In the heart of the dense Vietnamese jungle, amidst the echoes of gunfire and the clash of ideologies, a silent warrior emerged – the Type 56 rifle. Armed with reliability and a revolutionary spirit, this Chinese cousin of the iconic AK-47 etched its name in history as a game-changer on the battlefield.

Type 56 Rifle: Tracings Its Roots

The story of the Type 56 rifle traces back to 1947 when China’s Civil War was in full swing. The founding father of modern China, Mao Zedong, envisioned a nation that could stand tall among the world’s powers, and in pursuit of this dream, its government embarked on an ambitious project to build a robust domestic arms industry.

Inspired by its ally Soviet Union’s AK-47, officially known as the Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947, China began developing its version, the Type 56.

A U.S. Marine using an enemy Chinese Type 56 Kalashnikov in Hue City, Vietnam during the Siege of Hue in 1968.
byu/JaeSolomon inMilitary

Like its AK-47 inspiration, the Chinese variant is a selective-fire gas-operated rifle chambered for the ubiquitous 7.62x39mm cartridge. Robust and reliable, this weapon was designed for rugged combat conditions, making it ideal for guerrilla warfare scenarios. Its simplicity, durability, and ease of use quickly earned it a reputation for being a workhorse on the battlefield.

Originally designated as the “Type 1956 Sub-Machinegun” by the Chinese military, the Type 56 rifle initially served as a submachine gun rather than an infantry service rifle within the PLA during its early years of service. Production commenced in 1956 (hence the name) at State Factory 66 but later shifted to other state-owned firearm manufacturing firms, who gradually went into primarily exporting the rifles.

China’s Role in the Vietnam War

With the Type 56 rifle entering mass production in the late 1950s, China was eager to showcase its military prowess and prove its worth as a global power. In support of North Vietnam’s communist government, Beijing supplied its AK-47 variant in large quantities to the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War. The war was not only a regional conflict but also a critical battleground for the larger ideological struggle between communism and capitalism.