QBZ-97 flat-top Keymod Model and Custom Color Variant

Timothy G. Yan
by Timothy G. Yan

In my previous two TFB articles on the latest development of the Chinese QBZ-95 family of bullpup rifles, I mentioned that there’s a flat-top model in the work as part of the QBZ 95-1 Plus. Recently, the information on that flat-top model was reveled on the Emei Firearms website.

Emei, named after the Emei Mountain in Northern China, is a brand name use by Norinco for sporting firearms. From the images on the Emei Firarms website, the flat-top model has a continuous picatinny top rail and what looks like Keymode slots on the side, and reversible side charge handle instead of the center-mounted one.

Besides being one of the few striker-fired military rifle in service, the QBZ-95 also has a uncommon layout with its barrel as the center mounting point for many of its components. On the original, the polymer outer shell really can’t support any attachment. On the 95-1 model, there are two short accessory mounting rail as part of the fixed front sight. The rear sight and the short optic mounting rail is on a “L” shaped bracket as part of the barrel trunnion.

On the Chiense bullpup, both the front and rear sights are pinned directly on to the barrel. Those are not easily removable from the barrel. The Canadian aftermarket flat-top rail replace the top polymer cover. However, it also requires the cutting of both the front and rear sights for the installation. The new Emei flat-top model looks to me that it has different front and rear piece from the factory. The Emei flat-top half attached to the new front-sight unit and trunnion piece by two large screws.

It was bought to my attention that there may be an issue with the keymod interface on the Emei flat-top. I was told that those are not true Keymod slots because they lack the chamfer or taper cut inside of the smaller elongated forward part of the Keymod slot.

That inside chamfer cut is probably the most expensive part of manufacturing the Keymod. It’s function is to make the Keymod attachment hardware self-aligning to the Keymod slot. That also enlarges the contact area between the attachment hardware and the Keymod slot for strength.

Not sure if the Chinese factory is too cheap to implement that critical part of the Keymod specification, or they just don’t have a complete understanding of the design.

Keymod Information from Wikipedia

Diagram of the Keymod slot Specification. The inside taper or chamfer cut is shown of the right side.

Th Emei “Keymod” slots seems to have straight cut inside and missing the internal chamfer cut (in red) from the Keymod specification. The standard Keymod mounting hardware would probably still fit in it, however, it won’t be self-aligning and the contact would be much weaker.

It is not know if the Chinese military would be interested in this flat-top design for their QBZ-95 bullpup. As of now it is only for commercial sale to oversea customers. The real drivers behind the developing the flat-top is most likely by the Chinese police, paramilitary and certain special forces unit in the Chinese military. For years those end users of the QBZ-95 have been trying to mount optics on the bullpup rifle with limited success.

Finally here are some images of custom painted QBZ-97s:

Timothy G. Yan
Timothy G. Yan

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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  • ChinaTactical ChinaTactical on Jun 23, 2015

    I told my friend who works in EMEI yesterday about this, he said he will direct this information to the design department in factory.

    • Adam Adam on Jun 25, 2015

      @ChinaTactical Your mate works at EMEI??? Well can you please ask him too reply too the EMAILS.....

  • Daisuke0222 Daisuke0222 on Jun 23, 2015

    Looks like an interesting rifle design, especially in its flat-top configuration. It suffers from the usual bullpup weakness of right-side case ejection. The comment in the article about the polymer shell not being strong enough to support attachments doesn't fill me with confidence about its durability under rough conditions, though.