working with firearms, the history of each is sometimes helpful
in addressing function and repair issues. When I first saw the CETME
rifle, I said to myself, ĎThatís a G 3í (as in H and K).
Technically, I was nearly correct. The G 3 is basically a
license built CETME. The German Army developed a number of semi
auto rifles firing intermediate power cartridges during the
closing days of World War Two.
When the war was over, many German engineers fled the
country - or more specifically, fled the Russians.
A Dr. Vorgrimmer, a respected firearms designer,
was among those who chose not to return to Germany. He turned to
Spain. Spain, while not an active participant in the war, had
supplied Germany with arms and had relied heavily upon the
Germans during their own Civil War. Dr. Vorgrimmer began work at
the Centro de Estudios Tecnicos y Materiales Especales,
the Center for the Study of Special Technologies and Materials.
This center is known by the acronym CETME. The world was moving to semi auto battle rifles with
detachable magazines. The battle proven Garand would be
replaced by the M 14, and the British adopted the FN FAL.
Russia adopted the AK 47. Spain
adopted what may have been the most advanced rifle of the time,
the Modelo A. The Spanish adopted an intermediate power
cartridge that allowed a reasonable level of control when the
rifle was fired in fully automatic mode. However, the United
States dominated NATO and ammunition interchangeability was
paramount. Since the Spaniards, although not a member of NATO at
the time, saw the Soviet Union as their logical enemy, they
adopted the NATO standard caliber. The CETME Modelo B was
chambered for the 7.62 NATO, known as the 7.62 x 51 and also as
the .308 Winchester. There were intermediate cartridges
available at one time, and several loads could be used by
changing bolt groups and springs, but the 7.62 NATO
cartridge and loading was settled upon. These rifles were
fitted with wooden furniture, unusual for the modern black
rifle. The rifles were sometimes called Chopos in Spain, for
H and K G 3 as adopted by Germany is basically a CETME, a design
returned home. The prominent feature of either rifle is the
roller cam operating mechanism. This mechanism has proven quite
reliable in action and capable of producing excellent accuracy.
My personal example of the CETME is fitted with black synthetic
hardware, making the resemblance to the HK 3 even more striking.
I have heard through the firearms grapevine of problems with
headspace with this rifle. This is possible, as the great
majority of CETME rifles in the United States were assembled
from parts. That is why no European proof marks appear on most
of the rifles, they
were never fired as complete units but were stored as parts.
Some of the receivers have been manufactured in the United
States, including a quality stainless steel version.
thoughts were to disassemble the rifle, clean and lubricate it,
and discuss the headspace problems. As it turns out, the half
dozen CETME rifles I have checked have good headspace. Century
International Arms, like all human entities, is not perfect,
but does usually give a good product at a reasonable price, as
my Century Garand seems to indicate. But so far, headspace is
fine on checked CETME rifles.
When first examining the CETME, I lubricated the rifle in
the bolt and carrier and then proceeded to the range for a test
fire. If the rifle were not reliable or accurate, there was
little point in continuing. I used two loads primarily. The Hornady TAP is designed for use in urban
environments, offering excellent expansion potential. The
cartridges are clean, reliable, and accurate, giving good
service in several rifles. The CETME digested this ammunition with no problem. The
rifle handles well, with good hit potential. Next, I used the Lapua
Scenar, a loading famed for accuracy. The 167 grain Scenar
grouped into two inches at 100 yards. This is good to outstanding accuracy for this time of rifle.
While inexpensive ammunition is fine for general recreation and
target practice, Graf
and Sons offers good ammunition for hunting and competition.
The Lapua loads grouped into a remarkable
1.5 inch group on one occasion. The rifle would shoot.
I disassembled the rifle. First, the two pins that hold the
buttstock in place are pressed out and the stock, operating
spring and rod come loose from the receiver. Contrary to most
instructions, the pins are not finger tight. I used punches from
my new Grace USA tool kit to punch these pins out. The
pistol grip and the trigger control group are then loosened and
pulled out the rear of the receiver. The safety is pressed
straight up and pulled away to release the firing grip.
The bolt group is removed by pulling rearward on the
cocking lever. The
bolt then comes to the rear and it can be pulled away. The bolt
head is removed from the bolt assembly by turning the head 90
degrees to the ran, and turning the cocking piece so that the
lug is removed from the bolt head carrier. This is obvious when
the piece is viewed. Remember, when reassembling the slanted
part of the bolt head meets the cocking lever. The certain the
roller cams are in the same place as when the bolt head was
assembled. The locking rollers recess into the bolt head when
headspace with a roller cam locking rifle can be a different
problem than with a standard rifle. However, Century recommends
feeler gauges be used. The gap between the bolt head and bolt
header carrier should be between the measurements of .005 and
.019. When using a
standard gauge, such as supplied by Forster, we simply close the bolt on a chambered gauge and stop
closing the bolt when resistance is felt. If the bolt closes,
then the length of the datum line to the breech face is greater
than the length of the gauge.
Still, when using my Forster gauges, I felt reasonably
confident that I was getting a proper measurement despite the
roller cam mechanism. But the argument is there - because
headspace isnít a function of locking lugs that remain in
place. The position of the roller cams or locking rollers and
the inclined position of the locking piece are what will
determine proper headspace.
The headspace of the CETME is actually less than the
shortest gauge we may use. Still, when I closed the bolt on the
"No gauge" the gap widened, indicating the rifle can
be measured with standard gauges. I feel most comfortable using
the Century recommended feeler gauge combined with Forster
gauges. This is all done because of the rumors of CETME excess
headspace - that I have not seen materialize nor have my friends
at the local shop encountered in firing and selling over two
dozen of these rifles.
The trigger action of the rifle is OK for a military
rifle, and the design and fitting of the factory product to not
incline me to attempt to improve upon the action. Overall, I
find the rifle interesting and reliable, a good addition to any
collection. The headspace issue is resolved, the rifles seem
SAIGA is imported by European American Armory. This is
basically a sporting development of the AK series rifle. It
resembles the Israeli Galil, itself an AK derivative. The
main differences are internal. The bolt and other key parts are
enlarged to make the Saiga safe for the .308 Winchester
cartridge. This makes for a handy carbine with much to
recommend. The take down is the same as the AK, simply pop the
latch at the rear of the receiver cover and the top opens for
easy maintenance. The magazine holds ten rounds. The rifle is
also available in the popular 7.62 x 39mm caliber, but be aware
that AK clips will not fit this rifle.
example was quite pleasant to fire, despite the larger
cartridge. The semi
auto action soaks up some recoil, the shape of the stock is also
lightly lubricated the rifle and proceeded to fire five hundred
rounds of Wolf ammunition in less than a week. This 18
inch barrel carbine proved popular on the range.
It is quite easy to quickly get the rifle on your
shoulder and lay into a target. For moderate range hunting such
as taking wild boar or deer from a stand, this would be an
excellent cartridge and rifle combination.
We experienced no stoppages of any type, although towards
the last few cartridges the bolt became sluggish, as may be
expected with 500 rounds of ammunition fired.
a thorough cleaning I proceeded to test the rifle for accuracy.
We didnít expect much from an 18 inch barrel carbine, and the
AK is not famed for accuracy. Still, the Saiga proved acceptable
for moderate range use. At fifty yards, we secured a 2.0 inch
group with Hornady TAP, a 2.2 inch group with the Lapua loading,
and a single 2.0 inch group with my personal handloads using the
Barnes X bullet. I
like the coated bullet, it looks blue and also works well.
At one hundred yards, a careful effort with my handloads,
using Norma brass, the Barnes bullet and Accurate powder,
produced a four inch group on one occasion but averaged
4.5 inches. Still, this is a carbine intended for use at short
range. For brush hunting or personal defense, we have a good
two .308 rifles gave good results, and both are quite
interesting. Either would make a good addition to a hunting or
Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or
disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.