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The Chinese Type 53 Mosin Nagant Carbine

Text: Brent Snodgrass

Photos: David F, Vic T, Stan "The Man", and Tuco


Introduction

The Chinese Type 53 Carbine is one of the more interesting of the Model 1944 Carbine clones; however, the Type 53 has never been sought out on a wide scale by Mosin Nagant collectors. The main reason for this folly is the false notion that the Type 53 is of inferior quality when compared to its counterparts. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this very common opinion still seems to dominate collectors circles. The quality in manufacture of the Type 53 is quite high and the Type 53's place in history rivals any of the Model 1944's. In fact the combat use of the Type 53 may well be greater than any of the M44's. This article will be a brief introduction into the history and production of these little known and misunderstood carbines.

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Need and Production

In the early 1950's the People's Republic of China decided there was a need to develop a carbine for issue to the People's Army. The Chinese looked to their new friends to the North, the Soviet Union, for assistance in the matter. As the doctrine of the "Human Wave" was shared by both nations, a bayonet would be an essential item on any carbine to be issued. The Soviet Union of course offered the Model 1944 Carbine as a logical solution . The Soviets were in production of the SKS at the time, but they did not want to share this new development with the Chinese. It is thought that Soviet machinery was sent to China for commencement of Type 53 production. The facts also seem to suggest this was also done in Eastern Europe as the Model 1944 Carbine production also began in Poland, Hungary, and Romania during the same time frame. The movement of the Soviet machinery allowed the Chinese to produce the Type 53 independently, which was important to both Chinese national pride and the self-sufficiency of China. This also allowed the Soviets to aid their Chinese ally without giving away a large amount of weapons technology.

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Early proof Type 53

Chinese production of the carbine began in 1953 and the designation of this new carbine was the Type 53 . The early proofs on the barrel shank of the Type 53 will have both Chinese characters and the number 26 or 296. The Chinese characters translate to " 53 Year Type " and the 26 or 296 are the stamping of the State Factory at Chongqing. In many later production Type 53's the Chinese characters are not present but it is not known why the characters were dropped. The shank proofs also became larger in 1960 but again the reason for this action is not entirely clear.

The production numbers of the Type 53 Carbine are unknown at this point and it is doubtful they will be known in the near future. The closed nature of China and icy relations with the West have and will prevent the release of this information. It is assumed that the production numbers are rather high as the production run did not end until 1960 or 1961. In his fine book, The Mosin Nagant Rifle, Terence Lapin raises the possibility these were produced after 1961 and in fact I do know of one confirmed Vietnam bringback dated 1961.   This carbine had been "jungle" modified in a number of regards and even had an SKS bayonet attached.  While this does prove that production was later than 1960 it does not prove when the production came to an end.

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Later Type 53 proof

The Chinese did not use the large number of stamps on the carbine's metal as their Soviet allies; however, the Chinese more than made up for this with the large number of proofs that appear on most Type 53 stocks. It is not uncommon to have ten or more various stamps on these stocks. The wood used on these stocks is not the high quality as that used in the Soviet carbines; however, the wood on the Type 53 is quite solid and competent. The Chinese utilized a local wood that is known as CHU-wood. The CHU-wood was put to use as it was quite effective in standing up to so called "Jungle Rot." The wood was quite proficient in resisting moisture, so was a perfect choice for the environment of Asia. The finish of the Chinese stocks are similar to the M44 clones made in Romania and Hungary, which is a heavy varnish or shellac in most cases. There are some Type 53 stocks that have their serial numbers matched to the carbines, with these numbers appearing on the left side on the stock. Further there are some cases in which Chinese characters also cut into the stock. Some appear to be the work of the soldier but many are too uniform for this. These uniform stamps seem to have nationalist writing in every case. One such stamping that has been seen both on a Type 53 and a Chinese manufactured SKS loosely translates to: " I gladly give my life for Chairman Mao."

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The Chairman Mao stamping from a Chinese SKS

Some of the other differences that are noticeable in the Type 53 from the Russian M44 are the bayonet and the cleaning rod. Although the Type 53 bayonet is almost identical to the second variation Soviet bayonet, in many cases there are inspectors proofs marking found. This is not the case with the M44's made in the Soviet Union but is common on the M44 clones produced in Hungary. It is interesting to note that there are verified Type 53's with no bayonet. These carbines without bayonets have even been observed with the bayonet assembly filed down or even removed in some cases. It is unknown why this was done or who did it. This bayonet removal does seem to go against the "Human Wave" doctrine of the People's Army. The cleaning rod of the Type 53 is a 1/2 inch shorter than those from the Soviet Union. There is also a slight difference in the way the cleaning rod is screwed into the carbine stock. The cleaning rod further differs in that the head is plain while the Soviet made rods are not. Many Type 53's found in the US have cleaning rods that are correct for the Soviet M44 but this was probably done at the importer. It is also possible that the cleaning rods of damaged Russian M44's in Chinese stockpiles were fitted on Type 53's when the need arose.


History, Issue, and Use

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There is doubt as to whether the Type 53 saw any action or issue in the Korean War. It is possible that the Type 53 saw use but it is doubtful, as the initial production of the Type 53 was quite close to the end of the conflict. If there was indeed any use it would have been on a VERY limited scale. There were M44's in combat in Korea but it is assumed by most they were Russian M44 carbines supplied to the People's Army by the Soviets. It is clear that the Type 53 saw extensive use in the Vietnam War, as the Chinese supplied these carbines in large numbers to their follow communists in North Vietnam. These carbines were in turn given to the Viet Cong. There was such wide use of the Chinese carbine in Vietnam that many of the Type 53's seen in the US are GI bring-backs. There are rumors that some of these carbines were scoped with a turned down bolt, but it is likely that the M91/30 sniper rifle was mistaken for this "sniper carbine". The Mosin Nagant sniper rifle was prevalent in its own right in Vietnam, with the Hungarian manufactured model being encountered in large numbers as GI bring-backs. The Chinese also sent the Type 53 to allies in Cambodia and other areas in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam era.

As the People's Republic of China began production of their own version of the SKS, the Type 53 lost some of its importance as a direct issue weapon. The Chinese found themselves in much the same position the Soviets did in the early 1950's, as the People's Republic had become a major power in its own right. The People's Republic of China now needed to supply arms to the countries that were under their yoke. The Chinese did not want to supply these countries with the SKS , so the People's Republic began to export the Type 53. The Chinese started their major arms supply operation with the Type 53. This operation grew into the massive endeavor that has made the People's Republic one of the largest arms dealers in the world.

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Type 53 sling photo from Stan "The Man"

These are thinner than the Russian style and are green or brown in color


There were many areas that received Type 53's over the years. One of these areas was the continent of Africa, where Angola in particular became a major receiver of these carbines. The Chinese have flooded large areas of Africa with these carbines and it is still not uncommon to see the Type 53 in the various African conflicts of today. The Chinese have also exported these carbines to Central and South America. It is in Peru that the Shining Path rebels have benefited from this "generosity" from Communist China. The Type 53 has also shown up in the recent fighting in the former Yugoslavia, where the Kosovo Liberation Army has put a number of these carbines into service. There are a number of M44's and M44 clones in this conflict but the Type 53 may well be the most common encountered. There has also been reports of US Marines encountering the Type 53 in Grenada. If this rumor is true the likely supplier would have been Cuba, who has received support from Communist China for many years. The Chinese are indeed major players when it comes to supplying arms to favorable conflicts and "armies".


Conclusion

While the Type 53 has never really caught on in the collecting circles, there is no fault that can be found in the carbine itself. The Type 53 will hold its own in quality with most of the M44 clones, with the possible exception of the Polish M44. The Russian M44 and the Type 53 are also very close in overall quality, but the Soviet made carbines may be a bit better in overall fit and finish. Many US collectors have made the comparison of the Type 53 to the Chinese made SKS and the MAK 90's v.s. the Soviet made versions of these weapons. While the Soviet made versions may be a bit better overall, the Chinese made rifles/carbines are made to hold up to the rigors of warfare. There may indeed be a drop off in finish but the Type 53 is no slouch either. If one can find a Type 53 in VG or better condition, one will see little difference when compared to the other M44's. The trick may well be to find a Type 53 in VG or better condition, as many of these have seen a lot of use. This use is a testament to their durability and quality.

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The overall accuracy of the Type 53 is in line with the other M44's on the market. Some are excellent shooters while some are truly horrible. This is not just the case with the Type 53 but all the M44 carbines ( really all surplus firearms in general ). Because of this it is impossible to make blanket statements on accuracy. Maybe the buyer will get lucky and get a "tack-driver" and maybe the buyer won't. The Type 53, like all the M44's, are fun to shoot IF one can tolerate a rather heavy amount of recoil.

The Type 53 may well be the best bargain of the M44 Carbine types on the collector's market, as in most case $100 is the high end of price. It is indeed a lot of carbine for the money and really belongs in any Mosin Nagant collection. The black-eye that it has received in many circles is undeserved and this can work to the collector's advantage. Ignore the bogus information and the collector can make out like a bandit.

 


 
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