A Selection of Chinese Mystery Pistols

Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another video on ForgottenWeapons.com I’m Ian, I’m here today at the Rock Island Auction House and I’m taking a look at some of the guns that they have coming up for sale in their April 2015 Premier Auction Now one of the collections they got that they’re selling in this auction involved a rather quite large number of unusual handguns, including a whole bunch of Chinese pistols manufactured in the 1920s and 1930s I’ve been particularly interested in these pistols for a little while now because they’re just extremely unusual Some of them were manufactured by reasonably competent factories in large numbers with proper machine tooling and in bulk And some of them were manufactured literally by hand in little one and two man shops in the countryside And there’s just this incredible range of designs and styles and techniques, and especially one of … the elements that really jumps out at the eye are the markings on them Now these pistols don’t conform to any specific type or model of design, they instead tend to take elements from some of the other European imported pistols that were common to China at that time So, 1914 Pattern Mauser pistols, 1896 Broomhandle Mausers, the Browning Model 1900 and in some cases the Browning 1903, although we don’t have much of that here in front of us today So, it’s interesting, the smiths who are making these guns some of them clearly were very skilled, including being skilled with machine work Some of these guns are actually remarkably well made and well fitted and operate smoothly The problem was I think a lot of the guys who are making these guns didn’t actually really know anything about firearms They may have been given a gun or two and told to make copies of them, and so a lot of the elements seem to have been copied in form without really understanding what their function was The rear sights on these pistols are a particularly good example Often they look like tangent rear sights, but they don’t actually move and often the markings on them, the numbers, are completely nonsensical They’re out of order, they’re weird numbers, sometimes there are letters or proof marks instead of numbers on the rear sight In fact on some of these you can’t actually get a sight picture Maybe there isn’t a rear notch cut for a rear sight, or sometimes there’s a rear sight notch cut but the hammer, or some other part of the slide, blocks it so you can’t actually see between the front sight and the rear sight Still, I find them very interesting. And because there’s a large selection of them at this auction I figured I’d pick out a handful of representative and reasonably high quality examples and show you a sampling of them So let me bring the camera back here and let’s take a look at a couple in detail So I picked this one to start with for a couple of reasons. First off, it’s kind of visually striking It’s a fairly huge pistol, although it’s actually extremely thin, extremely narrow What makes this one interesting to me in particular is that it’s a good example, a good reminder, that not everything made in China during this time period was of low quality Now the grips on this one are incorrect, and they’re in fact not tight on the gun at all. They roughly fit then they fall off But the machining on this gun is very well done When you start to look at the surfaces up close everything is nice and parallel, the straight lines are straight, the curves are even and smooth. This pistol was clearly made on actual factory machine tooling They clearly made a whole series of these pistols, good work went into them And this is an example of a pistol that would have been ordered, or manufactured under, sort of under licence, by a major warlord in the area who had the resources to have a proper operating firearms production facility, a factory And there were plenty of factories like this One design in particular that was popular in China that was made quite a bit was the ZB-26 light machine gun, and these were copied by a number of Chinese arsenals very well And they’re great guns. They work, frankly, basically as well as the original Czech ones And there were certainly some handguns that also met that standard It’s interesting to note that the rear sight on this particular one has legitimate numbers on it: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. And it does even move That’s about the best functional type of rear sight you’ll ever find on one of these Chinese guns The magazine is relatively short. This is almost certainly chambered for .32 Auto That was a common cartridge in China at the time because it was a common cartridge in use in Europe, and a great many European pistols were imported into China So .32 Auto, 10 round magazine, a nice big long grip. This one is also (put the grip back on there), this one is also cut for a shoulder stock Shoulder stocks were popular in China at the time as well. There was a lot of international regulation of shipment of rifles to China

There was some embargoed military goods and pistols could be imported, but often not rifles So pistols with shoulder stocks became a popular item in China as a substitute for having a proper rifle The safety on this actually functions, it’s smooth, the checkering is good, everything about this gun is actually quite nice And it’s basically a copy of the Browning Model 1900 where we have a recoil spring over the top of the barrel You can see since I … racked the slide it is cocked, and the tube on top is held back into the barrel. When you dry fire it, that will come forward So, using this as our litmus test for a decent quality pistol, let’s move on and take a look at another So this is another basically copy of a Browning Model 1900 This one is a substantially thicker gun, it’s heftier, it weighs more, and it has a number of different features, so The function is basically the same, but our magazine, you’ll notice, is quite a bit longer This one is almost certainly chambered for the 7.63 Mauser cartridge The Broomhandle Mauser was a very popular gun in China at the time and so it’s ammunition was also popular Now these are all straight blowback pistols I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Chinese pistol of the sort that we’re looking at today that was any more complex than simple blowback And there’s really some question in my mind as to just how safe these would be firing 7.63 Mauser, or, frankly, what almost certainly ended up used from time-to-time, 7.62 Tokarev, loaded rather hotter So who knows how long these would last in actual use. One kind of presumes that they were carried a lot, and perhaps brandished some, and not actually fired very much Now this one has more of our stereotypical Chinese just total nonsense markings So you sort of have a copy of the FN logo on the grip here, but then all of our other markings are complete gibberish You’ll see the safety is “HAO” in one position and “105” in the other position We have a rough attempt to approximate Belgian proof marks here, which are clearly not authentic And of course the lettering on the slide is complete gibberish A lot of people will look at that and laugh at how dumb the guys who made it must have been, but really that’s not the case. … This is a Chinese craftsman who gets a set of you know, English style or Cyrillic letter stamps and make some things that look right It’s not that much different from caucasians who take a bunch of Asian kanji characters and get them tattooed, or mark them on various things because they think they look cool When in fact oftentimes I’m sure, they are spelling complete gibberish or meaningless things Same difference here. If you’re advertising this to a consumer group that doesn’t actually read any of the English letter type languages, then it doesn’t matter if your lettering is gibberish or not, because it looks authentic So. What’s interesting, this one also seems to have been very well made on the outside The lines are nice and parallel, the curves are consistent Everything about the operation of this gun feels good The rifling however is … horrendous Instead of actually having lands that come up from the surface of the barrel to impinge on the bullet, they actually have cut three intermittent lands in this that are in fact grooves cut down into the barrel So this would probably have minimal actual rifling effect on a fired bullet Moving on – we’re kind of going to be degrading here, slowly but surely Let’s take a look at this guy next. This is much more compact, it’s a lighter pistol. It has a very narrow grip because (pull the magazine out there), this is back to .32 Auto calibre almost certainly Whether those feed lips actually function I kind of doubt But it’s interesting to note that the bottom of the magazine is rounded, because this grip was clearly influenced by the Broomhandle Mauser. And if you’re going to put a detachable magazine in a nice round grip like this, well, you need to round the bottom of the magazine so that it matches the profile. So that’s what they did You can also see this looks rather like a Broomhandle Mauser sort of bolt But it is not, the bolt and the slide here are one contiguous piece. It’s a solid chunk Our rear sight has (there we go),

they may not have had a complete set of number stamps to do this. You see those make no sense There isn’t in fact any sort of slider, none of this moves And there is no rear sight notch cut anywhere on it, although there is a front sight on the pistol Again, we have some These markings aren’t gibberish. They’re misspelled, and they’re miss-applied We have “Belgique”, or what sort of is Belgique, stamped a bunch of times in a row And a bunch more there, and once there on the backstrap We have some more fake proof marks This in theory would be our safety We have another Belgique right here on the back of the sight. On this side this could be, it’s hard to say if this is supposed to be a date. I suspect this is later than I would anticipate these guns to be made. I suspect that’s a serial number We have our Mauser banner, some fake Belgian proof marks, some more fake Belgian proof marks So this is kind of a good epitome of the Chinese handmade pistol Oh, and one other quick element that I noticed This doesn’t serve any reasonable function But what it is, I think, is someone copying a bayonet lug off of a Mauser rifle Not knowing what it did, but knowing that under the … muzzle of this Mauser was a lug with this little triangular cut out And if it belongs on a rifle, well, it would probably be a good thing to have on a pistol too So they went ahead and put one of those on there Certainly this never actually used a bayonet Just an interesting artifact of someone who doesn’t know what guns really are manufacturing guns Now in similar style, here is a slightly more compact version This one of course has a squared off butt It is also in .32 Auto. Feed lips there not in good shape, but It’s interesting you know, the little details like the holes in the magazine that on guns that are made by professionals, you know, longtime knowledgeable gun-makers, the holes are there so that you can see how many cartridges are in the magazine And they’ll tell you what the magazine capacity is. In this case there’s just one It might be the last cartridge you can put in, that would make sense. It might also just be randomly placed, there’s no way to tell Again, we have a slide. It’s a one-piece slide, but it looks like a Broomhandle Mauser Bolt We’ve got the two grasping surfaces back here like a Broomhandle Mauser We do again have a rear sight with some just random numbers on it: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-0, and then I guess they didn’t know where to go from there so they just jumped back to 11 The slider doesn’t slide. In this case, and you see this not that infrequently, the slider is actually a separate component. And it … appears to be part of the assembly that holds the extractor in place This originally would have been a pin that the tangent sight would pivot on. They don’t have that function there, but they did copy the look And we have an external hammer like a Broomhandle Mauser This guy, marking wise, we have a crudely done Mauser banner there We have “Nacional”, that’s the word that they picked on this one A couple more times up on top there On this side we have some more Nacionals, and what appears to be a little twin engined airplane logo No idea what the significance of that is So I should say, when you look at these up close the straight lines aren’t quite perfectly straight, a lot of the curved surfaces aren’t quite concentric with anything These are the sorts of guns that were almost certainly made by hand Now the craftsmanship, the skill required to make even something that looks this crude is pretty significant A lot of people would, you know, would just laugh at the hilarity and the crudity of these guns, but frankly, if you take the typical suburban person and give them a set of files, and tell them to make one of these, they’re not going to be able to So there is there’s definitely an element of ability that went into these that deserves some respect, even if the final product isn’t something that we would consider frankly even safe to shoot I should also point out these are virtually all single action pistols I think I’ve seen one that was double action, and I’m not actually entirely sure it was Chinese Now let’s take a look at a slightly different variant You will sometimes see them with these oval

theoretically sort of lightening cuts in the slide That’s kind of a distinctive style that is out there Again, we have a squared off grip, heel release, they’re all slightly different types of heel releases So another unusual set of holes in the magazine. This obviously isn’t the last round, this one is far too far down to be the last round, the last round is going to sit somewhere in here, giving space for the spring to be compressed underneath In many of these the rifling is virtually non-existent, or it’s cut in such a way that you get something resembling a spiral pattern, but it may not be effective rifling One of the questions that comes up if you think about this is, given the crudity of the tools used to do these guns on the outside, how did they manage to make functional rifling? And the answer is in most cases they did not A good example of the handmade nature of these guns is on these gripping serrations back here, you can see they’re all slightly different Had this been done on a … proper machine tool setup, all of these would be parallel and exactly the same length and the same depth because that’s how machine tools typically work This one was done by a manually controlled machine So again we’ve got some fake proof marks here These are actually sort of German style proof marks “Belgique”, we have a Mauser banner On this one our serial number is 1942 It is possible that’s a date It’s hard to say, there’s … virtually nothing in the way of written resources about these guns We have some fake Belgian proof marks here to go with the German ones on the other side And, yup, we have Belgique on this one as well, and a few other words here and there So this is your little short barrel model in .32. Again single action, and a hammer much like a Broomhandle Mauser You know a handgun hammer does not need to extend that far back when it’s cocked, but stylistically that was a popular choice in these One more Oh, before I go on I should point out this one mechanically, while it’s got a sort of a Broomhandle style hammer, the actual lockwork, the action back here is styled on a Mauser Model 1914 So the barrel is fixed here, and in theory you’d pull this out, (it’s a bit loose), and then the barrel would lift up and our recoil spring is located underneath So, more or less styled after a Mauser 1914 Now this is another example of one, this is a style that you see reasonably frequently We have an angled Broomhandle style round grip. We have, this again is mechanically based on a Mauser 1914 where the barrel is pinned here, and then probably has a plug, or possibly this pin up here, and the barrel would lift out the top The recoil spring is located right here underneath the barrel We still have kind of our Broomhandle style hammer on it though. So nice decorative serrations in the slide In this case, for once, they didn’t bother going with a tangent style rear sight We just have a flat surface with a groove cut in it, so on this one you can actually get a sight picture Not a very good sight picture, but you know, let’s not be too needy here We do have a serial number on this guy, 7056 Again, we have a round magazine. You’ll notice that the magazine catch on this one, and one of the others previously, pushes forward to release the magazine That was a style common on some early pistols, in particular some early Colt pistols or Browning pistols use this, the predecessors to the 1911 So it’s another one of our round-bottom magazines Three witness holes there. And this one is clearly sized for 7.62 Tokarev or 7.63 Mauser Now this is just a plain blowback pistol with a spring and weight, that’s all that’s locking it shut I do not think I would be willing to fire this, certainly not with Tokarev, and I’d be very nervous about firing this with 7.63 Mauser ammunition Be interesting to pull the slide off and see if the internals are peened up Possibly this didn’t get used much Possibly some of the people who had this took ammunition and downloaded it to make it a little bit safer to use, or some of the people selling ammunition downloaded it You’ll also see the sunburst logo on the top here. That’s a common symbol to see in China from this period Now the one last one I figured we finish on Having gone through all of these various common characteristics, I figured I’d finish up with one that features only a few of them This one is a rather unusual, unique and interesting example to me because it breaks a lot of the rules

It does have this tangent rear sight (which by the way is covered in just totally meaningless numbers), The slider … on this one does slide, but it doesn’t stay, there are no catches on it It has a Broomhandle style hammer. This one really looks like it has a separate bolt It’s actually a separate piece here, but lo and behold, it’s just one locked, big chunky breech that goes back The feel on this one is actually fairly nice. And very unusually it actually has a magazine hold open There’s a little tab at the back of the magazine follower that locks the bolt open You can see it there. And when I pull the magazine out it drops the slide But you know what, there’s a little more care went into this magazine than most The calibre on this one is uncertain, it might be 9mm It’s too long to be .32 and it’s too short … to be Tokarev The magazine catch on it is this button on the back bottom side of the frame. That’s a bit unusual The markings are our standard typical nonsense Although this one’s actually has some USA markings on it right there. Got a bunch of stuff, another USA on the top Just some decorative milling there on the side of the slide Sight picture on this sort of works, except that the rear notch is I mean you really couldn’t make it much smaller if you tried Thanks for watching guys, I hope you enjoyed the video Hopefully today we had a topic that was interesting and, you know, something you don’t normally see elsewhere It’s really cool to be able to look at a variety of these pistols side by side, and get a better idea for what they have in common and what their differences are If you would like to own any of these or any of the many others that are in this auction, you have the opportunity to at the end of April. These will all be for sale at Rock Island I have links to the catalogue pages for each one of these in the description text below You can check those out, look at the pictures, and the descriptions, and decide … which ones you would like to make a bid on yourself and of course you can then search through the catalogue and find all the others that are also here that I didn’t pick out and bring up to the table today Thanks for watching