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Upcoming book: Pistols of the Warlords


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(I checked with roddy first and he said it was OK to post; I have no affiliation other than as a backer of this already funded project.)


A niche book which may be of interest to some:

"Pistols of the Warlords: Chinese Domestic Handguns 1911 – 1949 is an exploration of the fascinating world of handgun production during the Chinese Warlord Era. This was a unique period in small arms history, exemplified by a multitude of truly unique handguns made individually by craftsman artisans. Long recognized as curiosities in the firearms world, this book presents the first organized study of these pistols ever to be published."



  • Introduction and historical context 
  • Domestic Chinese designs
  • C96 Mauser copies
  • FN 1900 copies
  • Copies of other Western designs
  • Profiles of prominent warlords





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Very interesting! I'm always amazed at how much the warlords love their big Mauser pistols in movies of the time. Rigid holsters and attachable butt stocks too. 


I also find it amusing how so many Shanghai spy movies feature shootouts across the street, protagonists blazing away with diminutive pocket pistols that appear to be chambered for .32 ACP. Did these actors not get the memo? 


Relying on these underpowered "pocket pistols" in a context like that is similar to believing in magic. Sometimes they are even shooting at running targets. But one shot seems to go right through the heart and end the hostilities without fail. 


At least, so far as I can recall, the actors usually don't have access to those marvelous Hollywood prop guns that can fire 800 blank rounds without a reload. These old Chinese dudes do sometimes seem to run out of ammo. It's always refreshing to see a slide lock back on empty every now and again; restores my faith in the director, means he listened to his technical advisor. 

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23 hours ago, abcdefg said:

Relying on these underpowered "pocket pistols" in a context like that is similar to believing in magic. Sometimes they are even shooting at running targets. But one shot seems to go right through the heart and end the hostilities without fail. 

I would prefer to not be shot with any caliber. 🙂


Here's some more on the topic of Chinese firearms:

(Bin Shih interviews in the playlist)



Book Review: China's Small Arms of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War



(Playlist on Chinese guns and related firearms)


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Maybe there might be confirmation in this new project of a theory I have about the way all the shooters in Hong Kong action movies shoot holding the their pistol(s) leaning over towards the centerline of the body. This manner of shooting is unique to the Hong Kong shoot-em-ups we all know and love. But why do they do it? Talking with Chinese about this sometimes elicits support for my theory.


The so-called "broom-handle" Mauser @abcdefg mentions was very popular, and by accounts I have read, was even manufactured in China. The pistols I have seen have a nondetachable magazine that can be seen just forward of the trigger guard. It was loaded using a little mechanical stripper that was inserted from the top into the magazine-well after the bolt was pulled back. Then the cartridges loaded into the stripper were pressed down on, forcing them into the magazine well. The bolt was closed, loading the first cartridge into the chamber. When that round was fired, the blowback from the force of the ignition of the powder in the cartridge opened the bolt and a little lever hit the empty shell casing straight up, expelling it from the pistol. As it closed, the bolt picked up the next cartridge and loaded it into the chamber, ad infinitum, it seems, as @abcdefg has already noted. 


But get to the point, you say, what does any of  this have to do with Chow Yun Fat?


Well, it seems that in addition to the pistols being manufactured in China, the ammunition was made in China, too. But quality control was in its infancy then, and the ammunition was not very reliable, to say the least. So when the powder in the cartridge was ignited, if the explosion of the powder was not sufficient to open the bolt fully, the empty shell casing would be flicked upward, but without enough power to make it fly far enough upwards. It would then fall back down directly into the receiver, preventing the full movement of the bolt, and preventing the next cartridge from being loaded. In short, jamming the pistol.


This problem happened often enough to make it well-known, and for users to be wary of it. An easy and practical solution was to lean the pistol over to one side so that the shell casing was always thrown free, no matter what the quality of the ammunition. And human anatomy being what it is, leaning it in towards the centerline of the body was the easiest and most natural way. Thus, many Chinese shooters with experience with the broom-handle Mauser would be inclined to handle the firearm in this way. Armorers on the movies would probably have learned to shoot this way, passing the experience on to the actors who had no experience with firearms of their own. Thus a meme was born...


Anyway, it's the answer to a question that's never been asked. A Chinese solution to a Chinese problem.


You're welcome...



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If my explanations confused you, or @abcdefg's descriptions of other parts of the broom-handle Mauser have piqued your interest, look up C96 Mauser on the internet. All of your questions will be answered.


I didn't know there was such a wealth of information so readily available. @character's most recent post appeared just as I was uploading mine. Lots of good information there, too, if you're interested. I stumbled onto this subject when I was learning Japanese, and had to read military stuff about the situation in Manchuria (Manchukuo). Later, I met some collectors. This was way before the internet, when telephones actually hung on the wall. I bet most of you think I'm making this up, but it's true. Telephones used to hang on the wall...



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5 hours ago, TheBigZaboon said:

This problem happened often enough to make it well-known, and for users to be wary of it. An easy and practical solution was to lean the pistol over to one side so that the shell casing was always thrown free, no matter what the quality of the ammunition.


A very cogent explanation. I wonder to what extent it might carry over to current day gang bangers and "gangsta" shooters who hold their pistols canted over to one side instead of straight up and down. My guess it is just a "style habit" like wearing loose pants down low on the hips. But I could be wrong. One source implied the habit had its origins as a way of improving the reliability of the Mac 10, which is notoriously prone to stove-piping, especially with underpowered ammunition. 



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@abcdefg Sorry to be late to reply. 


I think you're right. As mentioned in the article, once that stance appeared in a music video, it was all about style, or at least the appearance of style. I'm sure these guys don't read Guns & Ammo, and don't keep up with their NRA dues. Music videos are probably the major cultural influence in their lives. And the slew of John Woo movies just added to the pile-on. 


As for the MAC 10, I've never even seen one, except in Miami Vice re-runs. Chambered for the .45acp, I'm sure it's absolutely uncontrollable on full auto, even with the suppressor to allow a two-handed grip. But I expect that even in 9mm, these gangbangers are barely able to manage a drive-by. And as they have to obtain their ammo illegally, they can't argue about quality. It's a wonder even more innocent bystanders don't wind up as collateral damage.


In any case, I'm pleased that someone else agrees with my analysis of the reasons behind Chow Yun Fat's super cool shooting stance, even when he's flying down to hide behind the serendipitous Beijing kao ya cutting board in the ubiquitous Chinese restaurant in every one of these movies. 


You don't know how long I've waited to share my little nugget of wisdom with someone who understands what I'm talking about. Many years ago, when I first started studying Japanese seriously, all my study buddies were ex-service people with extensive military experience and language training in a wide variety of Asian and other languages. We were all using our GI Bill benefits to acquire some kind of fluency in Japanese in the shortest possible time. We used to scare the pants off the teachers in the university. But my classmates all would've understood instinctively. However, this was a bit before these movies were popular. So I never had the chance to expose my theory to critical analysis. Now I can say I feel fulfilled...


(My wife is probably wondering about the little half-smile on my face, and wondering who I'm writing to on my smart phone. She'd never believe me anyway...)



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  • 2 weeks later...

Discussion of translating parts of the book:



Also may be of interest:

How William Fairbairn Created the Modern SWAT Team in Warlord Era Shanghai



ETA: Discussion of the book on the Chinese History Podcast:


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