The Daewoo K2: South Korea’s Pride
The AK Wishes They Were This Cool
Many of us in the gun community all have our own flavor of bang-stick that we gravitate towards. The pistol side of things has such a wide breadth of options that the war of “Who’s conceal bang-stick is better” is not nearly as cut throat as other factions of the gun community. One specific side of the community can get into a fist fight if even a different kind of recoil system is mentioned in the wrong household: the rifle faction.
The tribalism with rifles is almost as bitter as political powers, as ArmaLite fans still await the downfall of the Kalashnikov, while the Kalashnikovs are far too busy huffing cosmoline fumes to even think about the ArmaLites. Then in between these two larger tribes are the smaller ones: FALsers, PTRians, and the SIGmarites. There is an even smaller tribe that hides in the shadows of the others, and they adhere to the Daewoo K2. (DaeOwOians is not their name, quit trying to make it a thing.)
The South Korean Frankenstein
During the bloody stalemate that was the Korean War, South Korea had been using primarily American equipment. This was from the boots on their feet to the caps on their heads, and this continued well into the Vietnam War. South Koreans were highly motivated and left a reputation in their wake, a reputation they forged with the Armalite Rifle as well as some left overs from the Korean War. During this time, South Korea was producing M16A1s under license to keep their forces fighting with a more modern rifle, rather than slugging it out with M2 Carbines in the jungle.
After the Vietnam War, South Korea knew that their license was going to expire, and also knew that licensing out other rifles was not only going to be expensive, but a huge pain in the ass as well. South Korea wanted their own weapon, their own pattern of assault rifle that could go toe to toe with the giants of the world and hold its own. President Park Chung-hee wanted to be more self reliant when it came to national defense, and ordered the development of an indigenous standard military firearm.
In 1972, the program took off at a run. The South Korean Frankensteins in the RND department began mashing parts of M16s, AR18s, FALs, and AKMs together, cackling like mad men as lightning cracked across the sky. By 1982, the Daewoo had gone through many forms; Starting out as a simple direct gas impingement M16 clone, then coming to the final culmination that was the long-stroke, piston-driven XK2. In 1985 the rifle was in the hands of the South Korean soldiers, and the Daewoo K2 looked like an animal all its own.
So what the hell is this thing? Well it looks like the cuter cousin of the AR-18, and weighs about the same. Holding the rifle in your hand, it feels sturdy, meaty, and with lots of metal where metal should be. The thing truly is many rifles in one, with the handiest part being the folding buttstock. The buttstock comes in many forms, whether that is solid, skeletonized, or even patterned after a retractable M4 buttstock. The charging handle is the good ole side charging kind, sporting just a giant knob for you to grip, something I wish I could say myself.
The iron sights are big chunky bastards, the front post being fixed and all the adjustments being made in the rear. Near the rear of the rifle is the rail system, which you can mount an optic. Optics are a pain in the ass because you have to really shop around for the right optic if you want to be able to use both your iron sights and the optic. For the super easy bit of it, just get an angled plate so you can have your optic offset, allowing you to use both. There are after market mounts from South Korea but good luck finding one state side.
The Armalite Rifle influences are almost entirely in the lower section of the rifle, except for the bolt carrier group. Much like the Armalite, it has a bolt catch/release on the left side of the rifle. Push down to release the bolt, pull back on it to catch the bolt. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. Then there is the only drawback to this rifle just rearward of the catch: The safety. To go from safe to fire, you have to rotate this absolute Helga of a safety 180 degrees rearward or forward. The bolt release may be lemon squeezy, but the safety is difficult lemon difficult f@#$ b!@#$ just rotate BE-DAMNED YOU! It is for this exact reason that when not in storage, my Daewoo K2 is always on the fire selection, and rendered safe with a magazine extraction and the bolt held to the rear. That is how much I hate the safety. I would rather jam my foot in a steel bunker door than continuously rotate the safety back and forth.
One thing I don’t mind rotating back and forth, however, is the buttstock. The buttstock folds to the left onto the opposite side of the rifle’s charging handle, super handy when transporting and turns it into a far shorter rifle. Doesn’t make it any lighter, but it fits into most rucksacks easily, snuggled up alongside your body pillow and wool socks.
The iron sights are a treat to use. I am a huge iron sight fan, and view optics as an accessory. Not all rifles have nice iron sights, that can be said with truth, but the Daewoo K2 falls into the group of rifles where a peep through the rear sight doesn’t make you want to mutter a curse as you try to find your target. They are also easy to adjust, as the elevation is a notched screw and the windage is a simple twist nob.
Using NATO STANAG 5.56 magazines and chewing the same kind of ammunition makes feeding the Daewoo as easy as it comes. No fancy magazines to hunt, just a trip down to the local gun store. Want the magazine to come out? Press button. To break the rifle down, at the rear there’s a thumb button. Pull small inner leaver backwards, push button forwards, and open it comes. From here you can pull out the guts of the rifle, and anyone who uses a piston operated rifle will be in familiar territory. If you want to pull the lower entirely off, you push out the Armalite style bolt in front of the magazine-well and it comes apart. This rifle… could not be more simple and dummy proof. I know for a fact that the South Koreans did not ensure it was Marine proof, so that may still be an issue.
Shooting the rifle is smooth. Unlike the other rifles I’ve shot such as the AR-15, AKM, and FAL, the weapon is tight, and almost no rattle. I can happily keep plugging away with the trigger and easily keep the forward sight on target. With a red-dot its even easier, as the dot barely even wiggles away from the target. I believe this in part of the Daewoo’s design, weight, and piston driven gas system. The weight alone would help keep the target in your sights when using burst or full auto, but alas I was unable to test such fanciful things with my civilian market Daewoo. I’ve also found that its easier to reload than my AR-15. I’m not sure why that is, but the magazine locks and funnels easier thanks to whatever South Korean magic went into its design.
Guardbro’s Final Opinion
I have fired many a rifle, some painful, some pleasurable, but nothing has been as nice as the Daewoo K2. I can honestly say I would do some horrible, distasteful things to get more of these, as well as the upgrades they now have for them such as the modern handguard with M-LOK capabilities. Between the rifles I own, I always feel more inclined to take this one shooting, as it’s just a better experience over all. The only thing I hate about this rifle is Helga, that whack-ass safety, and is by far the only drawback to the rifle that actually hurts it. The optic rail has work arounds after all, but there are none as far as I’m aware for that safety.
The tragedy of these rifles is that they can no longer be imported, which is such a shame because they are fantastic rifles that I wish everyone could at least take a stab at owning. You would think having South Korea as an ally would allow for their rifles to flow into the states and into the hands of eager buyers, but I’m afraid that is simply not the case. The Daewoo K2 is a Franken-Rifle of the highest caliber, and if you ever find yourself in front of one with spare cash in your pocket, snap it up before someone else does.
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