CETME Model B
Country of origin
7.62 x 51 mm NATO
1 015 mm
Cyclic rate of fire
Practical rate of fire
30 - 90 rpm
5, 20, or 30 rounds
Range of effective fire
The CETME is
an assault rifle manufactured in Spain, and named after the design
team that created it (CETME being shorthand for "Centro de Estudios
Técnicos de Materiales Especiales", meaning "Center for Technical
Studies of Special Materials"). It was a groundbreaking weapon for
its time, but has largely gone unnoticed both by the market, and
even by many firearms historians.
Part of the reason for the CETME's obscurity is that it has
been overshadowed by the
Heckler & Koch G3 for most of its existence. Even though the G3
is actually a licensed copy of the CETME, there was comparatively
little effort (and apparently little interest) in marketing the
CETME abroad. As there was also less success in selling the CETME,
and its development and evolution ended much sooner, it was
inevitable that the G3 would gradually fill the power vacuum.
The lead architect of this rifle was German firearms designer
Ludwig Vorgrimler, whose work included the development of the StG-45
assault rifle. While the war ended before the StG-45 could enter
production, the design nonetheless intrigued the armed forces of
several nations; one of these nations was Spain, whose government
hired Vorgrimler in 1949 to develop a new rifle based on the
StG-45's method of operation. Upon arrival in Spain, he helped form
the CETME group, whose first project was the development of the
eponymous CETME assault rifle. The first prototypes of the CETME
rifle was completed in 1951, and chambered in the same 7.92x33 mm as
StG-44 and StG-45, simply because it was the only suitable
military cartridge available in quantity at the time.
The 7.92 mm chambering was only a stopgap however, as it was
originally envisioned that the production model would fire the
similar 7.92x40 mm CETME round. This new chambering was more than
simply 7 mm of additional casing length, however; it also fired a
very long and streamlined copper-jacketed brass bullet, with an
aluminum core and tip. While it was boasted that the 7.92x40 mm
CETME round could penetrate a steel helmet at 1 000 m. It was a
remarkable feat, even though contemporary military steel helmets
were mostly meant to protect against falling debris. Actual
live-fire testing proved that the very light and fast bullet was
less lethal than anticipated. More importantly, it was also realized
that the exotic projectile deformed significantly on impact, which
made it illegal for military use under the Hague Convention. It was
therefore decided to chamber the weapon in a more conventional
cartridge, and a reduced-power 7.62x51 mm NATO round (dubbed 7.62 mm
CETME) was selected.
Production of the CETME Model A began in 1956, and it was
officially adopted by the Spanish Army in 1957. However, the Army
was dissatisfied with the performance of the 7.62 mm CETME round,
and asked the CETME group to develop a version chambered in the 7.62
mm NATO round. Work proceeded surprisingly quickly, considering the
long development span of the weapon, resulting in the strengthened
and more powerful CETME Model B 7.62 mm NATO. The Model B entered
service in 1958, and was also adopted by the Spanish Air Force and
Navy, becoming Spain's primary service rifle.
Development of the CETME rifle continued into the 1960s,
eventually resulting in the Model C. Changes made to this weapon
include a 4-distance diopter sight (for 100, 200, 300, and 400
meters -- the previous models had open leaf sights), a wooden grip
(Models A and B had steel grips), a detachable bipod, an integral
cleaning kit, a fluted chamber, and provisions for a telescopic
sight. This rifle entered service with the Spanish Army in 1964, and
by 1974 had also superseded the A & B models in the Navy and Air
Force as well.
There was also an attempt to create a lightened Model C with
plastic furniture and aluminum versions of various parts that had
previously been made from steel. The Resulting Model E was
short-lived in development, as it was soon discovered that its
structural integrity was inadequate. Very few CETME Model E rifles
were manufactured, and their operational use was very brief.
Model C production ended in 1974, but development still
continued, resulting in the
Model L by the early 1980s. This rifle was originally to be
simply an otherwise ordinary CETME in a new 5.56 mm chambering, but
so many changes were made to its layout and proportions that it
became virtually a new rifle. However, the Model L ended up being
problematic in operational service, and its tenure with the Spanish
armed forces was brief. It is described on its own page. The data
below is for a CETME Model C.
The CETME is highly unusual among assault rifles, in that it
is blowback operated, rather than gas operated. The blowback system
has largely been avoided in weapons firing full-power cartridges
like 7.62 mm NATO (the blowback system being, after all, little more
than a bolt carrier with a spring behind it), but a special
innovation devised by Ludwig Vorgrimler was able to tame the recoil
of the CETME. The addition of two locking rollers to the bolt
carrier causes it to engage the sides of the receiver as the former
travels the length of the latter, slowing the bolt carrier
considerably. As a result, recoil energy from firing a round is
dispersed through mechanical disadvantage, making the weapon much
more controllable (to say nothing of being safer to fire) than if
the bolt carrier was not slowed-down.
The delayed roller also had two unexpected benefits; it
absorbed much of the recoil, and almost completely eliminated muzzle
flip. As a result, the CETME's automatic fire is the most
controllable of any 7.62 mm rifle, and its recoil is comparable to
that of most 5.56 mm NATO assault rifles, making it one of the most
accurate assault rifles (if not *the* most accurate) ever fielded.
The upper portion of the CETME is a housing containing the
bolt carrier and charging rod. The housing for the charging rod is
set above the barrel, deceptively giving the rifle the appearance of
having a gas tube. The shape of the stock and pistol grip are
similar to those of the
assault rifle, which highlights the CETME's German ancestry;
though unlike the StG-44, the CETME has a wooden handguard as well.
The magazine well is angular, with a sloped profile, much like that
AK-47. The hooded front sight is mounted atop the bracket that
holds the barrel and charging rod housing together, though the
location of the rear sight varies depending on the model; the Model
A and B have a rear sight mounted atop the receiver directly above
the magazine well, while the Model C and later models have the rear
sight mounted atop the back end of the receiver. The bracket that
joins the barrel and receiver also holds the front sling swivel, on
its underside. There are two rear sling swivels in recesses bored
into each side of the stock, allowing the user to attach the sling
to either side. A muzzle brake with four oval-shaped slots is fitted
to the end of the barrel. The M1964 bayonet for the CETME rifle has
an unfullered bolo blade, with a distinctive slight inverted curve
on the cutting edge, and attaches by the barrel bracket by the base,
and the muzzle via a loophole, in an inverted position. The
"birdcage"-style muzzle brake allowed the CETME to launch rifle
grenades, which typically required a special blank cartridge to
launch them. There were also "bullet trap" grenades that could be
launched using a standard rifle bullet, but it is unclear if any
CETME user ever adopted them.
buttstock, pistol grip, and foregrip of the CETME rifle are wooden,
and carved from poplar. The receiver, trigger group housing, and
detachable box magazine are made from stamped sheet steel. Aluminum
magazines were developed as well. A canvas sling is usually issued
with the weapon.
The fire selector is located at the top of the pistol grip,
and has three settings; "T" (single shot), "S" (Safe), and "R"
(Automatic fire). The charging handle is located well forward on the
bold carrier housing, and is placed on the left side of the weapon.
Consequently, it is preferable to fire the CETME from the right
The sights on the Model C consist of a front post and a rear
diopter, with range settings of 100, 200, 300, and 400 meters. The
Model A & B versions had open leaf rear sights, which were found to
be inadequate in operational use. The Model C is also capable of
accepting a telescopic sight.
The standard magazine for the CETME has a 20-round capacity,
but 5-round and 30-round magazines have been fielded as well. It
will also accept magazines designed for the
Getting the magazine to catch properly when loading it into the
magazine well usually requires some rough handling; experienced
shooters often slap it in.
Production of the 7.62 mm CETME rifles ended in the
mid-1970s. The total number manufactured is unknown, but likely
exceeds 100 000. The CETME has been used by Chad, the Congolese
Republic, France, Guatemala, Mauritania, Pakistan, Portugal, and
Spain. It was also operated by West Germany, but was quickly
superseded by the
Other nations have operated CETMEs in an evaluational capacity,
including the US and the Netherlands, but did not officially adopt
Only a small number of 7.62 mm CETMEs are still in service
with the Spanish armed forces, having been mostly replaced by the
CETME Model L, with both these weapons being totally superseded
in later years by the
The remaining CETMEs are used primarily for drills, ceremonies, and
The operational status of the CETME in the other nations that
have adopted it is unclear, but they are almost certainly no longer
The first prototype of the CETME rifle was more akin in appearance
to the StG-45(M), and was had the unique chambering of 7.92x40 mm
CETME. This round was designed to incapacitate personnel up to 100
m, and featured a brass projectile with an aluminum core, but its
design was eventually determined to be contrary to the requirements
of the Hague Conventions. Consequently, the production CETME Rifles
were not chambered in this round.
Model A: This was the first production CETME rifle. It was
similar to subsequent models, but was chambered in 7.62x51 mm CETME.
The subsequent Model A1 introduced selective fire capability, while
the Model A2 introduced a free-floating cocking handle, and a
carrying handle. The Model As are approximately 15 mm shorter than
Models B and C.
Model B: The Model B was reengineered to accommodate the more
powerful 7.62x51 mm NATO round, and added a flash suppressor with a
grenade-launching crown, an improved grip, an integrated bipod, and
an improved carrying handle. It was procured by the Spanish Navy and
Air Force, starting in 1958. The Model B is also known as the Model
Model C: Model Cs were adopted by all branches of the Spanish
military, starting in 1964. Changes include a 4-distance diopter
sight (for 100, 200, 300, and 400 meters -- the previous models had
open leaf sights), a wooden grip (Mods A and B had steel grips), a
detachable bipod, an integral cleaning kit, a fluted chamber, and
provisions for a telescopic sight.
Model D: This designation appears to have been skipped.
Model E: The Model E is extremely similar to the
sporting plastic furniture, plastic magazines, a spinning rear
sight, and an overall length increased by 15 mm. Its structural
integrity proved unexpectedly poor, and the Model E was quickly
Models F, G, H, I, and K: Again, these designations seem to
have been skipped. It is unclear as to why.
Model L: The Model L was re-chambered in 5.56x45 mm NATO, and
had composite furniture. It served in a fully-operational capacity
with Spain for only 11 years.
C308: Civilian semi-auto only version of the CETME,
re-manufactured in the US by Century Arms. This rifle has a
reputation for inconsistent quality, with some owners and vendors
finding that the parts of any single weapon sometimes come from
multiple CETMEs, or even from G3s; the workmanship, performance, and
reliability were similarly inconsistent, and sometimes extremely
poor. Though significantly improved in quality later on, the Century
Arms CETMEs have never outlived the poor reputation of their early
StG-45(M): The StG-45(M) was a German attempt at producing a
cheaper, simpler, lower-maintenance alternative to the ubiquitous
Did not enter production.
CEAM Modèle 1950: A French attempt at a further development
of the StG-45(M), the Modèle 1950 was chambered in .30 Carbine, and
was remarkably similar in appearance to the CETME. Did not enter
Heckler & Koch G3: The G3 is a licensed German copy of the CETME,
with a number of alterations. Used by many nations.
Heckler & Koch G33/HK33: This is a further development of the G3 rifle,
distinguished mainly by its new 5.56x45 mm NATO chambering. It was
much more successful than the equivalent CETME Model L.
H&K MP5: The MP5 is a submachine gun. It is an evolution of the
HK54, which itself was a G3 variant chambered in 9x19 mm Parabellum.
Used by many nations.
Bofors AK4: The AK4 is a Swedish licensed copy of the G3.
Used by Sweden and at least 3 other nations.
SIG SG 510: A Swiss-made assault rifle with the same
operation as the CETME (though the two are largely unrelated). Used
by Switzerland until 1990, and at least 4 other nations.
NOTE: The CETME Ameli machine gun and CETME C2 submachine
gun, though also developed by CETME, are not physically related to
the CETME rifle.
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