Vintage Saturday: Mausers on the Silk Road

Chinese bandits in Xinjiang, 1915, armed with early Mauser rifles
Original caption: Masib, Ahmad, Haji, Abdullah, Kara-khoja outlaws at Panopa shelter huts, Panopa, Xinjiang, China [c1915] MA Stein
Commentary from the photographer:

Full-length portrait of the four men, standing in a line with rifles. ‘While halting for the night I had an interesting opportunity of becoming acquainted with a small party of well-armed outlaws from Kara-khoja of whose presence on this much-frequented mountain route I had already been warned at Jimasa… They were the ‘die-hard’ remnant of a large party of Kara-khoja cultivators, who having had a long-standing dispute over some lands with neighbours of Astana… had about six months before attacked and killed the Muhammadan Jisa, the local revenue official, whom they believed to have brought about the defeat of their rightful claims…

They were well armed with Mauser rifles, for since the revolution of 1911-12 it had become easy to purchase arms and ammunition from the Chinese garrison at Turfan… Since removing themselves to a region outside the Turfan command, the four heroes had remained wholly unmolested. They were now maintaining themselves in comparative comfort at Pa-no-p’a by the receipt of charitable gifts from sympathizing fellow Muslims and of blackmail from other wayfarers…

Ahmad’s wish to meet me again during my winter’s stay in Turfan was to be realised in a fashion rather different from that he had in mind; for, on returning from Urumchi in the first days of January, I was greeted by his shriveled black head stuck up on a high pole outside the gate of the Yang-shahr of Turfan…’ (ii, 560, note). (I.A. Map 28, B1).

The second man from the left, Ahmad, has the symbols of leadership: a carbine (German Kar88) and pistol (appears to be an M1895 Russian Nagant). The other three men have M1871/84 Mauser rifles.

Thanks to Joseph for finding the photo!