Murphy's Law: Mutant M-16s In Burma


August 13, 2009: Pictures of Myanmar (Burma) soldiers show them carrying familiar weapons of an unknown, but new, design. Until recently, most Burmese soldiers carried locally manufactured copies of the AK-47 or the German G-3. But over the last six years, these older weapons have been replaced by a new design is that has been variously described as "Chinese" or "Israeli." Closer examination of these weapons indicates that they are apparently illegal copies of Chinese QBZ-95 and Israeli Tavor assault rifles. Manufacturing machinery was illegally obtained from Singapore (which manufactures a local design similar to the U.S. M-16).

Burmese troops have been seen carrying a large variety of weapons, from World War II era stuff, to very modern items like the QBZ-95 and various variations on the M-16 (like the Israeli Tavor). Some of these weapons were obtained via the arms black market, which Burma has long been a major part of. But other weapons were obtained via government-to-government purchase.

For example, several years ago, it became apparent that China had apparently sold some of its new assault rifles (the Type 95) to Myanmar. Troops in that country have been seen carrying the Chinese weapon. The QBZ-95 (Type 95) is bullpup design (the magazine is behind the trigger) that uses China’s proprietary 5.8x42mm cartridge, which is a little wider than the 5.56 NATO, but shorter in overall length. The Type 95 uses a 30-round magazine, similar to the M-16. The Type 95 fires single shots or bursts. China is still in the process of replacing its own Type 81 (improved AK-47) rifles with the new rifle. The Type 95 is about ten percent lighter than the older rifle, and has apparently been well received by the troops.

The Type 95 was first seen in Hong Kong when China took over in 1997. The Type 95 comes in a variety of styles (a compact version, an automatic rifle, and a sniper rifle). An export version (the Type 97), using the standard 5.56mm NATO round is available, and is apparently what Myanmar is using. But the "new" Burmese military rifle does not appear to be based solely on the Type 95, as it has elements similar to the Singapore version of the M-16 and Israeli Tavor as well. It's a mutant, turned out in a Burmese factory.

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