|Rifle||Liao Type 13||Manufacturer||Shenyang Arsenal|
|Cartridge||7.92x57mm, 6.5x50mm||Overall Length||49.2″|
|Action||Rotation Bolt||Barrel Length||29.1″|
|Magazine||5 rounds staggered||Weight||9.4 lbs|
This rare and often misunderstood rifle represents a European prototype that found full production under a Chinese warlord.
Like the Shanxi Type 65 IR this story revolves around Chinese warlords. This time we’re looking at the Fengtiang Clique led by Zhang Zuolin. By 1922 Zhang had an expanding military force in China proper but was defeated by the Zhili Army. He chose to consolidate his power, withdrew into the Eastern Three Provinces (Manchuria), and declared an independent Manchuria. This setback also encouraged Zhang to look abroad for better war material. One major decision was the purchase of former Austrian manufacturing equipment, which was lying dormant after WWI. The factory was established in Shenyang (later Mukden) and began producing a unique rifle circa 1924. This date is the likely origin for the designation Type 13 as the Nationalist Chinese calendar begins in 1911.
Zhang went on to further glory and further defeat before being assassinated by Japanese agents in 1928. His son, Zhang Xueliang succeeded him briefly in Manchuria before the Japanese invasion in 1931. In Japanese hands, the factory began production of Arisaka rifles.
For the most part the Liao Type 13 is like any other Mauser Model 1898 derivative rifle. Externally it resembles the Model 1907 that had been imported into China many years before with a long profile, pistol grip stock, thin nosecap, and half-length handguard. It sports the usual 5-round staggered box magazine fed from stripper clips, front-locking lugs, and cock-on-open action.
The Type 13 differs from the M1898 with a sliding dust cover that rides in milled grooves along the receiver, almost exactly like the Type 38 Arisaka. Also like the Arisaka, it sports a shrouded firing pin spring instead of the usually straight rod with surrounding spring found on a M1898 and two gas pressure relief holes in the receiver. The M1898 has a spring-powered pin that prevents the cocking piece and shroud from rotating when the bolt is pulled to the rear, the engineers behind the Type 13 design realized their simple sheet steel dust cover would prevent this same motion with fewer milling operations, so they removed the component altogether. Unfortunately it appears most of the dust covers were lost and shooters should be careful to keep an eye on the cocking piece and shroud when bolting forward so as not to damage their stocks. (Our own example, sadly, does not have its cover despite being all matching)
Because of the extreme similarities between the Arisaka Type 38 and Liao Type 13 dust covers and firing pins it has long been believed that Japanese influence was a major consideration in this rifles development. Thanks to the research efforts of Stanley Zielinski and his associates we now know that these same features were actually employed on an Austrian experimental Mauser Model 1917 that never saw further production. It is therefore likely that these plans and the requisite jigs were sold along with the equipment from Austria and the experimental rifle found full production in Manchuria.
It is believed roughly 140,000 Liao Type 13 rifles were produced given the observed serial range. Service life would have been chaotic. Most were originally issued to the soldiers under Zhang Zuolin and would have been carried in numerous battles following the Second Zhili-Fengtian War, a failed revolt by Guo Songling, the Central Plains War, and likely was present for the Mukden Incident. Rifles were also sold to Demchugdongrub’s small private army in Inner Mongolia and later provided to the Japanese puppet Mengjiang. They may have also been part of the arms given to the Muslim factions in the conflict in Gansu.
After these events the path of the rifle would be hard to track. Since whole armies and their equipment frequently shifted alliances the Liao Type 13 entered the mix of standard 8mm rifles being passed around in the war with Japan and the Chinese Civil War. When major hostilities for the latter ended in 1949 these rifles were either sold, stored, or joined the rest in the Chinese militia.
It’s also worth mentioning that while the Type 13 was originally chambered in 7.92x57mm some examples have turned up in 6.5x50mm, a Japanese cartridge. It’s uncertain whether these were produced for the Japanese, Japanese puppet troops, or just other Chinese groups that were using the 6.5 cartridge before the invasion.
Overall the Liao Type 13 seems to be one of the more impressive arms out of China. The machining is good, the wood usually strong, and it has a nice balance and weight. But the cocking piece is troubling. While we understand the benefits of using the dust cover to control this rotation it seems obvious in hindsight that such a piece would be lost or damaged, greatly reducing the reliability of the rifle. But in the end it is a beautiful and rare rifle with a unique history, so I’m sure collectors won’t mind too much.