The Chinese 1900, A Hand Crafted Copy

Chinese FN 1900 Clone tilt

Browning’s Model 1900 pistol was an icon and reasonably simple to manufacture.  So when soldiers went looking for pistols in China, this one was an obvious choice.

John Browning introduced the first slide operated handgun through Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal in Belgium.  Originally known as the “Browning Pistol,” its widespread popularity made his name practically synonymous with semi-automatic pistols in many parts of the world.

Browning made his pistol easy to produce with simple machine operations.  This, combined with its reputation, made it especially popular in martial China.  Small workshops were able to create clones of the gun with simple tools and inferior metals.  Obviously these did not hold up as well as an original and discerning Chinese buyers would be put off by native production.  So many of the small arsenals and workshops attempted to emulate the English and French markings on the guns with limited success.  Our example here was marked with stamps attempting to emulate “Browning’s Patent” and “Fabrique-Nationale-D’armesdeGuerre Herstal-Belgique” but instead display “Browning’s Nationale” and “d’armesde d’armesde d’armesde d’armesde,” with a few upside down for good measure.  The safety would normally be marked FEU (fire) and SUR (on, or safe) but in this case it’s be simplified to EEU and EEU.

Chinese FN 1900 Markings

These copies vary in size, weight, quality, and general configuration.  Interestingly, an apparent majority of them (again somewhat varied) display the same serial number: 126063.  It appears the 1 might have been damaged or lost, as some have been found with the serial 26063.  M1900 copies are almost always chambered in the same .32ACP cartridge and are better off left in the display case.  They should not be fired as the springs, fittings, and overall metal used for production cannot be considered reliable.  The broad majority don’t seem to have much a provision for a rear sight anyway.

Chinese FN 1900 Clone top

While the unlicensed Chinese M1900 copies are among the worst guns mass produced, they did serve from the Chinese Warlord Era through WWII and the Chinese Civil War.  This makes them quite collectable and they offer a unique, “hand-crafted” piece for C&R collectors.

Anatomy Pistol Chinese Browning 1900 Clone

Related

Othais

Othais is practically useless with modern firearms. That’s OK though, because he specializes in Curio and Relic military pieces and has agreed to decorate The Firearm Blog with a little history. He maintains his own site, C&Rsenal, with the help of his friends and the collector community.


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  • Zachary marrs

    I would’ve loved to have been in that workshop where that was made

    Gunsmith1; “ok, I put the markings on it”
    Gunsmith2; “it needs more”
    Gunsmith1; “how many more?”
    Gunsmith2; “like 25?”
    Gunsmith1; “why 25?!?!”
    Gunsmith2; “makes it more legit”

  • barry

    So let me get this straight, China has been making cheap inferior knock offs for atleast 120 years? Some things never change…

    • Matrix3692

      no, they drop this when they begun standardizing their arms and equipment. Since the .32 ACP was not among standard issue ammo, they were replaced when enough type 54 pistol was available.

    • Logic

      What do you expect? China is not some first-world superpower 120 years ago.

  • Wetcoaster

    Sounds just like the ongoing trade in Khyber Pass guns

    • davethegreat

      I seriously want to add a Khyber Pass gun to my collection. But, ya know, legally. Somehow.

      • Wetcoaster

        Might get halfway there by hiring some high school woodwork students to make you the wood, the metalwork kids to cast you a dummy receiver, and then welding a plumbing pipe in as a barrel?

        If you’re in Canada though, make sure it’s a replica of an antique (say a Snyder-Enfield?) or not recognizable as a reproduction of a real model. That ‘replica’ ban is vague and menacing

        • davethegreat

          I can (and have) make guns. DIY isn’t illegal, and metalwork is a hobby of mine. I just don’t really care to. I collect for collecting’s sake, so a replica wouldn’t be interesting.

          I may luck out and get a demilled one. Or travel there myself, buy one and demill it (the ATF has a handy how-to guide).

      • Jeff Smith

        I saw a guy from TN at a gun show once who made his own. He started with a Century WASR, added a heavy 7.62x39mm machine gun barrel and used parts from AKs from 11 different countries.

        The gun was so hideous that it was beautiful. I wish I had bought it.

        • Zachary marrs

          Lets not forget the shovel ak47

  • strongarm

    FN 1900 easy to make?… May be, easiest in the years when it first introduced and In fact it was the hardest of John M Browning named .32″s. Besides, it was nearly the sole simple CF Blowback pistol which nearly all design credits belonged to Mr. John Browning, All others including 1903, 1905, 1910, 1922 and Baby were carried out by FN engineers.

  • Cymond

    Incorrect markings are confusing to me. Were they done from memory? Because that’s actually a pretty good imitation considering it was a foreign language with completely different system of characters. (I know I could never imitate Chinese from memory.) OTOH, if they were a direct copy, then why are there so many mistakes? I don’t know Chinese but I’m fairly confident I could copy a character if I was looking straight at it.

    • Gallan

      Chinese whispers, a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy, mistakes get made.

  • wetcorps

    “Interestingly, an apparent majority of them (again somewhat varied) display the same serial number: 126063″
    Very practical if you want to get one in a country where firearms are registered ^^

    • http://suburbansdomain.blogspot.com Suburban

      You’d have a hard time importing them, if all the serial numbers are the same. Imagine submitting a list of the serial numbers of a crate of them.