Chinese Type 81 in Baghdad

    Recent social media activity has indicated at least one Chinese 7.62x39mm Type 74 for sale through the online gun markets of Baghdad. At a casual first glance the light machine gun appears to be an RPK. But upon closer inspection one will notice the oddly shaped carry handle, the SKS-like bolt, uncovered upper receiver, and pistol grip. In fact the Type 81 series of small arms is much more of a modern SKS in an assault rifle issued role than a Chinese take on the Kalashnikov. For more information on the Type 81 and other Chinese LMG designs, Small Arms Defense Journal has an excellent article published on the subject.

    From a single photograph we cannot discern more about the LMG, markings, year of manufacture, etc… However it does look very new and probably wasn’t initially issued in the PLA, thus indicating it probably being designated for recent export from China. Some sources online have indicated that some Iraqi Police units were seen using the Type 81 rifle, in addition to photographs out of Syria. The LMG could have easily slipped in among these rifles as part of an earlier shipment.

    China is notorious for exporting the Type 81 to both sanctioned governments and illegitimate rebel groups. One of the largest examples is of the Kachin Independence Army and Shan State Army in Burma. Before the Type 81 (introduced in the 1980s), China was a worldwide supplier of “Plausible Deniability” small arms. SKSs simply marked as M21, AKMs marked as M22, with no Chinese markings. China would distribute these “unmarked” small arms in such hotspots as it suited foreign policy. If the United States or United Nations confronted China, the hard evidence for a case against China would be very hard to come up with.

    Tajik Soldiers armed with Type 81s


    Type 81 rifle in the hands of a Kachin rebel in Burma.


    Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

    Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at [email protected]