The Type 96 was a gas-operated light machine gun derived from the Zb.26. The internal operation was basically copied directly from the Zb.26, as were many of the external features. It utilized a finned quick-change barrel and fed from 30-round box magazines, which were inserted into the top of the receiver. It also had provisions for attaching a bayonet or a telescopic sight, although neither of these features were commonly used by Japanese troops, as they proved to be rather ineffective in practice.
The magazine of the Type 96 was interesting in that it featured a combination oil pump/magazine loader, which lubricated the cartridges as they were loaded into the magazines. This was supposed to ease feeding and extraction of the cartridges, but could potentially cause stoppages if the cartridges were not kept clean before loading, as the oil lubrication could cause dirt to stick to the bullets. In addition, the breech of the Type 96 was slightly mismatched with the dimensions of the 6.5×50mm cartridge, which often caused extraction issues and jams.