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The Type 81 LMG in Civilian Form: Norinco Model 313

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The Norinco 313 is the semiauto commercial variation of the Type 81 LMG. The Type 81 was a small arms family of rifle and LMG developed to finally replace the SKS and RPD in Chinese military service. When the Chinese and Soviets parted ways, China was making milled AKs, but did not have the stamped AKM technical data package. They had adopted the AK in the submachine gun role, but had retained use of the SKS as an infantry standard rifle. The Type 63 AK/SKS hybrid was developed in the 1960s, but was not successful enough to replace the SKS. This situation finally came to a head in 1979 with the first Sino-Vietnamese War, and China decided it really had to modernize its small arms.

Under the lead of Wang Zi Jun, the Type 81 was developed. It started both AK and SKS design elements, with a rotating bolt and stamped receiver like the AKM, but a short stroke gas piston like the SKS. It was chambered for the 7.62x39mm cartridge, specifically to be an interim system until development of the 5.8x42mm cartridge could be completed. In particular, the Type 81 was developed to be more accurate than the AK – and it did this successfully, with trials showing it to be 40% more accurate at 300m in semiautomatic fire than the AK.

The Type 81 rifles were equipped with 30-round magazines, and the LMG variant could use those or a 75-round drum. The box magazines are very similar in appearance to AK magazines, but not directly interchangeable, as the Type 81 includes a hold open feature to lock the bolt open when the magazine is empty.

The Type 81 family would go into mass production in 1986, and serve as China’s standard rifle and LMG through the 1990s. It was also sold to a number of foreign countries including Algeria, Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Norinco imported a very small number of semiauto civilian versions into the United States in the late 1980s, of which this is one.

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