Forget Aircraft Carriers or Stealth: China’s Assault Rifles Are the Real Killers

Forget Aircraft Carriers or Stealth: China’s Assault Rifles Are the Real Killers

Kyle Mizokami

Security,

Slightly dated, but still effective.

Key point: This weapon is emblematic of the military revolution that began in China in the early 1990s and continues to this day.

One of the most widely issued—but least known—infantry small arms is the QBZ-95-1 assault rifle. The QBZ-95-1 is the official rifle of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its various sub-branches, including the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps. Unorthodox in appearance, the bullpup QBZ-95-1 also fires an unusual 5.8-millimeter cartridge. The result is a unique weapon symbolic of China’s attempt to go its own way in the world of military small arms.

China was one of the largest land powers of the twentieth century—though not exactly the most powerful. The People’s Liberation Army, both before and after the end of the Chinese Civil War, was predominantly an infantry army with millions of trained ground troops. After the civil war, China’s “People’s War” military doctrine stressed defensive wars, in which invaders were lured deep into the Chinese interior and then destroyed by a combination of regular and guerrilla forces.

The 1991 Gulf War, in which a rapidly moving U.S.-led coalition swiftly destroyed a larger Iraqi Army (often equipped with Chinese weapons) was a seismic event in Chinese defense thinking. The People’s Liberation Army was thoroughly revamped, and part of that revamping was the introduction of a new generation of infantry small arms. Older weapons, including the Type 68 and Type 56 assault rifles were retired.

In their place arrived the new QBZ-95-1 series of assault rifles. The QBZ-95-1 is a uniquely Chinese rifle, with a futuristic look that was a clean break from older, Soviet-inspired weapons. The weapon is officially known as the QBZ-95-1 5.8-millimeter assault rifle, with the initials standing for “Light Infantry Weapon, Infantry, Automatic.” The basic ammunition load for PLA troops is 300 rounds, carried in ten 30-round magazines.

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