Type 56 assault rifle

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Type 56 assault rifle
Norinco type 56.jpg
The Type 56 with a folded spike bayonet
Type Assault rifle
Place of origin People's Republic of China
Service history
In service 1956–present
Used by See Users
Wars Vietnam War
Laotian Civil War
Sino-Indian War
Rhodesian Bush War
Cambodian Civil War
Cambodian–Vietnamese War
Sino-Vietnamese War
Soviet–Afghan War
Nicaraguan Revolution
Iran–Iraq War
Sri Lankan Civil War
Lord's Resistance Army insurgency
Somali Civil War[1]
Tuareg rebellion (1990–1995)[2]
Persian Gulf War
Baren Township riot
Croatian War of Independence
Bosnian War
Burundian Civil War
Kosovo War
Liberian Civil Wars
2001 Afghanistan War
Iraq War
Mexican Drug War
Cambodian–Thai border dispute
Kivu Conflict[3]
War in Darfur
2011 Libyan Civil War
Syrian Civil War
2011 Iraqi Insurgency
Northern Mali conflict
Boko Haram insurgency
South Sudanese Civil War
Production history
Designed 1956
Produced 1956–present
Variants Type 56
Type 56-1
Type 56-2
Weight Type 56: 3.8 kg (8.38 lb)
Type 56-1: 3.7 kg (8.16 lb)
Type 56-2/56-4: 3.9 kg (8.60 lb)
QBZ-56C: 2.85 kg (6.28 lb)
Length Type 56: 874 mm (34.4 in)
Type 56-1/56-2: 874 mm (34.4 in) w/ stock extended,654 mm (25.7 in) w/ stock folded.
QBZ-56C: 764 mm (30.1 in) w/ stock extended,557 mm (21.9 in) w/ stock folded.
Barrel length Type 56, Type 56-I, Type 56-II: 414 mm (16.3 in)
QBZ-56C: 280 mm (11.0 in)

Cartridge 7.62×39mm
Caliber 7.62mm
Rate of fire 650 rounds/min[4]
Muzzle velocity Type 56, Type 56-I, Type 56-II: 735 m/s (2,411 ft/s)
QBZ-56C: 665 m/s (2182 ft/s)
Effective firing range 100–800 m sight adjustments. Effective range 300-400 meters
Feed system 20, 30, or 40-round detachable box magazine
Sights Adjustable Iron sights

The Type 56 is a Chinese 7.62×39mm assault rifle. It is a variant of the Soviet-designed AK-47 and AKM assault rifles.[5] Production started in 1956 at State Factory 66 but was eventually handed over to Norinco, who continues to manufacture the rifle primarily for export.

Service history[edit]

During the Cold War period, the Type 56 was exported to many countries and guerrilla forces throughout the world. Many of these rifles found their way to battlefields in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East and were used alongside other Kalashnikov pattern weapons from both the Soviet Union as well the Warsaw Pact nations of Eastern Europe.

Chinese support for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam before the mid-1960s meant that the Type 56 was frequently encountered by American soldiers in the hands of either Vietcong guerrillas or PAVN soldiers during the Vietnam war. The Type 56 was discovered in enemy hands far more often than the original Russian-made AK-47s or AKMs.[6]

When relations between China and the North Vietnam crumbled in the 1970s and the Sino-Vietnamese War began, the Vietnamese government still possessed vast quantities of Type 56s in its inventory. The People's Liberation Army still used the Type 56 as its standard weapon during this time as well. Thus, Chinese and Vietnamese forces fought each other using the same rifle.

A pair of Type 56-2s and a Type 69 RPG.

The Type 56 was used extensively by Iranian forces during the Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s, with Iran purchasing large quantities of weapons from China for their armed forces. During the war, Iraq also purchased a small quantity, despite them being a major recipient of Soviet weapons and assistance during the conflict. This was done in conjunction with their purchasing of large number of AKMs from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Consequently, the Iran–Iraq War became another conflict in which both sides utilized the Type 56.

Since the end of the Cold War, the Type 56 has been used in many conflicts by various military forces. During the Croatian War of Independence and the Yugoslav Wars, it was used by the armed forces of Croatia. During the late 1990s, the Kosovo Liberation Army in Kosovo were also major users of the Type 56, with the vast majority of the weapons originating from People's Socialist Republic of Albania, which received Chinese support during much of the Cold War.

In the United Kingdom and United States, the Type 56 and its derivatives are frequently used in the filming of movies and television shows, standing in for Russian-made AK-47s due to their rarity among Kalashnikov style weapons. Type 56s are oftentimes visually modified to resemble other AK variants. In addition, versions of the Type 56 that have had their select fire ability removed (referred to as "sporter" rifles) are also available for civilian ownership in most parts of the United States.

A Type 56-2 with stock folded.

In the mid-1980s, Sri Lanka began to replace their L1A1 Self-Loading Rifles (SLR) and HK G3s with the Type 56. Currently, the fixed stock, under-folding stock and side-folding stock variants are all issued.

The Type 81, Type 95 and Type 03 replaced Type 56 in PLA front line service, but the Type 56 remains in use with reserve and militia units. Type 56s are still in production by Norinco for export customers.

During the Soviet–Afghan War in the 1980s, many Chinese Type 56s were supplied to Afghan Mujahideen guerrillas to fight Soviet forces. The rifles were supplied by China, Pakistan and the US who obtained them from third party arms dealers.[7]

Bangladesh Navy sailor fires a Type 56-2.

Use of the Type 56 in Afghanistan also continued well into the early 21st century as the standard rifle of the Taliban. When Taliban forces seized control of Kabul in 1996 (a majority of the Chinese small arms used by the Taliban were provided by Pakistan).[6]

Since the overthrow of the Taliban by U.S.-led Coalition forces in late 2001, the Type 56 assault rifle has been utilized by the Afghan National Army, with serving alongside many other AK-47 and AKM variant rifles.

The Type 56 has been regularly seen in the hands of militants from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

The Type 56 has been used by the Janjaweed in the Darfur region of Sudan with pictures and news footage showing members of the Janjaweed carrying the rifles (most of them provided by the Sudanese government).

In 1987, Michael Ryan used a legally owned Type 56, and two other firearms, in the Hungerford massacre in the United Kingdom, in which he shot 32 people, 17 of whom died. The attack led to the passage of Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, which bans ownership of semi-automatic centre-fire rifles and restricts the use of shotguns.[8]

In the United States, a Type 56, purchased in Oregon under a false name,[9] was used in the 1989 Stockton schoolyard shooting in which Patrick Purdy fired over 100 rounds to shoot one teacher and 34 children, killing five. The shooting led to the passage of California's Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989.[10] A Type 56, along with a Type 56 S-1, were used by Larry Phillips, Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu during the 1997 North Hollywood shootout.[11]

In the ongoing Syrian Civil War, Type 56s are typically seen in the hands of Free Syrian Army forces.

Compared to AK-47 and AKM[edit]

Type 56S-1 (left), Type 84S (center), and Type 56S (right). Note that the Type 56s in this image have been fitted with the distinctive slant compensator of the AKM, a feature not found on the original Type 56
The gas-operated mechanism of a Type 56.

Originally, the Type 56 was a direct copy of the AK-47's final iteration, the AK-49, and featured a milled receiver, Starting in the mid-1960s, the guns were manufactured with stamped receivers much like the Soviet AKM. Visually, most versions of the Type 56 are distinguished from the AK-47 and AKM by the fully enclosed hooded front sight (all other AK pattern rifles, including those made in Russia, have a partially open front sight). Many versions also feature a folding bayonet attached to the barrel just aft of the muzzle. There are three different types of bayonets made for Type 56s. The first Type 56s were near identical copies of the Soviet milled AK-47. There is some speculation[by whom?] that the Chinese had to reverse engineer a copy of the AKM with the stamped receiver as they were not given a licence to produce the AKM and RPK by the Soviets because of failing relations after the Sino-Soviet split.

  • The Type 56 has a 1.5mm stamped receiver (like the RPK, although it lacks the reinforced trunnion of the RPK) versus the 1mm stamping of the AKM.
  • The barrel on the Type 56 is similar to the AK-47 and heavier than that of the AKM.
  • The front sights are fully enclosed, compared to the AKM and AK-47 which are partially opened.
  • Has the double hook disconnector of the AK-47 rather than the single hook disconnector of the AKM.
  • Has a smooth dust cover like the AK-47 and unlike the ribbed dust cover of the AKM.
  • The rifle may have a folding spike bayonet (nicknamed the "pig sticker") as opposed to the detachable knife bayonets of the AK-47 and AKM. There are three different types of spike bayonets made for the Type 56. Type 56 assault rifle is the only AK variant that utilizes a spike bayonet.
  • Military issued versions of the Type 56 lack the threaded muzzle found on the AK-47 and AKM, this means they cannot use an AKM compensator or blank-firing device. Commercial versions of the Type 56 may or may not have a threaded muzzle.
  • Has a blued finish like the AK-47 and unlike the AKM, which has a black oxide finish or a parkerized finish.
  • Has "in the white" bolt carrier, while the AKM bolt carrier is blued.
  • Like the AK-47, sights will only adjust to 800 metres, whereas AKM sights adjust to 1000 metres.
  • Nearly all Type 56's lack the side mount plate that was featured on many variations of the AK-47 and AKM.
  • Lacks the hammer release delay device of the AKM. The lack of hammer retarder is perhaps due to a preference of a slightly higher rate of fire, and simplicity. And did not have anything to do with thickness of the receiver, as the RPK included the hammer retarder also.
  • The gas relief ports are located on the gas tube like the AK-47, unlike the AKM which had the gas relief ports relocated forward to the gas block.
  • The fixed stock of a Type 56 has a less in-line stock like the AK-47, opposed to the AKM which has a straighter stock.


Bolivian Marines sitting on inflatable boats, carrying Type 56s and scuba equipment during the military parade in Cochabamba.
  • Type 56 – Basic variant introduced in 1956. A copy of the AK-47 with a fixed wooden stock and permanently attached spike bayonet. In the mid-1960s production switched from machined to stamped receivers, mimicking the improved (and cheaper) Russian AKM, while the permanently attached bayonet became optional. Still used by Chinese reserve and militia units.
  • Type 56-I – Copy of the AKS, with an under-folding steel shoulder stock and the bayonet removed to make the weapon easier to carry. As with the original Type 56, milled receivers were replaced by stamped receivers in the mid-1960s, making the Type 56-1 an equivalent to the Russian AKMS.
  • Type 56-II – Improved variant and copy of AKM. Introduced in 1980, with a side-folding stock. Mainly manufactured for export and rare in China.
  • Type 56-4 – Copy of Type 56-1 in 5.56×45mm NATO with under-folding stock. 1/12 barrel rifling twist to stabilize the M193 NATO cartridge. Folding spike bayonet. Chrome-plated bore and chamber, selective fire. Barrel is extended past the front sight ​3 34 inches. Threaded flush muzzle cap. English fire control markings "S" and "F" for export version, no marking on full-auto fire control position. Rear sight calibrated to 800 meters. Stamped receiver. Serial number is marked on bolt carrier, bolt, receiver cover, receiver.
  • Type 56C (QBZ-56C) – Short-barrel version, introduced in 1991 for the domestic and export market. The QBZ-56C as it is officially designated in China, is a carbine variant of the Type 56-II and supplied in limited quantities to some PLA units. The Chinese Navy is now the most prominent user. Development began in 1988, after it was discovered that the Type 81 assault rifle was too difficult to shorten. In order to further reduce weight the bayonet lug was removed. The QBZ-56C is often carried with a twenty-round box magazine, although it is capable of accepting a standard Type 56 thirty-round magazine.[12]
  • Type 56M - LMG version of the Type 56.[13]
  • Type 56S or Type 56 Sporter, also known as the MAK-90 (Model of the AK)-1990 – civilian version with only semiautomatic mode.[14]
  • NHM 91 – Sporterized RPK-style version with a stamped receiver and 20" heavy barrel.
  • Type 84S – A civilian version of the Type 56 chambered for the 5.56×45mm NATO round.
  • KL-7.62 – An unlicensed, reverse-engineered Iranian copy of the Type 56. The original version of the KL-7.62 was indistinguishable from the Type 56, but in recent years DIO appears to have made some improvements to the Type 56 design, adding a plastic stock and handguards (rather than wood) and a ribbed receiver cover (featured on most AKM variants, but missing from the Type 56), as well as picatinny rails on newer versions.
  • MAZSudanese licensed copy of the Type 56 made by Military Industry Corporation.

Other Type 56 weapons[edit]

The "Type 56" designation was also used for Chinese versions of the SKS and of the RPD, known as the Type 56 carbine and Type 56 light machine gun respectively. However, unlike the popular Type 56, all Type 56 carbines have been removed from military service, except a few used for ceremonial purposes and by local Chinese militia. The Type 56 light machine gun is still used by the Cambodian Army and Sri Lankan Army.


Afghan students with Type 56 at the Special Police Training Center .
Syrian soldier aims a Type 56.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Small Arms Survey (2012). "Surveying the Battlefield: Illicit Arms In Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia" (PDF). Small Arms Survey 2012: Moving Targets. Cambridge University Press. p. 338. ISBN 978-0-521-19714-4. 
  2. ^ Small Arms Survey (2005). "Sourcing the Tools of War: Small Arms Supplies to Conflict Zones" (PDF). Small Arms Survey 2005: Weapons at War. Oxford University Press. p. 166. ISBN 978-0-19-928085-8. 
  3. ^ Small Arms Survey (2015). "Waning Cohesion: The Rise and Fall of the FDLR–FOCA" (PDF). Small Arms Survey 2015: weapons and the world (PDF). Cambridge University Press. p. 201. 
  4. ^ world.guns.ru on Type 56. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Miller, David (2001). The Illustrated Directory of 20th Century Guns. Salamander Books Ltd. ISBN 1-84065-245-4.
  6. ^ a b Gordon Rottman (24 May 2011). The AK-47: Kalashnikov-series assault rifles. Osprey Publishing. pp. 47–49. ISBN 978-1-84908-835-0. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  7. ^ Bobi Pirseyedi (1 January 2000). The Small Arms Problem in Central Asia: Features and Implications. United Nations Publications UNIDIR. p. 16. ISBN 978-92-9045-134-1. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Warlow, Tom (2004). Firearms, the Law, and Forensic Ballistic (2nd ed.). CRC Press. pp. 26–27, 47. ISBN 978-0-203-56822-4. 
  9. ^ King, Wayne (January 19, 1989). "Weapon Used by Deranged Man Is Easy to Buy". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  10. ^ Ingram, Carl (May 25, 1989). "Governor Signs Assault Weapon Legislation". Los Angeles Times. p. 1. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  11. ^ Smith, This story was reported by Times staff writers Doug. "Chilling Portrait of Robber Emerges". Los Angeles Times. 
  12. ^ "详解中国首款QBZ56C型短突击步枪(组图)" (in Chinese). Sina.com. 2007-08-28. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  13. ^ http://cjaie.com/content/details16_2437.html
  14. ^ Norinco. Chicom47.net. Retrieved on 2012-05-20.
  15. ^ Bhatia, Michael Vinai; Sedra, Mark (May 2008). Small Arms Survey, ed. Afghanistan, Arms and Conflict: Armed Groups, Disarmament and Security in a Post-War Society. Routledge. pp. 44, 65. ISBN 978-0-415-45308-0. 
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  23. ^ Unwin, Charles C.; Vanessa U., Mike R., eds. (2002). 20th Century Military Uniforms (2nd ed.). Kent: Grange Books. ISBN 0760730946. 
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External links[edit]