Chinese QLZ-87 35mm grenade launcher

A reader emailed me this photo of a Bolivian solider carrying a strange firearms and asked what weapon he was carrying.

I was unable to identify it but Tony Williams, our resident ammunition expert, was. It is a Chinese QLZ-87 35mm grenade launcher.

According to, this fully automatic grenade launcher, like the AR-15, using a direct gas impingement system. It uses 6-round or 15-round drum magazines. The ‘light’ configuration, pictured above, weighs 26 lbs.

[ Many thanks to Tony for providing identification. ]

[ Many thanks to Norm for emailing me the photo. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Theodoric

    37mm is used mainly for gas grenades and the like, isn’t it?

    • Theodoric, in the West, it is often used for less/non-lethal, although it doesn’t have to be.

      Note, this is 35mm, not 37mm. It is a Chinese cartridge.

  • Link with QLZ-87 description, for those interested:

  • The Chinese really do seem to be making big inroads into international weapon sales AND seem to be coming up with some innovative solutions (not just copying Western designs).

    Though, I have to say, I wouldn’t fancy humping this beast around!

    Does anyone know if the Chinese have come up with advanced air-burst grenades for this, or is this simply old fashioned ‘blooper’ style grenades? (I presume from the lack of any advanced optics that it is low tech.)

  • Sian

    That’s a hell of a great sci-fi weapon prop in the making.

    Can I see an Imperial Stormtrooper holding one of these?

  • A Lee

    26 pounds…carried without a sling!

  • SleepyDave

    Digging the $40 crossdraw vest. Looks like an interesting little weapon system, but why does it weigh so much? Is that weight including a loaded magazine?

  • Martin (M)

    Just how are you supposed to fire that thing? The stock and brake are oriented as if that is the firing position, but look at the grip. It sticks out to the side at what looks like 70°-80°. If it’s fired by the butt/brake orientation, then where are the sights? Why is that carry handle so weird? This thing, despite being large, looks like a crazy piece of fail.

  • Martin (M)

    I just noticed another thing, what’s with the 3 loose rifle rounds on his chest? At first I though ‘spotter rounds’, but that’s all wrong. Maybe he just thought they looked cool?

  • Lance

    So what We got the XM-25 and the M-320 now and our 40mm grenades are far more destructive then the lighter Soviet/Chinese 35mm grenades.

  • jdun1911

    26lbs is way too much for what it suppose to do. The m-32 grenade launcher (Milkor MGL) weight less than 12lbs and can carry up to 6 40mm grenades.

    Unlike the USA and other Western countries, Chinese manufactures worst enemy isn’t their own government.

  • Some Guy

    This is more or less a huge grenade sniper. xP

  • SKSlover

    unnesisarilry heavy or not, i wouldnt want to be on the wrong end of ANY full auto grenade launcher.

  • SKSlover

    all of the dudes gear looks like airsoft, with the 3 random rifle rounds thrown in to look “realistic”.

  • Michael Pham

    Its a fully automatic grenade launcher; that’s why its so heavy. It isn’t supposed to be mobilized in the sense that the parade would indicate.

    From all appearances, Chinese order of battle would see these carried mostly on light vehicles by mechanized infantry, who would then deploy to positions to provide a barrage of automatic grenade fire.

    There is a newer version of this weapon detailed on Max Popenker’s World guns site, as he so graciously linked.

    It also shows how you use it, from the prone position, which says loads about what its actually for. Comparing it to the XM25 or the Milkor is apples and oranges. It is more in the class of the MK19. Why the soldier is carrying it is probably just to impress the locals, same reason he’s carrying individual bullets in his chest rig.

  • Michael Pham

    Oh, and for those who would easily make us them comparisons based on hearsay, according to, this is how the QLZ-87 shapes up against its closest counterpart, the MK-19.

    “Compared to the U.S. MK19-3 40mm automatic grenade launcher, the QLZ87 is inferior in range, muzzle velocity, and rate of fire. However, the Chinese 35mm grenade, though lighter than the MK19-3’s 40mm grenade, has better performance in blasting radius (MK19-3: 7m; Type 87: 11m) and armour penetration (MK19-3: 51mm; Type 87: 80mm). Unlike the MK19-3, which can only be fired on tripod, the Type 87 can be carried and fired by a single soldier.”

  • Matt Groom

    Blooper Grenades or Proximity Grenades, it doesn’t matter. That is one scary looking beast that I would not care to be on the receiving end of.

  • Alaskan

    totin’ a 35mm Grenade Launcher..LIKE A BOSS

  • Brad

    Many questions are answered by following the link.

    The odd handgrip is also the charging handle for the bolt. How interesting. The normal weapon firing position is resting on the bipod, drum mag directly underneath, and the firing grip sticking out to the right side.

    This Chinese weapons is not comparable to 40mm GL such as the M320 or Milkor. In fact it falls between those weapons and the 40mm automatic grenade launchers used by western forces.

    The Chinese 35mm ammo has 2.5 times the muzzle velocity and 4 times the maximum range of typical underbarrel 40mm GL. Of course with that increased range comes greater recoil which explains the heavier weight of the Chinese weapon.

    The tactical use of the Chinese weapon would resemble the use of the XM-25 more than anything else, by engaging point targets out to 600 meters. The greater weight of the Chinese weapon and ammo make it more of Platoon level support weapon though. A rifle squads movement would be greatly hampered by bearing the weight of the 26 pound weapon and 1 pound per round ammo.

  • Rohan


    “So what We got the XM-25 and the M-320 now and our 40mm grenades are far more destructive then the lighter Soviet/Chinese 35mm grenades.”

    However, the Chinese 35mm grenade, though lighter than the MK19-3’s 40mm grenade, has better performance in blasting radius (MK19-3: 7m; Type 87: 11m) and armour penetration (MK19-3: 51mm; Type 87: 80mm).

    Ammunition types include the DFS97-35 anti-personnel grenade, with a quoted lethal radius of >=11 m and the DFJ87-35 armour-piercing anti-personnel grenade with a quoted steel armour penetration of 35 mm/ 60° and 80 mm/0°, together with a fragment lethal radius of >=5 m.

    The AGLs (two main types, designated AGS-17 and AGS-30) are in the 30mm VOG-17/30 calibre. This is not such as step-down in effectiveness as might be supposed, as the shell is very long and at 280g is actually slightly heavier than the 40mm HV NATO grenade and contains a similar quantity of HE. The muzzle velocity is 185 m/s and the maximum range is similar to that of the 40mm AGLs, at 1,700m for the original VOG-17 and 2,100m for the new, more aerodynamic, VOG-30.

    For exploding ordnance (including airburst) long slim rounds falling vertically are more efficient eg mortar fire, than spheres (40mm rounds).

    You may want to rethink your statement.

  • coyote

    Just the thing to use for shooting wild hogs!

  • mupp

    “26lbs is way too much for what it suppose to do. The m-32 grenade launcher (Milkor MGL) weight less than 12lbs and can carry up to 6 40mm grenades.”

    The difference is the QLZ-87 can also be belt fed and is used in a similar role to the MK-19.

  • Don

    actually that strange firearm in his crossdraw holster is a flashlight.


  • Lance

    Yes but US carry systems as well as personel carry m,ore 40mm ammo than CHi com dose any way most chi com troops carry less ammo because there tactics are for larger human wave assults.

  • Rohan

    @ Lance.

    I thought your father served in the mid 50’s, not you.

    Terms like “CHI COM” and “human wave” died with the cold war, and that’s been over for 20 years.

    This persistent attack pattern left a strong impression on UN forces that fought in Korea, thus the description of “human wave” was born.[10] US Army historian Roy Edgar Appleman observed that the term “human wave” was later used by journalists and military officials to convey the idea that the American soldiers were assaulted by overwhelming numbers of enemies, but it had no relation to the real Chinese infantry tactics of the same period.[11]

    The PLA abandoned Human wave by 1953 and briefly tried and failed during the Sino-Vietnamese War back in the 1979.

  • Lance


    Sorry most public showing of Chinese tactics shows old Commie ways of fighting. They never fought modern wars with the west so they lack tactics and understanding. The Tactics used in the 2nd Sino Vietnamese war in 1984 showed the same older tactics but with modern support weapons like BM-21s and heavy artillery..

    The Chinese are huge in numbers NOT in quality of troops the Vietnamese have far betterly trained troops than China ever will. And Ive been to Vietnam in modern times.

  • Rohan

    @ Lance.

    Beware when the dragon awakes.

    The allies in the 30’s believed all Japan were short, bucktooth and short sighted. It took three years to defeat Japan.

    The days of Mao, Mao suits and little red stars on hats are over. China today is not the China of 30 years ago. 2nd Sino Vietnamese war was in 1979 (not 1984). China’s growth and rate of change in beyond amazing.

    THE CHINESE ARMY TODAY: Tradition and Transformation for the 21st Century, Dennis J. Blasko, Routledge, London and New York, 2006, 228 pages, $34.95.

    “Modernization of the PLA goes beyond the obvious development and purchase of better arms and equipment. It also includes a thorough revision of doctrine, training, organization, tactics, and leadership. As other armies have realized, a smaller and better led, trained, and equipped force is much more effective than the kind of mass armies created during the industrial age”

  • Inst

    I can’t really believe it when you say that even the light configuration is designed for mechanized infantry; compared to the AGS-17 and Mark 19, this weapon suffers from inordinate recoil and inferior effective range; the Mark 19 and AGS-17 sport ranges around 2200m, while the QLZ-87 only reaches 1700m for maximum range. When you consider effective range versus point targets, the QLZ-89 only has 600m range, while the AGS-17 and Mark 19 can fire to 1500 meters.

    This is only really acceptable as a light infantry weapon, really.

    There’s also a more portable version, the QLZ-87B / QLB-06, which looks like this: . This completely jettisons the automatic capability and much more of the maximum range; but the gain is that it’s half as heavy as the QLZ-87’s light variant for a weight of 9.1kg unloaded and is about as mobile as a medium machine gun.

  • Lance


    Chinas size NOT its equipment is what makes china a threat. The Dragons got number but there tanks are all based on crappy Type-59 tanks there rifles fire weak 5.8mm ammo and lack relighablity and accuracy at long range and Its Navy is made up of ex Soviet ships from the 80s.

    China is a force to be rekonend with but by no means its a threat like the Soviet Union was. Most Chinese solders are poorly trained and brainwased in commie state of mind.

    • Dave

      Is that why China fought the world to a stalemate in the Korean War?

      And talking about numbers

      China, NK, USSR lost a total of 1.2 million troops.

      UN and SK lost about 780, 000 troops.

      China, NK, and USSR had no Navy.

      Both casualties based on US estimates.

  • Rohan

    What about the 1500 Type 88 and Type 99 armed with the standard 125mm Russian gun and AT-11 sniper missiles?

    The Type 59 (1959) was stopped been made in the 80’s. Crappy yes (tank on tank), but every division has tank support.

    The 5.8 heavy fires a 5.0gram / 77 grain bullet at 970m/s. That’s better than the current M855 round of the NATO.

    The 5.8x42mm DBP-88 “heavy round” cartridge has a muzzle velocity of 970 m/s from the Type 95 LSW / Type 95 SAW / QBB-95 (557 mm barrel length) and 895 m/s from the Type 88 / QBU-88 (620 mm barrel length). It has an effective range of 800 m and can penetrate 3 mm steel plates at a distance of 1000 m. It is reported to have very good accuracy at 600 meters.

    As for the Navy, I fully agree.

  • Lance

    The Type 88 is based on the Type 59 chassy and the Type 79s basic turret with HEAT round protection. The Type 99 in many ways is a knock off of the T-72 which dosnt have the best combat record aginst the M-1, Challanger, and M-60 tanks. They dont have the xperince or ideals for armord warfair and so they dont get top line tanks. However most fighting in asia is in unsutable terrain for tanks so you can say China dosnt need a top line tank force since most terrain is not sutable for tank fighting.

    Yes on balistics the 5.8 is longer and heaver but tests done shown the round is worse on over penatration than M-855 ball, so like 9mm NATO it penatraits but it penatraits too much. How ever in none urban fighting this dosnt matter as much. The US is tryng to get new ammo that dosnt over penatrait since it fails to knock down a enemy solder.

    As for small arms Regular elite army units have Type 95 series. but many reserve and People Milita forces still use Type 56 rilfes and Carbines. So theres alot of arms in Chinese service.

    Anyway interesting debat we have here.