Caliber: 7.62×39 mm
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Overall length: 874 mm
Barrel length: 414 mm
Weight: 3.80 kg
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds
Rate of fire: 650 rounds per minute
During the early post-WW2 period, the newly established Peoples Republic of China was a close "friend" to the Soviet Union, so it was natural for the much less advanced country to adopt the weapons of a more advanced ally. In 1956, the Chinese military adopted two Soviet designs, both carrying the same Type 56 designation, and both being chambered for Soviet 7.62 x 39 ammunition. One was the semi-automatic Simonov SKS carbine, the other was the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle. Both weapons were made in large numbers and used by the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army of China), as well as exported into various countries. The original Type 56 assault rifle was an almost exact copy of the Soviet AK-47, with its milled receiver.Later on, Chinese designers switched to AKM-type stamped receivers, under the same Type 56 designation. The only notable differences were the markings in Chinese instead of Russian, and the folding non-detachable spike-shaped bayonets, which replaced the original detachable knife-bayonets of Soviet origin.
During early 1980s PLA adopted a new assault rifle of domestic origin, known as Type81, which gradually replaced Type 56 rifles in front-line service. Despite of that fact, Type 56 rifles are still manufactured by Chinese state arms factories in a variety of versions, for export purposes. NORINCO corporation also sells "civilian" versions of the Type 56 rifles, semi-automatic only and in several calibers, including 7,62×39 M43 and 5.56×45 / .223 Remington.
Another interesting note is that Chinese designers produced a compact version of the Type 56 rifle, known as Type 56C. It is apparently still in service with PLA, despite the fact that its full-size "brothers" have long been retired from general PLA service.
Type 56 is a gas operated, selective fire weapon. The receiver is machined from steel in early versions, the two lugged bolt locks into receiver walls. Later models, however, were made with stamped-steel AKM-type receivers, but retained the same Type 56 designation. The Type 56 has AK-47-style controls with a reciprocating charging handle and a massive safety / fire selector lever on the right side of the receiver. The furniture is made from wood, and a compact version with an underfolding metal buttstock is also available (designation is Type 56-1). Alternatively, a version with side-folding buttsock is produced as Type 56-2. The only visible difference from the Soviet AK-47 is a permanently attached spike bayonet, which folds under the barrel when not in use.
Some sources said that quality of those guns was worse than of Soviet original ones. Most notably, at least some Type 56 rifles lacked the chrome plating in the barrel and gas system area, and thus were much less resistant to corrosion.