The Gun Culture in China

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article about the legal and illegal gun cultures in China, a country where civilian gun ownership is banned (at least among those without wealth or power).

Shanghai — China’s weapons laws are among the world’s toughest. Its blanket ban on private ownership of rifles, pistols and even gun replicas is a core tenet of social policy. Still, a gun culture is taking hold.

Even replica guns (airsoft guns) are banned!

Even as China’s government seeks to keep guns off the street, and shields its massive gun-manufacturing business behind state-secrets laws, it helps stoke the public imagination about guns. Schoolchildren learn to salute the flag shouldering imitation rifles, while state media celebrate the heroism of military and athletic marksmanship.

I have a Chinese friend who was very surprised to learn that Chinese state owned factories exports guns and ammunition to civilians overseas.

The main source of guns appears to be lax control of gun factories and theft from arsenals. China is one of the world’s largest gun manufacturers — for the export market and for its security forces. Older guns are left from past wars and a time when hunting was common. The police have also busted workshops that forge guns and bullets by hand inside China. Meanwhile, people illegally import replicas — exact-looking imitations of guns.

An airsoft gun in luggage is not going to be picked up by an airport scanner. I was in a gun shop a couple of years ago and an Australian guy came in asking where he can buy an airsoft gun. He said he they were banned back home but bringing them in from overseas for kids to play with is a common practice. He wanted a couple of airsoft pistols for his son to sell to his friends.

Beijing’s support for the sport has helped spur a rise of hobby enthusiasts. The government has sanctioned businesses such as the Shanghai East Shooting Club, a former bomb shelter where customers can have a drink and fire a variety of weapons. Owner Zhang Jiewei says his clients are looking to relax.

China must be the only country in the world which bans guns but allows shooting clubs (if you have enough money and connections)!

But increasingly, gun fans are gaining access to guns — and hunting illegally. In rural Anhui province last year, a group of wealthy businessmen, gun-club owners and former army officers organized wild-fowl shoots. Feasting on game cooked in a spicy brown sauce, one of them toasted, “Guns have brought us together.”

I asked my Chinese friend how people hunt if guns are banned. He told me nobody hunts because there is nothing to hunt anymore. Most of the larger sized game has been wiped out by the massive population and are now endangered.

Gun buffs can turn to Small Arms, a twice-monthly glossy magazine that claims 60,000 subscribers. The Beretta M9 semiautomatic pistol “is classic,” said Zheng Zhoujian, an 18-year-old reader. “I envy people in other countries where guns are legal.”

A bi-monthly magazine in a country with a total firearm ban! Incredible!

Every single day I am grateful that I own firearms. The full article is well worth reading.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Supernaut

    Not to mention that there are a lot of airsoft manufacturers in mainland China.

  • My friend is over there right now, can get uniforms btw the new ones 100 – 250 depending on which uniform, and a few things depending on local. In some places you are taught how to shoot using a Mosin-Nagant as a kid. I ran into a Chinese girl at university who was no stranger to that rifle. She noticed a picture of mine on my laptop, hence how it came up. The other is that for a few bucks you can have range time. Something my friend has only done once. And yes the homemade stuff is a wonder to be hold according to my friend.

  • I wonder if China tries to ban access to American gun blogs …

  • B Woodman

    Everyone is naturally curious about that which is forbidden. . .

  • michael

    What a interesting article.
    Makes me glad i live in a country that allows me to own guns legally.

    • Congratulation ! And, I’m live in a country guns are banned.

  • Scott from Australia

    The article is correct, Airsoft guns are banned in Australia. We can get a licence to buy real guns but airsoft guns are totally illegal here. Weird huh?

  • Matt Groom

    When I was overseas, one of the things I would look for in book stores was gun periodicals, and every country has them. I found them in Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. They can’t own guns in any of those countries, but they still have gun enthusiasts. I saw a Chinese film a few years ago called “The Mountain Patrol” about a group of villagers in a remote part of the Gobi who protected sacred Antelopes from poachers. They all had guns, mostly rifles and some pistols. It was based on actual events. It was a pretty good flick.

    A total ban of any kind is an impossibility.

  • I wonder how many Chinese gun fans fly to NV to go visit the pay to play full auto gun ranges?

  • Keen observation, that despite the fact they airsoft guns are largely produced in Asia, that they are banned. Twitter is banned in China, too! Go figure.

  • Half-Grand

    All people across the world, weither they are rich or poor, young or old, male or female and of all colours, have a god given right to be free from tyranny, and opression!

    They have no right to take away guns, never have and never will, we must have our right to protect ourselves from the government and from those who wish to do us harm.

    A disarmed population is an easily controlled population, with no self empowerment and cannot defend themselves when push comes to shove.

    Live by the gun, die by the gun!

  • uzim16

    well, i’m from there.

  • Jim

    Half-Grand I’m not sure you know what that last phrase means. It isn’t a call to use guns and defend your rights with them till the end, it is a saying which roughly translates to “If you use a gun, you will be killed by a gun”. Of course in its original incarnation it referred to a sword, but the meaning is the same. It’s quite ironic that you would pick up on one of the oldest anti-weapon phrases around but mistake it for a pro-weapon saying!

  • Ariel Nechemia

    there is a store near my house that sells airsoft guns. i got alot guns there.

    • sunboy

      Where is the store near your house? can i know it?

  • Laowai

    Actually Airsoft is NOT banned in China, its the Police who confiscate them cause they cant tell difference from real. Period.

  • KidNxtDoor

    You can actually own nonautomatic pistols and hunting rifles for hunting perpesess.

  • Sam Suggs

    I am proboly being senstive but I dont care for the tone of the wall street journal qoutations