Type 89 Machine Gun: One of The Lightest Heavy Machine Gun

The Type 89 machine gun is a remarkable weapon the Chinese military uses. It is one of the lightest heavy machine guns in the world, weighing only 26 kilograms (57 pounds) with the gun frame included. This makes it much lighter than most other heavy machine guns, which can weigh over 50 kilograms (110 pounds).

Type 89 Machine Gun: The Development Story

The Type 89 Machine Gun

The development of the Type 89 heavy machine gun was inspired by the Soviet NSV heavy machine gun, which was known for its lightweight design. Initially, Chinese military researchers believed that the NSV weighed only 25 kilograms (55 pounds). Determined to create a domestic machine gun that matched or surpassed the NSV’s weight, they successfully developed the Type 89, which weighed 26 kilograms (57 pounds).

However, it was later discovered that the information they had obtained about the NSV’s weight was incorrect. The NSV’s gun frame alone weighed 41 kilograms (90 pounds), not the entire weapon. This misunderstanding inadvertently made the Type 89 the lightest heavy machine gun in the world.

Technical Specifications

Type 89 Machine Gun: One of The Lightest Heavy Machine Gun

The Type 89 heavy machine gun fires the powerful 12.7mm caliber ammunition, which can cause significant recoil. To counteract this recoil, the gun uses a combination of short barrel recoil and gas operation instead of relying solely on weight to absorb the recoil.

In addition to standard heavy machine gun rounds, the Type 89 can also fire armor-piercing, incendiary, and tracer ammunition, making it highly adaptable on the battlefield. It has a rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute and an effective range of 1,500 meters (4,900 feet).

Type 89 Machine Gun vs. M2 Browning

Type 89 Machine Gun
M2 Browning

Here’s how the Type 89 compares to the iconic M2 Browning heavy machine gun, which was a contemporary competitor:

Specification Type 89 M2 Browning
Weight (with gun frame) 26 kg (57 lbs) 38 kg (84 lbs)
Caliber 12.7 mm 12.7 mm
Rate of Fire 600 rpm 450-600 rpm
Effective Range 1,500 m (4,900 ft) 1,800 m (5,900 ft)


Versatility and Mobility

Type 89 Machine Gun: One of The Lightest Heavy Machine Gun

The Type 89’s lightweight design gives it exceptional mobility, allowing it to be assigned to infantry companies as a fire support weapon. This is a unique feature not seen with most other heavy machine guns, which are typically too heavy for company-level deployment.

Due to the Type 89’s firepower and mobility, the Chinese military has not shown interest in developing medium-caliber general-purpose machine guns, as the Type 89 can fulfill similar roles while offering greater lethality.

The gun’s lightweight nature also makes it suitable for mounting on various mobile platforms, such as armored vehicles, warships, and assault vehicles, providing additional firepower support.

Operational Considerations

While the Type 89’s lightweight design enhances mobility, it also means that the recoil generated during firing can be significant. To mitigate this, troops often pair the gun with heavy objects to increase stability when shooting.

It’s important to note that the primary role of a heavy machine gun is to provide suppressive fire rather than engage in precision strikes. The Type 89 is designed to pour a high volume of fire into enemy positions, forcing them to keep their heads down, while more accurate weapons, such as anti-tank rockets, are used for precision targeting.


The Type 89 heavy machine gun represents a remarkable achievement in weapons design, combining exceptional firepower with unparalleled mobility for a heavy machine gun. Its lightweight construction, versatile ammunition options, and adaptability to various platforms make it a valuable asset to the Chinese military. While it may require additional stabilization measures due to its lightweight, Type 89 excels in providing formidable suppressive fire support on the battlefield.