|Rifle||Chinese Zhong Zheng Shi Rifle||Manufacturer||Gongxian, Hanyang, Nanking|
|Action||Rotation Bolt||Barrel Length||23.6″|
|Magazine||5 rounds staggered||Weight||8.8 lbs|
Commonly known as the “Chiang Kai Shek” rifle, this Chinese copy of the Mauser Standard Modell is one of the most produced and heavily used military rifles in history. Despite the millions made and their extreme service lives, many collectors take little notice of these guns in their research or collecting.
Between 1911 and 1949 China shouldn’t necessarily be considered one whole country. Prime ministers, emperors, and warlords came and went in a series of revolutions involving various parts of the country. While there are myriads of exchanges in this period let’s simplify to a few key powers and events from 1919 through the end of the Chinese Civil War. Just a warning, this is going to be a very rough sketch. It’s a lot of material to cover and doesn’t compress well. If you like, just skip down to the summary timeline.
China’s involvement in WWI was bought with overtures that the German controlled regions would be returned to them. Instead the Treaty of Versailles granted Japan rights to the German possession. This weakness of the Beiyang government greatly upset the Chinese citizenry and fueled the May 4th Movement of 1919. Revolutions based on this protest eventually destroyed the Beiyang and eventually replaced it with the Kuomintang led by Sun Yat-sen. The KMT was supported by an alliance with Soviet Russia and was therefore forced to cooperate with the fledgling Communist Party of China (CPC). After Sun Yat-sen’s death in 1925 he was succeeded by Chiang Kai-shek who began the Northern Expedition. This military endeavor by the KMT against warlord controlled territories mostly unified China. Southern and Central China were under direct control of the KMT and the remaining northern warlords became very agreeable. The KMT also began fighting the CPC during this unification, beginning the Chinese Civil War.
Following the Northern Expedition two things happened in China that overlapped and made things very difficult for the KMT government. As Chiang Kai-shek’s forces began overrunning the CPC’s forces, Japan invaded Manchuria and began a series of border clashes with China. The KMT continued to apply pressure to the CPC Red Army and their new leader Mao Zedong. This forced the CPC on the Long March into harsh Northwestern China starting in 1934. This exodus allowed the Red Army to gain further support and removed them from most of the areas of the Japanese occupation during World War II. In 1937 Japan used the Marco Polo Bridge Incident as an excuse to invade China proper. The KMT bore the brunt of this war as the communists made nominal assistance and built up their own power. After Japan’s surrender and withdrawal the weakened KMT fought a civil war with the CPC and lost. The remnants escaped to the island of Taiwan. This pretty much leaves us the two countries we know today.
1919 May 4th Movement kicks off over anger about the Treaty of Versailles. Eventually topples the Beiyang government.
1920 Sun Yat-sen resurrects his Kuomintang, Chinese Nationalist Party.
1923 The KMT accepts aid from Soviet Russia and is forced to acknowledge the Communist Party of China as a result.
1925 Sun Yat-sen dies and is succeeded by Chiang Kai-shek.
1926 The KMT begins the Northern Expedition, eventually uniting China. This also begins the fighting between KMT and CPC.
1931 Japan invades and occupies Manchuria.
1934 Nearly destroyed by the KMT, the CPC begins the Long March to northwest China.
1937 Japan invades China proper, starting the Second Sino-Japanese War.
1945 Japan surrenders and withdraws. The Chinese Civil War continues in full force.
1949 The CPC unifies China. The KMT remains only in Taiwan.
Given all of that it’s obvious how important small arms purchasing and manufacture were for the government. Chinese modern arms purchases began in the late 1800’s during Germany’s dominance of export arms. Qing Dynasty officials naturally sought out the best available and began with purchases of Model 1871 single shot rifles. As repeating rifles became standard China followed quickly. At this time the love of the Model 1888 commission rifle settled in. China also started to import a 6.8mm Model 1907 but sales were curtailed by the fall of the Qing Dynasty. Afterward a number of different models were imported all the way through World War II from Germany, Belgium, and Czechoslovakia. Other arms also wandered in from various allies. Rifle production in China included the Hanyang Rifle (Model 1888), the Model 1907, and the Type 21 (FN Model 1930).
What we know as the Chiang Kai-shek rifle began life as the exported Mauser Standard Modell. Entering the 1930’s the KMT government saw a need to standardize military training, equipment, and armament for a massive and disjointed country. They reached out to Germany for assistance and received a military mission headed by General von Seekt along with arms technicians. In 1934 the Ministry of Revenue sought to arm their Taxation patrol through the purchase of 10,000 Standard Modell rifles. The Ordnance Office went ahead and requested the tooling and licensing to produce the rifles domestically. Assembly reportedly began in 1935 at the Gongxian Arsenal (sometimes spelled Kung Hsien) and was spread to every other major arsenal in the country and some minor shops. They received the Mauser Standard Modell and couldn’t find a fault with the rifle. Thus the Chinese Type 24 rifle was born. Shortly after the rifle was renamed in honor of the KMT leader.
Chiang Kai-shek, in Mandarin pronounced Jiang Jieshi (蔣介石), had actually already changed his common name around 1918 to Zhongzheng (中正) in support and emulation of Sun Yat-sen who was known as Zhongshan (中山). For the rifle his surname Chiang was dropped and just Zhongzheng was used. Thus the Zhong (中) Zheng (正) Shi, meaning “type,” (式) rifle was born. Changing names wasn’t exactly common in the US and our media never made the swap from Chiang Kai-shek to Jiang Zhongzheng, so when the rifle showed up we went with what we knew.
The Zhong Zheng Shi rifle suffers in interest only because it is a clone of the most successful military bolt action rifle made. The Standard Modell was the final word in the evolution of the Gewehr 98 rifle of WWI in terms of export. It features straight handled rotation bolt that cocks on opening. The magazine carries five rounds staggered for a flush fit into the stock. German 7.92x57mm ammunition was adopted universally, most likely because of the Model 1888 rifles already in service.
Chinese officials kept the standard Mauser bayonet lug but paired it with an oversized bayonet according to the Asian tradition of the bayonet charge. Unfortunately these are generally unmarked and therefore sometimes hard to identify. Several books show a bayonet with a more pointed pommel like WWI vintage Mausers while other sources show what appears to be a clone of the Belgian M1924 export bayonet stamped “HY1935.” Just know to look for a standard Mauser bayonet grip, crosspiece, and pommel with an unmarked blade near 17.13″ in length. Serial numbers may or may not be present. Bayonets can vary widely as they were produced in factories and home shops all over the country so this might explain the confusion.
Markings for the Zhong Zheng Shi Rifle are anything but universal. Before we go any further let’s clear up one huge misconception about Chinese Mausers of all sorts. The swastikas depicted on many of them are in no way associated with Nazi Germany. China adopted the swastika symbol, turned in either direction, from Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Originally this was a symbol of the Buddha and used for luck but by 700AD it had become synonymous with the number 10,000 or another way of saying “innumerable.” Given the Chinese spiritual obsession with eternal life the swastika became a symbol of immortality. What better symbol could you put on the rifles to comfort illiterate peasant soldiers than the country-wide recognized symbol for immortality?
All right, let’s take a look at some Zhong Zheng pattern rifle manufacturers. Remember, most arsenals were moved, split up, consolidated, or halted from time to time given the tumultuous history of China. Most authors collectors have preferred to use regional names for these arms producers but even the Chinese government realized that naming based on location quickly confused issues after a move. While we will give the most commonly associated name to help you along, it’s time to start using the arsenals’ numbered designations.
In 1940 The Ordnance Office ordered the 21st Arsenal to begin production of the Type 24, which it finally started in 1943. Many of their Type 24 rifles display the offices Gear and Arrow mark. They are quickly identified by the Chinese swastika nested atop the 中正式 banner. The number on the receiver is the year in the Nationalist calendar. Add eleven to get the Gregorian year of production.
11th Arsenal first produced the Type 24 rifle in 1935. The arsenal moved several times until Japanese bombing interrupted rifle production completely and the line was merged into the 1st Arsenal. The 11th is commonly called the Gongxian Arsenal
Rifles can be readily recognized by their “double diamond” marking at the top of the receiver. There are two possible banners as this was the first arsenal to produce the Zhong Zheng Shi rifle. It appears at least one batch of rifles were produced before the change from its original designation as the Type 24. The banner will be the same as the one depicted only the characters 中正 (Zhong Zheng) will be replaced by 二四 (24). The Arabic numerals below the banner reference the Nationalist year and month. To adapt the Nationalist year to the Gregorian year just add eleven. The month is equivalent so just use it. That means our sample picture is dated June of 1937.
1st Arsenal was the original Hanyang factory we hear about so often. It produced the Type Han rifle based off the Gew. 1888 for many years before its line was transferred to the 21st Arsenal. Much later it received the 11th Arsenal’s line and began producing the Type 24 rifle.
The 1st Arsenal guns may also display the Ordnance Office gear and arrow. They are identified by the five point star nested above the中正式 banner. Again, just like the 11th Arsenal; add eleven to the year and read the month straight.
The interlocking rings of the 41st Arsenal mark these rifles. A rare few have been dated but most just display their serial numbers. Dates can only be roughly estimated based on the serial. We’ll update if we find a more accurate means.
Finally, we should probably talk safety. Chinese Mausers have a bit of a mixed history. The truth is many are comparable to their western counterparts but it’s honestly a crapshoot. I personally own a Hanyang Arsenal model I bought from a private individual who swore he had shot it fine. I will not be taking the same risk. These rifles were heavily used, poorly maintained, and the metallurgy involved can’t be guaranteed. With this in mind treat your rifle with care and if you have an overwhelming urge to fire it check with a known excellent gunsmith.