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Visually, most versions of the Type 56 are distinguished from the AK-47 and AKM by the fully enclosed hooded front sight (all other AK pattern rifles, including those made in Russia, have a partially open front sight).
Consequently, the Iran–Iraq War became another conflict in which both sides used the Type 56.
Manufactured of pressed mild steel and chambered for 7.62×39mm, it is a curious mix of design features.
It has the gas block and sights of a Type 56, but the left-folding stock of an AK-102.
Type 56s are still in production by Norinco for export customers.
During the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, many Chinese Type 56 rifles were supplied to Afghan Mujahideen guerrillas to fight Soviet forces by the China, Pakistan and the US who obtained them from third party arms dealers.
Type 56S-1 (left), Type 84S (center), and Type 56S (right).
Note that the Type 56 rifles in this image have been fitted with the distinctive slant compensator of the AKM, a feature not found on the original Type 56 Originally, the Type 56 was a direct copy of the AK-47, and featured a milled receiver, but starting in the mid-1960s, the guns were manufactured with stamped receivers much like the Soviet AKM.Chinese support for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam before the mid-1960s meant that the Type 56 was frequently encountered by American soldiers in the hands of either Vietcong guerrillas or PAVN soldiers during the Vietnam war.The Type 56 was discovered in enemy hands far more often than standard Russian-made AK-47s or AKMs.In 1987, Michael Ryan used a legally owned Type 56 rifle, and two other firearms, in the Hungerford massacre in the United Kingdom, in which he shot 32 people, 17 of whom died.The attack led to the passage of Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, which bans ownership of semi-automatic centre-fire rifles and restricts the use of shotguns.However, unlike the popular Type 56 rifle, all Type 56 carbines have been removed from military service, except a few used for ceremonial purposes and by local Chinese militia.