Chinese 45 acp

What do the characters on this Chinese 45 acp headstamp means?
Date of manufacture and place?
Bob R.

The short answer is that the characters at the top are numbers and that the characters at the bottom say “Si Chuan Made.” They are made at Si Chuan Arsneal - also known as Szechwan, Szuen, or Ch’engtu arsenal. The numbers are dates on the Chinese Republic Calender. They can say “19th Year”, “20th Year”, or “21st Year”, which are the equal to 1929, 1930 and 1931 in our claender.

For the long answer, see the previous thread on this same subject, entitled "Chinese .45 ACP headstamps, that i started on August 17, 2008, and with the last entry that I am aware of made on August 321st, 1008.

Your picture is posted upside down.

The Chinese arms and ammo guys I am in touch with find this a very strange headstamp. The only known guns chambered for .45 ACP known from this period are the .45 Mauser pistols and the .45 Thompson copies being made by the Shansi Arsenal. The dates on the cartridges are right in line with the production of these two guns, yet the Warlords in Shansi and Szechwan were not on good terms at the time. It seems very unlikely that Szechwan would be producing 45 ammo for Shansi. The letters across the bottom mean something like “Three Rivers” which is Ch’engtu I’m told. It seems that these cartridges were almost certainly made for the Shansi weapons. Particularly since the ammo that was supplied to the troops was apparently underpowered and reportedly wouldn’t penetrate the padded jackets worn in the winter (no indication of range). The .45 weapons were withdrawn from combat usage and reissued to railway guards, etc. according to some references. Perhaps Three Rivers applies to some arsenal in Shansi, but that appears to be a real stretch. No Chinese .45 ACP marked for Shansi Arsenal are known. The pistol is designated the M17 and apparently production started in 1929 and continued until 1930 or 31 on the Shansi marked pistols (The Shansi warlord lost a battle with the central government in this timeframe and closed up production in his arsenal by 1931 or so. Note that year 19, 20 & 20 (the cartridge illustrated is marked Year 19) across the top, is 1930, 1931 and 1932 (add the year to 1911, the date the Republic of China was established). Could it be that some of these arms found their way to Szechwan after the war and ammo was produced there? An interesting cartridge. Wish it could talk!!!

According to an article in the IAA Journal, Issue 420, Jul/Aug 01, by Bin Shih, Bill Woodin, and a young, handsome USAF officer named Curtis, the characters at the bottom of the headstamp mean “Si Chuan made.” Where’d the “three rivers” come from? Boy, you just can’t trust these Air Force Guys. Id better find a Marine to ask that question! :) :) (My God, Spanger, you guys even have me doing little computer smiley faces turned on their sides now. Is there no end to the shame of it all?


Good question!!! I spent an evening with Bin Shih recently and we had an interesting discussion on this headstamp. The two Characters mean “3 Rivers” You can see that the character on the right (the 3 lines) is in fact the character for “3”. Both Bin and David Keng (of Keng Firearms) have identified this as the Ch’engtu Arsenal which is named for the three rivers that converge there (so I am told). I decided a long time ago that Chinese was so complex that I would rely on someone who was born there, and also knew guns and ammo. I tried getting translations from the local Chinese resturent and they never made sense (in fact the characters were simplified about 1960 so the old characters are different (like old German and current German). Even expert translators who didn’t know guns and ammo gave me translations that make no sense. Bin and David give me translations that match and make sense.

As I look through my notes, I can’t find any headstamps for the Shansi Arsenal (also called the Taiyuan Arsenal) thought there records that they made ammunition!!! Another unknown in this vast puzzle of Chinese Ammo from before 1945!!!

If all this stuff was easy, it wouldn’t make as much sense.

I warned you that I know nothing of Chinese. I got the 3 Rivers from somebody, but not from Bin. I asked him to take a look at this thread and got the following!!!

With a bit of imagination I can see that the shape of the character could be interpreted as “Three River” but I can assure you that isn’t what it meant. There are several ways that Chinese characters were created. This character was created by what is called “Xian Sin”, meaning imitating the shape of nature or object. This character means river and it imitates the water flow. Draw 3 reverse S on the paper side by side will show you the character’s original form - 3 thousand years ago and it later evolves to this current form.
Indeed we don’t have a headstamp of Shanxi Arsenal. I plan to go back to Bill’s after new year to go through his 6.5 collection. If we are to find something from Shanxi, it’s most likely in the 6.5 caliber.

So there it is!!! It also shows the strength of this Forum that we get real experts to correct the things guys like me write!!!

Cheers, Lew


When I wrote you and answered the PM the headstamps were as I originally said they were. Since writing you, they have been changed to make them all properly oriented.

See - that young Air Force Officer, along with Bin and Bill, was correct originally.

By the way - none of us is perfect. You are one of the experts this Forum depends on. Care to trade your instances of being wrong for mine. that would be a bad trade for you.

Chinese is difficult. We had a Chinese grocery store across the street from our store, run by a man and his wife. Both were from China and fluent in Cantonese. The man professed to be fluent in Mandarin as well. They were nice people and very, very intelligent. However, neither were ever associated with any military organization nor knew anything about guns, and the first couple of times I tried to get confirmation and perhaps a little expansion on something in Chinese, the meaning of which was basically know, the results ran from utter confusion to hilarious.

By the way, when having some characters off of a firearms translated by the Asian-Studies Military Intelligence detachment at Oakland Army Terminal, when I was stationed there as a DAC and Army Reservist, I found out that it is not just the modern alphabet that is simplified. The language I wanted translated was Japanese, but the principle was the same. Some of the characters were very simplified for the manufacture of metal die stamps - Colonel Hazard, the CO of the unit, referred to them as “Seal writing” and said that sometimes even with seals and insignias made of wood the characters are somewhat simplified.

An interesting subject. I wish I was well-versed in foreign languages. It is a great subject and an embarrassment that I am very ignorant in them. I have tried for years to learn the Arabic Alphabet, and for the last two years, to become “fluent” (able to think in it as far as letter recognition goes) in the Cyrillic Alphabet, and I have not been able to learn half of it!

John and Lew,
Your experiences with the Chinese “civilians” make a lot of sense to me. Although I thought I was pretty fluent in Hebrew before I did my army service, I was amazed at how much I was missing once I learned army slang, abbreviations, technical terminology, etc. Civilian and military “speak” in many languages is apparently very different.

Jon - throw dialects and regional usage into the mix and it is difficult. And, you are 100 percent about “military speak” being different. When I first went in the Army, I didn’t know half the time what the soldiers were talking about in English. The spoke in abbreviations!

When researching my book on 9 x 23mm ammo, I want to get really good translations of everything, including box labels, even though in general I knew what they said. We have, across the street from us, an executive of the Spanish speaking radio station here, born and educated in Mexico with a degree in the Spanish language from the University of M