Daewoo K1A1: Korea’s AR15

The Daewoo K1A1 is the civilian version of Daewoo’s select-fire K1 rifle, and before the import ban of 1989 they could be had for very affordable prices. These fantastic rifles take M16 magazines and are direct impingement just like your AR15 at home, with a bolt and carrier that looks like an AR15 BCG cut in half. In this installment of TFBTV, we take a look at how Korea’s AR15 performs!

Firearm featured:
Daewoo K1A1 (which I think is translated as 구경 5.56밀리 기관단총 K1A)

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Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


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  • derpmaster

    Looks like a nice rifle. Would gladly operate with in convenience store rooftop operations.

    • Lol. This is, in fact a Daewoo K1A1:

      • iksnilol

        Man, he looks so happy.

    • dshield55

      God bless the Koreans and their brass and lead balls for being willing to defend whats theirs.

    • FourString

      nice 1992 LA riots reference

  • Maxpwr

    That looks like a rifle designed by committee. Especially the post-ban DR-200 thumbhole version for the homeliest rifle design that only its mother could love.

    • The DR200s are based on the K2’s action.

      • Maxpwr

        You are correct. My mistake.

  • iksnilol

    If the bolt carrier is cut in half, does that mean we can make two bolt carriers for the K1A1 out of one AR-15 bolt carrier?

    • Never underestimate the tenacity of a South Korean.
      Learned that lesson playing StarCraft.

      • iksnilol

        Trust me, I learned that playing Tekken. One moment I am owning it on the EU and US servers, then I go to the Asian server and get owned. That was the best simulation of D-Day in a game I ever experienced.

      • Uniform223

        Don’t forget Counter Strike…

  • I like this thing a lot, but not enough to buy it ;D

  • Esh325

    It’s funny how there are hundreds of non m16/m4 rifle designs that have elements from the m16/m4 like the magazine,FCG,bolt, and controls, yet the amount of rifles that used its gas system like the K1 you can count with your fingers.

    • ostiariusalpha

      Yeah, the Iranians have one. The Chinese use it also, but they just straight up copy the AR-15.

    • Joshua

      That’s because everyone just buys AR-15s.

      Why reinvent the wheel, when the wheel is outperforming everything trying to reinvent it.

      Also the K1A1 still sees heavy use just FYI.

  • ostiariusalpha

    Seems like a nice, simple rifle, great job guys. Would have been perfect if you cracked her open for a field strip and showed the trigger assembly, but Korean gals can be pretty reserved. ; )
    Did the gun seem a bit overgassed at all? Even for it’s light weight, it seemed to buck pretty good.

  • cloudhidden

    The Daewoo K1A1 is NOT a direct impingement rifle, it’s a short-stroke piston design.

    • ostiariusalpha

      I wouldn’t be too cocky about that.

    • Esh325

      No it uses the stoner gas system. The k2 uses an op rod like the ak47

    • cloudhidden

      My bad.

  • hydepark

    Nice eye pro.

  • nimble

    기관단총 = Submachinegun

    yep They called it submachine gun

    • dshield55

      Actually makes enough sense. Recoil is momentum and momentum is mass times velocity. If you calculate the mass x velocity of a 9mm and 5.56, the 5.56 actually has less recoil than 9mm (but this doesn’t include the momentum of the gas/powder coming out the front.) Anyway, since the 90’s it seems that 9mm subguns have fallen out of favor in place of 5.56 SBRs, so it looks like the Koreans (and Russians with the AKS-74U) were ahead of the times using 5.56 and 5.45 as “sub-guns.”

      • Esh325

        I can’t say I ever really bought the argument of sub guns going out of favor since there have been quite a few recent adoptions of 9mm sub guns by military and police around the world. The Russian sf and police use the vityaz smg quite a bit.

        • Tom

          Pistol rounds suppress much better than “legacy” rifle rounds so if your wanting to keep everything nice and quiet a 9mm SMG is still a good choice.

          Of course the introduction of .300 Blackout and the similar Russian 9×39 rounds makes things less clear cut.

  • Surfgun

    It drove me mad watching Miles (the fox suppressor) dragging that magazine up and down the anodized finish of the poor K1, doing his best attempt to scratch up that 27 year old carbine!

    • Tom

      He is never going to live the fox suppressor down :).

  • Southpaw89

    I like it, too bad they cant be imported anymore, might be a good candidate for parts kits though.

  • Don Ward

    This video is just like a day at the range with someone else’s hot brass flying right at my face.

    Cool video on this weapon and a nice peak at something most gun owners don’t have a chance to see.

    • jcitizen

      I should have bought my buddies, but his did not have a folding stock which was my prerequisite at the time.

  • Vitor Roma

    So it is a DI gun with an ar-18 BCG? Makes sense, I always found the super long BCG and buffer of the the ar-15 a bit stupid. A shame that there is no diassembly in the video.

    • The BCG looks like an AR15s with the tail cut off.
      But I am thinking about starting a “Friday Field Strip” video where I take apart unusual guns, but I am not sure if many people would watch.

      • Don Ward

        Make it a Top 5 Best or Worst 5. Include plausible scenarios of where you are field stripping your weapon after a hard day of Tier O Operating and you hear a suspicious creak outside your door.

      • dshield55

        I love the videos where the guns are field stripped and analyzed. It seems like doing two different videos would be worthwhile because sometimes when I watch Forgotten Weapons videos, I want to skip ahead to the shooting part and sometimes I’m not interested in the take down part. Two videos is probably better than one.

      • Plumbiphilious

        I would watch the hell out of that, Alex.

        The mechanical designs and considerations of unusual guns are of far greater interest to me than watching other people shoot them and tell me what they think of it. It’s not like I’ll ever get to handle most, if not all, of them in person.

      • Vitor Roma

        I would love that. BCGs are the heart and brains of the gun, and every is unique, it is fascinating to see the differences of the BCGs from guns like the AR, AK, Scar, etc. Tavor, Sig MCX and the Kel-tec RDB are quite unique.

      • claymore

        I would sounds like a great idea.

    • Joshua

      An interesting tid bit of history. Originally Eugene Stoner had designed the AR-16 as the AR-12. It used the same operating system as the AR-10. When Armalite sold the patents to that operating system he welded the gas hole shut and added a op rod and called it the AR-16.

    • Ben

      Actually the AR-15 BCG is that long for a reason: weight. Cutting off the tail would dramatically reduce the carrier:bolt weight ratio, which would have a negative impact on reliability. This could possibly be overcome by overgassing the rifle, which would give you better reliability at the cost of increased wear.

      Forgotten Weapons did an interview with Jim Sullivan in which he talked about his newer research on improving the AR-15. He is completely against the lightweight BCGs on the market, and actually has been developing new AR-15 designs with increased BCG mass.

      • iksnilol

        You could probably make the bolt carrier heavy while being short if you made it hollow and filled it with tungsten or something.

        • jcitizen

          The AR-180 had a folding stock and was just as accurate as an AR-15. So it had no need of a large spring tube either. I used to hunt prairie dogs at ridiculous distances with one. However it had the extra weight of the operating piston, that was not on the bolt carrier, but still counted in the dynamics of things. The bolt return springs were telescopic into the carrier much like the AR-7 .22 cal survival rifle. God I killed thousands of rabbits with one of those too!

    • Uniform223

      the collapsible stock on the M4 never bothered me. Personally I prefer it over folding. At least when its fully collapsed its still compact enough to exit out of a vehicle or do CQB and still have decent stock to shoulder and cheek weld.

      to each their own and personal preference.

  • RickH

    Take at look at the K2 next, if you please!

    • Dugan has you covered.

      • FourString

        Dugan Ashley, world’s greatest hippie turned firearms enthusiast! *whips head sideways*

      • RickH

        Thank you. I just wanted others to see what a fine rifle this is, wish I still had mine!

    • Tim Lavoie

      *Sigh*. I had one, but sold it when they became prohibited in Canada. Could have kept it, but would have become a safe-queen only.

  • noob

    The top cover/upper receiver looks nice and rigid. I wonder if a monolithic top rail with a free float handguard is possible.

    If so I wonder how much accuracy you could squeeze out of it by free floating the barrel and putting nice optics on it.

  • Uniform223

    Two words…

    OPERATIONAL NECESSITY.

  • iksnilol

    I thought 5.56 and 9×19 weighed the same, maybe subsonics are heavier? Though no matter the weight, the 5.56 rifle is going to be longer.

    • jcitizen

      I would have though the 9mm would weight more, what with the relatively giant bullet of 115 to 147 grains compared to the 60 some odd grain 5.56mm and even the pistol cartridge shell seems to have more brass in it. I’m surprised.

      • iksnilol

        IIRC 5.56 and 9×19 have a somewhat similar rim diameter. I am not sure but I think you can open up 5.56 bolts to use in 9×19 guns.

        So going off that, while the 9mm has twice the bullet weight, the extra case length (+ the neck) of the 5.56 compensate for that in regards to weight.

        Still, you can check out TFBs cartridge weight chart. It’s an excel file with a lot of interesting info.

        • jcitizen

          Thanks iksnilol; that is an eyeopener for me! I used to carry huge amounts of 5.56mm on me in supply missions, and it never bothered me, even when humping it up the mountains. When I was in the armored service, I had a M9 assigned to me, and hated carrying even one box of that stuff! It must have been a psychological thing, more than a physiological thing. I liked the rifle fire power more, so that was what I preferred. The rifle ammo also seemed to take up less space, also a perceptual fallacy, obviously.

          • iksnilol

            I am not a soldier but I presume you used more rifle ammo than pistol ammo? Some Russian Afghan vets did everything to carry more ammo. This included dumping the pistol, wearing boots a size or two too large (wrap ammo box in extra pair of socks which you put in the boots) and of course filling the pockets. They ended up with 600 rounds or something.

          • jcitizen

            I just stacked as many bandoleers as I could around my neck and shoulders. That 5.56mm weight was hardly noticed; I was a lot tougher back then – though. I usually had at least four cardboard boxes of M60 ammo over that too!

          • iksnilol

            I wonder, how much weight you could save by using 5.56 belts instead of magazines? The lightest belt fed in 5.56 I know of is the Stoner LMG. It weighs 4.5 kg, is it sufficently lightweight that the magazine-less ammo could compensate for the added weight from the belt feed?

          • jcitizen

            My M249 ammo boxes with pre loaded belts don’t weight much, but I really couldn’t give a direct comparison, because we were just being issued those things before Desert Storm, and I never really had a chance to carry or shoot one. I buy a lot of the ammo though. Just wishful thinking that I might have a semi-auto version some day. 😀

            I do know that carrying the bandoleers with cloth compartments each carrying a card board box holding two stripper clips of 10 rounds each, seem exceedingly light for me. I doubt today’s LMG have the optional clip holder anymore. The only way I’ve found to link load them is using either a 20mm or 50 cal link loader with an adapter plate. Not exactly as handy as loading my MG34 or a PKM.

          • iksnilol

            FN is making a semi auto version of the M249, expensive tho.

            Wait a sec, you used the word “my” in regards to an MG34? YOU HAVE A FRIGGIN MG34!? POTD for the love of everything teutonic!

          • jcitizen

            I have a Ma Deuce too, but I traded my full auto one for a semi-auto. I can bump the trigger and get it to fire just as fast. I may get a manufactures license in Title II some day and continue where I left off over a decade ago. The paper work is tiring though, plus throwing out $200 tax stamps every time you turn around.

          • iksnilol

            For the love of God, I believe you can actually beat Alex C. in regards to cool guns.

            Look at the bright side though, paying those tax stamps prevents you from being paranoid about breaking the law like some people I know. Still haven’t found an M53, :/ I know a guy who had one during the war. He threw it in a river after the war. He still kept the small stuff like an SKS and AK.

          • jcitizen

            I always though it would be cool to have a PPS 43 with a drum magazine. It would be fun to take a bunch of kits a weld one together. I assume that M53 was a similar variant?

            It is true the tax will make you sleep better, but I thought it was a little unfair to make me pay it again on that final transfer, when I had paid so much in Class 3 SOT license charges.

          • iksnilol

            There are drum mags for the PPS 43, you have to convert Suomi mags I believe. The M53 is the Yugoslavian version of the MG-42.

            Eh, what is fair in love and guns?

          • jcitizen

            I’m not sure the MG42 variant I shoot is not an M53 that was converted to .308 (7.62x51mm NATO). Shooting it is one of my favorite things, it is like getting a hold of a fire hose – when it isn’t in the Lafayett tripod.

  • claymore

    Is Miles doing his reporting with a chew in or does he normally look like a chipmunk? So in this video one can finally tell what the following click is after every shot like in the FM video it’s Miles holding the trigger to the rear then releasing it slowly the click is the trigger resetting.

  • NewMan

    Great vid. What kind of material does this rifle made off? Stamped steel or aluminum?

    There also doesn’t seem to be any finish on the rifle. Is it just bare metal?

    • They are made of anodized aluminum just like an AR.

  • jonspencer

    Daewoo can build thousands of K1A1’s export them to the USA, but the present administration will not let the CMP bring back from Korea the surplus M-1 carbines.
    A Congressman or Senator ought to ask the ATF for their official explanation for this.
    Under oath too.

    • Tom

      I think you will find their official explanation will be “because we want to, because we can and finally there is nothing you can do about it.”

      Well I suppose one day there might be enough opposition to the BATFE in Congress to change things up but until then they can basically do what they please.

    • They would say “because of the reinterpretation of the ‘sporting purposes’ clause of the 1968 GCA by George H. W. Bush’s 1989 executive order”.

  • RPK

    I was assigned to a Korean Air base in mid-80’s. There was a “story” circulated about a Korean AP at the main gate who was posted with a Daewoo K-1. The AP fell asleep at the gate and his counterpart American SP took the K-1 apart and placed the parts in a kit bag shaking them up. The American SP then woke up the Korean AP and when he saw his K-1 was missing he freaked the hell out. Upon finding it in pieces, the Korean AP REALLY freaked out! His Sergeant was coming for a post check in about 30 minutes and he was shaking and mumbling about being taken away to the “monkey house” (Korean military stockade) because his weapon had been taken from him while he slept, dismantled and he was not certain how to re-build it. After a few minutes of teasing the Korean AP, the American SP put the K-1 back together just in time for the Korean Sergeant to conduct his post check. THAT is my encounter with a Korean K-1 rifle. So YES, I can testify that in pieces it closely resembles the American M-16. I wished that I had purchased a K-1 civilian model prior to 1989. By the way, I can neither confirm nor deny if this was a true “story” or not. My regards to “The Land of The Morning Calm.”

  • Pete Sheppard

    Sweet rifles; I wanted a sidefolder badly, back in the day.