“Made for the Republic of China”: Shanghai Arsenal’s FN 1900 Copy

“Pistols of the Warlords” available now from:

The Shanghai Arsenal was founded in 1865 as a joint venture between British and Chinese customs officers. They bought a defunct American ironworking company and rebuilt it as an arsenal. In 1884 they began production of a copy of the Remington Rolling Block, and by 1891 copies of Mannlicher 1888 straight-pull rifles. In 1912 the arsenal had more than 5,000 employees, and produced steel for industrial use and a substantial amount of rifles and ammunition. It was one of the premier arsenals in China, and Shanghai was a vibrant and growing city. The arsenal operated until the Japanese occupation of Shanghai in 1932, when most for he tooling was evacuated to other arsenals.

The copy of the FN 1900 made at Shanghai was an excellent copy, not at all like the stereotypical artisanal Chinese pistols. They were made form 1916 until 1921, and some sources (Bin Shih) suggest that as many as 60,000 were made in 1920 alone. Markings on these guns include serial numbers on the right side, a left-side grip panel marking saying “Shanghai Arsenal” and a right-side grip panel with the date of production based on the 1911 Chinese Revolution. This examples is from the 8th year, which would be 1919.


  1. Would be fascinating for you to study the artisanal production of firearms coming out of Pakistan.

  2. The financial guy in me asks did Remington, Mannlicher or FN get a penny of royalties for these (literally) Chinese copies? Stop laughing!

    I want a Wowser….

  3. It would be interesting to compare this Chinese copy of a Browning to the many Spanish copies. The Chinese seem to have been able to copy the design, I wonder about the quality of the metal used.

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