Not all of the handguns made in China during the Warlord Era were made one at a time by individual artisan gunsmiths. A few models were produced on proper Western-style production lines. Almost all of these production pistols were direct copies of the FN 1900 and Mauser C96, except for this fascinating exception: the Shanghai Arsenal Model 1900 Pistol-Carbine (a collector designation and not an original name – we don’t know what the original designation was).
This pistol is essentially a hybrid of the two common Chinese copies. It uses the mechanical basis of the FN 1900, with that design’s unique breechblock and striker mechanism, plus the recoil spring above the barrel and the .32 ACP chambering. This is blended with a grip slotted for a Mauser-type stock, a 10-round magazine, a 500m fully functional tangent rear sight, and an extended (5.5 inch) barrel. Several thousand of these were made by the Shanghai Arsenal between 1916 and 1921, just as the height of the Warlord Era was about to begin.
These guns were well made and reliable, and have legitimate serial numbers and dates. However, there were also small-scale knockoffs of this domestic Chinese design made, and we have one such example to look at today along with the originals!