I just recently spent some time at RIA doing video for their upcoming Regional auction, and happened to notice a batch of guns they were in the process of sorting and writing descriptions of for the April Premier auction: a whole slew of Chinese Mystery Pistols.
I really need to come up with a better name for these things, but I’m not sure what that would be at his point. They are pistols manufactured by a large number of small Chinese shops in the 1920s and 30s, and generally fall into three categories. Mechanical copies of the Mauser 1914, Mauser C96 “Broomhandle”, and Browning 1900 pistols – but their external form varies wildly. They generally have nonsensical markings; sometimes gibberish text and sometimes copies of many different European proofs marks and trademarks. I took photos of a small sampling of the batch at RIA (click on any photo to enlarge it a lot):
I will definitely be spending some time with these when I next go to RIA, and I am particularly looking forward to being able to use the high-res photos they take for the auction catalog. I would love to be able to put together a reference book or ebook on this topic. Maybe it makes me strange, but I find these designs very interesting. 🙂
A couple in that batch look inspired by Beretta’s and the P38. On the alternative name front maybe see if the Chinese words for small/home/illegal gunsmith are usable in English. Maybe there is a local name for the pre first japan-sino war period.
IMG 0188 looks like a copy of a Spanish “Eibar” knockoff of a Browning 1910.
IMG 0186 has a very “space age” look, rather like some of the Beretta DA pocket auto designs of the late Sixties and early Seventies.
Very nice, Ian. I share your fascination with such “improvised modified firearms”, to use the title of Truby & Minnery’s book, which was where I first discovered these interesting weapons.
Thanks for posting these pictures. Unlike many Americans, I am an admirer of the Chinese People and the Taiwanese People and their industriousness but certainly not a fan of their form of government of the Mainlanders. I often have representatives of their industries in my home consulting on various matters. In these photos you can see adaptations from the Luger, Broomstick Mauser, Mauser Officer’s Pocket Pistol and others. This is an example of the comparison of their industry to the modern-day 3D Printer; you just drop anything you want produced into the machine and out pops a hundred clones. Their work in weapons is appropriate because they invented gunpowder, the first application of that invention in projectile launching with the new technology, rockets and their first application in warfare as rocket-propelled spears. One adaptation you often see in their pistols with exposed-hammer fired handguns is the hole through the “spur” of the hammers; this was first used to attach a “cocking string” to cock the hammers in the extreme cold of their winters while the shooter was rearing heavy gloves, or so I have been told by them. I look forward to your in-depth analysis of these pistols in future posts. Thanks again for your dedication and hard work.
Actually, the Nationalist government, the Guomindang or Kuomintang 國民黨 was structured after Lenin’s model. In all honesty I think out of appeasement on Sun Yat Sen’s part, the problem was they couldn’t get any international aid to help them build their nation, and they still had to defeat a series of warlords etc. The plan was a single party dictatorship to consolidate control of China, followed by a period of political tutelage, and then democracy. However this isn’t quite how things happened, Stalin backed the Chinese Communists who defeated the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War (Truman sure wasn’t going to provide real aid to the Nationalists) and the Nationalists fled to Taiwan. It was 蔣介石 Chiang Kai-Shek’s son 蔣經國 Jiang Jing Guo who in the 1980s transitioned the Republic of China into a multi-party Liberal Democracy along with the help of 李登輝 Lee Deng Hui. It’s a very long and complicated history, but Taiwan proves that a Chinese Democracy is possible, in spite of the PRC’s b.s. about China being incapable of democracy. Hell, Hong Kong just had a large protest for universal suffrage in order to earn the right to elect their Chief Executive. Even if one brands Sun Yat-Sen a “leftist”, he always maintained that he did not believe China was compatible with Communism. Also Chinese human development doesn’t quite match up to Marxist theory, one major way is that in China, peasants were allowed to own their land and inherit it. Anyways to get a real in depth history pick up
Did you ever come across a ZONDA,slam-bang pistol ?
Let us know how many have usable sights, you’ve noted before how sometimes the sights are more cosmetic than anything.
The grip safety(?) on the next to last one and the general arrangement reminds me of a Remington 51.
Is it known if the people who made these had any machine tools to use? Hand forged and filed? Sawed and filed?
What kind of steel and heat treating shows up in these things?
I’m interested in how many calibers these auto-loaders were chambered in, and I guess if you study them long enough, you will have the definitive manual on “what fits what”.
You must have racked up quite a few frequent-flyer miles going from AZ to Rock-Island Auction in IL!
I agree with Jacob Morgan, that one pistol does indeed look inspired by the Remington model 51, at least the back end.
As far as steel, and heat treating goes, these pistols were made in that wonderful period when quality steels were little known and used, even world wide, and heat treating usually wasn’t even considered. It would be a few more years before Colt, Smith & Wesson, Mauser and others even considered heat treating.
Well, it is not quite that bad, but pretty close. Non-heat treated steel works fairly well, as all of those original M1911s and M1917s prove.
Oh! Today is JMB’s birthday!
Yeah, you definitely should come up with something a little more authoritative for a book. Chinese small manufacturer firearms? Chinese Civil War Indigenous Handguns? Sino Artisan Pistols? Chinese workshop automatics? Cottage makes of chinese pistols 19__ to 19__?
BTW they still exist to this day, as you were prob aware.
A guy once came to the annual exhibition show of the Ohio Gun Collector’s Association show, who was big into these. He even had a flier printed up with pictures of these guns from the A.B. Zhuk book. The flier solicited people who had examples which they wanted to sell. He had a representative sampling on his table.
Also known as Chinese Hand Grenades.
Did you identify the weapon on pic 195 ( top pic on the left)?
I did come across one in a museum and I am still curious about it ever since.