Ordnance Notes -- by Bob Stoner GMCM (SW) Ret.

Chicom Type 56 7.62mm Rifles (AK-47)


The Chinese Type 56 assault rifle shows its distinctive non-detachable, folding bayonet. The export model of this rifle is called the M22 by the Chinese. Selector markings are the Latin alphabet "L" and "D" instead of the Cyrillic alphabet on the Russian AK-47. Other than the folding bayonet, the Type 56 or M22 is an exact copy of the third model Russian AK-47 (production 1954 to 1959) with the milled steel receiver. The rifle is compact at 35 inches and weighs approximately 10.25 pounds (loaded). (Photo: Duncan Long)

The Chinese Type 56 rifle is none other than the famous Russian Avtomat Kalashnikova 47 or AK-47. Designed by Mikal T. Kalashnikov and first adopted by the USSR in 1947, over 70 million AKs have been produced throughout the world. It is still in production today.

The Type 56 is a third model AK. The first two AK models used stamped receivers, but they were not satisfactory in service. The third model was an interim design that reverted to receivers of milled steel until the problems of the stamped-receiver guns were ironed-out.

Originally a 6-pound block of steel, after much machining a 2.75-pound finished receiver emerged. The Russians found this to be a very wasteful way to make AKs, and so production of the third model in the USSR only lasted from 1954 through 1959. The AK-47 was superseded in production by the AKM (or modernized AK) in 1960. The AKM is the fourth model AK. The faults that caused problems for the first and second model guns were corrected in the AKM. This gun uses a stamped receiver with a rear trunnion (to hold the butt stock) and a forward trunnion (to hold the barrel assembly and rear sight). Both trunnions are riveted to the receiver stamping.

Views of a Russian-made third model (milled receiver) AK-47. The prominent lightening cuts on both sides of the receiver above the magazine immediately identify this variant. The detachable blade bayonet of this model is not interchangeable with that of the AKM due to a redesign of the latching mechanism. (Photo: Kalashnikov.guns.ru)

Production of the Chinese Type 56 began in 1958. The Type 56 may be found in either the standard AK-47 pattern with detachable blade bayonet, a folding stock variant (AKS-47) with detachable blade bayonet, a standard AK-47 pattern with folding spike bayonet, and a folding stock variant with folding spike bayonet. The Chinese also produced the rifle in an export version. This rifle carried the designation "M22." During the Viet Nam war, the Type 56 or M22 became the most common of the AKs encountered by American units. Like is Russian AK-47 counterpart, the Type 56 made the transition from a milled receiver to a stamped receiver. Type 56 rifles in production today are equivalents to the Russian AKM.

Views of a Russian-made third model (milled receiver) AKS-47 that uses the same blade bayonet of the AK-47 rifle. The AKS-47 was a folding stock variation for airborne, armored forces, or armored infantry use. The Chinese also produced this model as the Type 56 or M22 version with a folding bayonet but these were not as common as the fixed-stock version. (Photo: Kalashnikov.guns.ru)

The rifle is about 35 inches long, weighs about 10.5 pounds loaded, and shoots the intermediate-sized 7.62x39mm cartridge. It is capable of both full-automatic and semi-automatic fire. The Cyclic rate is 550 to 650 rounds/minute. Russian tactical doctrine specifies that this rifle's settings are SAFE, FULL AUTO, and SEMI AUTO (in that order). These settings are just the reverse of NATO settings which put FULL AUTO last.

A comparison of the 5.56x45mm NATO round of the M16-series rifle.
The 7.62x39mm round of the AK and AKM.  (Photo: Kalashnikov.guns.ru)

The rifle is very simple to operate and very robust under all conditions. The chrome lined chamber, bore, and gas piston assure the AK's operation with even the most corrosive of ammunition. The rifle was designed to survive in the field with no maintenance. All that was required was that it the dirt was brushed off and the rifle was ready to fire. The rifle is not as accurate as the M16. However, the AK is accurate enough for what it is designed to do within the 200 to 400 yard envelope for infantry combat.

© 2005 Bob Stoner R3