The QBZ-191 assault rifle family has been officially announced in 2019 during the PLA parade. By 2021, some of 1st line units in PLA are already armed with these rifles. It is believed that development of a new small arms family, firing improved 5.8x42mm Type 10 ammunition, commenced circa 2014-2015. It was caused by a general dissatisfaction of PLA with previous generation of 5.8mm weapons, such as QBZ-95 rifle, QJB-95 light machine gun and QBU-88 sniper rifle. According to Chinese sources, new requirements demanded a modern rifle family to be built with classic layout, as opposed to more compact bullpup layout, used in Type 95 weapon system. It is believed that the QBZ-191 rifle family shall gradually replace older Type 95 rifles, but this could take many years due to sheer size of the PLA.
It must be noted that despite its ‘adopted’ status, official information on QBZ-191 assault rifle is sketchy at best, with no complete specifications and no official disassembled photos. As such, description below uses some assumptions and will be appropriately updated once a more detailed information is available.
The QBZ-191 assault rifle family includes three weapons – a short-barreled carbine with roughly 260 mm barrel, a standard issue rifle with roughly 370 mm barrel, and a designated marksman version, with 550 mm heavy profile barrel. Otherwise all variants appear to be similar. QBZ-191 rifle uses short stroke gas system located above the barrel. Gas block has a manual gas regulator. Barrel is locked using a rotary bolt, and the bolt carrier is somewhat similar in layout to AR-15 / M16 system. As such, when cycling back and forth, it protrudes back from the receiver and into the tube, which also serves as a base for a shoulder stock. The upper and lower receiver are made from aluminum alloy and connected by two cross-pins. Bolt charging handle is located on the right side of the weapon and reciprocates along with the bolt group. Ammunition is fed from polymer magazines, and a bolt hold-open device is incorporated into the design. Bolt hold open release button is located on the left side of the lower receiver. Magazines are inserted using “rock-and-lock” system, and rifle features an extended paddle-style magazine release lever. Pistol grip, forend and a shoulder stock are made from plastic. Shoulder stock is of adjustable telescoping design, and cannot be folded to the side. QBZ-191 rifle is equipped with iron sights, installed on folding bases. Rear sight is of aperture design, adjustable for range. An integrated Picatinny rail is provided at the top, which can host a variety of optical sights. At the moment, most QBZ-191 rifles in the field are issued with a 3X fixed power prismatic telescope sight. The DMR version, apparently known as QBU-191, is issued with a more powerful 4-15X variable power telescope sight. Other optional accessories include a knife-bayonet, sound suppressor, and other tactical equipment such as flash lights or laser aiming modules.