The Type 77 Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) was a relatively late Cold War-era indigenous development for the Chinese military. The type was conceived of as a large-caliber, heavy machine gun intended for use against low-flying aircraft (including helicopters) and lightly armored vehicles. In essence, the Type 77 was designed to fulfill the same roles as the American M2 Browning or Soviet DShK series heavy machine guns. Production of the Type 77 is handled by defense industry giant NORINCO. The machine gun system was produced in large numbers for the Chinese military.
For decades, communist China enjoyed the benefits of a close relationship to the Soviet Union. Thusly, they were able to become a primary customer of Soviet military export sales. Much of the Chinese inventory throughout the Cold War years was in fact made up of Soviet weaponry and machinery until recently. Today, there is a definitive move to stock the Chinese inventory with indigenous products. The Type 77 became one of these early initiatives.
Like other weapons in this class, it is assumed that the Type 77 can be pintle-mounted, vehicle-mounted or tripod-mounted as the mission dictates. The weapon weighs in at a hefty 62lbs and the heavy duty tripod adds another 63lbs to that value. If used in the fire suppression role with the tripod, an entire gunnery detachment is used to move the machine gun, ammunition and tripod into place. If mounted on the turret of an armored vehicle, the system is electrically fired through the use of a solenoid actuated arrangement. Otherwise, the system can be operated through a basic trigger and grip system manually. The Type 77 sports a running length of 85 inches and is not compact by any means. The weapon is chambered for the 12.7x108mm cartridge, the same as used by the Soviet DShK series. Rate-of-fire is listed at 650 to 700 rounds per minute. The Type 77 is fed by 60-round non-disintegrating belts (ala the Soviet DShK). Its standard issue assembly is fielded without any conventional iron sights and - as in most heavy machine guns - and can only fire its devastatingly effective 12.7mm (0.50 caliber) round in full-automatic mode. Optics can be installed for accurized fire and drastically aid in the tracking and engagement of moving targets - particularly those in the air. The firing operation is of gas-operation with a recoil action and fully automatic - the proceeding round utilizing the energy of the preceding round having been fired. As the Type 77 is an "air-cooled" weapon system, barrel overheating is a serious consideration when firing - requiring short-controlled bursts on the part of the operator.
The designation of "Type 77" suggests that the weapon was formally introduced into frontline service sometime in 1977. Known operators beyond the Chinese Army remain solely Cambodia. The Type 77 was further evolved to the more modern Type 85 - the assumption being that service entry of this model came in 1985.