Irons

North Korea’s homemade handgun — the Type 70

A rarity anywhere south of the Korean demilitarized zone is the North Korean Type 70, which Westerners able to get their hands on one have found to be a very serviceable service pistol.

North Korea’s first truly indigenous handgun design, it is nevertheless an interesting conglomeration of features from other countries’ guns, combined in a simple, effective firearm.

In the 1960s North Korea’s state arsenals began manufacture of their own pistols with the Type 64, essentially a reverse-engineered, unlicensed copy of the Browning 1900 pistol produced by Belgium’s Fabrique Nationale.

North Korean gunmakers used the FN/Browning 1900 as a template for their own domestic firearm. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
North Korean gunmakers used the FN/Browning 1900 as a template for their own domestic firearm. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

There has been no official explanation for using such an aged weapon as the model, but in 1909 a Korean officer in their occupied country used one to assassinate a Japanese political official—perhaps sentimentality, then, may lie behind that choice.

Their next effort, the Type 66, was a direct copy of the Soviet Makarov PM pistol of 1951, while the Type 68, copied the Soviet Tokarev TT33 of World War II fame.

With those copies providing experience in the art of gunsmithing, the North Koreans set two work on a more or less indigenous design to succeed the imported Chinese NORINCO Type 64 series of pistols that had served as their principal sidearms. The project came to fruition—and achieved acceptance in their armed forces in 1970—as the Type 70.

A simple blowback operated semiautomatic, single action gun with a detached barrel within the slide and an exposed hammer firing a 7.65x35mm .32ACP round, the Type 70 actually combined selected elements from such successful role models as the Makarov, the German Walther PPK and even the old FN 1900.

The Soviet Makarov was a favorite of communist militaries for years. (Photo by Getty Images)
The Soviet Makarov was a favorite of communist militaries for years. (Photo by Getty Images)

The muzzle, for example, is similar to the Makarov’s, although the overall configuration of the gun is definitely not. Rounds are ejected out a port on the right side of the weapon, while the safety button above the trigger on the left side also served as the main locking block—pushing the entire crossbar out the right side allows the barrel assembly and recoil spring to come out for disassembly and cleaning.

Users of the Type 70 have been impressed with the overall simplicity with which all of its outside influences have been incorporated into a solid, reliable weapon.

Vertical grooves along the side of the handle culminating in an engraved star on the upper part—are another Makarov feature, which make for a firm hold on a pistol that is, overall, comfortable to handle. The trigger is likewise solid within the thick trigger guard and the heel release for the seen-round magazine is, like the gun overall, simple and reliable.

The Type 70 is 6.3 inches long, with a barrel length of 3.74 inches. Muzzle velocity is 1,035 feet per second for an effective range of 50 meters.

In this 1971 photo from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, distributed by Korea News Service, (North) Korean People's Army soldiers undertake firearm training. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP Images)
In this 1971 photo from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, distributed by Korea News Service, (North) Korean People's Army soldiers undertake firearm training. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP Images)

When introduced, the Type 70 was initially issued to high-ranking senior officers, who also received the symbolically significant Type 64, while the Type 68 and Chinese pistols continued in use by the more junior officers and senior noncommissioned officers.

The Type 70 is not known to have been exported to other nations, but one is known to have found its way into the hands of the Rock Island Auctions Company in Illinois. Unknown is how it got there and its whereabouts since April 2015.

All that can be said of this unusual indigenous product of the “Hermit Kingdom” is that it is still in use, it serves its purpose well and it makes a truly rare collector’s item for any Western gun collector.

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