Chinese-Mauser-Type-Zhongzheng tilt

Rifle Chinese Zhong Zheng Shi Rifle Manufacturer Gongxian, Hanyang, Nanking
Cartridge 7.92x57mm Overall Length 43.6″
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.

Chinese Mauser Type 24 Top

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.

In Summary:

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).

Chinese Mauser Type 24 Sides

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.

 

21st Arsenal began production of the Type 24 rifle in 1943.  It had previously inherited the 1st Arsenal’s Type Han rifle production line.  It is commonly called the Nanjing Arsenal.

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.

 

41st Arsenal moved from the Belgian derived Type 21 rifle to the Type 24 in 1936 under the orders of the Ordinance Office.  This is also commonly referred to as the Guangdong Arsenal.

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.

 

Chinese Mauser Type 24 POVFinally, 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.

 

 

17 Responses to “Rifle: Chinese Mauser Zhong Zheng Shi (Chiang Kai-shek)”

  1. Jeff says:

    Very cool article!

    I thought this was a fairly rare rifle as I am the only one I know who had one. Mine is a Nanking Arsenal example with a sewer pipe bore. This was my first military surplus weapon, purchased from a pawn shop nearly 20 years ago. It has never been fired, as I too learned the history of this rifle and its dubious metallurgy.

    Still, it is a prized part of my collection. The first rifle of my collection and a great historical piece.

  2. Nagao says:

    Yeah, they are gorgeous rifles. Plenty were made but they were rode hard and given away pretty freely for a long time. Frankly I’m surprised Communist China didn’t just bury them all.

  3. PCShogun says:

    Found a possible mistake in the paragraph of the Nanking Arsenal stamping.

    You mention that, “Our example therefore reads June 1945″, if the month were seven, would it not be “July”?

    You may remove this entry as it only points out the small date error.

  4. Nagao says:

    Nah, I like being corrected. It lends credibility to the project to let people check after me. Thanks for the heads up! I got my banners crossed in my mind as I was setting up the tracings in Photoshop while writing the article. I fixed it now.

  5. PCShogun says:

    On the stock of your image firearm, i see what looks like 3 circles. Mine has an image of a Chinese character on it. Do you know what these “Cartouches” are for?

    A unofficial Chinese translator once said mine was an old symbol for “Dragon” and indicated it may be a luck symbol. This would also imply to me that my rifle was used by a militia as I doubt the regular armor would allow such “trench art” on a issued rifle. Any thoughts?

  6. Nagao says:

    My Mandarin is pretty poor but I can certainly look up the character on your rifle for you if you’d like to send over an image.

    I did some extra reading and everything seems to suggest that nearly all of the stock markings are from the post Korean War era. As the rifles were retired from standard troops to the People’s Militia they were stamped. I haven’t found any details on specific stock symbols though.

  7. PCShogun says:

    OK, That makes sense and corresponds to my thought that a Militia was responsible for the art work. I’ll send over the image and don’t worry, my Mandarin is probably worse than yours. Xie’ Xie’

  8. Captain Mainwaring says:

    Thanks for the article!
    Correction:
    Shortly after the rifle was renamed in honor of the KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek. His surname Chiang was dropped and the most common language in China is actually Mandarin so the pronunciation Zhongzheng was used.

    Actually Kai-shek 介石 and Zhongzheng 中正 are two different names. In Chinese, Chiang was known as Zhongzheng after changing it around 1918. In English, he continued to be known as Kai-shek.

    • Nagao says:

      Massive error fixed thanks to the Cap’n. Thanks for that correction. I made sure to look this up in better detail instead of counting on information from rifle books. Let me know what you think now.

      • Captain Mainwaring says:

        Sorry for the delay getting back to you. It reads just fine now. There are other ‘layers’ to that explanation, but I think for this article, it’s best left as you have it.

        Note that there is another variation of ‘Chung Cheng Shi’ that can be found in older texts, using the older form of transliteration from Chinese.

        CKS rifles were standard issue to the People’s Militia in China. I have a 1973 People’s Militia training manual which features care and operating instructions for the CKS Mauser.

        I have a 25th year of the Republic (1937), Gongxian CKS coming in and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. This one has 国军 (Guo Jun) ‘National Army’ (ROC) electropenciled on the barrel above the receiver. This rifle was made just in time for the Japanese war, the Chinese Civil War (round 2), was taken to Taiwan with the KMT and then surplused out of Taiwan in the 1980s. Wow!

  9. Mark Davis says:

    I have a Chiang Kia-shek rifle with the three footballs inside a circle I think they call it a peace symbol from the Kwang Tung Arsenal in Southern China. I bought this rifle without a bolt. I bought two bolts, one for this one and one for a Czech made mauser for El Savador. They both work in the Czech rifle,and they both are tight in the Chinese rifle ( doesn’t close all the way, but firing pin works). Czech rifle is a 7mm Mauser. Does the Chinese rifle take a different bolt than the regular ones?

    • Nagao says:

      Is this the marking that resembles the Mitsubishi emblem? (3 diamonds in a pinwheel shape) If so that’s actually not a “Chiang Kai-shek” type 24. It’s actually a copy of the Belgian FN Model 1930 rifle called the Kwangtung Arsenal Type 21. These rifles actually do have a differently sized receiver. I have not observed one myself but from what you’re describing I’m willing to bet they copied the action length. Read this article for an explanation on the action lengths. If you measure the action it will probably be an Intermediate one and a Yugo Mauser bolt may work.

      http://candrsenal.com/tip-whats-your-ring-size/

  10. Scott says:

    I bought a Gongxian Arsenal rifle that was a basket case. The bore was also a sewer pipe. It was replaced with a Yugo barrel and the stock was epoxied back together and bedded. It now looks externally completely original and is an excellent shooter to boot.

  11. Ty says:

    Can you please tell me the value of my rifle it is hanyang arsenal type 24 it has the swastika with a number 5 it is in pretty decent shape the numbers on the side say m 3098

    • Nagao says:

      Unfortunately we can’t really provide value. The best thing you can do is check sites that sell and see what they have SOLD for. Lots of people like to say “I saw it listed for blah blah” but that listing might never sell.

  12. Stephen says:

    I found the article interesting, but I can not find any arsenal markings on the three mausers that I received from my father’s collection after he passed away years ago. However, they do match up with the images in your article. Were there any other arsenals, or markings that can be traced. It seems that each of my rifles may have come from a different arsenal?

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