The Shanxi Type 17 is a recoil operated, locked breech semi-automatic pistol. The bolt and barrel are locked by a vertically tilting locking piece with two lugs locking into recesses beneath the bolt. It features an adjustable sight for up to 1000 meters, though it's mostly a cosmetic feature, as the ammunition it is made for stops being accurate at less than a quarter of that distance. Unlike most modern pistols, the Shanxi Type 17 is loaded from a stripper clip into a fixed, non-removable box magazine.
The Chinese pistol is arguably the weakest pistol in the game and is nearly useless as a weapon. Given the availability of the 10mm pistol, which has superior stats, and the fact that they share ammunition, its use as a primary weapon is dubious.
One upside is that a fully repaired Chinese pistol can fire 1,242 rounds before breaking - more than twice the amount of the 10mm, making it a good choice if you don't want to worry about constantly having to repair your weapon. However, keep in mind that it will take many more shots to kill your target, somewhat offsetting its durability advantage. Another upside is that it is a valuable weapon pound-for-pound, which can make collecting and repairing Chinese pistols a good early source of caps.
Sim version (Operation: Anchorageadd-on), a simulation-only version of the weapon which differs primarily in health, with item HP so high that it is essentially non-degrading. This version also has a slightly different appearance, lacking the rust found on various parts of the standard weapon.
The following is based on Fallout 3 cut content and has not been confirmed by canon sources.
Chinese Dragoon Pistol (Operation: Anchorage add-on), another cut version of the weapon is included in Operation: Anchorage, apparently intended for use in the normal game after completion of the simulation. This version has identical stats to the Fallout 3 version, but has the same appearance as the simulation version of the weapon. This version is not used anywhere within the add-on and can only be acquired through the use of console commands.
End of information based on Fallout 3 cut content.
Raiders throughout the wasteland often carry them, but less commonly at higher levels.
Traders usually have one or two Chinese pistols in their inventory.
They are often found in locked safes.
Behind the scenes
The full name of the weapon in ancient Chinese characters can be seen in the texture file. They are inscribed "Type 17" on the left hand side of the pistol, while the right side is marked "Republic Year Eighteen, Made in Shanxi". A number "1861" also appears but it can't be the date of manufacture since the Shanxi Type 17 was produced in 1929 and the Mauser C96 in 1896.
Fallout: New Vegas includes a brief appearance of the Chinese pistol, seen on the far wall of the "hidden" weapons room in Mick & Ralph's. This version of the weapon is a non-interactive static mesh (i.e. a decoration) rather than a working weapon. Most of the other resources for this weapon remain in the game's files, but no actual, working version of the weapon exists within the game itself.
A 'clip' levelled list that remains buried and unused in both Fallout 3 and New Vegas implies that the Chinese pistol was originally designed with a 7 round capacity.
The serial number and the full name in ancient Chinese characters on the borders