The Chinese arms market has a long history of imitation in all forms. Chinese manufacturers and gunsmiths have produced everything from high-quality copies of foreign-pattern guns to entertainingly bad black market knockoffs.
Many popular and successful Chinese-made guns are based on Soviet-era Russian designs, like the AK-pattern Type 56. These rifles and their derivatives are still in production today, over 50 years later, largely for export. They’re popular because they’re inexpensive to produce in quantity even as the basic design starts to show its age.
Chinese manufacturers are perfectly capable of making fresh designs — and Norinco is doing just that. In cooperation with the Chongqing Jianshe Industry Group, Norinco is working on a truly modern-looking set of rifles chambered for 5.56 and 7.62 NATO.
There are also photos of a 7.62x39mm version over at the Firearm Blog, all intended for commercial sale, not in-state adoption.
“These rifles are going to give Kalashnikov and IWI stiff competition for rifle contracts in the developing world, especially in Africa where IWI has had a lot of success selling the Galil ACE,” writes TFB’s Steve Johnson. “China is in a good position to leverage the large amount of aid and development they do in the region and turn that into defense sales.”
“It will be interesting to see what Jianshe Industry does with these guns.” For now the rifles are being called the NAR-556, NAR-762 and NAR-751.
Both China and Russia are big players in developing markets. Both have been major producers of AK-based guns sold around the world for decades. While these guns are serviceable and durable it’s clear that there’s enough interest in more flexible rifle designs.
These rifles sport a handful of must-have features for today’s military, security and private users, most importantly, a flattop rail. As magnified optics and red dot sights become more affordable and widespread the flattop rail has become a hallmark of modern firearms.
While many AK-pattern rifles have provisions for optics, they’re usually side rails which can be clunky. Other improvements include a push-button or enlarged paddle magazine release, a modular handguard system and an adjustable gas piston action.
The handguard continues the flattop rail all the way to the front for use with infrared adapters, weapon lights and pointers while the rest of the rail has keyholes which look similar to the open-source KeyMod system. This should let users add other accessories to the handguard like foregrips, tape switches and grip panels.
See Also: The Chinese Norinco SKS
Like a few other tactical rifles in production today they appear to be built on an extruded metal upper receiver with a molded polymer lower. The upper contains the bulk of the action while the lower houses the fire control group and provides the grip and magwell.
Other nice touches include a side-folding stock and flip-up iron sights. Overall the pattern looks on-par with many recent Western designs and could be a real winner for Norinco and the Jianshe Group. It still needs to compete in terms of reliability and durability, but Norinco has a solid reputation there.
Russia has been working on a replacement for their own AK-based rifles used nationwide for several years with the often-teased AK-12. These Chinese manufacturers are eying a much larger market: the rest of the world. Or at least wherever Chinese rifles are sold.