Home > Firearms > CETME


Automatic rifle


The CETME is one of the most accurate 7.62 mm assault rifles in the world and is the progenitor of the famous H&K G3

Country of origin Spain
Entered service 1958
Caliber 7.62 x 51 mm NATO
Weight 4.4 kg
Length 1 015 mm
Barrel length 450 mm
Muzzle velocity 840 m/s
Cyclic rate of fire 600 rpm
Practical rate of fire 30 - 90 rpm
Magazine capacity 5, 20, or 30 rounds
Sighting range ?
Range of effective fire 600 m


   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 the 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 StG-44 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 on the 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.

   The 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 shoulder.

   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 G3. 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 G3. Other nations have operated CETMEs in an evaluational capacity, including the US and the Netherlands, but did not officially adopt it.

   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 H&K G36. The remaining CETMEs are used primarily for drills, ceremonies, and utility purposes.

   The operational status of the CETME in the other nations that have adopted it is unclear, but they are almost certainly no longer first-line weapons.




   Prototype: 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 58.

   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 H&K G3, 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 discontinued.

   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 days.


Related Weapons


   Mauser StG-45(M): The StG-45(M) was a German attempt at producing a cheaper, simpler, lower-maintenance alternative to the ubiquitous StG-44. 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 production.

   Heckler & Koch G3: The G3 is a licensed German copy of the CETME, with a number of alterations. Used by many nations.

   Heckler & Koch HK33: Sometimes this weapon is referred as the G33. 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.



   Article by BLACKTAIL

   Want to publish your own articles? Visit our guidelines for more information.



Expand image


Expand image


Expand image


Expand image


Expand image

Expand image


Expand image























Home  Home     Aircraft     Helicopters     Tanks     Armored Vehicles     Artillery     Trucks     Engineering Vehicles     Missiles     Naval Forces     Firearms     |     Contact Us

© ARG 2006 - 2021
www.Military-Today.com CETME

Visitor counter