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Chinese Soldiers Are Being Issued A New Carbine

October 10, 2019

Via Chinese media.

The spectacular military parade in Beijing last week cemented China’s status as a rising superpower but so many of its details have gone un-examined. An intriguing reveal at the October 1 event, meant to celebrate 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic, was a small arm carried by elite troops. With the dimensions of a carbine and equipped mounting a thermal scope, few seemed to notice this weapon outside a few social media accounts that follow Chinese military news.

In fact, even Chinese media didn’t bother to share any pertinent details about it amid a torrent of coverage for the main event.

The standard issue rifle of the PLA is the bullpup QBZ-95 chambered for 5.8×42 millimeter ammunition. Developed as a family of small arms, including a “short variant, a light machine gun, and a sniper rifle, the QBZ is recognizable for its peculiar trigger guard that doubles as a foregrip. Never an export success, few countries bothered to acquire this Chinese bullpup with the exception of Myanmar and Sudan, whose state-owned military industries rolled out altered copies fed by NATO standard 5.56×45 mm magazines. Limited batches of the 5.56 mm QBZ reached customers elsewhere.

Since the October 1 military parade in Beijing, however, it’s apparent the PLA are returning to their roots with specific small arms issued to different formations. Indeed, the new carbine seen with the PLAAF airborne and PLA special forces at the event was absent from the impeccable infantry squares that marched below President Xi Jinping’s gaze.

Via Chinese media.

Images gleaned from the military parade brings many details about the weapon–labelled as the “Type 19” for convenience–into focus. Its layout inspires comparisons with the current generation of carbines manufactured in Central Europe. But while it’s tempting to dismiss Chinese military equipment as persistent copies of foreign kit, such assertions are becoming less helpful over time. What the abundance of data on the PLA’s long-term modernization reveals is its material requirements are tailored for the institution’s various commitments.

This decade has seen the PLA and its branches participate in counter-terrorism, limited foreign deployments, multinational training exercises, and peacekeeping in war-torn countries. The sum of these experiences no doubt influenced the need for a new small arm that improves on the QBZ-95’s emerging limitations. A particular flaw of the almost 25-year-old bullpup is its odd carrying handle (patterned after the M16) can’t be removed; underbarrel grenade launchers are also a poor fit. As far as can be ascertained from its appearance, the just as compact Type 19 has five distinct external characteristics:

  1. A short barrel with an obvious short-stroke gas piston mounted above it.
  2. The ribbed handguard features two horizontal gas vents and small detachable flip sight, the latter being rare among Chinese assault rifles.
  3. Unlike some NATO carbines, Picatinny rails are limited to the upper portion of the firearm. Although a foregrip doubling as a bipod is attachable below the handguard.
  4. The ejection port and the charging handle are separate, with the latter found slightly above the magazine well.
  5. The meager dimensions of the stock is in keeping with earlier Chinese assault rifles. Whether it’s simultaneously collapsible and sidefolding is uncertain.

To better understand the Type 19, drawing parallels with 5.56 mm carbines manufactured by Heckler & Koch and Sig Sauer can be helpful. East Asian militaries like those of South Korea and Taiwan have embraced their own locally made 5.56 mm carbines years ago so the PLA’s latest small arm isn’t too surprising. Yet judging by the Chinese army’s busy schedule of exercises there’s little indication the Type 19 carbine is replacing the QBZ-95 soon.

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