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12.7mm QJZ171 machine gun (China)

The 12.7mm QJZ171 machine gun (official designation is 12.7毫米山地重机枪QJZ171, 12.7mm mountain heavy machine gun QJZ171) is, in fact, anything but heavy. It is the lightest production machine gun of 12.7mm / .50” caliber, specifically designed for the mobile infantry and mountain troops, so it can be maneuvered and carried across the battlefield by a single soldier. It is a further evolution of the 12.7mm Type 89 machine gun, which proved to be somewhat problematic in the service.

 

The 12.7mm QJZ171 machine gun
The 12.7mm QJZ171 machine gun

 

With its integral bipod mount, the 12.7mm QJZ171 machine gun weights only 12 kg, or less than 27 lbs, which is about the same weight as of the 7.62mm FN MAG / M240B machine gun. Its lightweight low-profile tripod is made using special alloys and weights only 6 kg, or 13 lbs. To further decrease the combat load of a machine gun team, the QJZ171 machine gun is provided with lightweight plastic belt boxes with a 60-round capacity. Supposedly, a new variant of the old Soviet 12.7x108mm cartridge is designed along with this gun, featuring a lightweight alloy cartridge case instead of steel or brass. This new lightweight cartridge saves further 20 grams (0.7 oz) per each round of ammunition, or 1,2 kg / 2,6 Lbs. per each 60-round belt box, compared to the standard-issue 12,7x108mm steel or brass cased ammunition.

To achieve such a record weight savings for a fifty-caliber machine gun, Chinese designers had to use a carbon fiber plastic for the outer gun housing, and a lot of titanium alloys for the receiver itself, bolt carrier, and belt feed parts. Reduction of the peak recoil is achieved by using the differential recoil principle when the entire receiver with barrel and bolt group is allowed to recoil inside the outer gun housing, and the sear is released when the receiver is still moving forward, similar to the principle used in the American .50-caliber LW50MG experimental machine gun. The QJZ171 machine gun is quite compact for its class and has a barrel about 20-30 cm (8-12 inches) shorter than most contemporary 12.7mm machine guns. As can be expected, the entire construction is quite expensive, and thus it will be probably a limited issue weapon for elite high mobility units (mountain troops, SF, and Airborne).

The QJZ171 machine gun is gas-operated, firing from the open bolt. It uses a rotary bolt locking, and a DSHKM-type belt feed unit, operated by the gas piston. Its controls include a pistol grip with the trigger and a shoulder stock with a built-in spring recoil buffer. The gun is provided with an integrated folding bipod and a low-profile tripod. It also can be mounted on light vehicles such as recon buggies.

12.7mm QJZ171 machine gun specifications:

  • Caliber: 12.7×108 mm
  • Overall length: ~ 160 cm (estimated)
  • Barrel length: ~ 80 cm (estimated)
  • Weights: 12 kg gun with bipod + 6 kg tripod
  • Feed: belt
  • Rate of fire: no data