North Korean Type 73: A PK That Uses Both Mags and Belts

Many of the small arms developed in North Korea show substantial Czechoslovakian influence, and the Type 73 machine gun is no exception. Based on the concept of the Czech 52/57 light machine gun, the Type 73 is able to use both magazines and belts (although not both simultaneously). fundamentally, it is a copy of the Soviet PK machine gun, but with a top cover modified to use 30-round unique box magazines. The magazine is designed to have a single-feed presentation, and to cycle rounds backwards like a Boberg or Mars pistol. This is necessary for the magazine to function with the claw-type pull-out extractor used in the PK design. The Type 73 has several other unique features, including a rifle grenade spigot and sights and a slip-on muzzle brake if rifle grenades are not necessary.

Adopted in 1973, the Type 73 was only used for about 10 years before being replaced by the Type 82, a more direct copy of the PKM that only used belts. They were extremely rare in Western hands for many years, until a small number began recently showing up in the Middle East and North Africa. These most likely trace back to sale of Type 73s (and other arms) to Iran during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, which are now being supplied to small pro-Iranian factions.

Many thanks to the French IRCGN (Criminal Research Institute of the National Gendarmerie) for generously giving me access to film this exceptionally rare specimen for you! They maintain an extensive firearms reference collection as part of their mission to fight crime and international terrorism.


  1. “Many thanks to the French IRCGN (Criminal Research Institute of the National Gendarmerie)”

    Wow! You have become a big deal internationally!

    Prostrating himself on the floor, “We are not worthy…we are not worthy…”

  2. “Do you want a belt or magazine fed gun that also fires grenades?”

    “Only if you put a bayonet lug on it”

    An example of the Good Idea Faerie?

  3. please buy a 4k camera because the videos you create are of poor quality, you record with a camera that is 10 years old, my phone records better video

  4. “Based on the concept of the Czech 52/57 light machine gun, the Type 73 is able to use both magazines and belts (although not both simultaneously). fundamentally,”
    Note that RP-46 which was used by North forces during Korean War was also able to do it
    in this case it would accept DP pan magazine. Note that this might be due to inheriting from progenitor rather than planned from very beginning.

  5. jamaja, are you a supporter of Ian on Patreon like me? If not, join, and contribute some funds for a new camera. If you don’t want to do that, don’t complain about what you are getting for free (and I think Bob could make a go of having a paid membership website, so count your blessings)

    • Excuse me, I was thinking about another web host I support, Bob Zimmeerman of “Beyond the Black”. Sorry, Ian

    • I think most of the user base would beg to differ with you on that, particularly the ones forced to use the damn thing in both feed modes. There ain’t nothing “successful” about that feature, and I’d strongly suggest its deletion in any future versions of the M249.

      You want success? I’d look at the Negev; that, at least, has the virtue of usually working without producing incessant jamming of the weapon. Reputedly–Never had the privilege of firing one.

      We once did a time-test for one of our less-brilliant company-grade officers, who’d suggested we trade off our belted 5.56mm for some favor, and conduct training with magazines on the M249.

      Results of said test? It was actually faster to have guys reloading spent links with boxed 5.56mm than to try to do the magazine-feed thing, once you factored in all the flippin’ jamming that went on. I remember one epic triple-feed from a magazine that damn near required getting a Dremel tool out and cutting up the stuck cases.

      The word “success” in conjunction with the magazine/belt feed of the M249? Particularly a worn example…? That word has no business being in the same paragraph.

      I would suggest the substitution of the words “popular” or “widespread”, rather than “successful”, because that-there sumbitch ain’t nowhere near “successful”, in any way, shape, or form.

      Frankly, I taught my gunners that magazines were only to be used in situations where they had no other choice, and were looking at re-enacting Little Big Horn, or something equally dire. It’s really that bad, especially when you couple worn-out magazines with equally worn-out guns.

      • “(…)I would suggest the substitution of the words “popular” or “widespread”, rather than “successful”, because that-there sumbitch ain’t nowhere near “successful”, in any way, shape, or form.(…)”
        Maybe just add market before successful?

        “(…)You want success? I’d look at the Negev;(…)”
        And what about HK 21
        its belt feed module was located below the receiver. This made the loading and unloading of the belt somewhat less comfortable than on other weapons, such as the MG 3. On the other hand, it allowed for the easy replacement of the belt feed module with a magazine adapter module, which permitted the use of standard G3 rifle magazines or specially developed 80-round double drums.

      • “…Reputedly–Never had the privilege of firing one…”(C)

        Everything is not so rosy.
        The Negev has a habit of ripping magazines like a monkey.
        At least J.I. mags.

      • You are right, magazine feed was designed as an emergency feature. Realistically more of a marketing trick than a practical one.
        Reduced friction from magazine compared to belt drag increases rate of fire which decreases reliability.

        • You also had the not-so-minor issue of worn magazines spilling multiple cartridges into the action due to the magazine feed chute being spread wide, enabling the feed lips to spread, which led to some really, really interesting jams.

          I ain’t kidding when I say there were some I had to deal with that required chopping up the cartridge cases involved before I could get the bolt and bolt carrier free of the receiver. There was one jam that was so bad it looked as though someone had tried cycling the action in a bin full of ammo, and the cartridges got into places I simply could not work out a rational explanation for.

          I honestly have to question the utility of dual-feed, especially as implemented in the M249. If you’re gonna do it, then I think the correct path is push-through, and have the mag feed either replace the top cover, or go through it the way the Type 73 does it.

          All of the attempts to have the squad support weapon feed from the same magazines/stripper clips as the individual weapon seem subject to some very unfortunate realities, not the least of which is “It doesn’t work very well…”. It’s a compromise too far, one that sounds really good in some staff briefing somewhere, but which the guys out on the ground wind up getting screwed by.

          I would rather that that extra weight on the M249 receiver went into reinforcing it and making it out of heavier-gauge material. The current design is pretty much a disposable weapon, because once that receiver stretches and deforms, you’re not bringing it back no matter how much depot work goes into it.

          What they really need to do is lose the mentality that the receiver is the weapon, and just treat it as a consumable item. Tighten up the specs, and once it goes out of them, replace that bastard. The M249 is a strange little weapon, in that a lot of the subcomponents have far longer lives than the major one, the receiver. I suppose you could lighten those up, and just sh*tcan the entire weapon when the receiver goes, but… I dunno. Especially compared to the M240, the M249 is just… Inadequate. Kleenex, as compared to the heavy linen handkerchief of the M240. That bastard could probably be used to bludgeon Godzilla to death, and still be serviceable afterwards.

    • I am surprised the 5.56 Minimi is still being made and sold (FNMI is currently involved in a major order). It lacks in three areas.

      Firstly it is unduly heavy and complex; secondly it produces due to its questionable barrel attachment wider dispersion than reasonable and thirdly it has poorly designed magazine well. Actually, it is not so much “poorly” designed as it is at wrong location and as a result it creates stoppages during feeding. Misfeeds/ snubs are commonplace. So no, not a stellar weapon at all.

  6. I want to thank Ian for this, and express my utter jealousy for his access to this MG. I’ve wondered for years how the hell the North Koreans pulled that design off, and now I know.

    Give you an idea how obscure and little-known this MG actually is… I remember an epic argument, back in the late 1980s, between some very experienced SF weapons sergeants about just how the hell this thing worked, and how that magazine feed managed what it did. At the time, nobody really knew, and all sorts of crazy ideas about the exact manner in which they’d done it were spinning around. There were a couple of guys who’d argued that this wasn’t really a real weapon, but a mock-up. Because, there was no way it could actually work… People were getting out dividers and scales, measuring off of what photographs were available, and the consensus was that the magazine had to be dropping out rounds onto the feed tray, or something, because there was no way the magazine could be doing a push-through feed positioned where it was on the receiver, if it used a PK-style belt feed.

    I don’t think anyone involved in that discussion ever considered a single-position, backwards-fed magazine as a possible solution to that mechanical mystery.

    I think someone had to actually know what the real deal was, but at that time and place, nobody had a damn clue, and it made for one hell of an argument around the weapons display–Which had the Type 73 up as an image, only. North Korean small arms are in kinda short supply in the US Army, for training purposes.

    • I also read this thesis some place. It was apparently in attempt to support an Islamic state which Bosnia was supposed to become. You will surely know Turkye was involved in it too and quite heavily.

    • I think everybody was sticking their thumbs onto the scales of the former Yugoslavia. And, not to the benefit of any former Yugoslavs, either. I really wish the outsiders had just left well enough alone, starting back in the 1970s.

      Because I sure as hell don’t see how anyone really benefited from any of it, other than the assholes who financed it, and I’m not even really sure they did, either. I’d love to be able to examine the financial records of the various meddlers, and see what actual profit they gained, if any. I’d lay you long odds that they all lost money, over the long haul.

      As an outsider familiar with Yugoslav history, and having grown up amongst the expatriate community here in the US, the whole thing still looks like an outbreak of contagious insanity.

  7. I’m noticing on news reports the Russians appear to have a new generation of AK with a full top rail and other modifications . I thought you might consider doing a video on the new Russian weapons. I assume it would be difficult to physically have in hand but I’m sure everyone would be interested considering current events.

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