QBZ-95: An Overview of China’s Indigenous Assault Rifle

Eric Sof

Two PLAGF soldiers with their QBZ-95s march

China has made significant strides in firearms development over the years, and the QBZ-95 or Type 95 assault rifle is a testament to this fact. It is a modern weapon family that utilizes indigenous Chinese ammunition to replace the aging Type 81. Elite units of the PLA initially adopted the QBZ-95, but it eventually became the standard-issue infantry rifle for the Chinese army, armed police, and law enforcement forces. This article provides an in-depth overview of the QBZ-95, covering its design, features, capabilities, and limitations.

Design and Features

The QBZ-95 is an entirely new and indigenous design that does not resemble any previous Chinese or foreign designs. It is a gas-operated, selective-fire assault rifle with a bullpup layout, where the action and magazine are behind the trigger group. This layout offers a shorter overall length, improved maneuverability, and better weight distribution, making it suitable for urban combat and other close-quarters operations.

QBZ-95, also known as Type 95 assault rifle
QBZ-95, also known as Type 95 assault rifle (Photo: XY)

The QBZ-95 is chambered for the DBP-87 5.8×42 mm ammunition, developed in the late 1980s to replace the Soviet 7.62×39 mm ammunition in Chinese service. This ammunition is lighter, has improved ballistics, and is similar in concept to the standard NATO 5.56×45 mm and Soviet 5.45×39 mm intermediate ammunition. It was designed to be a one-cartridge solution for assault rifles, designated marksman rifles, and light machine guns. According to Chinese sources, the 5.8×42 mm ammunition is superior to the 5.56×45 mm and 5.45×39 mm ammunition.

The QBZ-95 family includes the QBZ-95 assault rifle, QJB-95 squad automatic weapon, QJY-88 general-purpose machine gun, and QBU-88 designated marksman rifle. All these weapons share the same action and bullpup layout, with a polymer housing. However, they cannot be converted from one configuration to another.

The QBZ-95 features a combined safety and fire mode selector switch behind the magazine on the left, which is somewhat awkward. It can produce single shots, three-round bursts, or fully automatic fire. The weapon incorporates some features to reduce recoil, which is claimed to be low.

Peter Pace shake hand with chinese soldier
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace USMC shakes hands with a Chinese tank crew member who holds a QBZ-95 assault rifle (Photo: Wiki)

The QBZ-95 uses box-shaped polymer magazines that can hold 30 rounds, and two magazines can be clamped together using a special clamp for faster reloading. An integral carrying handle comes with a built-in rear sight base that is of the open type and has a sighting range of 500 m. The carrying handle has quick-release mounting points for various sights or night vision scopes, including the IQ5118 1x magnification thermal sight. The effective range of fire is about 400 m against a point target and 600 m against an area target.

The QBZ-95 assault rifle is compatible with a QLG-91B 35 mm under-barrel grenade launcher, similar in concept to the US M203, or a newer and more compact QLG-10 35 mm grenade launcher inspired by the Russian GP-30. The weapon can also launch DQJ-03 40 mm rifle grenades and mount a knife-bayonet.

Capabilities and Limitations

Although the QBZ-95 had many advantages, such as being a modern weapon with high accuracy, it had limited ergonomics and some other limitations. As a result, the Chinese military decided to adopt the QBZ-03 assault rifle, which had a conventional layout. This rifle, however, was not a direct replacement for the QBZ-95 and was only used by border guard units and law enforcement forces in China.

Despite this, in 2014, the Chinese military launched a development program for a new weapon to replace the QBZ-95, which had been in service for some time. The military decided to move away from the bullpup layout that was previously used and instead opted for a conventional layout. The resulting weapon was named QBZ-191 and was adopted in 2019.

The QBZ-191, chambered for different ammunition than the QBZ-95, strongly resembles the US Bushmaster ACR modular assault rifle, although it has undergone several modifications. China’s adoption of the QBZ-191 means it is one of the last nations to abandon assault rifles with a bullpup layout. The QBZ-191 was adopted alongside a new family of infantry weapons to replace the entire QBZ-95 family in service.



The QBZ-95-1 is an improved version of the QBZ-95, featuring a heavier and longer barrel, a redesigned muzzle brake, and a relocated fire mode selector. This weapon was designed to handle the new DBP-10 “heavy” ammunition, providing superior ballistics range and armor penetration. The QBZ-95 could previously use the DBP-88 “heavy” round of the QJB-95 light machine gun, which caused excessive wear and tear to the barrel and action. The new DBP-10 round is compatible with the improved QBZ-95-1 assault rifle and the QJB-95 light machine gun. The Chinese army has fielded a small number of these improved assault rifles for trials and evaluation, and they are currently in service alongside the original QBZ-95 assault rifles.


The QBZ-95B carbine is a shorter and lighter version of the assault rifle used by the Chinese Navy. However, its short barrel is incompatible with a bayonet or under-barrel grenade launcher. The QBZ-95B-1 is an improved version of the QBZ-95B with ergonomic enhancements, similar to the QBZ-95-1 full-size assault rifle.

Chinese sailor with QBZ-95B
Chinese Navy sailor holding a QBZ-95B short-barrel carbine during a VBSS exercise at RIMPAC (Photo: Wiki)


The QJB-95 light machine gun is fitted with a bipod and a heavier barrel and typically uses 75-round drum-type magazines. It initially used the DBP-88 “heavy” machine gun ammunition, but the new DBP-10 “heavy” round is now compatible with the QJB-95 light machine gun and the improved QBZ-95-1 assault rifle. The QJB-95-1 is an improved light machine gun with ergonomic enhancements.


The QBZ-97 is an export version of the QBZ-95, chambered for the 5.56×45 mm standard NATO ammunition and compatible with standard NATO (M16-type) magazines. It is similar to the QBZ-95 internally and has been exported to several countries, including Cambodia, the Philippines, and Sudan. The QBZ-97A is another export variant with a three-round burst mode and a different pistol grip. The QBZ-97B is a shorter carbine version, chambered for the 5.56×45 mm NATO ammunition, intended for the export market. The NQZ-03B is a semi-automatic civilian version.


The QJB-97 is a light machine gun developed for export, also chambered for 5.56×45 mm ammunition. Finally, the MA-1 Mk.3 is Myanmar’s clone of the QBZ-97, with some local modifications, and was adopted by the Myanmar Army around 2012.

Technical specifications

Country of origin:China
Entered service:Mid 1990s
Caliber:5.8 x 42 mm
Weight (empty):3.4 kg
Length:760 mm
Barrel length:520 mm
Muzzle velocity:930 m/s
Cyclic rate of fire:650 rpm
Practical rate of fire:40 – 100 rpm
Magazine capacity:30 rounds
Sighting range:500 m
Mid-1990s~ 400 m

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