The Type 81 LMG in Civilian Form: Norinco Model 313

Lot 1817 in the September 2019 RIA auction.

The Norinco 313 is the semiauto commercial variation of the Type 81 LMG. The Type 81 was a small arms family of rifle and LMG developed to finally replace the SKS and RPD in Chinese military service. When the Chinese and Soviets parted ways, China was making milled AKs, but did not have the stamped AKM technical data package. They had adopted the AK in the submachine gun role, but had retained use of the SKS as an infantry standard rifle. The Type 63 AK/SKS hybrid was developed in the 1960s, but was not successful enough to replace the SKS. This situation finally came to a head in 1979 with the first Sino-Vietnamese War, and China decided it really had to modernize its small arms.

Under the lead of Wang Zi Jun, the Type 81 was developed. It started both AK and SKS design elements, with a rotating bolt and stamped receiver like the AKM, but a short stroke gas piston like the SKS. It was chambered for the 7.62x39mm cartridge, specifically to be an interim system until development of the 5.8x42mm cartridge could be completed. In particular, the Type 81 was developed to be more accurate than the AK – and it did this successfully, with trials showing it to be 40% more accurate at 300m in semiautomatic fire than the AK.

The Type 81 rifles were equipped with 30-round magazines, and the LMG variant could use those or a 75-round drum. The box magazines are very similar in appearance to AK magazines, but not directly interchangeable, as the Type 81 includes a hold open feature to lock the bolt open when the magazine is empty.

The Type 81 family would go into mass production in 1986, and serve as China’s standard rifle and LMG through the 1990s. It was also sold to a number of foreign countries including Algeria, Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Norinco imported a very small number of semiauto civilian versions into the United States in the late 1980s, of which this is one.


  1. The semi-auto civilian versions have also been imported into Canada in the last few years with a longer barrel to bump it up into the non-restricted classification

  2. The AK is just about all you hear in regards to VC/NVA small arms. We were engaged several times with RPDs and ChiCom Type 56s. At firefight ranges they were very effective weapons, light and maneuverable, high rate of fire, and the 100-round belt drum let it lay down a substantial sustained fire.

  3. The early type I stamped AK of Soviet origin also had a beefed up receiver in the front. It looked vaguely similar to this gun. Considering the 3 decades in difference in ages, both parties used a similar solution.

  4. “Type 81 was developed to be more accurate than the AK – and it did this successfully, with trials showing it to be 40% more accurate at 300m in semiautomatic fire than the AK.”
    This raise question: how do they define accuracy?
    Anyway, I would say it is plausible even with using (possibly) fair definition.
    Soviet Army used thingy called Срединные отклонения по высоте and Срединные отклонения по ширине (most often given in cm). BEWARE that these values are always empirical.
    How they measured it?
    For first: fire even number of bullets at target at which hits will be visible, calculate mean height of hit, draw horizontal line, discard 50% hits which are most distant from it, calculate height difference between highest and lowest hit, divide by 2.
    For second: fire even number of bullets at target at which hits will be visible, calculate mean width of hit, draw vertical line, discard 50% hits which are most distant from it, calculate width difference between rightmost and leftmost hit, divide by 2.
    Query about AKM in Russian Wikipedia: gives these values, for distance=800 m, for following weapons, short bursts (in cm):
    AK: 76 89
    AKM: 64 90
    RPK: 68 67
    RPD: 46 43
    SKS: 38 29
    (remember: lesser = less spread).
    This need some highlights: RPD (“true” machine gun, firing from open bolt) has lesser both spreads that RPK (“overgrown avtomat”, firing from closed bolt), which shows that firing mode alone did not guarantee lesser spread for closed.
    Interestingly both Soviet Union and PRC used RPD and both decided to replace it with derivative of assault rifles, rather than developing completely new machine gun firing intermediate cartridges. Natural question is: does greater spread did not make RPK less effective than older RPD? Answer (in Soviet Army) case was that due to nature of usage of machine guns, that is not greatly visible disadvantage.

    • How they (whoever they are) define term accuracy I do not know. We discussed it in past several times.

      For me personally, the accuracy is hitting where I aim, or as close to it as possible, while minimising individual’s influence. In reality the repeatability is more important that “accuracy”. You can always adjust your sights accordingly. In FN they call it “verite”.

    • What is rarely mentioned and yet it has substantial influence on accuracy/ repeatability is ammunition. What my recent experience with Chinese 7.62x39mm ammo made in 1970 tells me is, that it’s (given origin and time) of high quality. The only point against it is that it is corrosive.

      Very recently I was able to place 10shots at 50m into 4.5cm(1.75″ in) circle fired from my CZ carbine. This was out of bench and with scope; someone else under these circumstances might do even better.

    • According that page what you attached – mean vertical deviation at 300m is 23cm and mean horizontal 33cm (why more than vertical?) is not terrible, but not spectacular either. Weapon’s barrel length is 41cm (16.3in). This is distance at which all assault rifles should be measured, not 100m.

      Sure, 7.62x39mm AKM has its proves, but accuracy is not one of them. The area which can bring improvement is longer sight radius (distance between sights) which designer of Type81 attempted, an idea which was carried over into some late AK designs (AK12, AK15). I suppose latter mentioned weapons should be better in that regard.

      • “(…)This is distance at which all assault rifles should be measured, not 100m.(…)”
        Actually, if you examine data from linked query in wikipedia, distance and срединные отклонения по высоте are closely correlated, distance and срединные отклонения по ширине are closely correlated. If you do not believe, then I promptly inform you that for first pair r-Pearson coef is above 0,9999 and for second pair r-Pearson coef is above 0,9999.
        This mean that – for getting relative spread of various weapon systems – you might use any distance, as long as it is same for all weapon systems.

        What is serious change from earlier designs is that:
        The AK-12 rifle is equipped with an integrated Picatinny rail on top of the redesigned, detachable top cover, which permits simple and fast installation of modern day and night sighting equipment. The top cover is attached to the receiver using a captive cross-pin at the front, and has a spring-loaded element at the rear to provide a stable platform with literally zero play or wobble.
        This allows you to use reflex sight easily and treat iron front-sight as secondary (emergency), making problem “my line sight is too short” moot.

        • Since we measure dispersion of rifles in minutes of angle it should not matter much. But you have addition of external factors such as wind and mirage which add to it. So, it is not just simple multiplication.

          As much as historical-statistical findings go that rifles are used at much shorter distance, it is ultimately the intended applicable range which gives best picture. I can reminding here you of recent U.S. Army study with title “Taking back half kilometer”.

          In CSLA we were shooting vz.58 rifles at variety of ranges depending on particular service. In my unit it was 100 and 200 meters; in mechanised infantry units it was up to 800m. If you wonder how rifle with barrel just 15.6in long can do it, I’d say – apparently it can. True, 800m is little optimistic for that particular rifle and scaling its range back to something like 300m sounds about right. Again, my personal view.

  5. The rifle from which this LMG is derived is apparently the best AK-like rifle in existence. Easy field stripping is one of arguments in its favour.
    Why AK continues to dwell on long stroke operating system is hard to understand.

    As previous contributor has mentioned it is available as “non-restricted” in Canada but for rather elevated price $990.- CDN. This in combination with somewhat poor workmanship leaves me uninterested.

    This rifle has been basis for following model – QBZ03.

    • Old saying as why we still have long-stroke AK: “If it isn’t broken, there is no need to fix it.” I almost wish we could have said the same about the M14, which many say was US Army Ordnance’s attempt to “fix” the original M1 Garand and wound up becoming broken due to a lack of field testing in simulated combat conditions (why Springfield Armory did not pick up on why Imperial Japan coated its rifle stocks in WEATHER-RESISTANT LACQUER FOR USE IN HOT TROPICAL JUNGLE USAGE is beyond my knowledge!).

      • That may be indeed so. Russians in particular seem to play minimalist policy when comes to rifles. The Chinese are lot more adventurous and as a result some of it ended up as garbage.

        When comes to M1 to M14 conversion, my thinking is it was basically a PIP (product improvement program). Changes were needed and Springfield armory, just before their closure, delivered. The real shoot-out was not supposed to be between M14 and M16, but between M14 and M10 (with reversed designation).

        • Wait, did you mean M14 vs AR-10? Because that’s pretty much what happened with the AR-10’s barrel bursting from overpressure ammunition (or, as conspiracy theorists think, due to intentional sabotage by Ordnance pouring some nasty acid down the barrel so that it corroded).

          • Yeah.. I jumped 2 steps ahead. Good to be on guard against non-sense 🙂

            If I recall right, the AR10 barrel burst happened as part of (rather foolish) experiment to lighten rifle ad max by keeping thin steel liner inside of finned aluminum outer jacket. Late experiments replaced aluminum with composite materials which seem to work quite reliably.

        • “(…)Russians in particular seem to play minimalist policy when comes to rifles.(…)”
          That was underestimating the Soviet willingness to make the most of existing technology, as opposed to the American instinct of wanting to come up with the latest whizzy thing.
          That being said, more capable automatic rifles were developed and put into limited scale service, like for example AN-94 which provided increased hit probability at cost of more complicated field strip and more recently 6P67 and 6P68, see photos:

          but these (6P67 or 6P68) were never intended to totally replace older AK variants, as “every soldier” piece of kit.

          • What you say is true when comes to Russian designers potential – they certainly have plenty of it. But as we all know, at the end it is the army procurement who decides what and how is going to be implemented. Same applies for United States and elsewhere.

            Maybe word “conservative” would fit better than “minimalist”.

          • “(…)Maybe word “conservative” would fit better than “minimalist”.(…)”
            I would call it preference for evolutionary progress over revolutionary changes.

    • “(…)Why AK continues to dwell on long stroke operating system is hard to understand.(…)”
      I do not understand why is that difference so important for you? What advantages and disadvantages would such altering made?

      • The assembly and disassembly of long stroke gas operated mechanism is awkward; there does not need to have an argument about that. In addition, having ‘mobile assembly’ (as French call it) broken into two portions is advantageous from vibration transfer standpoint. Finally, the short stroke system is somehow simpler to produce. I suppose I am influenced by my direct experience with vz.58.

        • “(…)vz.58(…)”
          Ah, ok. Then keep in mind that (in most of WarPact member) states, soldiers were supposed to do field-strip only of AK variants. According to
          only Soviet and Polish operator’s manuals trusted soldiers with detailed stripping procedure of the rifle; all other Warsaw Pact OMs only dealt with field-stripping for cleaning, reserving detailed stripping for the authorized repair personnel only
          Always, keep in mind, that most Soviet-designed have easier field-strip procedure and not necessarily as easy full-strip procedure. This is actually logical if you take in account that, if weapon is so badly damaged that it needs full strip to repair, it would be most probably beyond reach of common soldier, both in term of ability (knowledge) and tools available.

      • You can say that long stroke unity gas operated mechanism is not just matter of past in assault rifles and it can be supported by fact. There is one such case in SAR21

        It comes more as a matter of personal experience/ preference. Because I am not keen on it for above mentioned reasons does not make it any worse.

    • Long stroke pistons work reliability (the #1 Russian small arms priority) under really adverse conditions. That’s also why they are (by Western standards) terribly overgassed — yeah, under any but the most ridiculous of conditions they are overgassed… which means there is still enough gas under the worst conditions you could expect to fight in.

      Accuracy is “good enough” for Russian requirements (and, frankly, the majority of the AK’s accuracy problem are the 19th Century style sights with SMG length sight radius on almost all variants, combined with ammunition whose production tolerances – and thus consistency – are geared for lots of trainloads – the long piston is nearly irrelevant to their accuracy “issues”). Maintenance is slightly simplified (a minimum of one less little part to mess with or lose).

      It works and it meets their realistic needs. Why change? Not the choices I would make for the US Army, but I’m not designing arms for the Russian Army and *their* needs, am I?

  6. I wish I could have bought one of these back in the day. I’ve got a NHM91 and it’s a great shooting RPK clone. We can thank the first Bush administration and their wisdom for protecting us from this evil rifle.

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