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February 25, 2022: North Korea has been building its own versions of the Russian AK-47 assault rifle since 1958. Back then Russia tolerated unauthorized versions of their new (since 1949) AK-47 7.62/39mm automatic assault rifle. The AK-47 had a 30-round magazine and that was very popular with armies that wanted its infantry to put out a lot of firepower when needed. The North Koreans AK-47 appeared in 1958 as the Type 58 rifle. North Korea only built 50,000 of these because it was difficult to manufacture. Russia solved that problem in 1959 with the AKM, an improved AK-47 that was easier and cheaper to produce. In 1968 North Korea introduced its version of the AKM; the Type 68. North Korea quickly produced several hundred thousand of these and continues production.

In 1988 North Korea developed a unique AK-47 variant, the Type 88. This model included new standard features, including folding stock and a rail for a scope as well as the ability to use an under-barrel grenade launcher. One unique Type 88 accessory is a long helical magazine that feeds into the standard 30-round magazine well but also extends under the rifle barrel where it uses another attachment to keep that very large and heavy magazine in place. This design is similar to an earlier Russian magazine for one of their 9mm police submachine guns. The Type-88 version is much larger and heavier and apparently holds 150 rounds. This doubles the weight of the Type 88 carrying the standard 30-round magazine. This helical magazine version has been seen in parades, carried by special operations troops. Only about 300,000 Type 88 rifles were built, enough to equip special operations troops and some elite police units. Apparently, the helical magazine is used for operations that are expected to last long enough to not require a magazine change. No other nation has adopted the helical magazine, perhaps because it reduces the rate of fire and is more prone to jams if not used carefully.

The American M-4 can use high-capacity (up to 100 round) box and drum magazines that are designed with reliability in mind. These are heavy and only used in special situations. The earlier M-16 used non-standard high-capacity magazines. After 2009 the M-4 began using NATO standard high-capacity magazine designs, but not widely.

 


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