Chinese Type 81 Rifle: Shooting Review

The Chinese Type 81 was not a copy of anything else, but a new rifle designed from the ground up in China. Normally chambered in 7.62×39, the rifles have served the PLA since 1981 but on this installment of TFBTV, we shoot an exceptionally rare EM356: A variant intended for the US commercial market that was banned from import one month after being revealed to the public.

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Thanks to our sponsor Ventura Munitions. Without them TFBTV Would not be possible.


Transcript …

– [Voiceover] Hey guys, it’s Alex C with TFBTV.

Today, we’re going to be doing some shooting with a Chinese Type 81, specifically a very rare variant called the EM356.

Less than 20 Type 81s exist in the US, and only three EM356s, which were chambered in.223 for the US commercial market, were ever made.

The guns were brought in for the 1989 Shot Show, but the ’89 import ban happened a month later, so further importation was stifled.

The EM356s were essentially toolroom prototypes and no magazines were ever even designed for them.

As such, I had to do a lot of work to get a Beryl magazine to fit.

The Type 81 was designed from the ground up in China and features a short-stroke gas piston, much like a Dragunov rifle.

It was introduced in the PLA in 1981, and is still in service but being gradually phased out by the Type 95 and Type 03 rifles.

So let’s see just how well this rare bird performs.

(gun cocks) (gun firing) So right off the bat you notice that the recoil impulse of the Type 81 is actually quite pleasant, at least in 5.56.

The carrier doesn’t seem to impact the rear of the receiver with as much fervor as a.223 AK, which is nice.

Not to say it doesn’t have a little bit of pop to it, as it does, but I really do wish that these were imported in large numbers.

However, Norinco kind of shot themselves in the foot when they tried to sell RPGs and APCs to Oakland gangs.

I’m not making that up, by the way.

(gun cocks) (gun firing) (gun firing) Over the course of this range day, it became pretty apparent that this is in fact a toolroom prototype.

Ah, the front sight even gradually became unscrewed.

But I decided to take it back to 300 meters anyway, to see if I could make anything happen with it.

(gun firing) One thing I do like about the Type 81 is the sights, there’s a hooded front sight post, similar to a Type 56 AK, and then the rear sight has a notch in it, but it is also covered up, so it kinda provides a nice sight picture all in all.

The sights are also adjustable from 100 to 500 meters, which is pretty nice instead of having a slider as well.

It’s a knob that the user simply turns, and the number facing you is the distance that you are shooting.

(gun firing) (gun firing rapidly) We hope you enjoyed this video of a very rare and interesting rifle all the way from China.

Not a gun you see very often in the United States, and it was very cool to shoot this gun.

So big thanks to Ventura Munitions for helping us out with this video by providing the ammo.

We hope to see you all next time.

Alex C.

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


  • Ed

    Type 81 is not a 100% original design its a marriage of the AK and SKS actions.

    • Ryan

      So just like everything else that’s “Original” in China?

      • TDog

        No, just like everything else since firearms essentially reached their design apex.


        Well they did invent gunpowder in the 9th century. No gunpowder no guns.
        Not to mention since most people are not students of history, U.S is itself a pirate of technology in the 18th and 19th century from the Brits.

        “In 1787, American agent Andrew Mitchell was intercepted by British authorities as he was trying to smuggle new technology out of the UK”

        “The first American “pirate” was probably Benjamin Franklin (1706-90), who was, among other things, a Philadelphia printer who re-published the works of British authors in the eighteenth century without seeking their permission or offering remuneration”

        Let’s not forget Springfield rifle itself is a copyright infringed version of Mauser 98 design.

        Just as Alex said nothing is 100% original it all builds on everything that came before.

      • Friend of Tibet

        Well I at least the comment is totally not original….

    • Well, nothing is 100% original according to that folly. Everything borrows some element from something else.

      • Tritro29

        The problem isn’t that it’s original or not, the problem is that the elements for both 63/68; 81 and 87 is actually the patterns from their own SKS/Type 56 production. It’s a “parts bin” rifle. With this said, it’s still a very interesting rifle because the Chinese basically understood that something could have been done about the AK, without resorting to an AK system and instead they got where Izhmash are now, with the AK-400 (aka the Dragunov 400). Something they (the Chinese) “got” from the vz. 58. However IMO the sight is actually VERY poor for combat. It is very confusing. On what exactly you aim, especially with the bar over the sight, which saturates the FoV. As a matter of fact the sights weren’t retained on the Type 03 and the Type 95/97-1/2. They went to peep sights.

  • FYI, a semi-automatic civilian-grade version of the Type 81 is slated to be soon available on the European markets.

    • Canadians already have them available.

  • Harry’s Holsters

    What do these go for when they do come up?

    Have to be one of the coolest guns I’ve seen lately.

  • AHill

    While the first orders of these are supposed to be hitting Canadian shores this Fall, I think I’m going to hold off on the 7.62×39 model and try to get importers to bring in the 5.56 model shown here; hopefully one that takes AR mags!

  • UCSPanther

    I’d be interested in the LMG model.

  • iksnilol

    So rare and confidential that there’s no mags for them.

    • Sinbad 1

      If you live in Canada the mags are $29 Tactical Imports

      • iksnilol

        5.56 Type 81 mags?

        Kinda doubt that at the moment.

  • No, thats a 7.62 mag.

  • CanadianShill

    I can’t wait to get my hands on one or 2 of these… Another option to sling 7.62×39 besides my VZ or sks is welcome for sure…. Not sure what the prices will be like but I don’t think I care, I’ll be getting one

    • The_Champ

      Tactical Imports is taking pre orders for $999 CDN, pretty damn decent price for a new production rifle, less than what CZ 58’s are currently going for. Not quite so affordable as a $250 SKS though haha.

      • CanadianShill

        Lol no it’s not, but I wanted to get a second VZ, but now I have to think long and hard about that. For 1k tho, I’ll have one of these soon

    • Sinbad 1

      The price is $999 Tactical Imports

  • GearHead

    As many have stated that these are Canada bound, is the furniture standard AK pattern? I.e. will I be able to bolt the the ak magpul stuff on to look something like pic related.

  • Jeffrey

    You have a great life

  • Warren Ellis

    What countries are the ones that build high quality AKs or high quality AK-derivatives? As in ones that do fire 7.62x39mm ammo I mean.

    And which countries build AKs that are generally considered low quality? I’ve heard Romanian and Chinese stuff generally is low to meh in quality in regards to AKs. Is this true?

  • smitty26

    This looks very close to the B5 airgun . Stock seems to be the same.