Forgotten Weapons Finds A Rifle Few Even Knew About – Chinese Liu WWII-Era Semi-Auto

I like to think of myself as one learned in many things guns. In my “day job” role I get to interact with many designs, both new and old. Occasionally, one drops a knowledge bomb on a platform I know little about, but rarely does one drop the equivalent of a nuclear one on something I did not know existed.

Alas, Forgotten Weapons seems to have a plethora of nukes at its disposal.

Enter the Chinese “Liu” semi-automatic rifle, so-called as it was not formally designated, “simply referred to as the ‘self-loading rifle,'” per Ian. The General Liu moniker was applied after the designer of the rifle, who had his own interesting history. Born in the late 1800’s, General Liu had a technical inclination and moved up through the ranks to become commanding officer of a Government arsenal.

Writing to Pratt & Whitney and seeing potential to work together, General Liu traveled to the United States and worked with Pratt & Whitney. Starting in 1914 and with a working production line in 1916, prototypes are sent to China for testing, which seemed to work well. The tooling was then packaged and shipped to China.

Where it stalled.

Sadly, General Liu was otherwise incapacitated and without him leading the charge, the Liu rifle was not put into production domestically. After sitting in a warehouse for years, the tooling was re purposed into other firearms.

Those interested in learning more can check out Forgotten Weapons, their Full30 page, and if you want to own the rifle the video is on, check our Rock Island Auctions. 


It would be amazing to see what would have happened to small arms if the semi-auto rifle was deployed in an army prior to World War I. Think of it, the Garand would be far from the revolutionary tool it is today.

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • Ed

    Was it a 8mm rifle like Chinese Mauser’s?

  • iksnilol

    The feeling when you remember China was in WW2.

    • Holdfast_II

      It would be more accurate to say that WW2 was in China. Since elements of China were fighting each other and the invading Japanese in one big furball.

      • Anonymoose

        Well, that’s really where it all started, even before Germany invaded Poland.

        • Major Tom

          At the crossing of the Marco Polo bridge…

      • TDog

        Well put. China was fighting itself since around the 1920’s and then Japan got into the act in the early 1930’s. China was pretty much the Middle East before the Middle East decided to implode.

        • 7.62x54r

          Until they kicked out the Europeans and the Japanese., yes it was a disaster for China. The Mideast needs to finally kick out the US and NATO interlopers for sure.

          • Bal256

            Why? Is mass-murdering your own people morally superior to having outsiders intervene? My grandmother used to tell stories of how the Japanese government killed her neighbors publicly and then the Chinese government took them in the night and claimed it was for their national benefit. Is the second so much better? Hong Kong was under UK control until the 90s and it has a higher quality of living than most of China.

          • Tritro29

            … And most of Britain…so what exactly are you trying to say here?

            As for mass murdering, maybe your should get a look at the effects if British Rule in rural societies from India to China. And you should also look about the causes. Nothing really special just a coupe of blokes in London trying to “improvise” “nation building”. Bengal Famine is an absolute masterpiece of “mass murdering” out of sheer greed and incompetence. And guess what? It wasn’t even done by the British “government”, but a private British company. Most of you guys have started learning history since the 1960’s?

    • Edeco

      Yup, we sent, erm, volunteer martial aviation consultants to them, under Chang Kai Shek, which ended up being the government of Taiwan

  • Minuteman

    That stock and charging handle scream SKS. Or the other way around, perhaps.

    • Anonymoose

      Except the SKS didn’t exist yet…

      • Minuteman

        Hence ‘the other way around, perhaps’. Referring to the possibility of Semeonov having been inspired by this rifle.

        • Tom

          I doubt it, Simonov would have had access to lots of semi auto and full auto weapons but I can’t imagine that the General Liu was one of them.

          • Major Tom

            That style of bolt handle and stock was also crazy popular in the 30s and 40s.

          • Minuteman

            He must have because the SKS is awefully similar.

          • jcitizen

            The Soviets already had a plethora of home designs of semi-auto and full auto rifles to pick from even before the first world war. If I’m not mistaken the SKS uses a direct gas impingement system more like a French made rifle I was studying a while ago. (or at least the barrel carrier bumper rod is very short). After that you have to look at the bolt lockup which was in the barrel rear of the firing chamber, I believe, and the carrier worked with it not too dissimilar to the AK – minus the operating rod going to the gas port in the muzzle of the AK of course.

          • Minuteman

            I was referring to the stock/exterior.

          • jcitizen

            Okay – sorry – there I go blathering on!

  • Wolfgar

    The LIU rifle, yup that is a first for me. The machining is a work of art. I wonder how many people would have gotten a punch in the nose with that system if it had been adopted LOL, but it was quite innovative for the time period and surprisingly unheard of.

  • Michael Lubrecht

    General Dong Ziu Pat-ton declared the Liu, “the greatest battle implement ever devised.”

  • Polaritypictures Ken

    I Don’t doubt a Chinese history Aficionado will try to buy this and put it in their museum as propaganda refitting their history.

    • DW

      There is a surviving example in a museum in Taiwan.

      • Oronzi

        which one (the museum, I mean?)

        • DW

          Sorry I was mistaken. The transfer from a private US collector to Taiwan museum never took place. However NRA museum have one and made a video about it.

    • Iggy

      How would they ‘refit history’ though? This is probably the closest any country got to mass adopting a semi-aumatic rifle in the time period. (Though it may have hit the similar problems to what Mondragon production did in Mexico) (And France was #1 if 86,000 rifles counts as mass adoption) If it had the chance to actually start production it probably would have had a pretty good run. It really kinda speaks for itself as an artifact.

  • Blake

    Last sentence of the first paragraph needs “nuclear” changed to either “nuke” or “nuclear bomb”.

  • Alexandru Ianu

    I think you mean WWI, as this was designed around (or before) 1913 and produced 1914-1916.

  • Michael Pham

    Its amazing how much the conception, near success, and tragic failure of this rifle pretty much was down to one guy. Especially at an era when bolt actions were fitted with magazine limiters because magazines were for emergency use only, lest some conscript simpleton blaze through all his ammo at the blistering rate of 35 rpm.

  • VanDiemensLand

    I guess that’s why it’s called “forgotten” weapons.

  • JustAHologram

    Well the Mondragon was let down by Mexican production ammo quality and the Winchester 1907 self-loading saw VERY limited use as well.

  • Darren Hruska

    I knew about the Liu rifle for years. Technically, it was from the WW1 era, but still, China recognized that the self-loading rifle was eventually going to become the norm.

  • Tom W.

    The General Liu rifle… used to slaughter General Tso’s chickens!