Norinco’s M305 and T97: Cheap garbage or sweet bargain?
It’s something those damned Canucks get North of the border. Those Chinese M1A clones, ARs, a handgun or two and those funky bullpup T97 and Pumas. Are they as trash as you’ve heard? We’ll see what you think after I give a couple hands on (oh my) examples.
First, let’s learn what Norinco actually means. China North Industries Corporation is a state owned group established in the year 1980 that is quite diverse in what products it deals with, although this range is nowhere near as varied as South Korea’s Samsung.
I have handled both the CQ (AR-15) and a Puma once. The Puma is essentially a 12ga T97. Pretty fun. I have heard nothing negative about either of those so far and both felt weighty, solid, and well put together. Not at all what you’d expect of something from China. I do however have both the M305 and T97 and I’ll show you what makes them great and what could use some improvement with outside and (lewd) inside pictures.
Norinco M305 – M14
First up we’ll take the M305, an M1A clone.
How great can it be? It’s $650-$700 CDN. That’s a quarter of something from Springfield or Fulton. To the dismay of M1A owners, they’re far better than the price difference implies. All of the parts on mine have lasted past a couple thousand rounds of whatever bargain .308 I found at the time (I’m talking Yugoslav and Russian even, real random stuff). Some claim the spring guide bends and needs to be replaced by an aftermarket one ASAP. That’s this little guy here.
You may be thinking, “Well there must be some problem that Rybec has run into, these are ridiculously cheap compared to the originals.” Of course, I do in fact have a glaring issue with mine. A common problem is over indexed barrels which leads to… slightly off centered front sight posts. It shoots on target but dear God is it ever ugly. This is somewhat common, so those planning to buy one, beware.
Even though the sights are kinda funky it still has acceptable accuracy for a big boy’s caliber $700 rifle. This picture is from firing at 100 yards. From these results, you can see that I put around a one to two inch group at this distance on the paper.
Norinco T97 Bullpup
So onto the T97 because it’s such an oddball.
What in the hell is this rifle based off of? What’s funny about that is it’s entirely a Chinese creation. The T97 is the civilian export model of the QBZ-95 which is the modern Chinese standard infantryman rifle, only chambered in 5.56 and not the super secret 5.8×42 “Better than American and Russian caliber”. These go for around $900-$1000 CDN.
First off, you’ll see the optic (AimPoint CompM2) is not mounted anymore and there’s some arm sticking out of the rear sight post area. Well, they have a proprietary rail for an optic that if you can find it will cost you around a thousand dollars. A friend had one and it was interesting. Instead of that, I have a picatinny adapter.
The big issue with the T97 is the magazine release and the safety/fire selector. The latter is all the way at the back of the rifle! I made a video showing how the magazine release works. Like all commie guns, it works best as a lefty shooter. You see, the QBZ95 this is based off of has its own rock-in magazines with a paddle release on the rear of the magwell. They went and took that design and said “How do we make this take STANAGs?”. This was their solution.
By far this is the biggest turnoff for most users. It’s also the only turnoff- the rifle is very solid and definitely goes against the Chinese stereotype of cheap crap.
The biggest thing to take away from Norinco products is that they do have flaws but how infrequent these issues are coupled with the amazing price tags in comparison to competition, Norinco is likely better than you’ve been told.