The LIghtweight Chinese QLZ-87 Automatic Grenade Launcher

QL87

The QLZ-87 Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL) is a fascinating weapon. Unlike the much larger AGLs used elsewhere in the world the QLZ-87, in its lightweight/bipod configuration, is on par with a 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Gun with respect to size and weight, and is used in a similar support role by a single solider. It packs a massive punch with its 35x32SR HE, HEI (High Explosive Incendiary) and HEGP (Hight Explosive Dual Purpose) grenades.

ARES have published a an extensively research 26 page report which goes into much further detail. The report was written by Timothy Yan who also blogs at TFB.

The development of the first Chinese automatic grenade launcher was carried out by a state-controlled civilian organisation, the Hua Dong Industrial Academy’s Mechanical Research Institute (华东工业院机器研究院) in Nanjing, China. The development was separated into two component projects: one for the weapon itself, and the other for the ammunition. The launcher team was led by Professor Liu Jia Peng (陆家鹏) and the grenade ammunition team was led by Professor Yu Qi (于骐). Both teams had determined that using equivalent design decisions to the American 40 x 46 or 40 x 53 mm calibres would result in a weapon that was too large and bulky to fit with the Chinese doctrinal vision for the employment of the AGL.

The report is well worth reading.



Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at nicholas.c@staff.thefirearmblog.com


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  • echelon

    Oh, daddy want…

  • John

    Two things I think should be included without travelling to another site:
    The light configuration is ~26 lbs (12kg), and heavy configuration is 44lb (20kg)
    There are 6 and 12 round drum magazines for the weapon, and soldiers are given 2 of each.

    Anyways, reading the report, I noticed this sentence: “Even with these design features, the recoil of firing the QLZ87 is reportedly harsh, and when firing from the bipod, only semi-automatic firing is viable if the user wishes to maintain accuracy”

    IF semi-auto was the predominant doctrine used, I immediately thought of the closest counterpart that we would have for a semi auto grenade launcher, the Milkor MGL, which tips the scale at 12 lbs (5.44 kg) unloaded, 15 lbs (6.8kg) loaded.
    The weight difference reminded me of the weight difference between the standard issue M240 (27 lbs/12.3 kgs), and its counterpart the PKM (16.5lbs, 6.5kg).

    While in both instances, the performance of both weapons are probably excellent there is a dramatically noticeable weight difference between their counterparts.
    Anyways, just an observation I noticed…maybe some company can take lessons learned from both designs…perhaps a magazine fed MGL with slimmer rounds?

    • S O

      The difference between this and relatively normal multi-shot 40 mm grenade launcher is the range.
      The Chinese 35 mm weapons can open a window from 500 m, then shoot two follow-up rounds for effect inside.

      Western forces would expend a specialised anti-structure grenade fired by a bazooka-like weapon (shaped charge opens hole, approx. 40 mm HE grenade follows through hole and explodes inside) instead.

      The overhyped Milkor MGL and its versions aren’t really in the same business as the Chinese 35 mm. It’s a difference like hand grenade and combined hand/rifle grenade.

      • Thracian Beast

        But they do have a MILKOR MGL type made by Norinco the LG4. Just as a note.

    • Timothy G. Yan

      Short burst from tripod mounted configuration.

      The difference is in velocity. The original Milkor is designed for low-pressure grenade w/ 75 m/s MV. The new improved version such as the Vltors are capable of firing medium-pressure grenade with 120-130 m/s MV. The Chinese 35mm high-pressure grenade has MV of 190 m/s and the high-velocity version is capable of 420 m/s.

    • dp

      As “SO” correctly writes, these are two different categories – QLZ87 vs. Milkor. Former will shoot to minimum of 1500m while latter is good to 300m max. The Chinese with their 35mm ammo, just like with their “new” 5.8x42mm rifle cartridge, took advantage of previous developments. You cannot blame them for that.

  • mosinman

    i like the gangsta grip on it.

    • iksnilol

      Is it a gangsta grip if the gun is on its side?

      • mosinman

        Im probably mistaken, but judging by the buttpad and muzzle brake, it looks like It’s right-side up.

        • iksnilol

          I thought that the stock rotated, the muzzle brake I don’t know about.

          • red762

            google-fu some other photos of it, the grip is 45 maybe 60 degrees offset to make room for the massive drum. Southpaws will just have to manage

          • Evan Jay

            Actually the grip is also the charging handle. Major design flaw IMO.

          • whodywei

            The grip is NOT the charging handle, the carrying handle is the charging handle. Not sure how this rumor started in the first place.

          • mosinman

            Try the link above, It’s got some pics of soldiers using/carrying it

  • dan citizen

    I love the DI+Locking Flap combo. it’s like if an AR and a DShKM made sweet love…

  • S O

    It’s not the final form. QLB-06 is the modern version, with 90’s look instead of a 60’s look:
    http://chinesemilitaryreview.blogspot.de/2012/03/chinese-qlb06-qlz-87b-35mm.html

  • greasyjohn

    It’s like an MG34 on steroids. Awesome.

  • dp

    This gun has been around for a while and somewhat did not get enough attention if it was not for recent proliferation.
    Yes, it reflects on different way of using support weapon in mobile warfare (mobile does not necessarily mean ‘vehicle’; it can be on foot). Try to move quickly M19 from one position to another, not easy task to do. The Russian AGS-17 is substantially lighter (still blow-back), but still – it is a chore.
    They mention “harsh recoil” and that is easy to believe. The projectile velocity and weight are close to 40x53mm and with fully locked breech, you cannot expect much else. They need to think about transition locking system. The fact they used on previous model rollers is not all what can be done. For instance, the gas can be used in order to retard the blow-back; one of several possible solutions.

    • M
      • morty diamondstein

        Not too much recoil- so easy a camel-humper can do it.

      • dp

        That is surprisingly mild. It does not require double “A” call at all. So as it seems, Chinese did not too bad a job with this launcher. Thanks for video!

  • Evan Jay

    I just dont see this being very effective with the way military tactics have evolved. Reminds me of old Soviet military doctrine/tactics. Its basic design is just plain strange. The pistol grip IS the charging handle. Grip angle also seems awkward on a weapon pretty much designed like a GPMG IMO. Vehicle mounted belt fed with spade grips seems like a better platform, rather than being an individual infantry weapon.

    • morty diamondstein

      Cheap, it goes bang and you would make dookie in yer knckers if on the receiving end-why make s##t so complicated?

  • morty diamondstein

    Me Chinese- Me play joke- Me drop a grenade in your Coke.

  • valorius

    An m203 with an assistant gunner/loader is actually capable of an amazing ROF of probably 30rpm or more. Which is probably comparable to this chinese gadget considering the reload times.

    Still, it is a very neat weapon.

  • Capn Stefano

    I see 3rd world soldiers can have these but here in the land of the “free and the home of the brave” (facepalm) we peasants are not to be trusted with our birthright to be armed with the same weapons the goobermint has