The first Chinese 7.62х54R cartridges?

I see these cartridges and I do not know, it really the first Chinese 7.62х54R cartridges? … =201740717

It is early Chinese, but I don’t think it is the first year of Chinese x54R ammunition.

The Russians were closely aligned with the KMT as early as the 1920, including providing military advisors. In material I’ve read they were also provided a lot of arms and ammunition. Looking at Chinese made ammo from WWII and earlier, I’ve been struck by the wide assortment of calibers produced. I can’t recall seeing a 7.62x54R from this period, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t produced by one of the numerous arsenals producing ammunition during the Warlord period and the runup to WWII.



I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing about a pre-1950 Chinese 7.62x54R.
Where is Tiengulden when we need him?

My checklist shows the earliest year being 1952, like the cartridges in question here, with the earliest lot/month number being “6”.


I contacted Bin Shih who provided all the identification of pre-1950 Chinese ammunition in the article I wrote some years ago for the IAA Journal (#420). The cartridges from this article were primarily from the Woodin Laboratory collection. Bin is an expert in this area and runs a website on Chinese arms, ammunition and associated equipment for enactors at Unfortunately for most of us, it is in Chinese.

Bin confirms that the Woodin Laboratory doesn’t have a Chinese made 7.62x54R cartridge from before the 1950s, but he has found records of the production of this cartridge in the records of the 20th Arsenal. His translation of these records indicates the following wartime production.

20th Arsenal (Coin Mark)— 7.62 Rifle/MG Cartridges

1939 425,000
1940 183,500
1941 250,000
1942 -
1943 69,600
1944 44,800

My guess is that there was other production of this ammunition earlier, probably beginning during the War Lord period of the early 1920s, but with the constant warfare in China over the next 30 years, any ammunition from this period is extremely scarce so it is not surprising that it doesn’t show up in collections.



And why you think that “7.62 cartridges for MG” it 7.62х54R cartridges? It could be .30-06 cartridge. Simply I think that China had no Russian weapon at that time.

The “7,62” ammo by the “coin” mark Arsenal is 30/06…I have examples made in 1946-48.( packets of them–no labels). Also “double Diamond” marking as well ( Gong Xian)

China made a copy of the 1937 version of the Colt-Browning Watercooled MG ( similar to the M1917A1 and the Latin-American Colt M1927.) From the side plate of one in the Beijing Military Museum, it is a product of Gong Xian as well ( whether in its original Location , or after the move west and combination with other Arsenals, during the War.

Back to the 7,62x54R, the Warlords and the growing Communist part were supplied with Mosin Nagants and M1910 Maxims in the early 1920s,
thru the Soviet “fixer” Mikhail Borodin, ( Biography of Chiang Kai Shek-- " Generallisimo") and large quantities of ammunition, both Russian made and also British Tsarist aid of the 1916-17 period ( see the "Manchurian/Japanese Cavalry plaque with a Horseshoe and an empty cartridge ( some 7,9, but a Greenwood and Battley 1917 7,62 Russian case also features.)

The 7,62x54R calibres were more prominent in the North East of China…
so much so that they featured in sveral “incidents” between “arms traders” and Warlords/Shanghai Gangsters, and other customers, but that’s another quite interesting story.

I have in my collection a pre-1908 MN91 Rifle ( old type sights), with Chinese local “bayonet Band” mods ( to take either a Gew.88 ( Chinese) bayonet or an Arisaka T30 Byt)… the whole piece is in very poor condition, and came to Australia in a large mixed crate of ratty Arisakas and “Mausers” ( both Chinese and German/FN).

Whether any of the Local Warlord Arsenals, in the 1920s, actually made 7,62x54R is a question still to be answered…a similar case, the 8x50R Austrian was made in the early 1920s, since one warlord did acquire a lot of M95s and M88/90s at some time…

I did notice some MN91s in the Beijing Museum, and they were obviously Russian made Long MN91 Rifles.

As to the production by Factory 321, in 1952, it seems that 52-53 is the earliest productrion of the PRC, in the reconditioned and " proletarized" Wartime factries. Russian technical assistance is evident ( large, 6,45mm primer, corrosive; LPS type Pointed Bullet ( 154 grain)…China had not made the .254/6,45 primer before, having used the .217 (5,5) Berdan primer in nearly all its rifle calibre ammo since the early 1900s;
Brass was used as a case material, because the machinery and factories was set up for using Brass as a case metal.

By 1956, cases were made by the Russian copper-coated steel method, and brass faded from the scene, not to be used again till China started to bite into the US Commercial market ( Norinco 9mm and .45ACP Pistol ammo, CJ-5,56, etc) in the late 1980s.

The brass used in early Chinese Rifle and SMG/Pistol ammo was excellently alloyed and worked ( I regularly reload 1953 Chinese( Factory 321) Tokarev 7,62x25 cases ( 5mm Primer -.199)

It seems that under the PRC Regime, Factory 321 was the experimental and first producer of “Soviet” calibres…My brass Tok ammo boxes carries an indication ( in Chinese) of “Test” or “Experimental” in a big red roundel stamp, with 321 prominent.
This transitional period ( 1949-1954) is still unresearched to any great degree, although Bin Shih in his Chinese work on Chinese Ordnance will have a lot of info. The Other source is the PRC Published History of Chinese Ordnance Manufacturing ( several Volumes, only in PRC Chinese script – authorised simplifed characters).

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

By 1956, cases were made by the Russian copper-coated steel method, and brass faded from the scene, not to be used again till China started to bite into the US Commercial market ( Norinco 9mm and .45ACP Pistol ammo, CJ-5,56, etc) in the late 1980s.

Not to forget the brass cased 7.62x17 Type 64 and the commercial brass cased 7.62x51. Also I have a brass cased 7.62x39 with hs “71 91”.

“1953 Chinese( Factory 321) Tokarev 7,62x25 cases”

Doc, what is the headstamp on these cases? Do you have any of those boxes handy and available?

2montrage, I know of no 30-06 rifles used in China as early as 1939. Their standard rifle caliber was 7.92x57mm. If you know of records of 30-06 weapons used in China this early please let me know.

In quite a lot of reading on China, I have not found any reference to US small arms being supplied during the 1910s to 1940s to any of the players until well into WWII when Chinese troops were sent to India to be trained and equipped to open the Burma road. These troops are shown equipped with US weapons. The earliest Chinese made 30-06 I have is dated 1948 (Chinese year 37) and made by the 11th (double diamond) arsenal. The 20th Arsenal also produced 30-06, but their cartridges are dated 1949 according to my records. I’m sure there were US weapons in China, and there are clear records of US weapons imported before 1900. In fact, China manufactured 45-70 ammunition and 1 inch Gatling. The only 1920s/1930s production of US military caliber ammunition, as far as I know, was 45 ACP ammunition dated in the 1930s and intended for the Chinese Broomhandle in 45ACP and their copy of the Thompson SMG.

Doc AV, The only reference to the Colt MG I have found in China was in Donald Sutton’s book on the Yunnan Army, 1905-1925 which says the 1909 the first “modern” Yunnan division (the 19th) was equipped with “German-made Mausers, caliber 6.8mm, 1908 model, … twenty four 8mm Maxims…and half as many Colts, a two-man machine gun.” There is no indication of the caliber of these Colts. Given the use of these guns by a number of countries during WWI, including Russia in 7.62x54R, it is not surprising they showed up in China. Interestingly enough, Sutton also indicates that the Yunnan Arsenal made 6.8mm Mauser ammunition. Sure would like to find some of those. The only Chinese made 6.8mm I know of are two specimens made at the Shanghai arsenal.

Mikhail Borodin initiated his support to the KMT when they were still in South China. The following is from Wikipedia and is consistent with other material I’ve read.
“As Comintern agent in China between 1923 and 1927, Borodin arranged shipments of Soviet arms to the Kuomintang government in Canton, China. He was a prominent adviser to Dr. Sun Yat Sen at that time. Following his suggestion, the Kuomintang allowed communists to join, and the Whampoa Military Academy was established.
After Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s death in 1925, he remained an advisor to the Kuomintang government until 1928, when Chiang Kai-Shek purged communists and sought to have him arrested.”

Clearly the rifles and MGs provided in this period would have been in 7.62x54R. The Russians didn’t capture a lot of German weapons in WWI. These weapons undoubtedly moved into North East China with the Northern Expedition.

In addition, the warlord Feng Yuxiang (whose powerbase was in North West China) was purchasing arms from the Russians as early as 1924. By 1925 he had Soviet advisors and Russia was supplying him training and significant quanities of small arms (China’s Warlords-Bonavia) so there were a lot of Russian weapons floating around China. Feng’s army was actively engaged all across North China until the early 1930s.



Dear Lew,
regarding your reference to “Colt two man machineguns” in 1909 , they could only be the M1895 Colt Potato Digger, calibre ???; Colt at that time had in stock Colt M95s in .30/40, 7mm Spanish Mauser, and [probably] .30/06; ( and also .303 British–Australia had several in this time period) Colts were also supplied in 6,5 Italian ( Italian Navy, small Lot) and several other “trial” calibres for prospective buyers

China was a known user of 7x57 Mauser…It had bought a quantity of M95 Mausers from Loewe/Mauser in the late 1890s.( as well as the later M1904/07 in 6,8mm…

The details on Borodin and the Comintern ( Initially supporting the Kuomintang, then after 1927-28, Mao’s Communists) have to be winkled out of several books on the period. Whilst exact " details" of the ordnance supplied is not evident, except for the likely countries of origin,
correlation with such records as the Chinese Customs, British Customs (Hong Kong) etc, will indicate quantities and types of Firearms legally “imported” thru Chinese Ports in the pre-and post republican eras.

The Records kept by the (British) Head of the Imperial Customs ( and reprinted by the PRC Publishing House, Beijing), goes into great details of the 1900 to 1912 period, and then onwards to the early 1920s, when the administration of the Former Imperial Customs was fully “Sinified” by the KMT.

The Chinese themselves, are a very bureaucratic nation, keeping extensive records…sadly a lot have been destroyed by years of War and Civil unrest…Just look at the Classical texts lost during the burning of the Academy Library in Peking during the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion.

More research…

Regards, Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

Doc, I agree that the Colt MG could only have been the M1895 Potato Digger. My notes indicate the Colt was not produced in 30-06 until 1914. The original guns bought by the Navy were in 6mm Lee Navy. Roosevelt’s Rough Riders used some guns in 7x57mm. I had not heard of the .303 and 6.5mm Italian guns. I wish someone had access to the Colt records because these were pretty early guns. They could even have been in 6.8mm to match the rifles used by the 18th division or 8x57mm which was probably the caliber of the Maxims. There is a story for someone to dig out someday.

I got a reply back from Bin Shih on whether the production numbers he gave me for 7.62 were 30-06 or 7.62x54R. He comes down on 7.62x54R. His reasons are:

  1. There was no 30-06 weapons in wide circulation at that time. The only guns in that caliber were the Colt Browning MG on the Hawk fighters but they were pretty much gone before/after 1937 Nanking campaign.

  2. After the war, the 11th was given the project to prepare for the 30-06 and 45ACP production. It took them a while to get started.

  3. There is a small arms ammo catalog put together by the ChiCom in the 50s (see attached), the Chiang’s 7.62 was on the left page, Soviet’s was on the right.[/i]

I had focused so on infantry weapons, that I had forgotten that the Chinese were operating US fighters in the 20s & 30s. I have been told that the AVG (Flying Tigers) used US made ammo in their fighters.

The following is the page from the catalog Bin mentions.



What a great document!!!

Very strange book. It creates questions more than gives answers. I don’t understand the Chinese language and I can not read the text in the bottom of page. But I see pictures. And on these pictures cartridges with Russian headstamps are drawn. And there are headstamps which were never used on cartridges 7.62х54R. I believe that Russia has given to China many cartridges of Russian, English and American manufactures after WWI. But I don’t believe that China made similar cartridges independently before the end of WWII.

Clearly, like the rest of us, you can believe anything you want to. If you have any facts or references to support your belief, please share them so we will all be smarter. If there were no differences of opinion, this Forum would not be as interesting as it is.



A comment and a question: First, the question: was there not some production of the Browning M1917 MG in China pre-1940? I seem to recall this, but it could, of course, have been in 7.9 m/m. The comment: The Curtiss P-40 fighters supplied to the AVG before Pearl Harbor were armed with Browning MGs in 7.9 m/m (I mean the rifle caliber guns these planes carried in addition to their .50 Browning main armament) beause of the realization the supply difficulties that would result if their armament included guns in .30-06. Interesting thread. Jack

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2moutrage - It is very dangerous to say that any headstamp has “NEVER BEEN USED…” on a specific caliber. One can say that no one we know has ever seen one, but many headstamps have shown up over the years that were thought to never having been used on one caliber or another. It is impossible to prove a negative like this. It is the one absolute that I have leaqrned in cartridge collecting - and it came hard to a dogmatic jerk like me, and that is “never say never.” It is equally true that some headstamps have been shown in books that PROBABLY never were used as shown - some are in manufacturers’ catalogs showing headstamps that likely never existed on ANY caliber. Still, we can’t just say they were never used. None of us has seen or heard of every headstamp that has existed. We are fooled all the time with specimens made 50 years ago, twenty years ago, ten years ago, that show up and which no one had ever seen before


A number of Forum members asked about the chance of getting a copy of the Document that Bin sent me. I’ve checked and Bin only has selected pages. The document sold in China a while back so a full copy is not available—Sorry.


I spoke to Bin recently and he mentioned this topic. He mentioned that 30-06 was always identified as “.30” and 7.62 always referred to the “7.62”. He also indicated that 7.62x54R was made in China in the 1930s but with no headstamp. He has revised his book on Chinese weapons which is, or will be, available on Amazon
Chinese Weapons