Did Ninjas Have Guns?

When people think of ninjas, they usually imagine them dressed in black, creeping around in slippered feet, throwing shuriken at their enemies from the darkness. As it turns out, that image isn’t entirely off the mark. However, there are some misconceptions about ninjas, and many people don’t realize the wide variety of weapons they used.

Ninjas did eventually have guns. They started with a primitive bamboo-based gun in the 16th century. Later, however, they transitioned to more modern firearms, such as handguns, bronze pistols, and Derringers.

While it may not be as fun to picture ninjas sneaking around assassinating people with handguns, the reality is that it happened. Guns will probably never be one of the ninjas’ most famous weapons, but they were tools in their arsenals. This article will more closely examine ninjas’ use of guns and outline other weapons they used, the types of armor they wore, and who their primary enemies were.

ninja with sword
What kind of weapons did ninjas commonly use? See below

Ninjas’ Use of Guns

Ninjas didn’t have a wide selection of guns at any point in their history. However, before Portuguese traders came to Japan in the 16th century, they had only one. [1]

They called these guns kozutsu; they were primarily made of wood – usually hollowed-out bamboo or tree trunks – and had metal barrels and triggers. [2] They fired iron pellets and had a range of about 60 feet (18.28 m), although some could fire up to 100 feet (30.48 m). They were very primitive weapons and weren’t all that effective.

In the 16th century, however, the Portuguese brought new options to Japan – not just guns but gunpowder. At that point, some ninjas began using Derringers, bronze pistols, and other handguns. 

They also used an interesting weapon called a hyakurai-ju, which some scholars describe as guns, and others describe as firecrackers. [3] Ninjas would set them up and detonate them. They would all go off at once or in quick succession. 

What kind of armor did ninjas wear? See below

What Kind of Weapons Did Ninjas Commonly Use?

Ninjas used the following variety of weapons:

  • Guns
  • Shuriken 
  • Daggers
  • Dirks
  • Swords
  • Caltrops
  • Bo staffs 
  • Fukiya
  • Bows and arrows
  • Kyoketsu-shoge 
  • Tiger Claws
  • Explosives

This article has already discussed ninjas’ guns in great detail, but the following sections will discuss the ninjas’ other famous weapons.


Also known as ninja stars or throwing stars, shuriken were small weapons with multiple sharp points. They usually looked like four-pointed stars, but some had different shapes and more blades – curving blades, eight-pointed snowflake shapes, etc.

Daggers and Dirks

Daggers and dirks are similar, though dirks are usually single-edged, while daggers have two. Dirks are also typically longer than daggers. Ninjas similarly used both weapons, though they often used daggers to stab and dirks to slice.


Like the samurai, ninjas also used a variety of swords. Most often, they used katanas or ninjatō swords. Although swords are readily associated with ninjas, they weren’t one of their most common weapons. Whether or not a ninja carried a sword primarily depended on his mission. 

If he was “undercover” and needed to blend in with his surroundings, hiding a large sword could be difficult. He’d usually favor smaller, more easily concealed weapons instead in those cases.


Caltrops were small but mighty; some would even call them vicious. [4] They were small, four-pointed weapons that resembled jacks (the children’s toys); only these were much sharper. If someone chased a ninja, the ninja would scatter caltrops behind him so that the unsuspecting pursuer would run through them, slicing up or stabbing into his feet.

Bo Staffs

Bo or bamboo staffs were very popular with ninjas looking to blend in with their surroundings. Whether they dressed as a peasant, monk, or something else, it wasn’t unusual for them to be leaning on a staff. 

Those same staffs were excellent weapons when used by ninjas. Ninjas would use them to trip their opponents and damage their faces and heads with blunt force.


The fukiya was usually a long bamboo tube – though some were made of other materials – that ninjas used as blowguns to shoot darts, often poisoned darts, at their enemies from a distance. [5] These are well-known ninja movie weapons, but in reality, ninjas probably didn’t use them as often as the movies claim. 

Bows and Arrows

Like swords, bows and arrows were difficult to hide for ninjas undercover. However, if ninjas were in open combat, they’d often use longbows and arrows, just like Japan’s other famous warriors, the samurai. They’d also use them from hiding places whenever possible.


This multi-purpose weapon had many uses; it was three weapons in one. The middle was a long rope or chain. There was a double-pointed knife at one end of the rope (or chain); the other end featured a metal ring.

Ninjas could throw the rope and metal ring to snag an enemy’s arm or leg from a great distance. They’d then yank the enemy towards them and slash their throats with the knife end of the weapon.

Tiger Claws

Tiger claws, also known as tekagi, were a primitive version of brass knuckles. They were usually made from iron and fit around a ninjas’ hands. Instead of hard knuckles, they had claws on the end that the ninja could use to slice up opponents while fighting.


After the 16th century, ninjas’ use of explosives really picked up because they had access to gunpowder. Some common explosives that they used included firecrackers, exploding arrows, and landmines.

What Kind of Armor Did Ninjas Wear?

Not all ninjas wore armor, but those who did usually wore lightweight chain armor called kusari underneath their clothes. Some ninjas also donned plate armor – similar to samurai’s armor – called karuta. Some may also have worn arm guards, shin guards, and metal hoods.

ninja weapons
Who did ninjas fight against? See below

Who Did Ninjas Fight Against?

Ninjas fought against anyone they were hired to fight. This included numerous people, such as samurai, rival clans and factions, and anyone else who had enemies willing to pay for their assassinations. Ninjas were mercenaries. They fought for the money.

As such, there’s no single person or group of people the ninjas fought. However, one feudal lord of the Sengoku period, Oda Nobunaga, is often recognized as “the ninjas’ greatest enemy.” [6]

He vowed to destroy all of them because he found the ninja communities to be “too independent and self-governing” – and subsequently, a threat to his power. He suffered a significant defeat at the hands of ninjas at first, but he eventually destroyed their power base in Nobunaga. 


Ninjas had guns, though those weren’t their most famous weapons. They were much more likely to use weapons they could easily conceal when in disguise.

[1] Source
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