How the QBZ-95 bullpup’s action works

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The Chinese QBZ-95 bullpup has been in service for two decades and due to its sheer production, over 1.65 million so far, it will be the most prolific bullpup ever built. I did a detailed write-up on the QBZ-95 for Guns & Ammo SIP in 2006. Since then, that article has been used by many writers and researchers as reference. However, there’s still some confusion and misunderstanding on the QBZ-95’s inner workings. I hope this will help clarify the matter.

 

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The QBZ-95 is one of the four post-World War II military rifle designs that use a striker-firing mechanism. The other 3 in chronologic order are: the Czech Vz 58, the Japanese Type 64, the Russian AS and VSS twins. Unlike the rotating hammer firing mechanism found on the majority of the modern rifles, a striker-fired rifle uses either a spring-loaded firing pin or a linear hammer to fire the chambered cartridge.

The spring-loaded firing pin type is common in the majority of bolt-action rifles and modern striker-fire pistols such as the Glock. The linear hammer type is used by most striker-firing selective fire rifles. This particular type of striker-firing system has a spring-loaded hammer piece that reciprocates forward and backward in the receiver.

 

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The Czech Vz 58 was based on an early post-WWII indigenous select-fire full-caliber rifle design but it was redesigned to chamber the Russian M43 7.62x39mm cartridge. The Vz 58 was developed in 1958 and it is still in service with the Czech and Slovakian militaries. Its action uses a Walther style dropping block locking system with a short-stroke gas system. The Vz 58’s linear hammer type striker-firing system was the main inspiration for the trigger and striker design of the QBZ-95. Although, the QBZ-95’s striker design is conspicuously different than that of the Vz 58’s.

The Japanese Type 64 was developed in 1964 and chambers the 7.62x51mm full power round, while it normally uses a reduced power version of the 7.62x51mm. The Type 64 is still in limited service with the JSDF. Design wise, the Type 64 uses a short-stroke gas system with a tilting bolt lock action.

The Russian AS special purpose rifle was developed in the late 1980s. Its suppressed VSS twin went into service about the same time as the QBZ-95. Both the AS and VSS are chambered in the Russian 9x39mm special purpose cartridge. The striker and trigger part of both Russian weapons are very similar to that of the Czech Vz 58, just smaller in size. The Russian weapons use long-stroke gas system and an AR-15 style multi-lug rotating bolt.

 

The following animation from CCTV shows how the QBZ-95’s action works:

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1) – After the 5.8x42mm cartridge is fired, the propellant gas passes through the gas port at front of the barrel (in light blue) and drives back the short-stroke gas piston system (in dark green).

2) – The long extension of the bolt carrier (in brown) receives a tap from the short-stroke gas piston while the whole unit starts traveling back. The gas piston spring (in green & white) returns the short-stroke gas piston.

3) – After a short travel, the cam track in the bolt carrier turns and unlocks the 3-lug bolt (in red). The empty cartridge case (in green) is extracted then ejected out of the weapon by a receiver mounted solid ejector.

4) – While the bolt carrier group (in brown and red) is moving back, it also pushes back the striker (in dark blue) along and compresses the striker spring. The reciprocating components come to a soft stop without hitting a solid surface with the help of a recoil buffer (in purple).

5) – The bolt carrier group (in brown and red) starts to travel forward again from spring pressure of the main spring. The striker (in blue) and striker spring is being held back by the sear in the trigger mechanism.

6) – The bolt (in red) strips a new 5.8x42mm round from the magazine and chambers it. The forward moving bolt carrier (in brown) turns the bolt (in red) to engage its 3 locking lugs into the locking slots on the trunnion. The weapon is read to fire.

7) – By pressing on the trigger (in yellow), the connected linkage (in white) pulls down the sear in the trigger mechanism and releases the striker (in dark blue). The striker impacts on the firing pin and fires the chambered 5.8x42mm cartridge. The action cycle repeats again.

The only changes in the latest QBZ 95-1 variant is the redesign of the recoil buffer (in purple) to use a coil spring with a rotating movement, and a new trigger mechanism that moves the selector forward and above the pistol grip. The fixed forward grip that makes up the trigger guard on the original is also replaced by a simple round trigger guard on the later models. Plus, the QBZ 95-1 barrel has a faster twist rate.

Unlike the relatively simple looking linear hammers on the Vz 58 and AS/VSS, the QBZ-95’s striker piece has a very complex shape. The striker spring arrangement is also very different. Instead of having two parallel springs, on the QBZ-95, the main spring and the striker spring are in-line and uses the same spring guide rod.

 

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Since the end of the Cold War, modern combat rifles are being produced in much smaller numbers. I estimate that the Arsenal 276 and Arsenal 256 will still need to make at least 5 million copies of the updated QBZ-95 variants just for replacing all the old Type 81, QBZ-56C and the worn out initial QBZ-95 model in the Chinese service. The Israeli Tavor family (includes the newer X95) of bullpups will get adapted by more countries around the world, but just in the total production numbers alone, the Chinese QBZ-95 will outnumber all other bullpup military rifles combined.



Writer and gear editor with articles published in major gun publications. A five year combat veteran of the US Marine Corps, Tim is also part of Point & Shoot Media Works, a producer of photography, video and web media for the firearms and shooting sport industry. Tim’s direct contact: Tyan.TFB -at- gmail.com


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  • guest

    Very cool article!

  • Blake

    Awesome article, really cool to see that such a modern weapon was inspired by the vz.58.

    BTW, just a guess but I’d imagine that it’s still in use by “Czech and Slovakian militaries” not “Czech and Slovenian militaries”… (these two countries get mixed up about as often as the Swiss & the Swedes…)

    • Timothy G. Yan

      MS Words’ auto-spelling have failed me the last time! Thanks for catching that.

  • I really liked this article, and I’d like to help out by point out this typo:

    “The linear hammer type is used by most selective fire rifles.”

    I am positive you meant “angular hammer”. 🙂

    • Timothy G. Yan

      Thanks for catching that. It’s fixed now.

  • Darkpr0

    I love seeing the Colt Canada C7 with the Elcan sight as the model in the photo. I have no love for the AR platform, but at least they chose a nice one to show!

  • mzungu

    Too bad, can’t get this in the US. A reasonably price bullpub… from anyone really would be nice…. 🙁

  • nadnerbus

    My room mate was just asking how this rifle operates the other day, and I didn’t have the answer. A timely article!

  • Esh325

    The VZ 58 is currently being phased out for the 805 Bren in the Czech Republic. With regards striker fired rifles, I’m not really sure what their advantages or disadvantages to hammer fired rifles are. I’ve read in one of my books on assault rifles that a striker fired design reduces shot dispersion in fully automatic compared to a hammer fired design.

    • Guest

      Vz.58 is currently reserve-only. All active units of the Czech Army (including active reservists) now have CZ-805s.

  • Isaac Newton

    Fascinating. Any insight on how you estimated the production numbers?

    • Timothy G. Yan

      2.5 mil active duty + 1.2 mil paramilitary + .5 mil reservist + Law Enforcement and arm sales.

      • Isaac Newton

        Makes sense. Thanks.

  • Vitor Roma

    The bolt carrier group with the giant rod reminds of the insides of the kel-tec RDB.

  • TDog

    Very cool! Thanks for an awesome article!

  • Giolli Joker

    Wow, are we celebrating Timothy day?
    It should happen more often, three great articles!

  • Alex Nicolin

    Trigger pull is probably stiff and squishy.

    • TDog

      Pretty safe bet given that it’s a bullpup. Other than the new M17s – which apparently has a great trigger pull – every single bullpup I’ve fired has a trigger you could beat baby seals to death with.

      • Timothy G. Yan

        It still lighter than the stock Tavor trigger. Anything i better than that.

        • TDog

          I was never a fan of the Tavor’s trigger.

      • Charlie Uniform

        Even the old Bushmaster M-17s have fantastic triggers. I’ve used some.

        • TDog

          It was okay. I’ve fired two – not the widest sample, Ill admit – and both had heavy if reliable and predictable triggers. I’d love to shoot one of the K&M ones. Apparently those triggers are amazing.

  • Pedro .Persson

    Any reason why a linear hammer with a firing pin instead of a true striker? It just seems to add a bit more of complexity to no apparent advantage, I can see it being argued that it could be stronger but a lot of machine-guns seem to do fine with strikers (kinda, nomenclature is a bit tricky) and mechanical operation of both systems will be identical. I do understand why it was used in the Vz 58 since it uses a tilting breech-block and thus separating the striker mechanism into two parts made design production a lot easier or maybe possible at all, but a rotary bolt has no such issues…

    • It aids field-stripping and probably is more durable.

      • Timothy G. Yan

        I like to adding that the spring-loaded firing pin on the machine guns and sub-machine guns is technically not a striker in most cases. It’s designed for two purposes of have a replaceable firing pin and safety. Noted that some of the wartime designs, noticeably many Russian designs, have the firing pin machined on the bolt face. The problem with that when the firing pin wear off or break, the whole bolt has to be replace. The spring is added to reduce slam-firing during feeding in many designs. The spring-loaded firing pin could be converted into a real striker easily for semi-auto.

        • Pedro .Persson

          I had the MG36 and FG42 in mind, both select fire, on the M60 you could argue it’s part of the bolt carrier… I knew that a lot of SMGs had a striking surface machined into the bolt face itself but all those that I saw lacked a firing pin or a similar part.
          I’m interested into striker autoloading rifles because they are a really neat way to get a selective fire gun that fire from both closed and open bolt. Now to add to that a just as good a trigger pull as a good bolt action rifle I had to be creative…

          • Timothy G. Yan

            Linear hammer is used on most striker-fire self-loading military rifles is because of the hard military primer and the extra travel of the linear hammer acts as a rate reducer.

      • Pedro .Persson

        I don’t see how it would be facilitate field striping, a true striker would be identical save for the firing pin being attached into it’s end rather than floating inside the bolt, the BCG, guide rods, springs and etc would all be identical. If you had the firing pin made into a screweable insert secure via some detent or spring it would make field servicing the gun easier and just as durable.

  • mark chicago/ariz

    too many parts which will mean more breaks…I’ll keep the simpler AR! aka old chinese proverb/antiquated design

    • Timothy G. Yan

      FYI, the AR design shouldn’t be use as an example of reliability. A tip from a guy that own 15+ ARs and actually have used the Stoner rifle in combat.

  • Interesting that the T97 and Vz58 both have a strong Canadian following.

    • Wetcoaster

      I think that’s more by necessity, like the prevalence of M14-style rifles – the market for non-restricted semi-auto .308s was what, the Remington 740, 750 series, Browning BAR, and Garand/M14 family?

      Same deal with the vZ58. The only other semi-auto 7.62 x 39 gun available is the even more common SKS.

      • UCSPanther

        There is a demand for the Kel Tec RFB and the Famae SIG 542 despite their hefty price tag.

        • Wetcoaster

          Right, until recently, and at seriously upmarket prices, especially the SIG

  • Yellow Devil

    Interesting article. How about the LMG and Marksman versions of the rifle, do they operate with the same action or look similar on the outside but with different internals? (ie: Like the AKM vs Dragunov vs RPK.)

    • Timothy G. Yan

      AKM, Dragunov, RPK are not related design and all were developed by different guys at a different decade.

      • Yellow Devil

        I understand that, I was just using those examples to point out they appear similar outside but operate differently internally. I just wanted to know if the LMG and Marksman version of the QBZ rifle are the same internally or operate differently.

        • Timothy G. Yan

          The QBU-88 is a not a related design.

          The LMG just has a heavier barrel w/ bipod and 800m rear sight.

          • Yellow Devil

            Ah I see. Thanks.

  • William Burke

    From outward appearances, it appears to have much in common with the French FAMAS.

    I’ve been referring to the Chinese bullpup as Morning Glory, based on an early photo of it online in which it was depicted with some red Morning Glory flowers.

  • Hank Seiter

    How is it the Chinese can field such an advanced bullpup while we’re still dinking around with the M-16/M-4 weapon system? I own a VZ 58 and I can see how it could be the inspiration and mechanical basis for a reliable, accurate, striker-fired bullpup.

    • Doom

      Probably doesnt offer much in comparison to the cost of changing systems. No more reliable, no more accurate, a crappy trigger, a more complicated reload, more complicated manual of arms. Plus we have a massive infrastructure set up for the AR platform, probably a hundred million magazines laying around for it, barrels, FCG, stocks, etc etc. We wont change until it becomes obvious a new weapon is far superior. until then, at most, we will tweak our rounds and maybe barrel lengths.

      • Cornelius Carroll

        I would imagine we won’t move away from the AR until we have caseless ammo worked out. Moving from the AR to something like the Tavor… meh, not worth the cost. Moving from the AR to a bullpup that fires from a longer barrel but with a shorter OAL and a slightly larger bullet but with a lighter or equal ammo load… that’s a more compelling argument for the cost.

  • ed

    One of 4 post WW2 rifles…. The other 3 in chronologic order are: The other 3 in chronologic order are: the Czech Vz 58, the Japanese Type 64, the Russian AS and VSS twins.

    That’s 4 other making it 5. Did I miss something?

    • Timothy G. Yan

      Twins = the same design? There is very small numbers of AS is made, VSS is the main production model.

  • HobgoblinTruth

    Now we need QBZ-03 article.

  • bridgebuilder78

    I wonder why Lance hasn’t commented. Then I noticed the author’s last name… Good move Lance, even a racist bigot knows when to STFU.