North Korean Type 58 Milled AK

North Korea was one of several recipients of Soviet military technological aid during the Cold War, being provided the design package and manufacturing assistance for both the SKS and AK-47 rifles. The AK was adopted by North Korea in 1958, in the Type 3 milled-receiver style. This was just shortly before the Soviet Union would introduce its stamped-receiver AKM, having spent nearly 10 years developing and perfecting the sheet metal fabrication expertise required (the original stamped-receiver AK-47 was a failure in mass production).

North Korea only produced something on the order of 50,000 Type 58 AKs – a substantial number of guns, although quite small in comparison to most other AK variants produced worldwide. They have found their way into numerous conflicts worldwide, but very few are registered and transferrable in the US, making this one quite the rare example.

41 Comments

  1. I have used North Korean AKs, finish on the working parts was horrible and they worked sort of.
    Was much happier with East German or Russian AK47/Ms 🙂
    Wish I’d knew how scarce these things are.

    • Given that, I’d say the North Korean AK was only good for parades. Any serious war longer than 3 years totally and “Dear Leader” would only have sticks and stones left for his army if Russia and China didn’t intervene! Trust me, China sees North Korea as an embarrassment.

      Against this variant of the AK, I suppose the Browning wz.1928 would win in terms of actually having good quality parts which weren’t made from melted-down cooking pots and pans!

      Did I mess up?

      • Although it’s ostensibly a “Korean made” rifle, I’ve got to wonder how much of it was domestically made and how much was an assemblage of imported (perhaps Chinese or Soviet-made) parts, maybe not unlike the way that many post-AWB [922r] “American made” AKs have been.

        Also considering that North Korea was largely a rural country in the 1950s without much of a manufacturing base, a 100% domestically-made product (if that were the case) should raise questions about the quality of their materials and workmanship. For instance, making high-quality steel is not as simple a task as something like casting bronze, as there are so many small variables that can greatly affect steel’s strength, ductility, and other physical properties. Any mechanic who bought Chinese-made hand tools back when they were first being imported in the 1980s would be well aware how easily they’d bend or break at the first instance of hard use (though despite their horrible reputation, just about all tools sold today are Chinese made).

        The wood on this rifle reminds me of willow or cottonwood, or any of the various fast-growing trees native to China, which breaks easily and rots quickly, but is a very light weight wood.

        That’s not meant to disparage Asian manufacturers. It’s no secret that some of the worst quality AKs today are made in the USA, such as those coming out of companies such as Inter Ordnance.

        • Actually, you’d be surprised to learn that under Japanese colonial rule, most industry–such as it was–was concentrated in the North. The South was far more agrarian and rural… The RoK worried about “catching up” to the North/DPRK until well into the 1960s, ruled by a development-crazed military dictatorship before democratizing in the 1980s/1990s. The present deplorable state of the North is a real censure of its leading party and the ruling hermit kingdom dynasty.

          In a memorandum of conversation in the 1980s Fidel Castro claimed to José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola that the DPRK/KPA had essentially donated omething like 100k Kalashnikovs–AKMs–to the Cuban MININT and MINFAR. That was in the 1980s when a direct U.S. intervention into the ongoing Central American Civil Wars also seemed poised at Cuba. Some North Korean Kalashnikovs, along with Hungarian, DDR/E German, plain-vanilla Soviet, and Yugoslav RPKs turned up in the late 1980s in El Salvador when the FMLN was angling for a negotiated settlement with the armed forces.

          • Thanks for the interesting tidbit on the memorandum from the 1980s a conversation between Fidel Castro and MPLA’s José Eduardo dos Santos! I wonder whan opinion the Cubans had on DPRK-made AKMs, especially if compared to Kalashnikov variants made in E. Germany and USSR.

            Interestingly, at the onset of the Angolan civil war, the North Koreans were helping Holden Roberto’s FNLA and their Zairean allies, the sworn enemies of Soviet and Cuban backed MPLA/FAPLA… One of the 130mm guns (possibly M 46s of Chinese manufacture) supplied to Mobutu (used alongside the vaunted G-2 used by the SADF) failed famously at the battle of Quifangondo on November 1975, when its breech exploded with the first shot, killing a commanding officer and the (admittedly incompetent) entire crew. A second 130mm misfired and injured its crew, because they had failed to follow specific instruction from the original Korean-language only, manual… After these episodes, the Zairean artillerymen refused to fire the North Korean guns.

          • Really interesting detail about one of the lesser-known aspects of the Angolan Civil War, Ruy — thank you! Based on the information, it would appear to be more a case of misuse by the end users rather than being any real fault of the M-46’s in question. Of course, Korean-language user manuals would hardly have helped in these circumstances.

          • From the perspective of someone who worked in Angola, after the majority of the ‘it had hit the fan.
            yeah, I can believe.

            Using the model\of a subsistence farm for a thought experiment, it is easy to see how dictators (and socialists – that’s a distinction without a difference) mess up.

            You can live like a lord, by slaughtering and barbecuing your breeding animals, brewing your seed corn into beer, and burning your furniture and floorboards as fuel

            for a short while….

            then reality catches up, and reality is twin (triplet) sister to unintended consequences and nemesis. All three are absolutely vindictive, and definitely not to be messed with.

            The gun is certainly interesting, but it might also actually be quite good. the metal may well have been imported, and the AK was good bey design, rather than by material spec. there aren’t many “bad” AKs about, just as there aren’t many bad Mauser 98s about. they’re good by design, rather than material.

          • R. Aballe:

            http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/118093

            Scroll to “Hoja 16-18” for Fidel Castro’s 8 Sep. 1986 conversations about creating the levee-en-masse “Guerra de todo el pueblo” doctrine after Reagan entered the White House, Alexander Haig vowing to turn Cuba into a “f****** parking lot” should the wars in Central America turn into a region-wide conflict, acquisition of a “million and a half” small arms, etc. Most important, scrool to “Hoja 57-58” to see that Korea sold Kalashnikovs to Cuba at cost and on credit, while “Yugoslav weapons were a bit more expensive, but not as expensive as the Bulgarian … Oh, and the Romanian ….” etc.

            Saludos,
            –DC

    • Hi, Rob :

      Interesting comments on your part. Given your greater familiarity with the North Korean-made AK’s, would it be too much to ask if you could share some more details about the Type 58, especially when compared to it’s Russian, Eastern-Bloc and Chinese counterparts, in terms of functionality as well as quality? This would be a rare insight for all of us given the relative scarcity of the Type 58 for full evaluation outside of North Korea.

      • Hi, Earl:

        You are welcome! Yes, indeed. I am pretty sure that, if used properly, the M-46s (or quite possibly its Chinese-made derivative, the Type 59, which has a different muzzle break among other differences) is a formidable field gun by any standards. I can only imagine what the (mostly) French-speaking Zairean artillerists might have thought when faced with firing tables and manuals available in Hangul characters…

  2. I wonder if it’s a “red dawn” movie gun. they said there were only a few AK’s in the country at that time…and they used most of them in the movie.

    • The blouses have brass buttons and the helmets have a bright decal… I’m wondering if those are some sort of dress uniform. The rifles sure look like 5.45mm AK74s, albeit with Romanian-style metal magazines. As I recall the Great Leader Kim Il Sung used to go hunting every now and then with ol’ Nicolae Ceausescu…

      Of course, the anniversary of the founding of the DPRK and the KPA, and the celebration of the regime’s survival in 1953-2013 saw all kinds of hyperbole and huge military parades. Several units in retro KPA uniforms trundled out the Mosin-Nagant 1891/30 with bayonet fixed which, as you might imagine, was reported endlessly on the internet as “Golly gee! Lookit! The North Koreans still use the Mosin!” Uh. Well, if by “use” one means as essentially a theatrical prop, then yes… “used.”

      • The Russians still use the SKS as an honor guard weapon, because it’s longer, lacks the obtrusive magazine and has a nice long wooden stock.

        Incidentally, the Finnish Army actually still uses the Mosin in the form of the 7.62 Tkiv 85 (Tkiv = “Tarkkuuskivääri”, literal translation “Precision Rifle”, usually translated as sniper rifle).

    • Thanks for the great photographs, Denny. It makes me sad that young women like these — if left to their own devices and given some real, unbiased education and exposure would probably be easily as innovative, spirited and capable of great positive potential as anyone else — are being subverted and molded ( probably with no ability to choose on their part, or who are fully indoctrinated in the “Great Leader’s” know-it-all wisdom because they have nothing better to compare it to ) in this vein. That is the harsh truth behind what most would inaccurately and mistakenly consider mere, amusing “show” propaganda.

      • If someone would actually rid us of the “Great Leader,” his entire inner circle, and the rest of the “civil” North Korean government by means of Davy Crockett nukes, how would its army react?

        • Great question, Cherndog. I’m guessing the result could easily go in ten or more different directions depending on a host of variables within the NKPA — variables such as the ratio of “hawks” to “doves” ( the term is, I would stress, quite relative in this case ), prevailing political perceptions ( for what little perceptions are really worth compared to hard truths, but we are stuck with the former, like it or not ), personal ambitions and relationships within the heirarchy and the timing thereof, and the ability to marshal the support of the masses where and when needed, among many others.

          The biggest problem with North Korea that the rest of the world has to deal with is its unpredictability in a given situation. This unpredictability is not necessarily a direct result of Quixotic impulse or random aberration — far from it, I think. As far as the North Korean leadership is concerned, the means justify the ends, regardless of the price. There is a cold, almost inhuman but undeniable hard mathematical logic to this thought process. With few, if any, exceptions, humanity with all its nuances probably does not take much precedence with the NKPA’s leadership, but zero-sum numbers and equations almost certainly do on the world stage.

          It would be sensible to assume that at least some members of the NKPA have a more human and worldly appreciation than one would think, for many have the benefit of a sound education coupled with sufficient outside exposure, as witness Kim Jong-Un himself. One only has to look more closely at the level of sophistication, however restrained, exhibited by the educated women of the ruling party to realize that there exists a certain keen awareness of the world at large, the deceptively staid demeanour and dress code of the men notwithstanding. The real problem is what they choose to do with this knowledge they have relative to the betterment of their people while still staying within the bounds of reason and fitting in with the rest of the globe — or not. How they weigh up their priorities and act accordingly is something only they will know, because their collective perceptions in the light of their ambitions is very different from the thought/logic processes that you and I live by. Hence the seemingly incomprehensible courses of action they have sometimes taken — incomprehensible to most of us, but probably eminently sensible from their standpoint. And, let’s face it, this approach has, thus far, worked for them in the context of those ambitions, regardless of the cost to their own people and to others as well.

      • I wish this is not taken as much on ideological or political line. Their society is light years away from what we in West perceive as a norm; they are bound to be very different and therefore looked at with great degree of curiosity.

        I merely meant to point out mainly their military culture, which apparently permeates all parts of their lives. In their point of view, it is obviously necessity of grave importance.

        Interestingly, in Chinese society is greater variation of views and attitudes. I had one my past friend of Chinese background to comment on Chinese females involved in military as being (quote) “not very intelligent”. You can pick it any way you can.

    • It’s funny how these Korean women are all the same height, as if they were measured for it. Also, it would seem a bad idea for female soldiers to be wearing skirts (for obvious reasons) and particularly considering what happened to Korean women the last time the Japanese invaded, but maybe that’s now a distant memory.

        • It seemed to be a standard Communist/Marxist/Leninist/Maoist ideal to get women “out of the kitchen” and involved in public life. Ironically, that was the critical mistake made by the Soviet-aligned government of Afghanistan, since that controversial policy became a rallying point fully exploited by the United States, in a drive to create a worldwide movement of militant fundamentalist Sunni Islam to oppose the secular quasi-feminist policies in Afghanistan.

          The concept of Pan-Islamic nationalism might have been almost entirely a CIA invention, constructed for a specific purpose (eradicating Soviet influence in Afghanistan), but once created, could not simply be extinguished when its usefulness to US strategic interests had run its course.

        • Trust me: The KPA infiltrators who sneak into the South are trained to commit suicide… By biting off their tongues! Any account of the fighting in the Korean War indicates that both the KPA and the RoKA are, as the saying has it, “tough as coffin nails.”

      • The myth of Napoleon being “the little corporal” began with the fact that one of the requirements he laid down for his personal guard was that they all be at least six feet tall.

        Combined with their headgear, they made an efficient “shield” against assassination attempts. While Bonaparte was no coward, he had a healthy respect for the skills of rifle-armed sharpshooters on the battlefield, having seen what the franc-tireurs of the French revolutionary armies could do in “decapitating” enemy units with pinpoint rifle fire against officers, especially ones on horseback.

        Where the myth part comes in is that Napoleon was five feet four, which was about average height for a man of his era. But he was always seen in the field accompanied by men at least as tall as I am (6′ 0″).

        As such, he always looked “little” by comparison.

        Selecting “special units” for specific physical attributes like height, etc., is an old story, especially with dictatorships.

        The Nazis carried it to an extreme, and the result was the SS.

        I wouldn’t expect Mini-Kim to let anyone else outdo him in this department; it’s a question of the perception of “face”, in his culture.

        cheers

        eon

        • The mustard color is the retro Korean War-era uniform. You can see any number of women troops in the DPRK marching in any number of modern uniforms, operating AA guns and missiles, Kalashnikovs, and nurses with the KPA version of the Sudayev PPS43. In fact, there’s a creepy fetish for North Korean women who serve as traffic directors… Something to do with uniforms and being living automatons. Chinese tourist men post youtube photos of them all the time, if you swing that way. Of course many North Koreans attempt to flee, under threat of very dire punishment indeed for themselves and family members. Some are enslaved and forced to work dreadful jobs–including sexual trafficking–in Russia and China. Still others make it to Thailand, which allows them to defect to South Korea.

          The odd thing about Korea is that the South, ruled by first the armed forces and later democratizing in the name of Chae-bol/old-boy network capitalists, Japanese collaborators, and utterly, implacably hostile to communism is now one of the leading world economies, fully integrated into the East Asian/Pacific Rim second wave globalization… Meanwhile, the North, in the name of “socialist internationalist” ideology has created the most grimly totalitarian neo-Confucianist hermit kingdom, utterly inward looking and all about “Juche” or self-reliance, i.e. a garrison state in which the state and the army appear inseparable.

        • King Friderich der Große/Frederick the Great’s father used to, erm, “collect” freakishly tall people… He kept them for his court’s amusement, sort of a carnival freak show of sorts. Frederick the Great surrounded himself with really, really tall bodyguards. Recall that Frederick also forbade coffee drinking, which was an effeminate and enfeebling elixir of the type preferred by French intellectuals like Voltaire (a romantic rival for the attentions of a certain Italian count…), meanwhile it was Bier, a healthful malted cereal beverage that was what über-manly men drank…

          The artillery officer Napoleon followed in a long line…

          The “Bohemian corporal” Adolf Hitler also apparently rejected appropriately robust Aryan types from the Leibstandarte AH if they had dental fillings or other defects…

      • The mustard color is the retro Korean War-era uniform. You can see any number of women troops in the DPRK marching in any number of modern uniforms, operating AA guns and missiles, Kalashnikovs, and nurses with the KPA version of the Sudayev PPS43. In fact, there’s a creepy fetish for North Korean women who serve as traffic directors… Something to do with uniforms and being living automatons. Chinese tourist men post youtube photos of them all the time, if you swing that way. Of course many North Koreans attempt to flee, under threat of very dire punishment indeed for themselves and family members. Some are enslaved and forced to work dreadful jobs–including sexual trafficking–in Russia and China. Still others make it to Thailand, which allows them to defect to South Korea.

        The odd thing about Korea is that the South, ruled by first the armed forces and later democratizing in the name of Chae-bol/old-boy network capitalists, Japanese collaborators, and utterly, implacably hostile to communism is now one of the leading world economies, fully integrated into the East Asian/Pacific Rim second wave globalization… Meanwhile, the North, in the name of “socialist internationalist” ideology has created the most grimly totalitarian neo-Confucianist hermit kingdom, utterly inward looking and all about “Juche” or self-reliance, i.e. a garrison state in which the state and the army appear inseparable.

      • Don’t forget the famines in the 1990s…And after the recent severe floods, likely to resume. I’m inclined to think some South Korean women probably stand a head taller…

  3. Some things that were immediately noticeable were the apparent roughness and prominence of the machining marks in the bolt carrier trackway for the bolt cam, and in the floor of the lower receiver. While I doubt the latter had any real mechanical significance, the former would appear to at least have had some sort of effect on smooth, long-term mechanical functionality. Of course, appearances can often be deceptive, and I might be completely wrong on this count.

    Perhaps someone with greater familiarity with the Type 58 will be able to clarify this.

    • The bolt camming lug never touches that part of the bolt carrier. It only touches the angled bearing surfaces, which look like they’re smooth.

      • Good point, and thank you. It was just that the raised surfaces of the rough-machined area in question appeared to protrude so much that I had to pose the question for clarification. Sometimes, it is a bit more difficult to tell from video or photographs alone — nothing quite like being able to physically put your own hands on it to make a final determination.

    • When you mention the “apparent roughness” they (the weapons) are made with, it reveals the fact how much effort is indeed necessary to be put into firearms production to make them functional for intended service period.

      In contrary, in the West we see them as subject of sort of higher art (this goes back to European middle ages) and it serves in reality to no other purpose than to make them more attractive to potential buyer; it is more-less mercantile item.

    • Actually they were invented in India and only transmitted to Europe by the Arabs. Western style typography for numerals (also called “Western Arabic”, since it was developed in North Africa, which is what the Japanese and Koreans follow, is nevertheless quite distinct from the Eastern Arabic one, let alone classic Hindi scripts.

      • Off-topic, I know, but what you said just reminded me of something from my boyhood ; and it does have a relationship, however indirect, to the topics of military history we so often discuss here on FW. When I was aged thirteen, I was in a Malay second-language class at school that was taught by a gentleman who simply did not look the part of a teacher. There are few, if any, occasions I can think of, even to this day, where appearances could be so deceptive. Of course, when you are a thirteen year-old adolescent all full of himself, you tend to go mostly on physical appearances, which is a huge mistake. To us, he looked like a buffoon and we secretly made fun of him behind his back.

        Everything eventually came to a head one June day when he presented the class with an exceptionally difficult Malay comprehension test, so challenging that even the most proficient students were having a hard time. In the middle of the class period, the teacher got up, said he would be back in fifteen minutes and admonished us to concentrate on the test. Now, we all knew from long observation that he was in the habit of writing out his test questions, with the appropriate answers, in his teacher’s log book so that he would have a template he could refer to when marking large volumes of tests and exams. And there it was — the self-same teacher’s log book, sitting unattended on his desk while he was gone! Our collective opinion of him, already low, took an immediate nosedive as we grabbed the log book and started searching for the answers to the test that we knew with absolute certainty had to be written in it. And there it was, on Page 7 — written in Jawi script ( an Arabic script similar to Sanskrit, for those who might wonder ). That is when we realized who the real buffoons were. We later discovered that our teacher was a gifted scholar who was linguistically proficient, in both the spoken and written form, in eight different languages, and that his family had endured and survived some of the greatest brutalities visited upon civilians during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya during the war. And that somehow, even though his education had been set back by at least four years because of the Occupation and the need to merely survive, he had somehow managed to get caught up in the immediate post-war years in spite of the odds. His obvious talent marked him for far greater accomplishments out in the world at large, yet he chose to forgo all this and become an underpaid, under-appreciated school teacher with little prospect beyond the expectation of high blood pressure, ulcers, gross ingratitude and a lousy retirement plan because he really believed in brats like us and hoped beyond hope that we would amount to something beyond the obvious.

        Thereafter, everyone worked as diligently as he could to learn in class and pass this gentleman’s stringent language exams the right way — by actually paying attention and practicing constantly. We also learned a life lesson that was even more important that has stuck with me to this day. Needless to say, after that seminal June day, we all had the greatest respect for our teacher, and he proved to be a friend and mentor of unfailing patience and humanity. We all know about the thankless task that school teachers have, and God alone knows how they endure in the face of callous students, stupid angry parents, uncaring administrators and asinine politicians.

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