Claymore’s Adventures: Chinese Colt Clones And A Tiny Bodyguard

Editor’s note: Claymore’s career took many interesting twists and turn. His first article for TFB, about the rare AK rifles he discovered deep in the jungle, can be read here. This article discusses his interaction with child soldiers, a sensitive subject. Neither the author nor this blog endorses the use of children in war.

Disclaimer by the Author:  I do NOT agree with the use of “child soldiers” and in this story the bodyguard is 16 (even if he doesn’t look it). When we go into an area like this it is a diplomatic tightrope. If we tried to push our views on to them, misunderstandings might cause problems.  We discretely told the leadership our concerns but this is their “way of life” and the kids are not forced to join, they join willingly to help their family. What effect our concerns had on future behavior is unknown.

Steve was kind enough to invite me back for more stories from my “history” so here is today’s adventure.

In my last article we were just back from Pakistan and went into Laos. After my friend and I got back from that “adventure” we got another one of those calls. This time they were asking if we would like to do the same type work in Burma (I refuse to use the “new” name Myanmar).

Once when I was a little kid I was wandering around the library looking for something good to read a  friendly librarian brought me a book on the Chindits, British soldiers in Burma fighting against the Japanese.

I started reading and was hooked, this was right up the alley for me, a lot of adventure.  Growing up I read all I could find on the subject of the WWII Burma campaign. So I jumped at the offer to actually work in Burma.

After a long trip by air to a neighboring country, and avoiding “local watchers”, soon we were on our way traveling by local long tailed boats which gave us a good look at the scenery of the area.

The boat trip was very refreshing in contrast to the HOT local weather. We zoomed across the Salween River (see title photo) and landed at the Karen National Liberation Army HQ at Manerplaw, Burma.

We would be working primarily with the Karen sect and their “Army wing” the KNLA but there were a bunch of other groups in this same area as they were all working for the same goal of overthrowing the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council), the dictatorial government in power.

burma photo 2


As before we were doing training and evaluation of the fighters. Again I had the secondary job of weapon repair and recommendations. Being interested in firearms, especially what the USA calls “NFA” firearms, I really enjoyed this job.

One time when I was off training duty, while my friend took over teaching for an hour, I was walking the area scoping out any and all firearms I came across when this beauty caught my eye as it was the only “American type” weapon we had seen other than a few M1 Carbines.

burma photo 3


You have to remember the time frame here was December 1992 and the Chinese copying of the M16 was then not well known so this was a great find for the time.

I tried everything to get the “soldier” with the weapon to turn it loose so I could get more photos and look inside but no dice. These guys had been well trained not to ever give up their weapon to ANYBODY but their officers as they were very hard to come by and very expensive so I had to honor his rules despite being a VIP.

Ammo was in such short supply, and this gun used a different caliber to the ubiquitous AK type firearms everyone else had, I wondered how much ammunition he was able to find for his gun. I asked him how many rounds did he have on him and he proudly said TEN.

It turns out to be a copy of the Colt M16A1 “Commando” made by China’s Norinco as you can see by their triangle logo on the receiver.

It has the “hump” on the lower part of the non-sliding stock, round front hand guard, and Norinco’s distinctive pistol grip.

I was able to ascertain that it had a non-lined barrel, non-lined chamber, no chrome bolt.

When we got back to the states I sent this off to the appropriate “agencies” and to my friend Bob Garassi  who was then the ‘Military sales” manager at Colt. This was the first photo of this Colt had ever seen of the Norinco clones.

This time I took everyones advice in my last article to heart and searched “google” and still nobody has photos of this A1 version there are several photos of the newer A2 version and flat tops but none I can find of a A1 so possibly this is the first time this type has been seen in public.

The Karen (and all the other groups we worked with everywhere) were so afraid that we would be “lost to enemy action” on their watch they always assigned “bodyguards” or maybe you could call them “watchers” assigned to us.

One reporter for “Soldier Of Fortune” “Lance Motley” was killed by a mortar round slicing open his femoral artery while with the Karen close to this time. That was his only wound and they could not stop the bleeding and he slowly bled out while the Karen were rushing him back to the rear and a doctor. Lance knew he was dying and recorded his demise on tape while they were hauling him out. That is one tape that will raise goosebumps on anybody who has the misfortune to listen to it like I did sitting with Bob Brown in a spook hang out bar in Thailand at a later time.

burma photo 4


As a side story this is our “Little bodyguard” who had the weapon possession when I took that photo. In this one he has the additional weapon in his hand his trusty slingshot in addition to the folding stock AKM slung over his back. That is me with the disfigured face.

The slingshot is actually used for food gathering as these guys are so desperate for food anything including tweety birds, rats, and just about anything that moves was shot and used for food.

So this is our story of the Chinese copy of the M16A1 Commando used by the KNLA in Burma during our stay. We happened to be there when all the groups of Burmese “freedom fighters” were having a big convention to try and work out their differences.

burma photo 5


Sad to say it didn’t work out and several of the groups broke away from the umbrella group  and went to work for the SLORC and Manerplaw was attacked and burnt to the ground.

But in recent times the SLORC has been disbanded and the current crop of Burmese generals running the government have backed way off and there is almost peace in the country, but some groups are still running and hiding from the new guys in charge.


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.


  • Well I just did some searching around google and I read that the Chinese copy is called the Norinco Model 311 and also CQ 5.56 and that it is also produced by DIO of Iran as the S-5.56. Picture shown is the Chinese copy of the M16A1.

    • claymore

      I saw some of that but one thing I’m not to sure about is the Iranian contribution to this weapon. The source for that information seems to be coming from one guy and it has been passed around the net as gospel but only from that one source that has been picked up by other sites spreading this “story”. If anybody has more to add on this Iranian involvement I sure would like to know.

      • john huscio

        The Iranians licensed the design from norinco and started selling them themselves……(Sudan sub-licensed the design from the iranians)

        • claymore

          Selling them to who? And how does one license something from a place that has no rights to the design? Has ANYONE seen one in the field?

          • Michael Bergeron

            The first rule about international law of all sorts is that it is a myth everywhere but in the US.

          • claymore

            Show me one example of an Iranian built M-16 anywhere outside Iran if you can.

  • Lance

    Those are Original CQ that are A1 based. Awesome to see pics of some of them. I read that some made there way to Afghanistan in the 80s and where used against Soviet troops.

    • claymore

      That is another “story” that seems to come from nowhere. I have never heard of any and I think that is mainly because of the logistics like trying to supply two kinds of ammo and retraining the Afghans on a new to them system when they had been using AK systems for years it just wasn’t feasible.

      But the main reason is our “support” for the Afghans at that time frame was “covert” so we could deny it was happening even though the whole world knew we were doing it. So if they started showing up with weapons made or designed in the USA we would have “tipped our hand” and be seen to be openly supporting them in an undeclared war with the soviet union causing diplomatic and treaty problems for the USA. It was much more simple to give them AKs from our stockpile that had them from many countries.

      • Dan O

        So all those stinger MANPADS we gave them to turn the tides of battle were done in a clandestine manner too?

        • claymore

          Note the late date when they were introduced. And were any recovered for identification that is the question.

          Arming an army with firearms would stand out a whole bunch more than the amount of stingers placed in a few teams hands.

        • Fed24

          See my answer above about Afghan Stingers

      • Fed24

        A significant number of myths have built up over the years about how the Afghan rebels were supplied during the war against the Soviets. In particular the mechanisms of how the arms were supplied. Contrary to popular belief the US (and the UK) did not directly supply arms to the Afghan fighters. The powerful and highly secretive Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan acted as the supplier and go between with the various Afghan factions. The US and UK supplied funding and certain high end weapons like Stinger to the ISI. It should also be noted that a significant amount of funding that was funnelled to the ISI also came from Saudi Arabia which did have certain consequences down the line.

        For items like small arms, mortars, rockets and explosives the ISI would take the funding and then buy the required weapons on the international market, China being a particular source. The ISI would then supply these weapons to the various Afghan factions depending on their reliability. Specialised weapons like Stinger or Milan were supplied to Pakistan where Pakistani personnel were trained in their use. Training for these specialised weapons then being provided by the ISI to selected factions.

        Not all factions were trusted with Stinger and those factions that did use it were only supplied with one or two missiles at a time. They would not get a replacement unless they returned the empty launch tube.

        Getting back to subject the ISI commander Mohammad Yousaf who wrote an excellent book about these events called:

        Afganistan, The Bear Trap: The Defeat Of A Superpower

        Mohammad Yousaf organised the logistics of supplying the various arms to the Afghan factions and he did note that on occasion various strange choices of weapon that were illogical for the theatre was supplied on the whim of armchair generals. So Chinese M16 is not entirely inconceivable. He did reveal an amusing story about how a US Senator got it in his head that what the Afghan rebels really needed was some 20mm Oerlikion cannon. They were duly supplied and the ISI eventually foisted them off on one of the factions who set them up on a hill a long way from the fighting. The Senator was then flown in and driven over the border so he could have some pictures taken with them. They were useless and never used in combat, firstly they used ammunition that was different from anything else in the country. Secondly a 20mm Oerlikion is a BIG gun even stripped down, in a country where everything has to be carried on a donkey or on somebodies back that is a bit of a problem, finally in the narrow mountain pass slung over the back of a pack animal they were to long to actually fit!

        • claymore

          Nice review but the person who wanted the Oerlikions was congressman Charlie Wilson who was responsible for most of the funding for our efforts there.

          • Fed24

            Thanks that was a small detail of a book I read several years ago. In my faded minds eye it was a Senator, indeed it was Congressman Wilson. What is really shocking is what happened when the Soviets pulled out and Washington effectively said “Job done” and pulled the funding. As I understand those running the funding in the US were keen to switch funding to education programs in Afghanistan but that was rejected as the Soviets had been defeated. The human cost of those decisions was never considered.

            What I did find interesting in that book is whilst many people focus on items like the Stingers and various Kalashnikov variants, far more mundane items like Lee Enfields and single tube rocket launchers were in much demand.

            For me one of the great disasters for Afghanistan was the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, one of the few decent and unifying commanders in the anti Taliban alliance.

            Anyway thanks for the correction Claymore, you sound like a person lucky to have an interesting life.

      • Biagini

        Some sort of AKs came from Indonesia. Indonesia bought alot of AKs at 60s. But at 70s, got a lot of M16 from USA, then leaving their AKs due ammo issue.

  • Patrick Mingle

    So what exactly was Claymore’s occupation during these adventures? Or is it one of those you’d have to kill me type of things?

    • Steve (TFB Editor)

      This was his occupation. Training guerrillas around the world. Who was paying his salary, I am sure he will never ever say.

      • Brandon

        I bet it was the CIA.
        Don’t kill me Claymore! Ack!!!!!



    • claymore

      I always wanted to get to use that line LOL. But now a days we would just program you to kill yourself.

  • Roger Van Zant

    Just so you know Photoshop effects like that can be unblurred, You need to obscure the face not just distort it if you’re really serious about anonymity.

    • Graham 1

      I think he may have clone stamped a section from his right breast pocket on to his face. While I’m no expert at dismantling photoshop effects, since he actually obscured the face with something else, as opposed to just warping it like the whirl effect in the article, I believe Claymore is all good.

      • claymore

        Good guess but not correct.

    • Bert Reynolds

      LOL it’s fairly impossible to undo distortions unless it’s a swirl that can be unswirled simply by rotating the distorted area of the image in a clockwise fashion. Roger if you had bothered to properly assess the image rather than just regurgitate a Huffpost article so you could fake having Photoshop expertise then you would have noticed the author’s face IS obscured completely and permanently with the clone stamp tool. If you knew anything about PS then you would know that this photo is useless to anyone trying to ‘enhance’ the image in order to reveal the author’s face. You lose, n00b

      • Roger Van Zant

        “fairly impossible to undo distortions unless it’s a swirl that can be unswirled simply by rotating the distorted area of the image in a clockwise fashion.” Fair enough.

        “Roger if you had bothered to properly assess the image rather than just regurgitate a Huffpost article so you could fake having Photoshop expertise” I never made any claim to any expertise. I don’t regularly use the application and its not currently installed on any of my computers.

        I learned about the Neil case when I was in college and when I saw the image I was concerned about the personal security of the person in the picture. I’ve been coming to this site for at least 3 years and never posted anything because I never had anything worth saying.

        If you want to tell me I’m wrong that’s fine but don’t fucking make assumptions about my motives.

      • claymore

        Not a clone stamp tool or swirl. Much easier than that and available to everybody.

        Take your best guess and I will let you know the simple answer tomorrow.

        • claymore

          Ok here is the simple answer. Just open the photo you want to “work on” in MS photo gallery. Then click retouch and drag to box where you want and hit retouch again and again until it’s obscured as much as you desire.

  • Anonymoose


  • Colin

    I have their Carbine copy and it’s quite good, chrome lined barrel, 1 in 9 if I recall correctly. Currently selling in Canada for between $599-$699