A Type 56, noted by its bayonet, chromed bolt carrier, furniture, muzzle nut and front sight hood.

The Norinco Type 56 is a Chinese copy of the Soviet Kalashiknov assault rifle, and is so popular among Asian countries that it is still being produced today. Interestingly, Type 56 rifles can be found in both original AK-47 milled receiver and newer AKM stamped receiver configuration. The easiest way to spot a stamped Type 56 and differentiate it from similar counterparts is that it will look almost exactly like a milled AK-47, but with a stamped receiver. The reason for this is because the stamped-receiver variant wasn't introduced until after China and the Soviet Union split. So, because of this, the stamped receiver model was reverse-engineered without Soviet technical assistance. Thus, the stamped Type 56 retains all other cosmetic features of the original AK-47 sans milled receiver.

They were seen in use by the Mujhaideen fighters in Rambo III, but also by some Tadmadaw Army soldiers and mercenaries in Rambo IV. The majority of AKs used in the Vietnam War were actually milled receiver Type 56s.

History and DescriptionEdit

The Type 56 is a widely proliferated variant of the AK-47. While exact production figures are unknown, it is estimated that as many as 10 to 15 million Type 56 rifles have been produced since the 1950s. During the Cold War period, the Type 56 was exported to communist forces in the Third World. Many of these rifles found their way to battlefields in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East and were used alongside other Kalashnikov rifles from both the Soviet Union and 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 regular Russian-made AK-47s or AKMs. Originally, the Type 56 was a direct copy of the AK-47, and featured a milled receiver, but 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 56 rifles. The first type 56s were near identical copies of the Soviet milled AK-47. It is speculated 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" 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 rifle, 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.

Rambo IIIEdit

Mousa type 56

Mousa fires his Type 56-1 rifle with a folding stock to save Rambo from a charging Russian soldier in Rambo III. This can be identified as a Chinese Type 56 if you note the smooth non-ribbed dust cover, lack of a slant muzzle brake and the unique full-hooded front sight.

When filming of Rambo III had to be shifted from Israel to the United States, the filmmakers lost the ability to rent authentic Soviet weaponry from Israeli armorers, thereby forcing them to replace the AKMs used by the Soviets with the Chinese Type 56 (the military name of the imported Norinco AKS-47 Chinese rifles). Although this may seem like a burden; in a historical context, this is actually vary accurate and not an anachronism, since the Chinese supplied many cheap Type 56 rifles to the Mujahideen fighters by way of Pakistan during the 1980s. It was particularly used by Mujhaideen shopkeeper Mousa Ghanin, who used a Type 56 with a folding stock to kill Soviets during the battle sequences.

In real life, the Type 56's appearance in the film is quite accurate, as the United States purchased bulk amounts of mainly Chinese and Egyptian AK rifles to be supplied to anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan. 

Rambo IVEdit

For some odd reason, the Burmese Tatmadaw Army primarily uses old Soviet, Hungarian and Romanian AKM and AKMS assault rifles rather than the more likely Chinese Type 56.

There are many AK types in the movie, and upon further study, most of the models will be identified. One of the obvious ones is the Type 56, used by a few soldiers and seen in prominence at the end of the film. It is obvious in the hands of some of the Burmese Junta soldiers and during the final battle, En-Joo and Lewis grab Type 56 rifles and fight with them.

Myint also uses a customized AKMS built from AKMS and Type 56 parts. The Type 56 parts on the gun can be noted by its slab-sided wooden handguards, standard on Type 56s. This custom rifle has parts from the Norinco Type 56 and the AKMS. In reality, these rifles don't interchange parts, but it was possible since the gun is massively customized and practically rebuilt from scratch.

Differences from Kalashnikov-type riflesEdit

The Type 56 is essentially a Chinese copy of the Soviet Kalashnikov. Earlier milled receiver Type 56 rifles are basically a complete copy of the original Soviet AK-47 design, but it also took inspiration from the RPK. After the Soviets mastered stamped steel and the design was replaced from milling to the cheaper and lighter newer production stamping out the receivers, the Chinese followed suit and started stamping out the Type 56. However, despite having stamped receivers, these new Type 56s are not AKM copies, but they rather retain the design of the milled Type 56, albeit with a stamped receiver. In other words, even the stamped Type 56 rifles have more in common with the original AK-47 than the newer AKMs, and are essentially still an original AK-47 with a stamped receiver. Thus, unlike many other foreign copies of the AK, the Type 56 has a number of small design differences between the AKM. 

  • RoJVdjk.png 1452×640

    Differences between the Soviet AKM (top) and the Chinese stamped receiver Type 56 (bottom).

    Chinese AKs have a full sight hood over the front sight, compared to the AKM and AK-47, which only have a partial sight hood. This is a sure-fire way to identify a Type 56, as this is not used on any other AK rifles.
  • Has a smooth, heavier dust cover like the AK-47 and unlike the ribbed, lighter dust cover of the AKM.
  • 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 Type 56 rifles. Type 56 assault rifles are the only AK-pattern assault rifles that use spike bayonets.
  • Another way to identify a Type 56 is that they almost always have a chromed bolt carrier, while the AKM's bolt carrier is blued.
  • The Type 56 handguards are slab-sided, like the AK-47, meaning that they lack the more ergonomic palm swell handguards, popularly associated with Soviet AKMs. This is cheaper and easier to produce. 
  • A major identifying characteristic of the Type 56 is the gas relief ports are located on the sides of the gas tube like the AK-47 and unlike the AKM, which had the gas relief ports relocated forward to the gas block.
  • The pistol grip is similar to the original AK-47 in that it is made of wood, unlike the AKM's pistol grip, which is made of Bakelite.
  • The barrel on the Type 56 is similar to the AK-47 and heavier than that of the AKM. It does not have an AKM-style slant muzzle brake. Military issued versions of the Type 56 lack the threaded muzzle found on the AK-47 and AKM, instead using an AK-47 style muzzle nut. 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.
  • The fixed stock of a Type 56 has a more curved and less in-line stock like the AK-47, opposed to the AKM which has a straighter stock.
  • The trigger guard on an AKM is square-shaped, while the trigger guard on a Type 56 is curved. 
  • 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.
  • Taking another feature from the RPK, the Type 56 has the RPK-style riveting on the receiver. 
  • Has a blued finish like the AK-47 and unlike the AKM, which has a black oxide finish or a parkerized finish.
  • 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 optic mount plate that was featured on many variations of the AK-47 and AKM.
  • Has the double hook disconnector of the AK-47 rather than the single hook disconnector of the 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. This did not have anything to do with thickness of the receiver, as the RPK included the hammer retarder also.