The Greatest Cold War Era Rifle You’ve Never Heard Of: The South Korean Daewoo K2

The Daewoo Model K2 Rifle in 5.56x45mm, currently in full service military with the Republic of Korea, Nigeria, Peru, and Malawi. In limited service for specialized units with Bangladesh, Ecuador, Fiji, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, and Senegal.

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:

Korean M16 made under license from Colt Industries


Korean made M16 made under license from Colt Industries

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.

A South Korean soldier armed with a K2 rifle, the standard personal weapon in both the ROKMC and ROK Army.

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.

South Korean soldiers with Daewoo K2 rifles.

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 Daewoo K2's rear sight.

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.

Daewoo K2 Korean made battle rifle.

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 Daewoo K2 takes down similarly to an FN FAL

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).

Period ad from the 1980s with the Daewoo K2 priced at $339.95 and the K1A1 (a cousin of the K2) priced at $299.95.

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.

Post Import Ban Legal Daewoo DR-200

Post Import Ban 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.

The author's Daewoo K2 rifle.

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.

The receiver of the author's Daewoo K2 rifle.

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 author's Daewoo K2 rifle with folded stock.

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.

The author's customized Daewoo K2 rifle.

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.

Technical Specs:

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

Photography done by A. Valdes


  1. avatar ORCON says:

    If you’d watched Alex C. with TFBTV you’d have known wtf is up!

    1. avatar Hank says:

      I quit watching/reading them after their slew of inflammatory click bait articles that would even make TTAG blush. All that nonsense about trashing lever actions because bolt actions made a better “tactical choice” in home defense because you can easily shoot them in the prone. What a f*ckin Shit show. That and their unhealthy obsession with 6mm cartridges. The firearms community has no place for that sort of childish behavior.

      1. avatar ORCON says:

        There were a surprisingly large number of people that were butthurt over that lever action video. They do seem to have a thing for Glock though and that kinda gets old. The older videos on milsurps were their best, in my opinion.

  2. avatar Dr. Vinnie Boombotz says:

    Dugan Ashley loves him some Daewoo.

  3. avatar Heartbreaker says:

    Looks like Hydraulic Press Channel smushed an AR15.

    It’s an interesting rifle, I wouldn’t mind having one.

  4. avatar PeterK says:

    They sound so cool on paper. I would love to own one.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      They sound pretty much like a perfect semi-auto rifle. I would buy one in a heartbeat if they were available new for around $600.

      1. avatar Timothy says:

        I picked up a dr200 for $700. Some work with a saw and sand paper turned the thumb hole stock into a pistol grip and fixed stock. It’s a sweet shooter

  5. avatar strych9 says:

    Sometimes I see a headline like this and I think “How the heck could you have never heard of this?”.

    1. avatar Ing says:

      Well, I managed it.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        You had to be schooled on the proper way to say Mosin Nagant. 🙂

    2. avatar BradP says:

      Guess a lot of “experts” never did a tour to the Land of the Morning Calm.

      1. avatar Turtle says:


  6. avatar GRUMPY says:

    I bought the post ban Dr200 model in 1998. Still have it. One of the best rifles that I have ever owned.

  7. avatar Nanashi says:

    If the reference to South Korean president Park sounds familiar, it’s because the “President” (Actually dictator) Park referenced in the article is the father of recently ousted and ridiculously, bizarrely, corrupt (She was literally the puppet of occultist cult leader. Said woman conducted shamanistic rituals in government buildings and ruined the lives of actresses because they played a character in a romantic relation with a character played by a male actors the cult leader liked. Seriously.) President Park.

  8. avatar Texheim says:

    I have Lionhearts pistol, great gun.

    1. avatar Rokurota says:

      Agree! Now if someone would make aftermarket grips for it — maybe some classy wood ones…

    2. avatar el borracho says:

      I have a 1994 DP51. LOVE IT!

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        My first new gun was the Daewoo DP-51. I called it “Mr.Woo”…

  9. avatar Mark N. says:

    SO Stoner and Kalashnikov had a one night stand and they had a baby Daewoo…

  10. avatar Kenneth G Maiden says:

    Always wanted one or two or three of these. Guess I can kiss that goodby.

  11. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    WTF? Of course I have heard of it. I’d be very surprised if more than a quarter of the people here hadn’t.

  12. avatar Cliff H says:

    From the pictures it would appear to be very similar in operation to the M-16/Ar-15 platforms, but there is no buffer tube. What is the recoil like firing the 5.56 without the buffer?

    1. avatar Luis Valdes says:


      The action has a recoil spring behind the bolt carrier group. My rifle recoil very similar to my Colt SP1 rifle.

  13. avatar John Haley says:

    A friend and I each had one in the late 80’s or early 90’s. At first we were happy with them, then we each separately started noticing severe accuracy issues. We didn’t shoot together, but we discussed our experiences. It wasn’t just that we popped cans a few times, fooled ourselves, and then shot paper. The rifles were OK, then they went wild. Neither of us had a clue why. We sold them.

    1. avatar Mike says:

      Have 2 K2’s and both are dead nuts on… 1:7 twist and love to send the heavy stuff…

  14. avatar achmed says:

    These are neat. How well does it typically shoot?

  15. avatar spacedredd says:

    I love the Woo!!! The DR-200 was the 1st MSR I purchased back in 1996. I had t sell it a few later for college… That was the one mistake that have always regretted. Later on I got the DR-300, that was the 7.62×39 version of the rifle. I loaded reloads and it had a catastrophic malfunction. Lastly in 2008 I got a K1A1.. Its a DI rifle and not a piston rifle like the K2 or K2 pattern rifles. Its my baby. Below is a vid posted by my friend Chris Bartocci who did a review w/the K1A1 I loaned him.

  16. avatar Hellbilly says:

    A local gun shop has had one of these on the shelf for years. I think it still has the same $2000+ price tag that was it on it during the AWB era.

  17. avatar Defens says:

    I bought a Daewoo Max II, new in box around 1986 or so for $279. It shot very well – back then, with younger eyes, I was able to shoot dime sized groups at 100 yards with decent ammo. It was very reliable, and easy to break down and clean.

    I was a heavy beast though, and the heavy long-travel piston did move the gun around a lot more under recoil than comparable rifles of the day. Also, I think the article may be in error, because I’m pretty sure mine has a 1:12 twist, not really compatible with newer, heavier 5.56 ammo.

    I liked the gun, but eventually sold it at the height of the Obama panic. I think it went for around $1400.

  18. avatar AlanInFL says:

    I have seen the DR200 only once. It was going for a great price back then. But I was turned off by the rather crude machining on the rifle. It was not clean like a Colt or Bushmaster ARs back then. The guy who brought the rifle love the fact it was rally reliable.

    My vote would had gone for the FN-FNC.

  19. avatar former water walker says:

    Cool. It would go with my S.Korean phone,’puter, Microwave,car,TV…

  20. the first ones to be made was the k1 and k1a1 which then became the k2 after some feed back from use by their troops. I can’t but notice the similar lay out to the armalite AR-18. I remember seeing the k1 and k1a1 back in the 80’s. and soon after that the k2’s. they do seem like good battle rifles. and when they were imported we were able to own them but the average South Korean could not.

  21. avatar Jimmysand says:

    I recently picked one up. The iron sights are fantastic. Shooting silloutes at 300 yards is too easy.

  22. avatar Mark Kelly's Diapered Drooling Ventriloquist's Dummy says:

    Me rwant run, me rike brig time.

    I’ll bet it doesn’t jam and foul like an AR15 and our M-16 did after all if it did South Koreans on the DMZ and those called up in an emergency would be swept aside by the North Korea’s malnourished forces.

  23. avatar moso123 says:

    likÈ ÈlÈĀnor iΜpliÈD I ĀΜ inŚpirÈD thĀt ĀnyboDy cĀn gÈt pĀiD $9852 in onÈ Μonth on thÈ intÈrnÈt. hĀvÈ you rÈĀD thiŚ wÈb ŚitÈ……….

    1. avatar Mark Kelly's Diapered Drooling Ventriloquist's Dummy says:

      Diane I mean “Hillary”, that IS the name you’re going by now isn’t it, shouldn’t you be out hawking your latest tome filled with lies at a discount store?

  24. avatar jimmy james says:

    I remember when Daewoo’s hit the US market and were at the gun shows. THey didn’t sell. Not sure why other than at that time people would turn their nose up at something made in Korea.

  25. avatar Anthony Guinsler says:

    I owned a MAX-II in the late 80’s while serving in the U.S. Army. It was a little heavier than my Issued M-16 but I truly loved it. I actually got the opportunity to take it down range with a very cool Special Forces Lt. Platoon Leader. On qualification day he let us bring private weapons also so we could make a full day of it. He ask if he could try it out, and had nothing but praise afterwards about it. Unfortunately later in life that and other weapons were lost in a robbery, been wanting to replace for many years but timing has never been right.

  26. avatar Seaton says:

    I’ve had the opportunity to put several thousand rounds through a couple different 1:12 based Daewoos shooting mostly 55 grain Ruskie ammo.

    My opinion is they are vastly better handling than any civi Ar-15 I’ve shot. Recoil seems a tad heavier in the ‘Woos, but there is a marked difference in muzzle ‘splatter’. Every Ar-15 I’ve shot has an elliptical shot grouping while the ‘Woo’s are much tighter horizontally with more vertical variance. The ‘Woo’s also had far better iron sights compared to the ‘dead musquito levels’ in typical AR’s. Daewoo’s also chuck brass like a slingshot. Proper technique allows you to bounce brass off an observer stranding 20 feet to your 4 o’clock.

    The most dramatic difference was in the way novices picked up on the Daewoo’s quicker and with more precision than the AR’s we had. Friend’s who’ve never shot a gun in their life we’re comfortable with the Woo’s after half a clip. After the first clip 2″ groupings were childs play for a flat out novice. AR’s simply feel more vague and lacked the stock intuitive sights on the Daewoo. Frankly I’m glad they are rare because it’s a more lethal package in novice hands.

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