An entire line of infantry weapons has grown up around the QBZ-95. A carbine version with a shorter overall length is available for vehicle crews and special forces, while a heavier barrel variant is available to boost squad firepower. Unfortunately, the heavier version cannot accept belt-fed ammunition and only takes 30-round magazines, limiting its ability to provide high-volume firepower.
The rifle uses a unique 5.8-millimeter round developed by China and not used outside of its borders. The justification for the round is a bit of a mystery. It seemingly does not provide any significant improvement over existing NATO and Russian cartridges, both of which have seen extensive research and development and the development of a wide variety of subrounds. One possible explanation for the Chinese round is that it makes the QBZ-95 unable to accept externally sourced ammunition.
Although the rifle has so far not seen widespread use outside of China, China’s status and the size of China’s Army earn it a place on this list.
Kyle Mizokami is a writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and The Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.
This article first appeared in 2014.