North Korean Helical AK Magazines

By Oryx Blog Team

Several new developments in North Korean armaments can be witnessed amongst the recent flow of propaganda released by Pyongyang after Kim Jong-un’s ascension to power.  One such development is what appears to be a new magazine model for the North Korean copy of the AK-74, the Type 88. This new magazine uses a staggered helix design, which allows for a high number of 5.45 x 39 mm cartridges to be carried without the notable increases in size and unwieldiness that characterise many other high capacity magazines.


So far the only users of this helical magazine appear to be Kim Jong-un’s (and formerly Kim Jong-il’s) personal bodyguards. While in the picture above each bodyguard appears to be carrying only one magazine (which, given their high capacity, isn’t that surprising), other, earlier, footage shows a loadout of two spare magazines for each bodyguard, as seen below. The magazines appear to have been in service since 2010, and possibly earlier.


The North Korean Type 88 is usually seen issued with standard 30 round magazines and, aside from the standard wooden or synthetic fixed stock, a side-folding or top-folding stock (pictured). Two notable distinctions differentiate the North Korean helical design from other helical magazines that have been developed. First, and perhaps most obviously, this magazines was developed for a larger, more powerful rifle calibre than existing designs. Existing helical magazines have typically been developed for pistol calibre weapons, with designs having been produced in calibres such as 7.62 x 25, 9 x 17SR (.380 ACP), 9 x 18, and 9 x 19 mm.  Secondly, whereas other helical magazines have typically been developed in conjunction with the firearms intended to make use of them, the recent North Korean example was instead produced for use with an existing weapon, appearing to make use of the bayonet lug for mounting. The top-folding stock, another North Korean innovation, allows the stock to be folded with the magazine inserted, which would not be possible with typical side-folding or under-folding AK stocks. Both Russia and China have developed prototype helical magazines for AK pattern weapons, but these have not been documented in service.

The nature of the post-production design and the inherent complexity of helical magazines (when compared to a typical removable box magazines) suggest that while these magazines offer a greatly increased cartridge capacity, they may render the weapon more prone to malfunctions and misfires. It is unknown if similar magazines have been developed for other calibres, or to what extent the helical magazine has been integrated into the Korean People’s Army.

Magazine specifications
The following specifications are estimated based upon measurements extrapolated from known dimensions, as well as a comparison with existing helical magazines. They represent the author’s ‘best guess’ at present.

Calibre: 5.45 x 39 mm
Capacity: 100 to 150 cartridges
Weight: Approximately 2 kg
Length: Approximately 370 mm
Diameter: Approximately 85 mm


Top image from il Giornale. Second from an official North Korean documentary released in 2011, entitled “Succeeding the Great Work Of The Military First Revolution”.

Header image: North Korean special forces soldiers march during a military parade marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founding father, Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang, North Korea, on April 15 2017 (photo credit: Reuters).

The views expressed in this post are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of ARES or any institutions to which the authors may be attached.