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IDEX 2023: The Modern Small Arms of China


Apr 28, 2011
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IDEX 2023: The Modern Small Arms of China​


While the People’s Republic of China has one of the biggest firearms industries in the world, you rarely see any small arms of China displayed in their booth. Even at the IDEX exhibition, one of the biggest and perhaps the most diverse in the world, you never had a chance to see the newest Chinese rifles. But the world has changed, the demand in the defense industry is growing rapidly and this year, Chinese companies showcased an impressive selection of rifles at the Norinco booth.

The first rifle that caught my attention was a specimen from the NAR family of weapons. Apparently, NAR means “Norinco Automatic Rifle”. Various prototypes of this gun were spotted as early as 2016, but the current version is now far from the prototype it once was.

7.62x39 NAR, the newest addition to the small arms of China

7.62×39 NAR, the newest addition to the small arms of China

This version is chambered for 7.62×39 and has all the features lacking on many “modernized” and “improved” AKs. Full-length M-LOK handguard, adjustable folding stock, ambidextrous controls, and reliable optics mount.

And while this weapon system so far doesn’t have a reputation on the international market, from a user perspective, it can certainly be a huge step forward in terms of ergonomics compared to an AK with some aftermarket rails and upgrades.

While the rifle is called NAR, it looks like a different version of QBZ-191, the new Chinese service rifle that was officially presented at the military parade in October 2019. However, two years before any official information was revealed, fellow TFB writer Nathaniel F wrote an article about this rifle for TFB.

QBZ-191 rifle

QBZ-191 rifle

QBZ-191 is chambered for the proprietary Chinese round, 5.8×42. Unlike the 7.62×39 version, it has a bolt-release paddle on the left side of the receiver and a slightly different shape of the stock, and obviously, a completely different magazine.

While the standard QBZ-191 has a 14.5-inch barrel, there is also a shorter version with a 10.5-inch barrel called QBZ-192. This particular weapon was seen in the hands of various Chinese SWAT units and some mechanized troops. The layout of the rifle is pretty conventional, and it is supposed to replace the bullpup Type 97 rifle that is currently used by the Chinese military.

QBZ-191 is a short-stroke piston design and uses a pretty unique rotating bolt with 4 locking lugs. Another unique thing about this rifle is the ammo and not just the fact that it is proprietary. Chinese design engineers developed special rubber bullets for their service rifles and recently that ammo created a huge controversy.

QBZ-192 rifle

QBZ-192 rifle

It all started with a short clip depicting the training exercise in a shoothouse. An unknown Chinese special unit was doing a CQB drill, shooting at targets at close range with their QBZ-192 rifles. But all the bullet hits on the targets were clear “keyholes”, bullets weren’t stabilized at all and basically hit the target sideways.

After talking to multiple experts in this field, I realized that things were a little more complicated. Apparently, the unit was using special rubber bullets, designed for riot control and CQB training in facilities that don’t have a rifle-rated backstop. According to Cabbage, a Canadian gun enthusiast who produced the most detailed series of videos in existence about the modern small arms of China:

About the keyholing issue, I’m inclined to believe that it is just rubber bullets, as I described in my third video about the QBZ191. The guns in the keyholing video eject copper-washed casings, and the rubber bullets have copper-washed casings. DBP191 – which is the live ammunition designed for the QBZ191 – has a green lacquered case. The ejection seen in the video also looked much weaker than in live fire videos. It also makes sense that they used rubber bullets in CQB training to avoid damaging the shoot house and ricochets.
 QCQ-171 submachinegun, also known as CS/LS7 (right side)

QCQ-171 submachinegun, also known as CS/LS7 (right side)

The next firearm that caught my interest was a compact submachine gun with retractable MP5-style stock.
The name of the SMG is CS/LS7, and the military designation is QCQ-171. And once again, it has all the features you would expect from a modern SMG: ambidextrous selector, adjustable stock, AR-15 style bolt release paddle, quad rail on the handguard, and Picatinny rails on the receiver. It is chambered for standard 9×19, which is also used in standard-issue Chinese handguns.

Interestingly enough, this version is different from the first examples of this SMG which had a charging handle on the right side of the receiver. Now the handle is on the left side, just above the handguard, which makes a lot of sense. It might not appear to be a big deal, but it is.

QCQ-171 submachinegun, also known as CS/LS7 (left side)

QCQ-171 submachinegun, also known as CS/LS7 (left side)

It means that Chinese weapon design engineers listen to the feedback from the users and are willing to change the design to improve ergonomics. In a big and rigid state-run enterprise it is not always the case.

The last rifle I haven’t seen before was CS/LR12, a semi-automatic 12.7 anti-materiel rifle. Very little information is available about it, but the rifle seems to be available through some of the Chinese and European arms dealers, so soon we will probably hear more about it.

Sniping Rifle Type CS/LR12

Sniping Rifle Type CS/LR12

Overall, it is clear that the Chinese firearms industry made a huge leap forward in the last few years and has a lot to offer to potential clients in Africa, Middle East, and South-East Asia. Traditionally, the small arms of China had a reputation for being crude copies of other designs, but currently, this is just not the case anymore.

P.S. I would like to thank the guys at streakingdelilah and Cabbage, whose contribution to this article was invaluable. If you want to know more about the modern small arms of China, his YouTube channel is the best source of information on the internet.
Vladimir Onokoy

Vladimir Onokoy

Vladimir Onokoy is a small arms subject matter expert and firearms instructor. Over the years he worked in 15 different countries as a security contractor, armorer, firearms industry sales representative, product manager, and consultant.
His articles were published in the Recoil magazine, Small Arms Review, Small Arms Defence Journal, and Silah Report.
► Email: machaksilver at gmail dot com.
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