Mystery rifle grenade launcher in Burma


During the recent fighting in northern Burma, pictures of a peculiar Chinese Type 81 have emerged in use with the Kachin Independence Army(KIA) rebel group. Due to it’s proximity to the Golden Triangle (area where Thailand, Laos, and Burma meet, rife with the heroin, prostitution, and small arms trade) it is not unusual for the KIA to have sizable amounts of small arms, usually coming from Thailand or China. In the past it has been AKMs, then moving to the Chinese supplied export version of their Type 81 rifle. Recently, this odd derivative has shown up in the media. Knowing that even the KIA’s digital pattern uniforms are similar to the Chinese military’s own uniforms, it is no surprise that they should also have many Chinese small arms.

Outwardly, the rifle resembles the Type 81 from the pistol grip to the chamber but the resemblance stops there. Readers will notice that the collapsible wire stock drops down from the cheek piece. This feature is nothing new with this rifle as new versions of the Type 81 are also incorporating it as opposed to the straight line conventional stock. Where the rifle becomes peculiar is the newly designed barrel and barrel shroud. From examination of the pictures coming out of Kachin State, the author thinks it is a rifle grenade launcher. In some of the pictures, the Kachin’s carrying the rifle have large amounts of what appears to be tubular rifle grenades on their load bearing equipment.


In this photo it also appears to have a magazine that is shorter than a stand issue AKM magazine. The magazine may be different because it is set aside to be only filled with blank cartridges so as to not get confused with live ammunition magazines.   The launching tube also has metal clamps such as the ones found in automobile engines. This concept is similar to the Lee Enfield  rifle grenade launching variant in which the barrel was wrapped with steel bands because of the added stress from the grenade. The problem with this conjecture is that, if it is indeed a rifle grenade launcher, then where is the awkwardly long sight for the high trajectory of the grenade? The rifle has one visible rear sight that appears to be click adjustable and protected by “ears” but there is no front blade or sight. Another interesting note is the disparity between the barrel shrouds in the pictures. Most are different which indicate that it might not have come from full scale factory but a smaller machine shop that cannot afford the precision mass production capability that a factory can. This also explains the lack of a graduated rifle grenade sight.

For those keen eyed readers, notice the same para cord knotting technique is being used by this Kachin to tie the cords on his Load Bearing Vest as is used in the United States for popular para cord bracelets.



Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at


  • Michael

    Last picture, AK, M1carbine, pistol and the rifle grenade launcher, oh and a very gay hat

    • Tom

      I think those bags in the background are probably filled with more hats.

      • milo

        those hats are an expierimental chinese armor. make the enemy keel over laughing and they cant shoot you.

        • big daddy

          Those hats might be pretty good in 110F degree jungle with 100% humidity.

          • milo

            those hats may be good but a boonie is better

      • ChuckyTee

        Those are body bags. Or bodies under tarps. The guns are from the bodies. And yes the hat is awful.

  • burkefett

    The barrel on those rifles seems to be abnormally short for a rifle grenade launcher – unless it’s a spigot-type launcher, the barrel looks like it’s less than 10 inches long. Even if the barrel runs the entire length of the launcher, would it provide enough thrust to launch the grenades as far as, say, an M203?

    • bbmg

      Given the ventilated tube, it’s probably of the “bullet trap” type, where instead of a blank cartridge you fire a standard round which is “caught” by the grenade and the combination flies off as one:

      • Bill

        I believe you are right.

        • Bill

          Adding on to my previous comment and looking at it on a separate day; it appears that the holes are the heat shroud for the non-firing hand and the barrel of course extend through that section (probably gets hot and obviously needs the ventilation) . the added “cup” with the 2 metal bands is clearly the cup for the grenade. All that combined, it makes sense that it would most likely be the bullet trap type, rather than blanks. the best way to determine which is to identify the grenades/ordnance used.

  • Yves

    Don´t know but that GL looks like a funny weapon. Big Booms everywhere 🙂

  • big daddy

    Logic, it is easier to make a rifle grenade than a 40mm grenade like the US forces use and even what Russia uses. Much more complex. This way all you need is a tube, explosives in a container with a fuse. It’s launched with the blanks made of spent cartridges. Much simpler system and easier to make in small village type industry. The diameter of the grenade fits the tube, it is like a spigot system. You don’t need or want a long barrel. I’m sure they experimented and you can use worn out barrels instead of just throwing the weapon out when the barrel is worn they make grenade launchers out of them, brilliant. It might work more like a mortar and be fired from the ground on their stock??? The German had a very similar type in WWII for their bolt action G98.

  • Kai

    I didn’t know the US had a monopoly on paracord braiding.

  • Vinay

    To me it looked like an Integrally suppressed Type 81. Does anyone else think like that?

    • bbmg

      The holes in the tube would make it useless as a suppressor body

  • Ripley

    “where is the awkwardly long sight for the high trajectory of the grenade”

    Sights are only for newbies learning how to aim.

    Seriously, rifle grenades aren’t accurate anyway, not like 40mm. The ones I’ve fired from H&K G3 are just smoke grenades and the recoil is so brutal you can’t even fire from the shoulder but in a special kneeling position trying to aim like some catapult.

    • bbmg

      My first though was that a bullet trap type grenade should have no more recoil than firing a normal round, but because it is still slipped over the barrel there is quite a kick to it. It can be seen clearly here with the M100 GREM based on the Israeli SIMON, not your average reactions to 5.56mm carbines:

      • Ripley

        Here’s the recoil of such smoke grenades, fired by Swedes using G3/Ak4. These use special 7.62 primer rounds and the grenade has a special seal to the barrel. As seen here the handling is quite special and you fire with your thumb. If you don’t hold on to the gun it will bruise you 😉

  • anon

    Sounds like a development similar to the Kbkg wz. 1960, but for cup grenades.

  • noob

    In my wildest dreams I want this weapon to be a direct fire gyrojet rifle. A blank cartridge ignites the propellant in the rocket and flames exhaust out of the holes in the hand guards… You aim down the sights and the rocket flies true, bringing 60g of high explosive to your enemy.

  • Tribulationtime

    Rifle grenades have a strong recoil. I supouse it fire trap-bullet grenades. I belive the device had 3 purpouses: Recoil reduction, Enhance accurazy and variable range. In a cheap and symple fashion, of course.

  • Smince

    That’s actually just a chain weave on the paracord, which nobody really uses for bracelets. It’s quick and useful for shortening a length of cordage and unravels with a gentle tug once the end is unlocked.

  • Lance

    Its a Burmese hybrid it looks like a Type 81 receiver with folding stock and the front end remade to be a pure grenade launcher. Bet you two to one that the KIA has gotten Chinese blueprints for the Type 81 and they made there own version of it. Overall the Burmese army uses a local copy of the M-16A1 now.

  • Marcus

    My small mind is telling me this thing is based on a SKS. I’m most likely wrong, but the bolt carrier, shape of the back of the receiver, distance between the trigger and the magazine well is reminiscent of an SKS.

    • fgt

      Because the chinese Type 81 is actually based on the SKS and not on the AK.

  • Tech

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it is a suppressor. The support for it has holes in it but is just a barrel shroud. The “grenades” seem a bit long, and the soldier may have just been a support person for a mortar, carrying extra mortar rounds in his belt. It makes more sense that the suppressor would have the straps around it to allow for disassembly and cleaning. A suppressor would probably be more useful to the infantryman.

    • big daddy

      Then why is he carrying so many rifle grenades around his waist? You’re missing the obvious. Why would they need a suppressor? These are not regular troops or SOF, they are jungle fighters who use whatever they have and make do with whatever they have.

      • Tech

        5 pictures of the rifle, 1 picture of a man with rifle grenades. I do not think the two are related. Can anyone identify the type of rifle grenade the man is carrying, or does it just sort of look like one. Those may just be RPG’s looking at the end of them, with the launcher not shown. It is an odd end on the rifle. It would make sense to take the stress off of the barrel by mounting a heavy suppressor to the frame. If the end is open it would collect any mud or debris it came in contact with. Both enemies of jungle firearms.

        • big daddy

          Those are rifle grenades, I’m 100% sure. They maybe patterned after the RPG, something they might be very familiar with. maybe internally the same design and fuse but scaled down. I can see it being a very effective close combat weapon in a squad like a M203 ( I have carried the M203). It’s about the size of a hand grenade juding by the size of the soldiers hand holding the weapon in the second to top picture.

          • milo

            gunna have to agree with tech here, those are mortar munitions the blur is throwing me off but id say either 60mm or 81mm if its an 81mm. id have to say m374

          • big daddy

            Sorry dude, I have had in my possession actual 60mm and 81 and 4.2″ mortar rounds. Those are rifle grenades. I was in the US Army with a combat MOS and am familiar with weapons and ammunition.

    • bbmg

      If they’re still shooting standard supersonic AK ammunition, a suppressor isn’t going to be that useful though. If it was on a De Lisle style carbine it would make sense, after all the said carbine was apparently used to great effect in the jungles of the far east by British forces, but otherwise a grenade launcher is going to be a better asset.

  • bbmg

    dug up some details here:

    Looks like its an indigenous model, here’s the description from the photographer:

    “A Kachin Independence Army (KIA) officer displays a Kachin-made K011
    assault rifle modelled after the Kalashnikov AK-47 at a mountain outpost
    of Laisin, Kachin State on January 27, 2012. The Kachin have produced
    at least three variants of the rifle to serve as a standard assault
    rifle, a sniper rifle (fitted with telescopic sights) and as a grenade

    • big daddy

      The way the stock is reminds me of the M79. It changes the line of sight. It looks like the rear sight might be lined up with the tip of the grenade to aim it???? The receiver looks longer than an AK and the magazines look wider(bullet length) and shorter (less rounds than 30). Can this be using 7.62×54 or NATO 7.62 blanks or used brass to make a propellant cartridge?

  • Chindits

    Regardless of the type or origin of the rifles, these freedom fighters inflicted mass casualites to N.Korea backed Burmese government. I believe over 7000 dead on government side and a little over 400 on Kachin side in within 1 year of War. I say it’s an affective rifle.

    Over 7000 soldiers dead doesn’t mean much to military Burmese government. From frontline reports, most Burmese commanders drugged their soldiers with acid. It would take an entire magazine before a person drop dead.

  • chindits

    with the paracord, they are heavily influenced by USA and western as they were formed allies during WWII. They helped out OSS101 to battle Japanese. So, I wouldn’t suprised to see a few military customs carried over from that era. Plus, Kachins are predominantly christians.So, They are pro west for sure.

    Just like any other warriors, I assume they would pick up whatever weapon is closest and available.

  • MIKE

    Definitely not a Chang Feng 9mm sub-machine gun.

  • derp

    Clearly based off the Type-81.

  • Wu Jintao

    Rifle in the last pic is a type81, a full-auto variant of soviet union SKS semi-auto rifle. Type81 was used by China army during sino-vietnam war(1979~1988), now is only used by china armed police force and waiting his retirement. There is a rumor the retired manufacturing machines for this rifle is collected by Kachin ‘government’. Type81 is more accurate and shoots further than AK47, but harder to handle in full-auto mode.