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A History of the Hanyang 88

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Terril Herbert

The Hanyang 88 is a gun that has lasted through numerous Chinese regimes and is still a relic worthy of its history. 

This rifle is one with an extensive Asian history. Here is the background of the Hanyang 88.

A Brief History

In 1891, the Qing Dynasty in China founded the Hanyang Arsenal to rearm their long neglected military in an effort to fend off the invincible Western Powers. One of the arsenal’s first products was the Hanyang Type 88 rifle. It is a close, unlicensed copy of the German Gew. 88 Commission rifle and is by far my favorite Chinese knock-off.

While the 88 was soon to be obsolete, the rifle was produced until 1947 with over one million made. From Qing bannermen and Boxer insurgents, to the Republican Army of Chiang Kai Shek and his Communist and warlord opponents, this rifle saw active duty as late as the Korean War (1950-53) and beyond in militia service. The humble Hanyang has meant freedom and oppression to millions.

Features

The Hanyang 88 has the same full length wood stock, safety, bolt action, exposed Mannlicher style magazine, and furniture as its German counterpart. The difference is a wooden handguard over the barrel to prevent the soldier’s hands from being burned when the rifle is in use.

It also features Mauser style sights consisting of a 2000m adjustable rear sight and an exposed post front sight. While the Hanyang uses the same low pressure 8x57mm round that the Germans were using in the early 1890s, it is not as powerful as later 8mm rounds adopted for the stronger Mauser 98 rifle.

Though the Hanyang is often labeled a Mauser, it most certainly is not. The older actions of the 88 series of rifles is a big reason why American commercial ammunition is loaded lightly. The Hanyangs, unlike their German counterparts, are not in the best of shape and generally have poor bores, so cast bullets are going to be your best bet if you choose to shoot a Hanyang that is deemed safe to fire.

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Liberal Gun Club

Shooting

My Hanyang 88 is an early rifle that has the original markings of the Qing emperor (this indicates a gun made before 1911) and Chiang Kai Shek’s Republican army. The rifle is fairly beat up and the rifling is not in the best shape, but is still intact. I headed to the range with some 175 grain cast bullet hand loads and set up off the bench at fifty yards.

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The  Hanyang uses an en-bloc clip of five rounds which is inserted directly into the magazine and once the last round is chambered the empty clip will fall out of the bottom of the rifle through a port in the magazine. Loading these clips proved to be quick and smooth. The clip controls the bullet feed while the magazine’s springloaded bar pushes the rounds up to be cycled.

Lining up the rather crude (by today’s standards) iron sights was easy thanks to the twenty-six inch barrel’s sight radius. Cycling the weapon was easy with no hang-ups. Recoil was light out of this eight-pound rifle, thanks to the light loads being shot. The trigger is a typical double stage with a lot of play before a crisp, light break. Accuracy was not too bad considering the neglect the rifle had endured.

At fifty yards distance, putting five shots into a foot-sized group was typical. Taking my time yielded a four-inch group at that distance despite some key holing of bullets. The results can be improved, but I was happy just to make the gun bark.

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Terril Hebert

Final Thoughts

You aren’t apt to find a Hanyang 88 coming in crates from overseas, but it does appear as an occasional online and gun shop find. In general, these rifles are not in the best shape, but they earned each blemish.

The events and lawlessness that the Hanyang was used in convinced me to buy it. It has been a real labor of love to get it shooting again and I believe it warrants a spot in any avid military fan’s collection out of sheer respect, if anything else.

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A History of the Hanyang 88