Norinco Type 97 Review

T97 right hand side

The Norinco T97 (or Type 97) has been a 4 year process. Canada Ammo originally attempted to import them in bulk, but was stymied by a very late process RCMP review that found it was too easily converted to fully automatic. A renewed effort by North Sylva redesigned the trigger mechanism to eliminate this issue and they were successful in getting an FRT for their redesigned T97NSR and are importing the rifles into Canada at a roughly $1000 price point as of September, 2013. Now that the wait is finally over, how’s the rifle? There are a pile of photos below, so if you want to know about a particular piece of the rifle, check out the gallery below.

My Video Review of the Norinco T97:

Norinco Type 97 NSR Specs:

  • Non restricted class in Canada
  • Chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO (also good for .223 Remington)
  • STANAG standard magazines (same as AR15)
    • Comes with a kinda crappy 5/30 magazine. Big, ugly rivets on both front and back.
    • Some users (myself included) have issues fitting Gen3 PMAGs.
    • Fit my 10 round LAR-15 mags, though not drop-free.
  • Inconvenient magazine release placement on the magwell.
  • 19″ barrel with muzzle brake, though Canada Ammo’s model claims 18.7″ barrel. In any case, more than the 18.5″ necessary to make the rifle non-restricted.
  • Bolt holds open on empty mag. Need to use charging handle to release once you’ve got a fresh mag in.
  • Carry handle with integrated iron sights
    • Proprietary Chinese optics rail.
    • Optics rails are now available from SFRC ($100), Canada Ammo ($50), and there’s an airsoft rail ($25) out there as well.
    • The T97.ca Flat Top upper (FTU) is now out to the public. Check out my review here
  • Short stroke gas system with rotating bolt.
    • 3 position gas system. (0 for off, #1 for regular, and #2 for adverse running operation)
  • Weight: 3.9kg (8.6lbs)
  • Trigger pull: 4-5 lbs (light, but a bit mushy and long)
  • Safety near the buttpad
  • Cleaning kit included in pistol grip.
  • 3/4″ sling loops
  • Muzzlebrake/flash suppressor is pinned.
  • Bullpup layout resulting in a compact overall length. OAL= 29 7/8″ or 75.8cm

Overall Quality

Overall, surprisingly good. Unlike the Norinco M14, there are no sharp edges, and the metal and plastic all feel military quality. This feels like a gun that you could throw behind the bench seat in a pickup truck and you wouldn’t think twice about it. With a purpose of being a rough and tumble ranch rifle, it’d be the ticket. Everything that is Canadian-friendly feels a bit hodge-podge on usability.

Shooting the T97NSR

Had a range session with another buddy that has a T97, and we’re back with some feedback:

  • The iron sights suck. I don’t mind peep sights, but these are not round, small, and I found my eyes straining quickly. It grouped alright close in, but at 100 yards I was all over the place. I’ll take the blame on this one.
  • Adjusting the sights for height is easy due to the included height adjustment tool, but adjusting for windage is much more difficult, because you have to drift the front sight pin over. You can use an SKS sight adjustment tool to adjust this sight for windage.
  • Even with a low profile red dot on the accessory rail, a cheek rest of some kind is required unless you’re happy with a “chin weld”. I’m not.
  • Due to the short overall length, the end of the barrel will rest well inside of many covered shooting positions and makes this rifle sound pretty loud and mean.
  • The magwell is not well enough relieved from the factory. I gave my magwell a bit of a bevel, while my other buddy did not. It was much more touchy to seat a magazine in his rifle than mine.
  • I experienced 1 failure in 100 rounds; a round that hit the breech nose first and collapsed the bullet inside the case (and sprayed unfired gunpowder everywhere). I may polish my feedramp as a precautionary measure.
  • Don’t bother with a front bipod. Most of the weight is on the rear right hand and the front is easily stabilized by your left hand. Fired prone, the rifle is very steady and fired offhand, it’s better than non-bullpups.
  • On a sling, the rifle is amazing. It’s compact, the flat sides make for easy carry, and the sling points allow for a ton of different carry options. That all said, good luck finding a 3/4″ sling.
  • The trigger is alright! It’s long, but light and clean.
2-3 MOA accuracy is typical with a little bit of ammo testing.

2-3 MOA accuracy is typical with a little bit of ammo testing.

Usability

With a sling either over the shoulder or carried diagonally over the shoulder and head, the rifle feels fantastic. Those ugly flat surfaces carry evenly on your back and feel great compared to a pokey bolt action rifle or all-angles Norinco M14, and the short OAL of the rifle means that you’re not going to be snagging the barrel on many trees. The magwell and everything they’ve done to make it Canada-friendly is not as great. The mag release is pretty shit: it’s a small button on the wrong side of the magwell. I think a bit of engineering could have resulted in a friendly ambi mag release mechanism that would have been easier to use. The safety is wayyyy back on the left side of the buttstock and is pretty inconvenient. The sling swivels are tiny little 3/4″ deals without enough room for many popular hooks to grab on. The sight radius is pretty small. Scoping the rifle means it’s sitting pretty high over the bore axis. I’ve found that charging the T97 is not fantastically quick as the charging handle only allows a single finger to grab onto it. In short, usability is not up to contemporary military rifles.

Disassembling the Norinco T97

Disassembling the T97 is very easy. (see the images below in the gallery for a better idea)

  1. Pop out the rear takedown pin.
  2. Remove the rear butt, striker assembly, bolt carrier, bolt, carry handle.
  3. Pop out the mid-way pin.
  4. Remove the plastic piece with the grip and trigger.
  5. Twist the gas adjustment to horizontal and remove it.
  6. Remove the gas piston and spring.
  7. Press down on the safety retaining leaf spring, pull safety selector out. Remove sear assembly and trigger bar from rear.

I had a chance to film the disassembly, so take a peek below:

I had higher hopes for the T97 being as easy to disassemble as the AR15, but it’s not. The bolt comes out of the bolt carrier a bit easier, but overall accessibility is better in the AR15 line of rifles. The striker assembly of the T97 is a bit simpler/easier to break down than the buried trigger assembly on an AR15. That all said, my 16″ AR15 rifle is much longer than my non-restricted 18.5″ T97, even with the telescopic stock all the way in. The bullpup design requires a bit more complexity, but gives you a much more compact rifle to carry.

Conclusion

Ultra reliable, decent build quality, extremely compact, ugly like a glock, awful ergonomics, needs better optics options (now available), incredible price.

  • Hank

    Flash hider is pinned, so I take it can be remove? Is the spec same as AR15? I would want to SEI muzzle brake…

  • I’m not sure, haven’t seen anyone brave enough to drift the pin out and hammer it off.

  • hung nguyen

    What is the hook on the trigger bar connected to?

  • The hook on the front connects with the trigger.

  • hung nguyen

    when i do that, the trigger moves back a little and wont move fully forward tho. is this ok?

  • No, you’ve probably got the trigger nub stuck in front of the hook. Try re-seating the lower handle bit again.

  • Also, keep the upper plastic carry handle piece off and it’ll be easy to see when the hook grabs onto the right spot on the trigger.

  • Marty

    Really great review and great pictures!
    Could you tell me what type of sling you’re using, and where it hooks onto (what it looks like) the butt stock?

  • That sling was just temporary. I’m working on stitching some 3/4″ nylon onto the sling loops and putting some female Quick Detach points on the other end. That way, I can attach or remove the sling quickly, and still get a nice tight fit. There are also some traditional leather military rifle slings that can be had in 3/4″.

  • thanksman

    glorious. will post to CGN

  • jessie

    Hey, what sling are you using? I have a vickers VTAC and it definitely wont fit. I like that yours looks simple and no frills.

    Let me know
    thanks

  • It looks simple and no frills because it’s off a $5 camera bag 🙂

    For a long term solution, I’m going to get some 3/4″ nylon and permanently sew some very short runs to female QD points.

  • Punching Down

    How would I mount a vertical grip on this?

  • I’ve seen a few people bolt on the magpul pic rails and then use them to mount accessories. Personally, I like the standard forend.

  • Tim S

    I’ve heard an moa of 1-2 isnt out of reach. Whats your experience thus far. And I know the ergonomics are not amazing but is the magazine release that bad? I could see myself getting used to the safety but the mag release seems like a but point to look out for.

  • Tim S

    Big** point to look out for

  • shannon

    how is it for leftys?

  • Terrible. The casing come flying out pretty quick; you’d have to crane your neck wayyyy back and maybe fab up some sort of shell deflector. Tavor or learn how to shoot right handed.

  • I’m getting 3-4 MOA with the irons, but the real test will be once the upper rail is available and I can stick a real optic on there. The mag release is bad, but not that bad once you get used to it. I wouldn’t want to take it into battle, but it’s just fine for use at the range or hunting. It’d be a disadvantage in 3 gun over an AR. That all said, T97.ca will be releasing all sorts of aftermarket goodies to resolve some of the usability issues, so it’s not like you’ll have to suffer with these issues for long.

  • shannon

    thx.

  • Power

    Using a high grade scope I got the following:
    -Cheap norinco military rounds got 6moa
    -Using cheap .223 rounds like mfs you get under 2 moa
    -Another guy at the range with high end perfectly loaded rounds he does for himself gets sub moa.
    On that note, the other range guy says on his the scope moves between sessions and he has to recalibrate each use…I used a little epoxy on my mount and it’s solid (no slipping) and to remove just put the corner of a table under the opening for the rail mount and hit with a hammer then clean a little.
    Oh and the rail mount for my rifle is off by a couple of mm in the machining, prevents some scopes from being centered, a little aluminum tape fixes the issue.

  • Good info. I think I’ll wait for the T97.ca upper before trying scoping again, just because it’ll be in pretty quick, but I’ll be very happy if I can get 2 moa on cheap rounds and 1 on reloaded.

  • Mr.Peak Crackers

    the sights do suck … i second that .. great site and well done info
    thank you Hunting guy

  • Ian

    its a strange Chinese thread pattern… so standard AR stuff wont fit

  • Vince

    Got a new T97 this week and took it to the range yesterday to try it out. Got the surprise of my life when I squeezed the trigger for the first shot and the 5-round mag was emptied in one short burst. Tried a second mag and it did it again. Left the range under the angry stare of other unappreciative and rather scandalized shooters. What could be the cause of this ? Does anyone have any troobleshooting advice or should I just return it to the store ?

  • Chase Callihoo

    Has anyone had a problem with there type 97 jamming? Mine will fire 2 bullets with one pull of the trigger then it won’t eject the second shell. I tried adjusting the piston but it didn’t help.

  • Andrew K

    Thank you for the excellent review! Still undecided between this and a Ruger Mini-14 but you answered all the questions I had.

  • Sakata Rotaru

    I’ve got a YMA-95 optic (the proper proprietary Chinese optic) and PLA OD sling on mine, and I love the thing. It’s got that rad “Future Warrior” look, and is a blast to shoot. But since YMAs are pure unobtanium, I’d go with a FTU for my second.

  • Tom

    The sights suck if you are aiming for hunting or paper punching. But if you consider that this is basically a service rifle, getting minute of jihadi at 200 m on surplus quality ammo, unsupported, is what it is meant for. The sights accomplish that. Even before the t97 products it was one of my favourite guns to shoot because I found the sights a challenge to learn, I don’t find the ergonomics of the gun that bad personally. In 2000 rounds, I had 1 stoppage. A friend who never touched a firearm before didn’t pull the charging handle all the way to the rear. It loaded the round, but the firing pin didn’t set. Tap, rack & shoot. Problem solved.

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