The Type 56 Carbine (not to be confused with the Type 56 Assault Rifle) was nothing more than a local Chinese copy of the Soviet-era Simonov SKS Carbine self-loading rifle and, as such, shared many similarities with the original design including both form and function. Like the SKS before it, the Type 56 utilized the Soviet 7.62x39mm M1943 "intermediate" cartridge established during World War 2 - the same cartridge that would eventually power the ubiquitous AK-47 assault rifle series still to come. The original Soviet SKS itself proved a reliable and low-maintenance self-loading rifle that required little training in its use and was based internally on the Simonov PTRS anti-tank rifle as seen during the war. The SKS's "service rifle-style" wooden body made it heavier than anticipated but this proved acceptable in-the-field considering its hasty development during World War 2. The original Soviet mark was the first automatic weapon developed to make use of the new 7.62x39mm M1943 cartridge and millions went into circulation - perhaps as many as 15 million according to sources. Despite close ties with the Soviet Empire and the SKS entering service in 1949, Chinese production of the SKS series did not commence until 1956 - hence the rifle's Chinese designation - and local factories were only set up after assistance from Soviet advisors.
Outwardly, the Type 56 differed little from the Soviet version it mimicked save for the requisite Chinese production markings. The body consisted of a single piece of wood that made up the shoulder stock and forend with all metal internal working components being centralized at the exposed the top of the receiver. The grip was integrated into the stock's form while the curved trigger unit was slung under the receiver, protected within a thin ring guard. The integrated ammunition box was set into a dug-out well found at the bottom of the receiver. The forward end of the weapon was dominated by the protruding barrel assembly which was set under the gas cylinder. The gas system could be quickly removed for cleaning and repair and was partly shrouded by wood cover with three noticeable perforations along the sides - giving it a very AK-style assault rifle appearance. Iron sights were set at the forward end of the receiver top and aft of the muzzle. As in the Soviet SKS, the Chinese version also made use of the novel folding bayonet installation which could be folded back, collapsing along the underside of the barrel for a more compact form. Early production versions were given a blade-type design while later production forms featured the more typical "spike" bayonet. The charging handle was conventionally set to the right side of the body and loop slings were provided for a shoulder strap. The standard ammunition box (noted for its angled lower base) held 10 rounds of 7.62x39mm ammunition that could be fed either individually or by "stripper-clip" (charger). Access to the magazine for emptying was through a simple hinged cover found at the base of the box. Fire was limited to semi-automatic-only in the original production models and muzzle velocity was rated at 2,411 feet per second. Overall length measured 40 inches with an unloaded weight of 8lbs, 8oz. The barrel measured in at 20.5 inches and sported a 4-groove, right-hand twist design.
Having established experience in the production and operation of its Type 56 carbines, Chinese engineers eventually developed several derivatives of the Soviet SKS-based design including a compact paratrooper model, a carbine designed to accept the AK-47 curved 30-round magazine (Type 63) and a full-automatic/semi-automatic select fire model. By all accounts, the Type 56 Carbine operated as well as the original Soviet models.
The Type 56 Carbine is no longer in Chinese Army service. Some are reserved for ceremonial duties. Some 18 million copies are believed to have been produced.
Manufacturing State Factories - China
- Close Quarters Battle (CQB) / Personal Security
- Frontline / Assault
Type 56 Carbine - Base Series Designation; direct copy of Soviet SKS series; early production fitted aligned blade with later using spike bayonet; derivative utilized selective fire and AK-47 magazine support.
Type 56 PARA - Compact version for use by paratroopers.
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