Examination of Communist Chinese Ammunition Production/Inventory
Perhaps the most evident generality descriptive of Chinese Communist ammunition is that it is a heterogeneity of foreign designs. Ninety percent of all weapons and ammunition in use are of foreign manufacture.
At the conclusion of World War II, quantities of Japanese ammunition fell into Chinese Communist hands; later, in the struggle for control of the Chinese mainland, a goal attained in 1949, large Chinese Nationalist stocks were captured and Nationalist arsenals were seized. Arsenals originally built by the Japanese for their own use continued to produce Japanese ammunition under the Nationalists and their successors, the Chinese Communists. Soviet ammunition was received in increasing quantities from the start of the Korean War in 1950, and, with captured United States ammunition, was a mainstay of the Chinese Communist war effort in Korea.
Over the years, ammunition of British, Swedish, French, Italian, and German origin also found its way into China in varying amounts, and is now in Communist depots.
The Chinese Communists have striven to construct new armament plants, and to rebuild and expand the former Nationalist arsenals, which are now their major native source of munitions; the Soviets have assisted them by providing equipment and technical advice. When, or whether, the native industry will attain a production capacity that will free Communist China of dependence on imported munitions, is not know. This matter would involved industrial proportions that are not apt to be realized in the neat future, however.
For some years to come, then, Chinese Communist Army ammunition probably will be of foreign origin to a large extent, with the most important supplier continuing to be the USSR. Ammunition of Chinese Communist manufacture is expected to become increasingly significant, and is likely to consist almost entirely of straight or modified copies of foreign designs, again most commonly displaying Soviet influence.
At present, the quality of the native products is erratic - sometimes good, sometimes poor. There are a variety of reasons for the shortcomings, among them: Loose manufacturing standards; lack of an adequate force of skilled workers; unsatisfactory machinery; and shortages of raw materials. Deficient packaging is not unusual, and frequently results in serious deterioration of originally undefective contents. Efforts to improve quality will most certainly be made, and in time will probably succeed.
Glossary of Chinese terms
A. Small Arms Ammunition
Although Communist China has sufficient manufacturing facilities to fill her peacetime requirements for small arms ammunition, the Korean War showed that the country could not produce the quantities needed in wartime. The Chinese Communists used Soviet and captured U.S. ammunition extensively in Korea.
China has manufactured United States .45 cal M1911 pistol cartridges and .30 cal M2 ball ammunition in the past, but no specimens definitely proven to be of Chinese Communist origin have been recovered. Reports of the rebarreling of .30 cal weapons to 7.92mm suggest that the Chinese may be standardizing on 7.92mm rifles and machineguns.
Standardization between China and the USSR is limited in the field of small arms. The Chinese Communists manufacture copies of both the Soviet 7.62mm Model PPSh-41 submachinegun and the Soviet 7.62mm Model TT1933 pistol, which they call the Type 50 and Type 51, respectively. They also manufacture ammunition for these weapons. They are not known to manufacture any other Soviet types of weapons or ammunition in the small arms class.
Two types of Chinese-made cartridges which are not covered in detail in this pamphlet are the 7.92mm reduced-charge cartridge and the 7.92mm conical-nosed ball. The reduced-charge cartridge, except for its lighter propellent charge, is the same as the standard 7.92mm pointed ball. It was manufactured specifically for certain Chinese-made Czech ZB-26's which, being constructed of inferior metal, could not withstand the pressures of the standard cartridges. The conical-nosed 7.92mm ball is modeled on the German M1888 ball and is intended for the German M1888 service rifle and Chinese copies of that weapon. Its propellent charge is lighter than that of the standard 7.92mm pointed ball, and its bullet diameter is smaller: 0.318 inch, as opposed to 0.323 inch for the pointed ball. The pointed ball should not be fired in the M1888 rifle. These cartridges are not believed to be sued in significant quantities.
The Chinese Nationalists and, in turn, the Chinese Communists continued the manufacture of ammunition types originally produced in China under the Japanese, and apparently also retained the Japanese color marking system for identification. The Japanese color code for small arms ammunition is as follows:
Ball --- Pink/Salmon
Tracer --- Green
Armor-Piercing --- Black
Incendiary --- Magenta
High-Explosive --- Purple
Blanks --- Wooden or Paper bullets
Chinese Communist small arms ammunition packaging is notable only for its lack of uniformity. Wooden packing boxes may vary widely in size, zinc or galvanized steel containers may or may not be used; inside the package, the rounds may be in cardboard containers of varying size, or may be loose, with or without clips or feed strips.
Packaging type and quality apparently depend on what happens to be available at the arsenal of manufacture. In general, the packaging is of poor quality by United States standards, and it did not stand up well through the Korean War. Water-soaked and corroded cartridges in unbroken Chinese packaging were commonplace in Korea. An attempt was frequently made to waterproof boxes by the caulking of joints and tops but, because of an apparent lack of definite system or standards, the results were poor.
The Chinese Communists repacked significant quantities of captured ammunition, such as United States .30 cal. No attempt was made to repack the United States cartridges by type or by headstamp. A repacked box might, for example, contain a mixture of .30 cal ball, AP, and tracer cartridges produced at varying dates by different manufacturers. Some of the rounds in the same box might even show signs of having been reloaded by the Chinese.
The markings on small arms ammunition boxes vary greatly. Arabic or Chinese numerals, English or Chinese words, may be used. One box may show extensive information about the contents; the next may show very little. Markings often differ widely even between boxes containing the same caliber and type of ammunition. The illustration below portrays only one of the many markings methods that are found. The most consistently used symbols are those identifying the box contents by caliber and type number.
6.5mm Ball Cartridge, Type 38
This cartridge of Japanese design was continued in manufacture by the Chinese after World War II. It is used in the Type 38 rifle, the Type 44 carbine, and the machineguns Type 3, Type 11, Type 91, and Type 96. Ball cartridges usually have a red annulus at the junction of the bullet and cartridge case. Chinese headstamps usually indicate the arsenal mark, the year and the month of manufacture, and occasionally the caliber.
Caliber: 6.5mm (.256 cal)
Weight of cartridge: 20.97g (323.61 gr)
Weight of case: 9.92g (153.09 gr)
Weight of bullet: 8.79g (135.65 gr)
Weight of propellant: 2.15g (33.18 gr)
Length of cartridge: 75.4mm (2.97 in)
Lenght of case: 50.5mm (1.99 in)
Lenght of bullet: 32.5mm (1.28 in)
This ammunition is packed in 500-round and 600-round quantities. For the 500-round package, one hundred 5-round clips of ammunition are packed loosely in a sealed galvanized metal container, which in turn is placed in a wooden box. For the 600-round package, there are 15 rounds to a cardboard carton, 14 cartons to a sealed metal container, and one such container to a wooden box. The markings on the wooden boxes may vary greatly in both in location and in the individual symbols used; however, unchanging symbols either for the caliber or the type of round normally appear somewhere on the box, and will serve to identify its contents. These constant symbols are shown above, with other characteristics of the packaging.
7.62mm Ball Pistol Cartridge, Type (50?)
This cartridge is interchangeable with the Soviet 7.62mm Type P pistol cartridge, the Czech 7.62mm pistol cartridge, and the 7.63mm Mauser automatic pistol cartridge. Chinese Communist forces use these cartridges in their Type 50 submachinegun and Type 51 automatic pistol, which are copies of the Soviet PPSh-41 submachine gun and TT1933 automatic pistol. All of these cartridges are also used in the original Soviet weapons and in the Soviet PPS-43 submachineguns. Cases are brass with a Berdan primer. Base markings indicate manufacturing arsenal, lot number, and date of manufacture.
Caliber: 7.62mm (.30 cal)
Weight of cartridge: 10.68g (165 gr)
Weight of case: 4.5g (70 gr)
Weight of bullet: 5.5g (86 gr)
Weight of propellant: 0.58g (9 gr)
Length of cartridge: 34mm (1.36 in)
Lenght of case: 24mm (0.97 in)
Lenght of bullet: 14mm (0.55 in)
No Markings Available
Information on packaging of this round is not available.
7.7mm Semi-Rimmed Ball Cartridge, Type 92
Manufacture of this Japanese-designed cartridge was continued by the Chinese after World War II. It is used in the Type 92 heavy machinegun. The ball cartridge usually has a red annulus at the junction of the bullet and cartridge case. Base markings usually give year and month of manufacture, manufacturer's symbol or number, and sometimes caliber.
Caliber: 7.7mm (.303 cal)
Weight of cartridge: 27.78g (428.75 gr)
Weight of case: 11.34g (175 gr)
Weight of bullet: 13.32g (205.63 gr)
Weight of propellant: 2.86g (44.18 gr)
Length of cartridge: 79.5mm (3.13 in)
Length of case: 57.6mm (2.27 in)
Length of bullet: 35mm (1.39 in)
Three different methods of packaging this cartridge have been encountered. It has been found in a 560-round wooden box, details on the interior packing of which are lacking. There is also a 600-round wooden box which holds 20 cardboard containers, each enclosing 1 Hotchkiss-type machinegun clip of 30 rounds. Thirdly, a 1,380-round wooden box contains 92 cardboard packets, each holding three 5-round clips. Although there is considerable variation in the marking of these boxes, consistent use is made of a symbol broadly identifying the contents by type. This constant marking, which is shown above, is ordinarily found among other groups of characters, and is apparently placed on the box in whatever location suits the marker.
7.7mm Rimless Ball Cartridge, Type 99
This cartridge is used in Japanese 7.7mm Type 99 rifle and in the Japanese Type 92, Type 99, and Type 1 machineguns. The cartridge is of Japanese design, but the Chinese are believed to have continued its manufacture after World War II. The Japanese color marking for the round is a red-colored annulus at the junction of the bullet and the cartridge case. These cartridges may be found in 5-round clips, or in 30-round feed strips for machineguns.
Caliber: 7.7mm (.303 cal)
Weight of cartridge: 26.93g (415.63 gr)
Weight of case: 11.9g (183.75 gr)
Weight of bullet: 12.47g (192.5 gr)
Weight of propellant: 2.67g (41.13 gr)
Length of cartridge: 79.5mm (3.13 in)
Length of case: 57.6mm (2.27 in)
Length of bullet: 31.2mm (1.23 in)
Examination of various types of Communist Chinese packaging has disclosed inconsistent location of markings and considerable variation of identifying symbols even on similar boxes for the same item. As a rule, however, constant symbols affording general identification of the contents by caliber and type appear on small arms ammunition boxes. The symbol shown above is thought to be the constant symbol that would normally appear on packaging for this round.
7.92mm Ball Cartridge, Type ?
This cartridge still is manufactured by the Chinese Nationalists, as well as by the Chinese Communists. It can be fired from any weapon chambered for 7.92mm x 57mm rimless ammunition, and is used by the Chinese Communists in a motley assortment of foreign-designed rifles and machineguns.
During World War II, the cartridge was manufactured in large quantities by the United States. The United States-made rounds are distinguished by the character below on the base, and by having Boxer-type primers rather than Berdan type used in cartridges of Chinese, Japanese, and European manufacture.
A reduced-charge version of the round also was made; it was intended for some early Chinese copies of the Czech ZB 26 light machinegun which were constructed of inferior metal.
To date, all cartridges cases found for this round have been of brass. Cartridge case base markings are stamped, and usually consist of a symbol for the manufacturing arsenal, a date (month and year) of manufacture, and occasionally the Arabic numerals "79," indicating the caliber. Because of the many manufacturers of the ammunition, a correspondingly wide variation in headstamps may be encountered.
Caliber: 7.92mm (.311 cal)
Weight of cartridge: 25.5g (394 gr)
Weight of case: 12g (185 gr)
Weight of bullet: 10.5g (162 gr)
Weight of propellant: 3g (47 gr)
Length of cartridge: 80mm (3.14 in)
Length of case: 57mm (2.24 in)
Length of bullet: 29mm (1.16 in)
This ammunition has been found in three kinds of packaging. A 500-round wooden box holds one sealed, galvanized metal container, within which are 10 layers of cartridges loaded in 5-round clips; each layer is seperated from the next by a cardboard sheet, and comprises ten 5-round clips. A 560-round wooden box contains 28 cardboard boxes, each holding 20 rounds individually seperated by a cardboard divider. Finally, a 1,000-round wooden box encloses a sealed, galvanized metal container in which the cartridges are packed loosely. The markings on the three types of packaging differ greatly from box to box, bu the symbols shown above appear among the markings quite consistently and may serve to identify the box contents broadly as 7.92mm ammunition.
Next Time: Communist Chinese Mortar Ammunition