Difference between AK-47 and AK-56

Key difference: The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle. It was developed in the USSR by Mikhail Kalashnikov. The AK-56 is a Chinese made variant of the AK family. Essentially, it is a copy of the original AK-47.

Both the AK-47 and AK-56 are assault rifles that are widely used in modern warfare. Many people believe that AK-56 is a newer version of AK-47, however, it is not. It is in fact a copy of the AK-47 that is produced by a completely different source.

The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle. It was developed in the USSR by Mikhail Kalashnikov. The "AK" stands for Avtomat Kalashnikova. The “47” comes the year 1947, in which it the gun was approved for some Soviet forces. Originally, the Soviets had tried to make the receiver out of stamped sheet metal; however they didn’t have the technology then to produce the part reliably. So, eventually they opted to use a receiver made of forged steel, which was milled into the final shape using various machining operations. This however slowed down the overall production rate.

The AK-56 is a Chinese made variant of the AK family. Essentially, it is a copy of the original AK-47. Officially, the assault rifle is called "Type-56", however, it is commonly and more popularly referred to as AK-56. The “56” refers to the year 1956 when the production of the Chinese models started.

In its initial stages, the Type-56 was a direct copy of the AK-47 type-1 model. In the 1960s, the Chinese incorporated some of the AKM improvements into the rifle. They also made some of their own modifications. However, the number 56 remained the same.

Still, there are a number of differences between the two guns. A visual difference is that the front sight of an AK-47 is a partially open type, whereas the Type-56 model has a fully hooded front sight. Both the guns have similar dimensions, but the AK-56 is comparatively lighter than AK-47 rifle. The AK-56 weighs 3.8 kg, whereas the AK-47 weighs 4.3 kg.

They both use 7.62 mm cartridges and have a 30 round feed system. However, the AK-47 is also compatible with a 40 round box or 75 round drum magazine. They both have a maximum effective range of about 400 meters. Furthermore, both have a gas-operated, rotating bolt firing action, which means that the rifles use the pressure of gas inside the cartridge to eject the spent case and mount a new cartridge. Some versions of the AK-56 also have a folding spike bayonet whereas the AK-47 has a detachable knife bayonet. Other than these small changes the rifles are nearly indistinguishable.

Both the AK-47 and AK-56 and their modern variants are currently the most popular assault rifles in use. They are commonly used by many military and guerilla forces around the world. The Type-56 was exported to various communist movements by the Chinese, especially in third world countries of Asia, South America and Africa. Hence, nearly one in five of AK type rifles in the world today are a Type-56. 

Image Courtesy: enemyforces.net, vincelewis.net

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