Chinese Warlord Rifles: Hanyang Type 88, aka Type Han

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One of the biggest arsenals in China in the 20th century was the Hanyang Arsenal, built in 1890 by the Qing dynasty to help modernize China’s military. The fist rifle to be made there was a copy of the German Gewehr 88 commission rifle (designated Type 88), which began production in 1895. A few changes were made early in production, with the barrel shroud deleted in 1904 and the rear sight changed form a ladder type to a tangent type in 1910. After this, production would remain basically the same through the end of production in 1944. In total, some 1,083,000 examples were made over nearly 50 years of production.

A major shift in production occurred in 1938, when the Hanyang Arsenal had to be evacuated to avoid the advance of Japanese troops. At that time it was renamed the 1st Arsenal, and its rifle production machinery was transferred to the 21st Arsenal. The Type 88 rifle was renamed the Type Han at that point, and production from 1939 until 1944 took place at the 21st Arsenal (ending when that facility transitioned to production of the Chiang Kai-Shek rifle instead). These 21st Arsenal rifles (or which some 207,000 were made in those 5 years) can be identified by the left-handed swastika used as the arsenal’s symbol, as opposed to the 5-pointed star used by the Hanyang Arsenal.

The Type 88/Type Han was made to use the same clips as the Gewehr 88, and chambered for the .318” round nosed 8mm Mauser ammunition. This ammo was in production in China through the end of the 1930s, and there was not a systematic effort to rechamber the rifles for a Spitzer version of the cartridge, as there was in Germany. That said, some were converted here and there, and some were also captured and converted to single shot use as trainers by the Japanese military.

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