Chinese FN 1900s: From Wauser to Browningsbrowningsbrownings

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One of the most popular pistols in Warlord Era China was the FN 1900, a compact and reliable officer’s pistol in .32 ACP. The Chinese also found great use for the Mauser C96, but this was seen as a sort of combat carbine, where the FN was more a defensive weapon and status symbol.

Several large Chinese arsenals (notably the Shanghai Arsenal and the Jinling Arsenal) produced high-quality exact copies of the FN model 1900 – but a huge number of less strict copies were made by a plethora of other workshops and arsenals. Today we’re going to look at the main categories of these copies, including straight-grip, curved-grip, and baby models. These are the most accessible type of Warlord Era pistol for collectors today, and no two guns are quite the same.

Except for the serial number, as nearly half of the examples I examined had basically the same serial number…


  1. I want a Wauser to go with my Weckler and Woch. I wonder how many Chinese language tattoos on Western hipsters are completely bonkers?

    • There’s a scene in the TV series Big Bang Theory where Sheldon asks Penny why she has the character for soup tattooed on her shoulder?

    • Ian..the guns may be hand made, but what about the grip scales? They are plastic, and I would expect a Chinese small workshop in the 1910s to use wood.

  2. Is there any firm-reasonable information as to from when these copies were 1st produced and at least ballpark production figures. Every source I find has no credible to different and often conflicting information (‘perhaps’ there may be some recent Chinese sources on this).

    • With the exception of a few guns from Jinling, Shanghai, and Taku, no. The rifles are much more readily traced, as most of them are dated. The pistols, not so much.

  3. Anvil-to-holster, shoot local.

    I have always thought that these pistols, like Basque and Khyber / Darra guns were interesting artifacts of clever, tough and hard working people. Thank you for telling the story.

  4. It troubles me that Ian does not show that the pistols are cleared before he handles them. That’s bad ju-ju, and it is a bad example of gun handling. This guy knows lots better. No, it does not trouble me, it freakin’ BEWILDERS ME.

    • One assumes Ian has an IQ above his shoe size and has cleared all the weapons he features before he hits the record button. If you have watched a few of his videos, you should know he also field/detail strips them off camera as a ‘trial run’.
      We do not need to see him clearing a table full of guns at the start of every video.

    • This is not a YouTube tutorial where bubba shows you how to clean your deer gun. This is museum / collectors guns being handled by an expert. In a scientific publication about lasers, you don’t write disclaimers about laser handling either.

  5. There is a striking parallel from the late Neolithic: people would produce stone axeheads that would copy early bronze examples and had casting burrs worked into them. No functional benefit, but burrs were apparently understood to be caracteristic features of a superior technology and, hence, a superior product.

  6. Here in Taiwan, where unfortunately we are in a almost lockdown situation, I have encountered a collector of Chinese pistols who has a business manufacturing parts for firearms. As he speaks very good English I assume he is focused on the US market. A few years ago we were chatting in my local pub (temporarily closed) and he told me about his collection. I think you’d be interested if you haven’t already encountered him. The pub is called the Speakeasy and its on Guang Fu Nan Lu in Taipei. If you already are using this guy’s collection then you just need to mention the pub but if you are not then feel free to follow up with me if you have the inclination.

  7. I have finished watching this and one obvious point occurs to me. It may be that many, if not most, of these pistols were not intended for warlords and their militaries. There were large numbers of people enrolled in secret societies in China at this time and they were closely associated with national politics. As there is little or not attempt at standardization, which would be a basic requirement for military use, I strongly suspect that many of these firearms were built for the secret societies who, amongst other things, became an important line of defense against Communist infiltration during the Republic, and were, in the pre-republican period vital networks for subversive nationalism. Many must surely have been built for private sale to people who had something to lose in the late imperial and post imperial anarchy. That would make the Warlord Era Pistols but not necessarily Pistols of the Warlords. I’ve been looking at these kind of pistols in Asian antique shops for years. They are very much secondary weapons for ease of concealment. Fairbairn, whose modifications for the Shanghai Police to the Colt 1908 you reviewed, believed in a bigger calibre. He designed a special bullet proof vest to deal with higher powered pistols. An interesting piece of research would be to look at calibres in the statistics for shootings in Shanghai. But in the absence of statistics, simple common sense suggests that people like 2 gun Cohen must have understood the importance of firepower. The high powered Mauser C 96’s were much more prized everywhere on the periphery of China. I’ve seen them in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and in great quantities in Thailand.

  8. This is not a YouTube tutorial where bubba shows you how to clean your deer gun. This is museum / collectors guns being handled by an expert. In a scientific publication about lasers, you don’t write disclaimers about laser handling either.

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