CETME rifle

The CETME Model 58, is a stamped-steel, select-fire battle rifle produced by the Spanish armaments manufacturer Centro de Estudios Tecnicos de Materiales Especiales (CETME).[1] The Model 58 used a 20-round box magazine and was chambered for the 7.62×51mm NATO round (although originally designed for the reduced power Spanish 7.62×51mm cartridge).[1] The CETME 58 would become the foundation of the widely deployed German Heckler & Koch G3 battle rifle.[1] Semi-automatic variants were also produced for the civilian market.

CETME Model C with wood stocks
TypeBattle rifle
Place of originSpain
Service history
Used bySee Users
WarsIfni War
Algerian War
Nigerian Civil War
Western Sahara War
Lebanese Civil War
Production history
DesignerLudwig Vorgrimler
ManufacturerCentro de Estudios Tecnicos de Materiales Especiales (CETME)
Produced1957 – 1979
Mass9.9 lb (4.49 kg)[1]
Length40 in (1,016 mm)[1]
Barrel length17.7 in (450 mm)[1]

Cartridge7.62×51mm NATO
ActionRoller-delayed blowback[1]
Rate of fireFull-auto: 550-650 rounds per minute[1]
Muzzle velocity2580 ft/sec[1]
Feed system20-round detachable box magazine
SightsIron sights


The CETME (Centro de Estudios Tecnicos de Materiales Especiales) rifle was designed primarily by the German engineer Ludwig Vorgrimler, who based his design on the experimental German StG 45(M) and the French-made AME 49.[2] The StG45 used a roller-delayed blowback mechanism somewhat similar to the roller-locking system patented by Edward Stecke in the 1930s in Poland and used in the MG 42.[3] The MG42 locking system actually locks completely and requires a short stroke barrel that travels backwards to unlock, compared to the StG45(M) system that never completely locks and does not require a moving barrel.

The CETME design inherits the StG45(M)'s fixed-barrel. However, the CETME Model 58 introduced a novel solution to the problem of cartridges sticking in the chamber.[4] That is a fluted chamber, which are horizontal grooves in the chamber, that allow the cartridge cases to float on a layer of gas to aid extraction.[4][1] The horizontal marking left on spent cartridge cases has become a signature of this design.

The first prototype rifles fired the same 7.92×33mm Kurz round as the StG45, and a variety of experimental 7.92 and 7.62mm cartridges were tested before settling on the 7.62×51mm CETME.[1] This round, chosen due to requirements of the then-interested West German Bundesgrenzschutz,[5] was dimensionally identical to 7.62×51mm NATO, but with a lighter bullet and powder charge to reduce recoil, making fully automatic fire more controllable.[1] In December 1956, the West German Bundeswehr received 400 CETME A rifles for intensive trials.[5] Due to the tests performed by the Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung, the ergonomy of the rifle was improved. With feedback from Heckler & Koch, the rifle was able to fire the 7.62 NATO round due to the better quality of its steel.[6] The Model B went on to be the foundation of the widely deployed Heckler & Koch G3 battle rifle.[1]

The CETME B rifle in 7.62 CETME was adopted as the Fusil de Asalto CETME Modelo 1958 de 7,62mm by the Spanish Army in September 1957[7] and its production began in Spain during this year.[8] The CETME series of battle rifles were manufactured in four basic models; the A, B, C and E models. The primary difference in the production models is the modes of fire, the absence of bipod and lighter weight for later models.


Model A

The Model As were the developmental prototypes.[2] These models were unusual as they fired from the closed bolt in semi-automatic and from the open bolt in full-auto mode.[1] Later production models fire from only the closed bolt. The Model A's are easily identified by the position of rear sight and bi-pod folded back to form fore-stock.[1] In 1954, the rifle saw limited introduction in the Spanish Army.[9]

Model B

The Model B was the first production model. It had a perforated steel handguard and chambered for the 7.62×51mm CETME round. The 7.62 mm CETME differed from the standard 7.62mm NATO round by having a lighter-weight bullet and a smaller propellant charge.[7] The parts for the Model B are for most part interchangeable with the later Model C rifles.

The Spanish Army adopted a variant of the Model B re-chambered for the more powerful 7.62×51mm NATO round. The Model B could be converted to fire the 7.62mm NATO round if the bolt group and return spring are replaced with that of the Model C.[2] These modified rifles were known as Model 58-64-C and by 1971 all the Spanish CETME B rifles had been upgraded.[7]

Model C

The Model C was a lightweight version that was chambered for the 7.62×51mm NATO round and had wooden fore-stocks. The Model C is virtually identical to the Model B. However, certain components had been strengthened to better deal with the increase power of the standard 7.62mm NATO round.[1]

It became standard rifle by 1974.[7]

Model E

The CETME Model E replaced the wooden parts of the stock with plastic and the steel components with aluminium. After a short period on the production line, it was discovered that they were weaker than the previous models and that continuous fire deformed the firearms rapidly, and due to this, relatively few were produced and they were quickly discontinued.[2]

Model R

The CETME R was a derivative of the CETME B without buttstock, intended to be used aboard armored vehicles.[7]



The CETME Model L was a downsized variant of the CETME system, chambered for the 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge.[10] It was adopted by the Spanish Army in 1984 and was in service until it was replaced by the Heckler and Koch G36 rifle in 1999.

Civilian Versions

In the 1960s, the Mars Equipment Corporation of Chicago imported into the USA Spanish-made semiautomatic versions of the CETME B and C rifles. Available accessories included a 1" scope mount, a plastic snap-on rifle cover, and the stock CETME magazine loading tool. The model-B rifles included the standard integrated bipod. These rifles can be identified by a large MARS import mark on the right-hand side along with a prominent "MADE IN SPAIN". They are prized by collectors far above the US-made "parts kit" rifles.

In the late 1990s Century Arms International (CAI) began offering semiautomatic only civilian versions known as the CETME Sporter, which are manufactured from assembled military surplus and US made parts. Although largely built from Model "C" parts, there have been reports of model "B" parts in the Model "C" Century built rifles.[11]

Due to the restrictions against importing receivers of select fire weapons, all receivers for these civilian versions are made in the US. Earlier receivers were of cast aluminum, while later receivers were made from stamped and welded steel. Earlier rifles retained the wood furniture of the originals while later examples were available with Heckler & Koch style composite stocks. Due to state and local laws restricting weapons with assault weapon features, earlier models of the CETME Sporter featured a permanently pinned muzzle brake rather than the original flash hider. After the 1994 Assault Weapons ban expired in 2004, Century produced models with a removable muzzle brake. NATO 7.62×51mm ammunition may safely be used in the CETME sporter, while commercial .308 ammunition is not recommended for use due to the tendency of the extractor to tear off the rims of the softer civilian brass. The CETME delayed roller lock design has a violent extraction and ejection process that flings the empty brass far from the weapon. The brass generally cannot be reloaded due to denting during the ejection operation, this is of no consequence when using milspec surplus ammunition with Berdan priming.


Frontline service

Trials only

The Spanish CETME A was also tested at Aberdeen Proving Ground in July 1954.[22] The CETME Model A in 7.62 CETME and 7.62 NATO was also demonstrated to the French, Swedes and Italians in 1955.[23] From 1957, the Dutch company Nederlandse Wapen en Munitiefabriek also demonstrated the CETME/H&K Model B rifle to the Royal Netherlands Army, the Netherlands Marine Corps, Finland (chambered in 7.62×39mm),[24] Ecuador and Dominican Republic but no gun was produced nor ordered.[25]

See also


  1. Hogg, Ian V.; Weeks, John (2000). Military Small Arms of the 20th Century (7 ed.). Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publication. pp. 275–276. ISBN 978-0873418249.
  2. Walter, John (25 March 2006). Rifles of the World. Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications. pp. 82–83. ISBN 0-89689-241-7.
  3. Thompson 2019, pp. 4-5.
  4. The Complete Encyclopedia of Automatic Army Rifles. by A. E. Hartink. Hackberry Press. 2001. pages 119 & 120
  5. Thompson 2019, p. 17.
  6. Thompson 2019, p. 18.
  7. Thompson 2019, p. 19.
  8. Peterson, Phillip (30 September 2008). Gun Digest Buyer's Guide To Assault Weapons. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. p. 70. ISBN 1-4402-2672-5.
  9. Thompson 2019, p. 13.
  10. Ezell, Edward Clinton; Smith, Walter Harold Black; Pegg, Thomas M. (1993). Small Arms of the World: A Basic Manual of Small Arms. Barnes & Noble. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-88029-601-4.
  11. Fjestad, S. P. (1 April 2015). Blue Book of Gun Values. Iola, Wisconsin: Blue Book Publications. p. 299. ISBN 978-1-936120-60-4.
  12. Jowett, Philip (2016). Modern African Wars (5): The Nigerian-Biafran War 1967-70. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-1472816092.
  13. Gander, Terry J. (22 November 2000). "National inventories, Congo". Jane's Infantry Weapons 2001-2002. p. 1440.
  14. Gander, Terry J. (22 November 2000). "National inventories, Congo, Democratic Republic". Jane's Infantry Weapons 2001-2002. p. 1441.
  15. Gander, Terry J. (22 November 2000). "National inventories, Djibouti". Jane's Infantry Weapons 2001-2002. p. 1600.
  16. Gander, Terry J. (22 November 2000). "National inventories, Dominican Republic". Jane's Infantry Weapons 2001-2002. p. 1601.
  17. Thompson 2019, p. 30.
  18. Gander, Terry J. (22 November 2000). "National inventories, Equatorial Guinea". Jane's Infantry Weapons 2001-2002. p. 1644.
  19. Scarlata, Paul (July 2009). "Military rifle cartridges of Lebanon Part 2: from independence to Hezbollah". Shotgun News.
  20. Ignacio Fuente Cobo; Fernando M. Mariño Menéndez (2006). El conflicto del Sahara occidental (PDF) (in Spanish). Ministerio de Defensa de España & Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. p. 69. ISBN 84-9781-253-0. Fuente & Mariño.
  21. Gander, Terry J. (22 November 2000). "National inventories, Spain". Jane's Infantry Weapons 2001-2002. p. 4230.
  22. Thompson 2019, p. 12.
  23. Thompson 2019, p. 15.
  24. Thompson 2019, p. 20.
  25. Thompson 2019, p. 21.


  • Manual del soldado de Infantería de Marina ( 1985 ). Marine Corps soldier Manual Edited by the Spanish Ministry of Defence.
  • Manual de instrucción básica de la Escuela Técnica de Seguridad y Defensa del Aire (ETESDA) (2002). Basic instruction Manual of the Technical School Safety and Air Defence (ETESDA) (2002). Edited by the Spanish Ministry of Defence.
  • Centro de Documentación y Publicaciones del Ministerio de Defensa. Publications and Documentation Centre of the Ministry of Defence.
  • CETME: 50 años del fusil de asalto español . (CETME: 50 years of Spanish assault rifle). José María Manrique García and Lucas Molina Franco. Edit. La Esfera de los Libros. (The Sphere of Books). ISBN 84-9734-398-0.
  • Thompson, Leroy (30 May 2019). The G3 Battle Rifle. Weapon 68. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781472828620.

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