I realize this is not an AK forum, so for the most part Iíll just stay on topic with this 11M series rifle in question, as I believe this platform is also relevant to better understanding the Chinese dating methodology. Why is this weapon important? Itís because itís extremely difficult to factually pinpoint the production methodology and dating, and what I do know with a fairly high degree of certainty is the 11M Type 56 with the folding bayonet (1st variation) was very likely the earliest of this variant transferred to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). Earlier serial numbers of this variation may have been used by the PLA in China but if so, itís very unlikely any were transferred to the Hanoiís inventory, based on documented museum and bringback examples. So by accurately dating this particular variant, it may be possible to backtrack by serial number blocks/years to a logical conclusion, used in conjunction with the other platforms outlined in the progression. I don't know if that's even possible because this rifle threw a monkey wrench in my original thought process.
The problem is most of the pre-amnesty Type 56 Assault Rifles were illegally brought back and no paperwork existed. They may have been registered in the states after the fact but that doesnít help. I have archived a lot of Vietnam era examples over the years and of those registered rifles in the US, I believe all were officially documented no earlier than 1968 and generally registered during the amnesty period. Whatís really important is the captured date, not so much when it was registered, although the DD form is extremely important, especially with regards to provenance and in determining the value. Most of the amnesty-registered examples that I have seen shed little help in this area. For example, a 8M rifle captured and registered in 1968, does little to help determine a production date, other than knowing it was produced sometime prior to 1968. Vietnam era dated photos are another very useful tool in this area but good, detailed photos are almost nonexistent. Another point is very few owners publicly post detailed photos of their T56 assault rifle (s). I have handled my share of these rifles over the years, so Iím fairly familiar with them. Another point is, unlike the SKS, the sample size is very small.
What I do know is this variant with the permanently attached 240mm folding cruciform cross section spike bayonet first appeared on Chinese 11M series rifles and then again on 12M export variants and also on 13M series rifles. There was also a spiker with a clamp-on type mount, for upgrading T56 rifles that didnít have the factory installed sight tower with the integral bayonet mount. The clamp mount was secured onto the barrel by a bracket, just behind the front sight tower. This clamp-on type mount would not be applicable for 11M series rifles. This 11M RIA rifle in question appears to be legitimate from the few photos I see and the roster (although not an original document) Phosphorus32 posted, but I would love to see some detailed photos of the rifle broken down to be 100% certain. That being said, I have no reason to doubt the legitimacy of this weapon.
Like most copies of the basic Soviet pattern, there were small design changes implemented by the Chinese. Just like the SKS, Russian proofs and Russian parts were used on the early rifles. For example, at least three different FSBs were used on the early rifles; as well as Russian rear sight leafs with Cyrillic battle sight markings and other small parts. I have photos of some that definitely have Russian Type III FSBs and Cyrillic leaf markings . Eleven million series rifle were well into production, so the likelihood of any Russian remnants would be virtually nonexistent. This rifle is consistent with other 11M bringbacks and museum examples but the date goes against any of the serial number dating theories. As far as gaps in production, I have roughly 100 Vietnam era examples and 1M and 2M are the only serial number ranges I do not have an example of. They may exist but I personally had never seen one and Iíve been looking for a long time. Sounds a little familiar and may potentially play a role in the dating. Also, the T56-1 milled underfolder variant was being produced during the same period and shared the serial blocks. For example, T56s used early 3M serial numbers, while T56-1s used late 3M serial numbers.
Background: China produced a few different Type 56 fixed-stock, milled variants and also a milled M22 export variant, based on the Soviet Type III AK-47. All of these variants were observed in Vietnam and were used by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) Guerrillas during the Vietnam War. The Chinese Type 56 assault rifles with the forged/milled receivers were the most commonly encountered AK variant used by the NVA and VC, with the M22 export variant being the most common of the AKs encountered by American units.
A U.S. Army warehouse used to store captured enemy AK rifles during the Vietnam War. The vast majority of the weapons were eventually destroyed. (Photo by NARA)
The USA allocated the Foreign Mat»riel Number (FOM) 1005-5-2-7.62-2 to this weapon. The sequence indicated Federal supply category (1005), country designator (5), mat»riel subcategory - 'rifles' (2), calibre - 7.62mm (7) and specific item identifier (62-2). (Type 56 milled receiver variants) Note: there is a separate FOM for 56-1 variants and stamped receiver variants.
Iíll briefly highlight a few examples on both sides of that serial number range just to show the differences surrounding the 11M variant, but the focus is the T56, 1st variation.
Type 56: Milled receiver; fixed wood stock; knife bayonet; factory designation, model and selector indications in Chinese characters; serial number, and hooded sight protector with hole for sight adjusting key. Note: many early rifles have smaller sized font.
Markings: /66\五六式 (State Arms Factory 366 logo and ďType 56Ē Model Designation). Selector Markings: 连 (pronounced as "Lian" and translates as "chain" or "join" or "link successively") and 单 (pronounced as "Dan" and translates as "single" or "only"). These are the equivalents of "automatic" and "single-shot" modes. Note: This facility is located in Hei Long Jiang Province, located in northeast China.
1969: Serial number 5262524 captured in 1969 during the Damanskii Sino-Soviet conflict and currently located in the FSB Border Guard Museum. I threw in this example only to highlight that T56 assault rifles, as well as other Chinese weapons, were used in other conflicts during the same era. Konfrontasi is another example. Note: Russian parts were still used as evident by the FSB.
1966: NVA Defector Sergeant Vu Tuan Anh, 33rd Regiment, 320th North Vietnamese Division holding his Type 56 rifle (SN: 9479711), which he brought with him when he defected.
1967: Type 56 (serno 10049350) was recovered from Vietnam in 1967 by a USMC Major (retired as USMC BGen) who served two tours in Vietnam and the rifle was registered by him in November 19, 1968 with a Form 4467. The name ďNONGOUANGĒ or ďNANGOUANGĒ is lightly etched into the buttstock, perhaps the name of the soldier to whom this rifle belonged to. Sold for $27,901,00 on November 17, 2008.
Chinese M22 (milled) export model: Type 56 rifle with no Chinese State Factory markings, only the M22 designation followed by serial number starting with íNí. The purpose was to provide a ďsanitizedĒ rifle to underdeveloped Third World nations to conceal the weaponís origin. The selector markings were marked L and D but translate to the exact same meaning as the Chinese characters. Note: all other characteristics and features were the same as the Type 56 rifle. M22s were designed exclusively for export sales and it is believed that there is no known folding bayonet variants of the M22.
1968 Amnesty registered M22 export variant, registered as Russian AK47 Model 22, under serno 07730. Note the ďK A BĒ marking forward of the bolt. All serial numbers match. Collection of Carl ďBillĒ Morrison. Sold for $42,500 on October 16, 2013.
Now, finally to the meat of my pointÖ.
Type 56 1st Variation (milled): Fixed wood stock; folding spike bayonet; milled receiver; factory designation, model and selector indications in Chinese characters; serial number and hooded sight protector with hole for sight adjusting key.
State Arms Factory Logo and Model Designation: /66\五六式 (State Arms Factory 366 logo and ďType 56Ē Model Designation) Selector Markings: 连 and 单.
The RIA 11M rifle in the original post is a 1st variation rifle and here is another Vietnam example displayed at National Museum of the U.S. Marine Corps, Quantico, Virginia. I have other examples but they are the same as the museum example.
Here's a comparison of the museum example and the RIA example. They are virtually the same in all aspects. (museum rifle on top, RIA example on bottom)
So now youíre asking why is this 11M example important. Well, if one were to concede that this platform follows a similar dating methodology as the SKS and/or other Chinese weapons of this era, than the 1965 capture date is puzzling, as it doesnít fit any of the dating theories. The earliest 1st variation that I can confirm is 1966 and thatís assuming itís an 11M series and not a 12M or 13M series, and that the photo date is 100% accurate, which I have no reason to doubt.
1966: photo was taken at the Kara Village in Cu Chi (Northwest of Saigon) in 1966. Presumably an 11M series rifle. 1966 I could believe and thatís fits with the dating theory outlined on this forum but again, the 1965 RIA example baffles me. I personally have not seen any documents or photos of any spikerís in country prior to 1966, until the 1965 RIA example.
15 July 1967, ďOperation Market TimeĒ intercepted a trawler in the Sa Ky River. Once the battered hull of the infiltrator had been refloated, and its cargo removed, both were transported north to Da Nang. Once the battered hull of the Sa Ky infiltrator had been refloated and its cargo removed, both were transported north to Da Nang, where these photos were taken. Note the T56s Spikerís appear to be brand new. Too bad we donít know the serial numbers and markings on these, likely 11M or 12M series.
Remains of the trawler:
An inventory of the trawlerís cargo, as reported in the US Naval Forces Vietnam Summary of July 1967:
Photos of the infiltrator cargo taken in Da Nang:
Type 56, 2nd Variation (milled): Fixed wood stock; folding spike bayonet; milled receiver; factory designation and model indications in Chinese characters; selector indications L and D; serial number and hooded sight protector with hole for sight adjusting key. The only difference between the 1st (11M) and 2nd (12M) variation is the selector markings. The 2nd variation is an export variant. I show this just for completenessÖ.13M was also the spiker variant.
1968: Serial Number 1210208x was picked up off a tributary of the Mekong Delta during the summer of 1968 (July or August). This weapon was featured in 2002 in Small Arms Review. Registered it in November 1968 with a Form 4467.
Serial Number 12104422 captured by New Zealand troops and registered as a New Zealand Vietnam bring back.
So, this whole thing just leaves more questions than answers for me. Granted this platform is scarce in numbers and much more difficult to get good detailed photos and original documentation, but if the 1965 dated rifle is legit, which I believe it to be, I think it's safe to conclude T56 assault rifles don't follow the dating theories. Another thought is that something may have potentially transpired during early production (1M, 2M range) that directly impacts the dating. For example, if no 1M serial number rifles were produced, then the 1965 date would fit the progression on this forum. Like I said earlier, of all the examples I have archived, I have yet to see a 1M or 2M example. They may exist but I've never seen a Vietnam era example and I really never dug dig into China's exports post Sino-Vietnam War era. For all I know 1M and 2M rifles may have been issued to the PLA and never exported during this era. Seems the more I learn the less I know when it comes to the Chinese!