The Type 56 assault rifle was adopted by PLA in 1956, along with Type 56 carbine (which was a licence built Soviet SKS copy). The Type 56 assault rifle was, in turn, also a licensed copy of the Soviet AK-47 assault rifle, with minor modifications.
The Type 56 is a Chinese copy of the world-famous Kalashnikov 7.62 mm AK-47 assult rifle, but was categorised as "submachine gun" by the PLA.
The design of the Type 56/AK-47 has been proven to be very successful. The weapon was highly reliable, and tolerant to the abuses of use in the battlefield.
The Type 56 was built in huge numbers, and have been exported to many countries. The weapon was deployed as a standard submachine gun in the PLA infantry squad in combination with the Type 56 semiautomatic rifle from the 1960s to the late 1980s. Some of Type 56s are currently still in operational service with a number of second-line and training units.
The Type 56 was a gas-operated, selective-fire weapon. Like all 7.62 mm Kalashnikov assault rifles, it fired the Chinese-made 7.62 x 39 mm Type 56 round and used a standard 30-round curved box magazine. The Type 56 came in three versions:
Type 56 basic version with a fixed wooden stock, Type 56-1 with a vertically folding metal stock, and Type 56-II with a horizontally folding metal stock. Except for the differences in the stock and the lack of a tool kit with the basic variant, the two versions with folding stock are identical to the basic variant.
The Type 56 is such a reliable wepon that it can function normally after total immersion in mud and water. The fully chromed barrel ensures effective operation even at very low temperatures. Unlike the AKs, the Type 56 is fixed with a foldable bayonet, but the two later version versions have no bayonet.
All Type 56 assault rifles fire in either semiautomatic or automatic mode and have an effective range of about 300 m. At full cyclic rate, they can fire about 600 rounds per minute, with a practical rate of about 100 rounds per minute fully automatic or 40 rounds per minute semiautomatic. Both the Type 56-I and Type 56-II can mount a grenade launcher.
The most serious drawback to the AK-47/Type 56a is the low muzzle velocity (710 meters per second) of the relatively heavy 7.62 mm round. This results in a looping trajectory that requires a clumsy adjustment for accuracy at ranges beyond 300 meters. The barrel overheats quickly when the weapon fires for extended periods, making the weapon hard to handle and occasionally causing a round to explode prematurely in the chamber. The exposed gas cylinder is easily dented, sometimes causing the weapon to malfunction.
Some sources said that quality of those guns was worse than old Soviet originals.
(Note) PLA Official Designation: Type 56 Submachine Gun
Weapontype: Automatic Rifle
Manufacturer: NORINCO 12A Guang An Men Nan Jie, Beijing, China. P.O.Box 2932 Beijing. TEL: (8610)63529988 FAX: (8610)63540398 E-mail: email@example.com
Operation: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Cartridge: 7.62x39 mm
Weight: 4.03 kg (56); 3.70 kg (56-1); 3.90 kg (56-2)
Length: 874 mm (56); (stock closed/open): 654 / 874 mm (56-1/56-2)