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September 6, 2016 (updated March 4, 2021) Published by bigredsfirearms
Review of the Norinco Type 97 NSR-FTU Bullpup. I have had my hands on this firearm for a few weeks now and would like to give an honest review of it. I did not hold Norinco firearms with any kind of regard and know there are many mixed reviews about some of their firearms, but getting to fire this bullpup and seeing the good quality of it has impressed me. It does have some weird locations for some of the features such as the mag release and saftey. More on that below. I do think they could fix the issues and still keep their cost down but saying that please remember that the typical price of this firearm in Canada is around $1300-$1400 plus tax. I know thats not cheap but in the bullpup world in Canada thats cheap. If you compare the Tavor and others on the market they all run over $2500 plus tax. I am not going to compare the Tavor or others to the Norinco Type 97 because they are in two different price points and not comparable in that regard. I have not used a Tavor or any other bullpups either so could not fairly compare. But if you pay almost double for a firearm it should have better features and quality. I am just going to tell you what I like and don’t like about this firearm and you can form your own opinion so onto the review.
Quick Closeup Video:
- Non restricted Canada
- Chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO (also good for .223 Remington)
- STANAG standard magazines (same as AR15)
- Comes with a 5/30 magazine.
- 18.7″ barrel.
- Bolt holds open on empty magazine
- 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: 5-6 lbs
- Cleaning kit included in pistol grip.
- 3/4″ sling loops
- Muzzle brake/flash suppressor is pinned.
- Bullpup layout resulting in a compact overall length. OAL= 29 7/8″ or 75.8cm
The construction of the Norinco Type 97 is actually very good. Now I only put about 500 rounds threw it while I had it so after 3000 rounds who knows how well it will handle it. But the receiver, action, barrel and polymer parts all seem to be made well without any noticeable “rough” construction such as burrs or rough patches on the metals/polymer. The forend, buttstock and grip are polymer. The upper is 6061 aluminum (made in Canada), and the rest is steel and is very sturdy. The polymer forend does move very slightly but you can’t even notice it when using the rifle.
As mentioned above the Type 97 does have a polymer buttstock. I find it very comfortable, it does not leave any marks on the shoulder. Now the buttstock allows for a good cheek weld and allows for a good steady shot.
The oversized non-reciprocating charing handle on the Norinco Type 97-NSR-FTU version (one being reviewed) has the charging handle on the left side for easy access. Since the FTU (Flat Top Upper) version of this firearm is not a factory version but is readily available modified and pre-installed version, the charging handle works just fine but it is not attached to the original location of the charging handle. This handle is located behind the original location and basically just pushes the charging bar. Thus once the bolt is held open the charging handle moves freely behind the charging bar. Not a big problem just something you need to be aware of when using the firearm. You can also buy a 3rd party upgrade that allows the charging handle to be reciprocating. I don’t have a need for this and haven’t tried it but it is available if you would like it or like a reciprocating bolt. One other thing I think I should mention is when you pull back the charging handle to load your first round pull it back all the way and just release it. If you don’t sometimes the bold does not close all the way. So just let it rip and don’t baby it. It will not fire if the bolt does not close fully so don’t be worried about it going off. Didn’t happen a lot but something to be conscious of.
It has a short stroke gas system with rotating bolt. A 3 position adjustable gas system, 0 for off, #1 for regular, and #2 for adverse running operation. I only had the need to run the firearm on setting 1 and did not find the need to mess with the gas settings. Maybe if it got really dirty or I was allowed to use a suppressor I may need to change the settings. Glad it has the options but not really needed for everyday use as far as I can tell.
The Norinco Type 97 NSR-FTU does not come with any sights, iron or otherwise. So you will have to mount an optic/iron sites on the picatinny rail that runs across the top of the rifle. This technically adds cost to the rifle but with so many options for optics and flip up iron sights its nice to have the ability to choose whatever you want to run with.
Has a pinned muzzle break/flash hider. Seems to work well and does seem to make the rifle very loud! Would like to have a threaded barrel so I could change out the muzzle break or if we are ever allowed to have suppressors we could attach one. But since its pinned it would take some work to be able to change the break.
The Norinco Type 97 NSR-FTU comes with a Canadian made flat top upper that has a full length 1913 picatinny rail and is also compatible with Magpul® polymer rail sections. You can also get a picatinny rail for the bottom of the front grip.
As shown in the picture the mag release button is located on the right side, yes the right side! Since the Type 97 can only be fired by right handed people this is confusing to me. So releasing your magazine is very difficult for some. My hands are a fair size so I can use my left hand and and fairly easily reach the button from the left side and release it and pull the mag out all in one go. People with smaller hands or stubby fingers would have a much greater issue. If your doing some sort of training that you need to release the mag as fast as you can then the stock function of this rifle would not work for you in that case. There is a 3rd party upgrade that you can buy that makes it so you can release the mag from the left side. Kind of ugly though. But I believe its only around $50 so probably worth it.
The rifle I used did not have the original 5/30 magazine so I cannot review the stock mag. I did however have a Lar-15 mag and a couple Press Check Ventures .50 Beowulf magazines. I have heard and noticed that the mag well in the Norinco Type 97 is very tight and fussy with certain magazines. The Lar-15 magazine I used with this rifle worked 100% of the time and had no issues. It does not drop free and does hold the bolt open on last shot. The .50 Beowulf magazines I gather did not fit as the outside of the magazine had to be shaved down a few millimetres and once that was done they fit perfect. They do not drop free and do hold the bolt open on the last shot. I did have one cartridge get stuck on the feeding ramp and it pushed the nose of the bullet into the cartridge. That was the only issue I had in over 500 rounds. I believe that happened when using one of the Beowulf magazines.
As I mentioned in my past reviews I am not a precision shooter and only notice triggers if they are really bad, I am starting to get a better appreciation for better triggers because I have actually got to use a few rifles with nice triggers and really see the benefit, but still don’t overly care as I learn to shoot with whatever is handed to me or I purchase. This rifle has a 4.5-5.5 pound trigger pull. This is from what I have read very good for a bullpup. Theres not much creep and a good break. Would I say this is a great trigger probably not but for a bullpup its very good. From what I have read its much better then a Tavors stock trigger that has a 9-10 pound trigger pull and very mushy. Thats great considering the price of the Type 97.
Ok now this is a very strange place to put a safety. It at the back of the gun on the left side. So you literally have to move your hand all the way to the back of the firearm to engage and disengage the safety. Its such a pain and hard to do when going to take a shot and you forgot to disengage it, that means having to reach back with your left hand disengaging the safety and then getting ready to shoot again. This is not good for hunting or even plain old target shooting as its annoying and more then annoying I would imagine if you were hunting with it. But there is a safety upgrade that you can get. I mention more about it below.
Now to the most important section of the review, reliability! I shot around 500 rounds so far through the Norinco and thus far I have had a few issues. One of the issues I mentioned above was the one cartridge that got stuck on the feeding ramp and pushed the bullet into the cartridge. Was that the gun or the magazine? I would think probably the mag. But it only happened once so nothing major. Something a little more worrisome I had 3 primers blow out. Yes completely blow out and the primers were left in the chamber! This was from a box of UMC ammo and it happened 3 times out of 200 rounds. I was worried so I inspected the gun and found no issues caused by the blowback. I could also not see any reason why the firearm would be causing this. When I took the firearm out again I tried a batch of the Remington Bucket of Freedom UMC ammo and shot another 200 rounds and did not have any further issues. I also had a few random better quality ammo on hand and shot around 50-75 rounds of that ammo and no issue. I believe that the problems with the primers blowing out were caused by the ammo possibly being overloaded, primers not being seated properly or maybe the cartridge was not to the right dimensions? Not really sure but the Norinco Type 97 took the blowback like a champ and made a situation that could have been bad not much of a safety risk and showed no signs of damage! Thus I would say this firearm is made very well. The problems I had with the rifle would never stop me from buying one as I truly do believe the rifle was not at fault for any of the issues.
The extractor on this firearm works very well! It throws the cartridges like a baseball player throws a ball. In fact is a little rough on the cartridges, take a look at the picture. I do not see this as a bad thing as theres no worry of it getting out the spent round. I do think you really have to be conscious of the person next to you at the range or outdoors, wouldn’t want it smacking them in the face! Not sure if the dent causes any reloading problems or not?
This is the pack that I had the primer blowouts with and the misfeed. Remington UMC .223 55GR, 200 Mega Pack. Cost: $139.99
Remington Bucket of Freedom .223 – 55GR – 300 Rounds – Basically the same as the UMC above. No issues with this ammo.
I did use a few smaller packs of ammo but I did not keep track of what brand. I do think it was Federal American Eagle but am not 100% is was more expensive then the UMC and did not have any issues.
Please watch the takedown video below. The Norinco Type 97 is very easy to field strip and clean. After the 500 rounds or so it was not even dirty really. I could probably run a thousand rounds or more before it would absolutely need a cleaning. I was actually very surprised how clean it stayed. I always clean my guns after every use but for this firearm I don’t think you would need to.
I did have some issues with the scope that was mounted on the firearm. Nothing wrong with the actual scope but when I first used the rifle it was not sighted in properly, so I sighted it in and seemed to hit clays at about 75 meters fairly easily. It took me some time to get used to firing a bullpup as well. Then the scope mount came loose and I didn’t notice that right away so that blew through some rounds. Then I moved the scope and tried to zero it again on my next trip out but I forgot my binoculars to see the target at about 75 meters again so that took me a lot of rounds for some reason to get zero again. There were others at the range so I couldn’t go and look at the target after every couple rounds. But once I did get it zeroed I was hitting clays like a champ. The clays were static of course I’m not that good! If I remember I will try and post some pics here of a target next time I get to use this rifle, I didn’t take any pics last time.
I actually enjoy this rifle and would recommend it to anyone who wants to try a bullpup design “cheaply”. It is non-restricted, has a full length barrel, but due to the bullpup design is compact and is fairly accurate. Minus the issues I believe caused by the ammo this firearm has proven to be reliable and seems well made. The only drawbacks that I see are the magazine release and safety location. Both can be fixed with 3rd party upgrades. As mentioned I don’t have much of an issue with the magazine release as the picture shows I can easily reach the release button without moving the firearm off target that much.