Starting the late 1960’s then-president of South Korea Park Chung-hee strongly believed in an independent arms industry for national self-reliance. At the time, the South Korean armed forces were using either American-made weapons purchased directly from the US or given to the ROK via various foreign programs. The ROK also licensed production from American companies and produced arms domestically.
Colt got into the game after the ROK wanted to replace their aging M1 Garands with then-modern ARs. Colt licensed their design of the M16 to the Koreans.
On March 31, 1971, the ROK and the US signed a memorandum of understanding for rifle co-production. The agreement authorized 1,166,000 M16A1 rifles to be made. Daewoo Precision Industries Ltd. was the domestic Korean company given the contract for production of the Colt Model 603-K and production ended in 1984.
This is how the Korean-made ARs looked:
This contract gave Daewoo the experience needed to develop its own domestic rifle design and production. President Park, wanting to further grow Korea’s domestic capabilities and to compete in the world arms market, ordered the development of an indigenous military rifle.
The licensing agreement between Colt and Daewoo prevented the ROK government from selling the licensed M16s to other nations. So engineers in the Korean Agency for Defense Development began what would be called the XB Rifle Program in 1972. The result was the Daewoo K2 rifle which was adopted for Korean army use in 1983, replacing the Colt-licensed M16’s.
The K2 is an impressive rifle for its era. Taking the best from a variety of other platforms, the K2 has an AR-style bolt and uses a fixed ejector like the Stoner 63.
The K2 uses an AK-style long stroke gas piston and recoil spring, and an FAL-style gas plug with three position gas adjustment.
The K2 has a unique rear sight that does both windage and elevation adjustment in a clever way, and a hooded tapered front sight post.
The trigger group is similar to the AR with a crisp break and short reset. The overall balance of the rifle is quite good.
The K2 takes down like a FN FAL with the precision manufacturing of an AR-15 and has the dead nuts reliability of an AK.
Daewoo actively marketed their rifle across the globe for both military contracts and civilian sales. They were imported to the US from the early 1980s until the Clinton Import Ban in 1994. Various versions were brought in by companies like Stoeger, Kimber and others and went by different model names depending on the importer (AR100, K2, and Max II).
They were priced very competitively and did well for the time. The K2 provided the customer Ruger Mini-14 pricing for a Colt SP1 quality rifle with better features.
The military pattern Daewoo K2 was imported into the US until President George H.W. Bush pushed his import ban. So after 1989 until 1994, the Daewoo was imported with a thumbhole stock, no flash hider, and no bayonet lug. The post import ban models were all model marked as Daewoo DR-200.
The 1994 Clinton assault weapons ban and import ban killed the market for the Daewoo in the US. And the company went out of business in 2003 after an election rigging and bribery scandal. Daewoo was liquidated and S&T Motiv bought the plant and rights to the rifle and produce them to this day for government sales.
Here’s hoping that Lionheart Industries (current importers of the Daewoo DP-51 9mm pistol) can get new production rifles in the US market.
My personal K2 was imported by Stoeger and marked as a Max II. The K2 can use any STANAG 4179 dimensional standard magazine. So Pmags, Lancers, G.I. Aluminium, and others are compatible.
I upgraded the safety selector to one made by Daewoo Rifle Parts of Arizona. The factory safety selector switch needed to be rotated a full 180 degrees with the new American made one. It is now a 90 degree throw like an AR-15.
The folding stock is one of the strongest and smoothest designs out there. It even beats the FN FAL in the rock solid no wobble design department.
The ergonomics and handling of the rifle are excellent, some of the best of any design of the era. The barrel is a 1:7 right hand twist and a .650 diameter profile.The rifle can be modernized with optics and accessories.
I’ve fitted my K2 with StormWerkz Rail, ancient Pentagon LED light, and a Tasco Red Dot along with a pre-Clinton era Thermold magazine.
The K2 has a Synthwave music, Miami Vice Ray-Ban-wearing, Reaganomics era feel to it. It’s probably best left as a KISS rifle with iron sights, 30-round G.I. aluminium mags and a better-dead-than-red t-shirt worn for a day at the range.
Again, there are a couple of aftermarket vendors making accessories for the K2. StormWerkz and Daewoo Rifle Parts give you the option of updating your rifle. Either way, it’s a fantastic rifle and I wouldn’t feel under-armed with one at all.
But good luck finding them now. They’ve become well know for their reliability and have steadily increased in price. On average a used K2 will go for $1,200+ and a de-banned DR-200 is in the $900+ range. If you have one; treasure it and enjoy it. They are a blast from the past and a blast at the range too.
18.3 inch long barrel and threaded at 1/2x28r so AR flash hiders and suppressors can be used
Weight is 7.2 lbs
Overall Length is 39 inches extended, 29 inches folded
Chambering is 5.56x45mm/.223 Remington
STANAG Magazine Compatible (AR-15 pattern mags)
Gas operated, rotating bolt, long-stroke gas piston design
Earlier production pre-1989 imported rifles have a 1:12 right hand twist barrel
Later production have a 1:7 right hand twist barrel
All Post 1989 imported DR-200 rifles have a 1:12 right hand twist barrel