Type 81 assault rifle
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The Type 81 (Chinese: 81式自动步枪; literally; "Type 81 Automatic Rifle") is a Chinese-designed second-generation, selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle (based on Kalashnikov and SKS actions) adopted by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) and has been in service since the mid-1980s.
Type 81-1 (top) and Type 81 (bottom)
Battle rifle (CS/LR14 export model)
|Place of origin||China|
|Used by||See Users|
Soviet War in Afghanistan
Sri Lankan Civil War
Lord's Resistance Army insurgency
Boko Haram insurgency
Persian Gulf War
Baren Township riot
Croatian War of Independence
War in Afghanistan
Internal conflict in Burma
Syrian Civil War
Internal conflict in Myanmar
|No. built||~400,000 (Type 81)|
Type 81 light machine gun
|Mass||3.4 kg (7.50 lb) (empty)|
4.5 kg (9.92 lb) (loaded) (CS/LR14)
|Length||955 mm (37.6 in)|
785 mm (30.9 in) (butt folded) (CS/LR14)
1,010 mm (40 in) (butt extended) (CS/LR14)
|Barrel length||445 mm (17.5 in)|
|Cartridge||7.62×39mm (Type 81)|
5.8×42mm DBP87 (Type 87)
|Action||Short stroke gas piston, rotating bolt|
|Rate of fire||Approx. 700–720 rounds/min|
|Muzzle velocity||750 m/s (2,461 ft/s)|
760 metres per second (2,493 feet per second) (CS/LR14)
|Effective firing range||400+ meter|
400-500 meter (CS/LR14)
|Maximum firing range||2000+ meter|
|Feed system||30-round detachable box magazine (20 rounds for CS/LR14), 75-round detachable drum magazine|
|Sights||Adjustable iron sights|
The PLA's first attempt to replace their aging SKS and Type 56 assault rifle (a Chinese license produced AK-47) was the Type 63 assault rifle. This weapon, however, ended in failure due to a variety of issues resulting in a switch back to the weapons it intended to replace. The beginning of the Sino-Vietnamese border conflicts however, showed the PLA that their SKS and Type 56s were not as effective as they thought, causing their small arms development program to spring back to life.
The weapon was introduced into PLA service in 1981 but did not become widely distributed until the late 1980s. It replaced the SKS, the Type 56 assault rifle and even the RPD machine gun (LMG version), succeeding where the Type 63 failed. Its first combat use came during the latter part of the Sino-Vietnamese border conflicts of the mid-1980s. The PLA has replaced most of its Type-81s with the Type 95 or Type 03 series of weapons, though it is still in service in the reserves and armed police. An improved version is also used by the Bangladesh Army under the designation BD-08.
The Type 81 incorporates elements of the Dragunov, SKS, and AK-47 series rifles. The design criteria it met included accuracy of 1.78 inch R50, that is 50% of the hits within a 1.78 inch diameter at 100 meters; improved controllability in full-automatic; the same reliability of the AK but a longer service life to approximately 20,000 rounds; and able to use existing AK and SKS production tooling at the time.
The rifle retains the general layout of the Chinese Type 56 assault rifle, but it has a SKS-like short-stroke gas-piston design and other improvements to reduce recoil and muzzle jump, giving better firing accuracy. Notable physical differences from the Type 56 assault rifle include the stock of the rifle, the length of the action, bayonet, and the positioning of the front sight.
The most easily distinguishable feature of the Type 81 is the more exposed muzzle part of the barrel. The front sight has been moved back as a modification to be able to fire 22mm rifle grenades, which are slid over the unobstructed barrel muzzle now formed into a spigot-type rifle grenade launcher.
There is a significant gap between the trigger guard and the magazine on Type 81 rifles, while on the Type 56 rifle series the magazine is adjacent to the front of the trigger guard.
The non-detachable swing-out spike-shaped bayonet of the Type 56 rifle was also replaced on Type 81 rifles with the detachable Type 81 knife-bayonet.
Like its predecessors, the Type 81 is a series of weapons. The Type 81 (fixed stock) and Type 81-1 (folding stock) are 7.62×39mm caliber assault rifles with 30-round magazines, and the heavier Type 81 light machine gun (LMG) fitted with a 75-round drum magazine is used in the squad automatic weapon (SAW) role. Its sight remains at the front of the LMG barrel.
- Type 81 7.62×39mm rifle with a fixed wooden buttstock. 400,000 were produced before it was replaced by the Type 81-1.
- Type 81-1 7.62×39mm rifle with a foldable buttstock. Originally intended for paratrooper use, the Type 81-1 replaced the Type 81 with its fixed wooden buttstock as the standard issue rifle for the PLA.
- Type 81 LMG 7.62×39mm squad machine gun
- Type 81 MGS Semi-automatic only version of the Type 81 LMG.
- Type 81S Early semi-automatic only model intended for the U.S. market. Only 20 were imported in January 1989 before further importation was blocked by executive order.
- EM356 5.56×45mm variant of the Type 81S, intended for the U.S. market. Only 3 Tool room prototypes were completed and imported for the 1989 SHOT show before importation was banned along with the Type 81S by executive order. No magazines were ever made for them so modified 5.56×45mm AK magazines must be used instead.
- T81SA Semi-automatic variant in 7.62×39mm.
- T81-1SA Same as above, but with folding buttstock.
- Type 87-1 5.8×42mm experimental rifle, used to develop and test 5.8×42mm DBP87 cartridge for the QBZ-95 rifle
- Type 87 Served as a development platform for the next generation of PLA small arms, being used as a test-bed for the then new 5.8×42mm DBP87 ammunition. It never went into full-scale production but has been in service with PLA special forces.
- Type 81 Tactical Tactical variant used by the PAP
- CS/LR14 7.62×51mm battle rifle. Newest tactical upgrade with modifications, such as tactical rails, foregrip, additional mountings, etc.
- NAR-10 Tactical variant made for export.
- NR-81S semi-automatic made primarily for the European and Canadian markets, with a longer 18.6" barrel to qualify the gun as 'non-restricted' for Canadian civilian users.
- Type 81A Upgraded variant with new stock and Picatinny rails shown at the 2018 Zhuhai Airshow.
- BD-08:Both assault rifle & light machine gun variant made under licence by the Bangladesh Ordnance Factories in 2008. It is marketed to have less recoil and "jump", improving on accuracy.
- Kachin Independence Army produced Type 81 variants dubbed the M23, comes with updated polymer furniture with a Sun Motif. Not much is known about their manufacturing details due to their clandestine origins, possibly unofficially licensed built with PRC tooling as proxy military aid delivered through Bangladesh.
- Kachin K09: Comes with black/plum polymer furniture.
- Kachin K010: Comes with green polymer furniture.
- Kachin K011: Dedicated indigenous 45mm rifle grenade launcher variant.
- Bangladesh: Made under license by the Bangladesh Ordnance Factories as BD-08 Assault Rifle
- Benin: Used by Beninese peacekeepers in northern Mali.
- Cambodia Used by the Royal Cambodian Army. 
- China: The Type 81 is still used by B-class units.
- Comoros: Used by the Military of the Comoros.
- Guinea: Used by the Guinean Army and Navy
- Iraq: Used by Iraqi Police.
- Ivory Coast
- Laos
- Niger - Niger Armed Forces also use Type 81 machine guns.
- Nigeria: Produced under license by the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria
- Rwanda: Used by Rwandan United Nations Police in the Central African Republic.
- Senegal
- South Sudan
- Sri Lanka
- Syria: seen in used by Syrian Arab Army during Syrian Civil War
- Tajikistan: Equipped with Type 81s since 2014.
- Zimbabwe: Type 81s are used by Zimbabwean military police officers.
- All Burma Students' Democratic Front
- Arakan Army
- Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
- Pakistan Taliban
- Kachin Independence Army
- Lord Resistance Army
- Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army
- New People's Army
- Revolutionary United Front
- Ta'ang National Liberation Army
- Tamil Tigers
- United Liberation Front of Assam
- United National Liberation Front
- United Wa State Army
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- Type 81 rifle (People Republic of China)
- Chinese Type 81 Rifle, Guns&Ammo magazine
- News report on BD-08 Assault Rifle