • 1
    If you don't mind, would you please include some images of the guns from the manga?
    – nhahtdh
    Feb 20, 2015 at 18:54
  • 1
    Wasn't the "private citizen" with the Gatling gun an underworld smuggler of some sort? Meaning, it's not likely he got it though legitimate means... Feb 21, 2015 at 14:27
  • @Clockwork-Muse, there was also a goverment official who was targeted by the Christian avenger who tried to defend himself with one. So atleast two. Feb 21, 2015 at 17:00

3 Answers 3


Remember, Rurouni Kenshin is set during the late 19th Century. This is just after the American Civil War, during the British Victorian Era: the height of the British Empire, and a time when the Western powers were very interested in the riches of the Far East.

The Western powers were mostly laissez-faire capitalists who would allow their people to trade anything with anyone; read about the British opium trade in China to get an idea of how trade worked at the time. Western traders would trade whatever they could for Eastern gold, silver, tea, and silk; that included guns, which were plentiful and relatively inexpensive in the West—the Japanese Meiji Era began just a few years after the American Civil War ended, and there were guns everywhere in America. The factories of Britain, France, and Germany were also constantly spitting out rifles, revolvers, and cannons. In this period, the European powers would still have a major war among themselves every few years (the Franco-Prussian War broke out during the same timeframe that Kenshin takes place), so they all wanted to build up stores of arms in preparation for the next struggle.

Given that guns were everywhere in the West, that they were highly desired in Japan, and that Western traders desired Eastern riches, it makes sense that the Western traders would trade guns to the Japanese. Although we don't see it in Rurouni Kenshin (to my knowledge; I only watched the anime up to the end of the Kyouto Arc), I always assumed these factions got their guns by trading goods like silk and tea to Westerners, or by buying them from Japanese merchants who had traded for them with Westerners. This did happen historically, as the article on Firearms of Japan linked by @nhahtdh tells us.

As for the regulatory side, things in general were much less regulated back then. The Western governments of this era had little power to regulate trade, due to corruption and cronyism. Even if they were able to regulate trade, they didn't have any incentive to do so; Western governments wanted their merchants to trade in Japan and bring the riches back home. The Japanese government had no power to regulate trade on its end either; it had seen what happened when the Chinese tried to stop the opium trade, and knew it could do almost nothing to regulate foreign trade until its military was modernized.

From what I can remember, the guns in Rurouni Kenshin are historically accurate to the period; the Gatling gun was very new at the time, having been invented during the American Civil War. Revolvers, like the famous Colt, were also common in the West. According to the article @nhahtdh linked on Firearms of Japan, firearms from before the Tokugawa period were matchlocks based on the Portuguese arquebus. Many of these were destroyed during the Tokugawa period, but some remained, and after the arrival of Perry, they were converted to flintlocks as part of the modernization effort (see also the fourth paragraph, here).

  • Got it: so Imperialists had raised massive armies with guns. Feb 26, 2015 at 14:15

Yes, for the most part. The animators were very discreet to make sure the guns that were prevalent were accurate to what Japan had, made or were attainable at the time. The series was set 10 years after the Boshin War ending or early 1878. At the time the US and other nations were supplying new firearms to the Meiji's Imperial military. By 1868, Japan adopted the "Snider-Enfield" breechloader as it's standard service rifle which remained in service til 1880. enter image description here

Accurately seen and depicted in the anime specifically in episode 22. enter image description here

In Episode 6, Gohei attempts to kill kenshin with a Colt Walker revolver. enter image description here enter image description here

The most infamous gun was Kanryu's "Gatling Gun" thou Many gatlings were made, during the Boshin war the Shogunate managed to get 2. Kanryu's gatling gun doesn't appear like any other, namely the gun only has One visible barrel. enter image description here This is erronenous as the weapon more closely resemble Hiram Maxim's machine gun, which wasn't invented til 1884. enter image description here This is a more accurate representation of a gatling, the Colt 1874. enter image description here


Actually the Gatling Gun to me seems to be a fusion of the Maxim's exterior with the Gatling Gun's mechanism. I say this because all known examples of Gatling guns shows multiple barrels in a circle that rotates and loads with the cranking of the shaft. For the whole story on the Gatling gun visit: http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/a22451/history-gatling-gun/.

Image of a known Maxim gun http://www.deactivated-guns.co.uk/images/uploads/1a1a44max/1a1a44max-034853_3.jpg. go rewatch episode 11 at about 11:38 then look at the maxim. the 2 guns are similar except the crank and the missing water cooling system

  • This sounds more like a comment on a different answer.
    – Vemonus
    Jan 16, 2017 at 17:40
  • 2
    There are many reasons why it seems like a comment rather than an answer. If you need examples please consult the help centre. For example, you claim a couple of things in contradiction to the accepted answer, yet provide no sources, again unlike the accepted answer. Not only is this poor, but you also don't address the question directly, rather, you address the answer instead. This is obviously not an answer to the question.
    – Tyhja
    Jan 17, 2017 at 8:52
  • I know the title says "Are the guns historically accurate", but the actual body of the question is really asking if the availability of guns in Meiji-era Japan that we see in the series is historically accurate. This answer is more addressing whether the guns as drawn look like real period guns, which isn't really what was asked.
    – Torisuda
    Jan 27, 2017 at 3:54

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