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A Surplus Rifle That’s Worth A Look

What if I told you that you could own a rifle which over fifty countries have adopted as their military rifle, shoots .308 accurately enough to kill a deer at 200 yards with open sights in a semiautomatic platform, had twenty-round magazines for sale for under $5, and could be had in totality for under $525 just about anywhere?

Sounds pretty interesting right?

And what if I told you the cartridge was a .308 NATO, not some weird, overly corrosive, hard to find ammunition with the same projectile diameter, but real tried-and-true American .308.

What if I also added that this rifle was relatively good looking, one of the most durable designs of all time, and has ties to HK, Mauser, and other major manufacturers of small arms?

If this rifle hasn’t sold itself yet, you probably weren’t in the market for a semi-auto rifle in the first place.

The CETME .308 is based on a modified version of the STG-45, made originally in Germany by Heckler and Koch; specifically, it was made in the Spanish CETME factory (CETME is simply an acronym for the name of the factory based in Madrid). It is, for all intents and purposes, every bit as good as the HK version, built with HK tooling, based on HK design, and utilizing HK-trained staff, but the products were assembled and stamped in Spain. Recently Century International Arms, a major surplus buyer, rescued some of these rifles from the surplus graveyards to harvest the parts out of them, namely the ingenious, hard-to-manufacture roller assembly and bolt. They strapped on a new stamped receiver and a new barrel and (sometimes) refinished them, finally selling the rifles as perhaps one of the best surplus values outside of the original k98 Mausers (which are now quite hard to find and command a premium).

The design of the rifle is incredibly robust and tough in usage, but it is also incredibly simple to break down and hard to screw up.  It was the German equivalent of the AK-47, except it was more accurate, heavier, and made for longer distances.  It’s almost bulky, weighing in at between nine and twelve-and-a-half pounds depending on the configuration, and has an overall length of almost forty-one inches.

The magazines can often times be found for $1 to $3 at surplus buyers and Internet retailers. They hold twenty rounds, and while they are ugly and beat up, function reliably enough to help this weapon enjoy the same type of success in reliability as the famous AK-47.

The sights are adjustable between the front and rear setups to about 400 yards with direct sight usage and to about 600 yards with help from the shooter.  Elevation and windage-adjustable front sights allow the operator to dial in the sight picture accurately to about 400 yards, with 200 yards considered one of the sweet spots for the CETME. It’s a very user-friendly design (even though it requires a special tool to adjust), but it wasn’t made for target accuracy; rather, it was designed to help mow down opposing soldiers at medium ranges.

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The chamber is fluted to help with extraction and feeding, but it comes at a cost. The spent cartridges are partially fire-swaged upon exit, and they routinely land twenty yards to the side of the shooter.  This is not a range-friendly gun unless you have a brass catcher or a wall to the ejection port side. The cases can be resized and reused, but they will require significantly more time to reload as a result.  The fluting in the chamber helps the outside of the spent brass to become enclosed in hot gas in order to push back the roller locks on the sides of the bolt and lockup parts.  This system makes for one of the toughest builds found anywhere and ensures excellent reliability.  Some say that the flutes get dirty quickly, but a swab every couple of hundred rounds should be enough to keep this gun running well; just don’t oil the chamber very heavily (if at all).  By the way, the original point of the chamber fluting was to preserve the case heads from separating from the body of the case because of the violence of the extraction process.  That the fluted chamber provided better reliability and easier extraction was essentially a secondary benefit.

Fully loaded, it will weigh close to eleven pounds without optics, so it is certainly not a gun you want to be toting around for hours in the field, even with a sling, unless you enjoy back problems.  But that’s not the only thing that could be considered heavy: the trigger pull breaks at about eleven pounds on average, but the bulk of the pull weight is the stack of the trigger, not the break.  In a hunting or accuracy dependent situation, the pull could be played properly to avoid heavy pull problems. It does break relatively cleanly after the initial stack up, and probably has a perceived pull of about six or seven pounds after it’s to the breaking point. The rifle does have a few other awkward parts, like the safety, which is too far from the palm position to engage easily by most. Also, the 100-yard sight (as part of the flip-up system) is difficult to use, and the cocking lever is on the opposite side of traditional handles for surplus military rifles.

The idea here is to pick up an incredibly reliable, durable, accurate and famous rifle for anything you could face in the off-the-grid lifestyle.  You don’t have to worry about hunting, self-defense, target practice, or riot control with a case of ammunition, a few cheap magazines, and a very inexpensive platform. If you want a bargain, look into the CETME variant of the G3 rifle, made famous by over a third of the world’s standing armies.

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