The Chinese Type 81 Assault Rifle is the principal automatic rifle used by the People's Liberation Army. It incorporates elements of the Dragunov, SKS, and AK series rifles.
The weapon was introduced into PLA service in 1981 but did not become widely distributed until the late 1980s. It replaced the Type 56. Its first combat use came during the Sino-Vietnamese border conflicts of the mid 1980s.
Unlike its predecessors, the Type 81 is a series of weapons. The Type 81 and Type 81-1 are assault rifles and the heavier Type 81 squad machine gun is used in the squad automatic weapon role.
The Type 81-1 is similar to the Type 81 but has a collapsible stock. The Type 81 squad machine gun is heavier (5.15 kg), has a longer barrel, slightly higher rate of fire (700 rounds per minute), and fires from either the standard 30 round magazine or a 75 round drum.
A variant called the Type 87 was introduced in the late 1980s. It is essentially the same as the Type 81 but fires the smaller 5.8 mm round.
The PLA is scheduled to replace the Type 81 with the Type 95 series of weapons in the future but full conversion is not expected until the mid 2010s.
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