SANTA FE SPRINGS, CALIF., FEB. 1 -- Cheap, imported AK47 assault rifles, such as those used in U.S. drug and gang killings and in a California schoolyard massacre, are flooding the United States as a result of a new and unusual sales war among different agencies of the Chinese government, according to American China analysts and firearms dealers. Chinese eagerness for profits from one of their few products with a high-quality reputation in the United States, and their desire to keep potentially vital weapons plants in operation, have increased imported AK47 sales tenfold in the last four years and have led to calls for a ban on their sale in California and other states. Tom Hill, a spokesman for the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said 8,131 AK47s were imported in the two years ending in 1986. By contrast, during a 14-month period ending last Nov. 30, the bureau recorded 40,379 imported AK47s, at least 90 percent from China. Shane Keng, vice president of Keng's Firearm Specialty Inc. of Riverdale, Ga., said Chinese government-owned companies such as his supplier, Poly Technologies Inc., are competing with China North Industries Corp. (NORINCO), another major government arms manufacturer, as well as with smaller government entities for the U.S. market in a new era of decentralized Chinese decision-making. One Chinese supplier attempted to sell "factory rejects" and an opportunistic U.S. importer found buyers for them, Keng said. "Because of the fly-by-night operations, there has been a tendency to dump the firearms in the U.S." The retail price of such weapons, often dipping to about $300, "is so low it's ridiculous," said one arms dealer who has dealt with the Chinese but asked to not be identified. "You have got people in those factories that you have to keep working because you have to have to keep that capability in case of war." One expert on the Chinese military added that there are unconfirmed signs that the Chinese army, strapped for funds at a time when civilian projects have priority, may be attempting to increase revenues through sale of surplus rifles abroad. In effect, some analysts said, the competing Chinese companies are behaving much like rival private U.S. companies who sell jet fighters and other military equipment abroad. State Department officials noted that the Chinese weapon sales here are legal and are unlikely to be an issue in talks later this month between President Bush and Chinese leaders in Beijing. Importers argue that a ban on such weapons will not prevent tragedies such as the killing of five schoolchildren in Stockton, Calif., and say that their weapons are intended only for hunting and target practice. Keng suggested a 15-day waiting period to check background of AK47 purchasers. J.L. Chen, vice president of ChinaSports Inc. here, said the .223-caliber models his company buys from NORINCO are suitable "only for light sports use," such as target practice and shooting small game. At ChinaSports' warehouse-style office in an industrial park here, dealers can obtain a NORINCO catalogue with 17 rifles and pistols on the cover. "In recent years, the commercial firearms development and manufacturing facilities of NORINCO have been expanded enormously to accommodate the demand for sporting and competition firearms," the catalogue said. "Whether your particular kind of shooting involves skeet or trap, hunting, target shooting or just a casual day out plinking with a few good friends, NORINCO has a firearm that you can enjoy using, and depend on," it said. Patrick Edward Purdy, the welder who sprayed a Stockton schoolyard with bullets Jan. 17, shot all of his victims with a Chinese-made AK47 purchased legally in an Oregon gun shop. Police found a piece of camouflage cloth in his motel room on which he had drawn several symbols, including what appears to be a copy of the NORINCO logo. Sile Distributors Inc. of New York imported the NORINCO-made weapon Purdy used, according to a Sile spokesman who declined to make further comment. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, there are 15 leading U.S. importers of AK47s, including eight in California and one, Delta Investment Group Inc., in Virginia Beach. A spot check of several gun dealers in the Washington area this week found Chinese-made AK47s available in three Northern Virginia stores. They were priced at $350 to $400 apiece, at least $200 cheaper than any other type of military assault rifle in stock. Gun store employees said that demand for the guns has been relatively small and that each store usually stocks fewer than a half-dozen. They said the guns are purchased mainly by amateur target shooters and collectors of military arms. "These guns have not been terribly in demand until the media made people aware of them," said the manager of one Alexandria gun store, who asked to not be identified. A law-enforcement official who tracks area firearms sales said criminals have not commonly used the AK47. "It's not been a problem" for area police departments, the official said. Virginia has no mandatory waiting period or criminal-record check for those who buy rifles or shotguns. Anyone who wants a "long gun" can go to a gun store, fill out a federal disclosure form and purchase the weapon. Anyone later found to have lied on the federal form can be charged with perjury. Unlike in Virginia, demand for AK47s in California has been high in recent weeks, particularly after legislators began to discuss a ban. Dealers said the large number of AK47 importers in California reflected the state's large market for guns and relative proximity to China. A State Department official said federal regulations prohibit importation of military equipment, such as the AK47, from the Soviet Union and some other Eastern Bloc countries but permit AK47 imports from nations such as China, Yugoslavia and Egypt. Keng, who has visited some Chinese AK47 plants, estimated that there are at least 200 scattered throughout the country. His Chinese supplier, Poly Technologies, placed a large ad in the latest edition of Soldier of Fortune magazine calling its AK47 "an instant classic" and "the essence of practicality." Staff writer Kent Jenkins Jr. contributed to this report. THOSE SELLING AK47s AND RELATED WEAPONS Beta/Crow International Dallas, Tex. Century Arms St. Albans, Vermont Chinasports, Inc. Santa Fe Springs, Calif. Delta Investment Group, Inc. Virginia Beach, Va. Firearms Services of America Bellflower, Calif. Federal Ordnance, Inc. South El Monte, Calif. GLNIC Corporation of America Los Angeles, Calif. Golden State Arms Distributors, Inc. Manhattan Beach, Calif. Inter American Import Export Co. Sacramento, Calif. Keng's Firearm Specialty, Inc. Riverdale, Ga. Navy Arms Co. Ridgefield, N.J. Royal Arms International Woodland Hills, Calif. Sherwood International Export Co. Northridge, Calif. Sile Distributors, Inc. New York, N.Y. Weapons Corp. of America Milford, Conn. SOURCE: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms