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Chinese Type 56 (RPD) War Trophy

By Frank Iannamico

The RPD

The Soviets began work on a new light machine gun during World War II, specifically for the intermediate 7.62x39mm cartridge then under development. The demand for weapons during the ongoing war hampered progress on both the cartridge and weapon. There were many prototypes tested before a suitable design was found. The Ruchnoy Pulemet sistemi Degtyareva (RPD) light machine gun, like all Soviet weapons used the name of the designer in its nomenclature, in the case of the RPD Vasily Alexseyevich Degtyarev. Degtyarev’s previous light machine gun was the Degtvarev Pakhotni (DP)) adopted in 1928, an updated model, the DPM, was adopted in early 1945.

The first RPD was first issued to the Soviet infantry in 1953. It would prove to be Degtyarev’s final weapons design and one that would undergo progressive improvements and changes throughout its long and faithful service with the Soviet Army. It was produced in the People’s Republic of China as the Type 56 and in North Korea as the Type 62, the RPD was also manufactured in Poland and Egypt. The RPD was used by the armies of most Soviet influenced countries.

There were several updates of the Soviet RPD during its service life, resulting in at least five variants, however most of the changes were relatively minor. The People’s Republic of China adopted the third variant of the Soviet RPD, and manufactured them as the as the Type 56. The third model featured dust-covers on the feed mechanism and a folding, non-reciprocating operating handle. The fifth and final modification of the RPD (manufactured in the PRC as the Type 56-1) featured a folding magazine bracket / dust-cover and a sectional cleaning rod which is carried in the buttstock. Previously the cleaning rods were stored on the side of the weapon and often were lost.

The 7.62x39mm RPD machine gun is a gas operated, locked-breech, fully automatic only weapon that fires from an open bolt. The weapon is fed from two non-disintegrating, 50-round (Chinese belts were made in four 25 rd lengths) belts that are linked together by the insertion of...

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