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Chinese Again

Chinese Again
Century International Arms Offers The Rare Type 53
Mosin-Nagant 7.62x54R Carbines.

Just when I was thinking the last of the great surplus finds is ancient history, Century International Arms pulls another rabbit out of the hat. They won’t tell me where they found them, but their latest discovery is a cache of highly desirable, Chinese-made, Type 53 Mosin-Nagant carbines. Never heard of a Type 53? It doesn’t surprise me because our fearless leaders cut off imports of rifles and ammunition from China a couple of decades ago so at the very least we know this current batch of Type 53s didn’t flow in directly from China.

To fully understand and appreciate the Type 53, which is the Chinese-made version of Russian M-44, you have to look to Russia and later at the Sino-Soviet period of rapprochement in the 1950s.

While the familiar Russian Model 91/30 infantry rifle is shorter and lighter than the original 1891 rifle and is based along the lines of the limited production dragoon model, it is still a handful. It measures 48-1/4 inches long (with the bayonet mounted, 65-1/4 inches), sports a 28-3/4-inch barrel and weighs 9 pounds.

While an improvement over the Model 1891, the infantry model proved to be too long and cumbersome for the cavalry and support branches like the artillery and signal corps. It also proved generally awkward in pillboxes, bunkers, forests and street-to-street urban combat. A lighter, shorter weapon was needed, and it appears in the form of the Model 1938 carbine.

Weighing 8 pounds with a 20-inch barrel and measuring a handy 40 inches overall, the Model 38 is slim, trim and almost sporting in its lines and handling, but it lacks a bayonet. As historian, D. N. Bolotin reports in his book Soviet Small-Arms and Ammunition, “A special poll conducted in the army in the early 1940s, to assess the value of bayonet fighting, revealed that most men who had experienced such an assault demanded a carbine with an integral folding bayonet.”

The Russians missed their bayonets, so the Model 1938 was modified in 1944 by the addition of an integral, side-folding, 12-inch cruciform bayonet, bringing the weight of the carbine up to 8 pounds, 14 ounces. Simultaneously, production of the 1891/30 infantry rifle was terminated. You could say the Model 44 is the final refinement of the Russian Mosin-Nagant line.

Short, handy and compact, the Type 53 is a Chinese-made copy of the Soviet M44 carbine.

Imported in limited numbers, the Chinese Type 53 will prove to be a rare collectable.

Issued in the field in February 1944, the M-44 was an immediate hit with the troops. Again, quoting Bolotin, “Summarizing reports from combat units, Major-General Vasiliy Rozhkov… reports that ‘1944 carbines are quite convenient for infantry, cavalry and special troops in both defensive and offensive combat… The simple design and reliability of the bayonet system facilitate rapid use, correspondingly increasing the combat-readiness of the carbine. The reduced length enables carbines to be successfully employed under any battle conditions: in pillboxes, bunkers, trenches, passages, or in buildings, forests and mountains. At distances of 300-400 meters, the 1944 carbine with integral bayonet is as effective as the 1891/30 rifle.’”

Following WWII and with Communists in power in both Russia and China, in 1950 the two countries signed the “Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance.” One of its key provisions was a $300 million loan from Russia to China to help the country rebuild itself after a decade of external and civil war. The treaty was so important to China that Mao traveled to the Soviet Union to sign, which was the last time Mao ever left China again.

As part of this rapprochement, it is speculated that the Soviet Union supplied the Chinese with the tooling necessary to produce the Model 44 carbine as well as the Tokarev pistol (TT-33) and the SKS carbine (Type 56).

Chinese production of the Type 53 began in May 1953 and continued into the early 1960s. As a first-line military arm, it was replaced by the Type 56 SKS and by the Type 56 AK-47 beginning in 1956. Being phased out by the army, the Type 53 continued in service well in the 1970s in the hands of the militia and rear-echelon units.

The Type 53 front receiver ring pictured here tells us all we need to know about the specimen. The Chinese characters mean “53 Year Type.” The year of production is 1955. The numerals “26” or “296” represent the production code for “State Factory No. 296” located at Chongqing (formerly Chunking) followed by the serial number.

The condition of Century’s Type 53 cache seems to vary immensely. There is not a matching number anywhere on the piece I acquired. It looks like a parts gun, but the bore is very good. By all means, if you are a collector, buy one while they are still available. The Chinese Type 53 will be the rarest of all M-44 models and probably will never be imported again.

Typically, the M-44 type Mosin-Nagants are excellent shooters. Being short and heavy, they balance exceedingly well and have moderate recoil. The rear sight is thoughtfully calibrated from 100 to 1,000 meters, and they shoot to their sights with the bayonet fully extended. With the bayonet folded to the side, you will find that the center of impact will drop 2-1/2 to 3 inches at 100 yards, but accuracy will not suffer.

Wish I knew where this batch of Chinese Type 53s originated and what their history is, but the surplus trade is still akin to Winston Churchill’s famous quotation about Russia: “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”

Soviet Small-Arms and Ammunition, by D. N. Bolotin, Hardcover, 264 pages, ©1995, Published by the Finnish Arms Museum Foundation, out-of-print

The Mosin-Nagant Rifle, 5th Edition, by Terence W. Lapin, Softcover, This is the best reference on the Mosin-Nagants, $22.95 from North Cape Publications, PO Box 1027, Tustin, CA 92781, (800) 745-9714, www.northcapepubs.com
By Holt Bodinson

Type 53
IMPORTER: Century International Arms
430 S. Congress Ave., Ste. 1
Delray Beach, FL 33445
(800) 527-1253
www.gunsmagazine.com/century-international-arms

Model: Type 53, Action: Bolt repeater, Caliber: 7.62x54R, Capacity: 5, Barrel Length: 20.4″, Overall Length: 40″ w/ bayonet folded, Weight: 8 pounds, 14 ounces, Sights: 1 to 1,000 meters tangent rear, front: hooded post, Finish: Blue, Value: $129 to $400

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  1. Just a guess, but I’d say the most likely country for these Chinese Mosin-Nagants to have been imported from would be Vietnam. China certainly provided these to the North Vietnamese; some were after all brought home by American GIs as war trophies.

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