Type 56 Assault Rifle

Few assault rifles have been produced in such volume, been involved in so many far-ranging conflicts and wars and been used by one ally against another with such frequency as the Chinese Type 56 Chicom, the nickname used by U.S. troops in Vietnam.

When China fell to the communists after World War II, the Red Chinese sought the military help of their socialist mentor, the Soviet Union. China had millions of potential conscripts for its military, and all those troops required assault rifles that were dependable, durable, easy to maintain and relatively inexpensive to manufacture.

They found everything they were looking for in the Russian AK-47.

Simply put, the Chinese Type 56 is a copy of the Kalashnikov AK-47.

The Type 56 has been manufactured in China since the mid-1950s, first by Chinese State Factory 66 (1956 to 1973) and NORINCO (1973 to the present).

The original Type 56, like the AK-47, has a milled receiver. In the mid-1960s, the Chinese switched to a stamped receiver to keep in lockstep with the new Soviet AKM.

Side by side, the AK-47 and the Type 56 appear identical. Both weapons chamber the Soviet 7.62x39mm ammo. However, unlike the AK-47 (with its detachable bayonet), the Type 56 has a non-detachable, under-folding bayonet.

The AK-47 has Soviet markings, the Type 56, Chinese.

The notable difference between the two is the front sight. If it is fully hooded, it is a Chinese Type 56. AK-47 and AKM models feature a partially opened front sight.

The Type 56 is a gas-operated, rotating bolt, selective-fire assault rifle that uses 30-round magazines. It has a 650-round-per-minute rate of fire at 2,400 feet per second. Its effective range is 1,312 feet (400 meters).

U.S. soldiers in Vietnam faced the Type 56 in the hands of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese. The Type 56 was later used by Vietnamese soldiers against Chinese combatants in the Sino-Vietnamese War. The Type 56 was used by the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 1980s and by the Iranians against Iraqis in the Iran-Iraq War (1982 to 1988). The Type 56 is an equal opportunity killing machine.

Type 56 was replaced by the Type 81 as the main battle rifle for the People’s Liberation Army in 1981. Millions of Type 56 can be found in armories worldwide.