Thursday, October 25, 2018

Survival Weapons: The CETME/G-3/HK 91

CETME Model C with clamp on bipod.
        In this continuing series on survival weapons, I look at the 7.62x51 NATO (.308 Winchester) roller-lock battle rifles: the Spanish CETME C, HK G-3, and their civilian versions. I consider these rifles together because the HK G-3 (and its civilian version, the HK 91) are direct descendants of the CETME C, and, to a certain extent, there is some interchangeability of parts between the two. In fact, the differences between CETME C and the HK91 are probably no greater than can be found between different versions of the FAL.

HK G3A3--note the 3rd generation wide handguard (Source)

General Information:

       For the general information, I will rely on the military versions of the rifles since there will be little or no difference between civilian and military versions as to weight, length, etc.:

CETME C:

Cartridge:  7.62x51 NATO
Operation:  Delayed blowback using rollers.
Feed: 20-round detachable box magazine.
Weight: 4.2 kg (9.3 lbs.) with wood stock and handguard
Length: 1,051 mm. (41.4 inches)
Barrel: 450 mm. (17.7 inches)

HK G-3:

Cartridge:  7.62x51 NATO
Operation:  Delayed blowback using rollers.
Feed:  20-round detachable box magazine.
Weight: 4.25 kg (9.4 lbs) with fixed stock.
Length: 1,020 mm (40.2 inches) with fixed stock.
Barrel: 450 mm (17.7 inches).

      According to Jane's Infantry Weapons, these rifles use a barrel with a right hand 1:12 (1:305mm) twist. This twist rate should work well for bullet weights (assuming standard construction) of 150 to 180 grains.

History:

       The first widely manufactured and distributed "assault rifle" was the Stg. 44, which used the German 7.92x33 "Kurz" ("Short")  cartridge. The weapon and its cartridge found instant popularity with German troops during WWII, and impressed the Allies, especially the Soviets. Although the Stg. 44 made use of steel stampings, it was still a mechanically complex rifle and the Germans attempted to develop less expensive and easier to manufacture weapons. One of these was the Stg. 45(M), which used a blowback system using a system of locking rollers along side the bolt to delay the opening of the bolt until pressure levels in the chamber fell to a level safe for the bolt to retract and load the next cartridge, but made use of the same cartridge and magazine as the Stg. 44.



Stg. 45(M)

     The Stg. 45 never developed beyond prototype stage, and with the collapse of Nazi Germany at the close of WWII, certain of the design team, including engineer Ludwig Vorgrimler, fled to Spain to found Centro de Estudios Tecnicos de Materiales Especiales (CETME), where they worked to perfect their design. One of the key issues resolved was the problem of cases sticking in the chamber, which was overcome by machining flutes into the chamber to reduce friction. Cartridges fired from a roller-lock weapon, be it the CETME/G-3, the MP5, or G-33/HK-93 bear telltale blackened lines along the length of the shell casing because of these flutes. If these flutes become clogged with grime, or are machined an insufficient depth, the friction will increase and prevent reliable cycling.

      CETME initially developed versions of their rifle for an intermediate cartridge, but with NATO adopting the 7.62x51, Spain decided it also should adopt the same cartridge, although it was not a member of NATO. Thus, the design was modified for the more powerful cartridge and adopted for use by the Spanish military as the Model C. Production began in 1957, and continued through 1979 with remarkably little change or variation in the design.

Cut-away detail of the roller lock system with bolt closed and locked in chamber (Source). As one author describes the operation of the roller-lock system: "For those unfamiliar with the HK roller locking system, the locking piece is critical to the firearm’s safe and reliable function. With the bolt closed, the locking piece is the part that pushes against the rollers and forces them into the recesses within the rifle’s trunnion. After a round is fired, the chamber pressure pushes the bolt and carrier rearward and the rollers press against the locking piece until it has moved back far enough for them to retreat into the bolt head. With the rollers clear of the trunnion, the bolt and carrier can freely cycle."
      The roller-lock design probably would have been a mere curiosity but for post-War politics. Along with the NATO countries deciding on a common cartridge, they (except for the United States) also decided on a common rifle: the FN FAL. Germany initially obtained FALs directly from FN (designated the G1), but sought to obtain a license to manufacture the rifles in Germany. Considering Germany's aggressive past, Belgium would not license production of the FAL to West Germany, however. Looking around, Germany decided to adopt the CETME rifle, with some modifications, as the G-3 beginning in 1959. These modifications would eventually included different sights, and a different trigger system.

Early model HK G-3. Compare with the CETME at the top of the page (Source)
        Although early G-3s were remarkably similar to the CETME C, including almost identical wood stocks and flip up sights, West Germany refined and modified the design over time, improving the sights, changing to plastic furniture (only the pistol grip on the CETME C is plastic--the rest of the furniture is made of poplar wood), and making some changes to the cocking tube and fore-end. West Germany also offered collapsible stock versions. More significantly, West Germany took the design and applied it to submachine guns (the MP-5 family), light machine guns, and a line of 5.56 NATO caliber rifles and carbines. The German G-3 was also exported to or produced under license in a large number of countries, including Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan.

This appears to be an HK91 or semi-auto version of the G-3--the third pin to the front of the receiver is missing as is the paddle mag release. However, note the second generation "slim" handguard and what appears to be an after-market shell deflector (Source). The color of the furniture is also different, with the pistol grip being more of an olive green color and the rest of the furniture is a brighter green color.
Description:

       The CETME and G-3 were designed to make use of extensive stampings. Both the upper and lower receivers are made of steel stampings. (However, you may occasionally run across some American made upper receivers that are cast stainless steel). Except for the attachment point for the rear sight, the upper receivers are identical. Lower receivers are also interchangeable.

       The upper receiver is folded to a mostly tubular shape, but including a magazine well at the front. The trunnion in which the barrel is inserted is welded into the front of the upper receiver. The barrel is pinned into place inside the trunnion. Extending from the upper receiver, on the top, is a cocking tube, welded to upper receiver, which contains the cocking handle mechanism and an extension of the bolt carrier.

The "Navy" lower (Source). Note the rear leg of the ejector poking up at the rear, and the hammer is fully forward.
        The lower receiver is generally of stamped steel, although HK later developed a one piece polymer version (often called the navy version). Plastic grips slide over a grip frame and screw into place. The lower receiver contains the trigger, selector and hammer mechanism. The trigger, etc., interestingly, are fit into a separate metal box (the trigger pack) that then fits into the lower receiver. The lower receiver fits in behind the magazine well, and is attached by two removable pins at the rear. In the military version, the front is also attached via a removable pin, but due to ATF regulations, the front pin and pin hole is omitted in civilian versions (although it is not uncommon to see weapons with a dummied up front pin to maintain the original appearance).

       On the right side of the magazine well is a push button magazine release. However, this release is so far forward that it cannot be operated without breaking your hold on the pistol grip. To assist with this, the military versions of both the CETME and the HK have a central paddle release to actuate the release and allow you to quickly remove the magazine with your left hand. These are rare on civilian versions, but can be easily added by drilling a hole through one side of the receiver and part way through the opposite side (don't drill all of the way through, as that would, in the eyes of the ATF, convert the receiver to one for an automatic weapon), and threading it with a screw to act as the pivot point for the paddle.

        The barrel and cocking tube are held together at their front by what is sometimes termed the triple frame because it basically looks like there are three holes: the lower hole through which the barrel protrudes, the middle hole into which the cocking tube is inserted, and the upper hole which is where the front sight is located. The triple frame is pinned to the barrel.

       The cocking tube has a long slot down its length to allowed the cocking handle to be pulled back to cock the weapon. At the rearmost of the slot is a notch into which the cocking handle can be rotated and used to lock the action open. The famous "HK slap" (video) is the strike against the side of the cocking handle to knock it out of the notch and allowing the bolt carrier to slam forward.

       The butt stock attaches to a stamped metal sleeve that fits over the rear of the receivers. There are two pins that hold together both of the receivers and the sleeve. Attached to this sleeve is the rod and recoil spring that slides into the back of the upper extension of the bolt carrier.

G-3A4 with an HK collapsible stock. Also note the paddle magazine release ahead of the trigger guard. (Source)

       As mentioned, there are numerous small differences between the CETME and the HK, but also some interchangeability of parts. For instance, furniture is generally interchangeable with little or no modification. Magazines are interchangeable (although the HK magazines are better designed, in my opinion, and substantially cheaper). The rollers used on the bolts to lock the bolt closed are the same. My understanding is that the firing pins are also interchangeable.

      Although the trigger mechanisms are very different between the two weapons, you could replace the complete trigger pack from one with another (or, for that matter, the complete lower receiver), although the position of "safe" and "fire" might be different.

       Operation of the weapons is almost identical, with the exception of the adjustment of the sights and the progression of "safe", "fire" and, on military weapons, "automatic" on the selector.

CETME cleaning kit tube with bayonet lug (on top) and contents (Source) As noted in the text, the tube slides into the end of the cocking tube.

       Bayonets attach at the same location, but the attachment hardware is different. On the CETME, the plug at the front of the cocking tube is removable, so that a cleaning kit can be slid into the front of the cocking tube. This plug has a thick blade that protrudes out the front over which the handle of the bayonet fits and locks into place. On the HK G-3, the front of the cocking tube is not used for storage (in fact, later models have a reduced diameter cocking tube ahead of the cocking handle), and the cocking tube plug has a hole into which a portion of the bayonet handle protrudes when locked into place. Most civilian weapons have a simple plug in the front of the cocking tube with no provision for a bayonet.

Operation:

      Loading of the weapon is via a 20-round detachable magazine made of steel or aluminum that is pushed up into the magazine well until it locks. The cocking handle, when the bolt is closed, is folded down at the fore-end of the cocking tube. Holding the pistol grip in the right hand, the left hand is used to pull back on the cocking handle, unfolding it for better purchase, and then drawing all the way to rear to pull the bolt carrier back far enough to feed the first round. The cocking handle is then released--the pressure of the recoil spring will push the bolt carrier forward, picking up and feeding the first round into the chamber. The cocking handle is non-reciprocating.

      The selector lever is on the left side of weapon, just above the trigger. It can be manipulated with the thumb. The order of the selections varies between the CETME and the HK weapons. With the CETME, semi-auto fire (single shot) is the upper most selection, followed by "safe," and then "automatic." On the HK, the order is "safe," "single" and "automatic."

     The trigger guards on these weapons are of a generous size to allow the use of gloves. The trigger is made of stamped steel and very thick and large. These weapons are notorious for having one of the poorest triggers of any military rifle of that era, having substantial take up and spongy release. Unfortunately, while the triggers can be improved somewhat, they will never be the equal of most other military rifles without changing out portions of the trigger mechanism with custom parts.

     Obviously, pulling the trigger will allow one shot on semi-automatic.

     These weapons do not have a bolt hold open. Thus, once the ammunition in the magazine is expended, the cocking handle must again be pulled all the way to rear in order to charge the weapon. As noted above, if you need to lock the bolt open, you must pull the cocking handle all of the way to the rear and then rotate it into a notch.

     The flash hiders are nearly identical between the CETME and the HK, and is simple bird-cage style designed for fitting of a bayonet or rifle grenade launcher. I've shot my CETME with and without the flash hider in dim light, and can tell you that the flash hider does a good job of reducing what would otherwise be a fairly bright muzzle flash.

A G-3 disassembled into its major components. Left to right: Sling, butt stock with recoil rod and spring assembly, lower receiver, trigger pack, bolt assembly, bolt carrier, front handguard, and upper receiver with attached barrel and cocking tube (Source)

     To field strip the weapon, there are two pins at the back of the lower receiver that must be removed. The military butt stocks, handily, have two holes into which these pins can be inserted to hold them while cleaning the weapon. With the two pins removed, the butt stock can be pulled loose and the lower receiver swung down out of the way. (Military rifles, with a third pin to the front, will simply hinge on that pin; civilian versions use a shelf to keep the front of the lower receiver in place, so the lower receiver will simply pull off once the rear pins are removed). With the butt stock and recoil spring assembly pulled out, the bolt carrier can then be removed allowing access to the barrel and chamber for cleaning. Assembly is the reverse.

Differences in the Selector/Trigger Mechanism:

      The CETME actually has a very clever trigger, hammer, sear mechanism. The selector lever is attached to a pin that not only holds the trigger pack into place, but has various notches or cuts that are used to change the weapon from safe, to fire, to auto fire. The primary sear has hooks that are under spring tension from the hammer spring, that catch the hammer and interrupt its action to produce semi-automatic fire. The hooks have long arms extending off the back that rest against the selector pin. In semi-automatic setting, the arms rest on the inside of a notch, and the hooks protrude to interrupt and catch the hammer. However, if the selector is rotated around it will push up the arms on these hooks which withdraw the hooks out of the way, and allow automatic fire. When converting the CETME to semi-automatic fire, one of the easiest methods to make the conversion is to simply cut off these arms so, no matter the position of the selector, the hooks will be extended allowing only semi-auto fire. When in the "safe" position, the notch arrangement on the selector will block the trigger.

      But the designers, being German, could not leave this simple arrangement alone. So they added not one, but two safety sears, needlessly complicating the trigger mechanism. The first safety sear fits below the hammer, and will prevent the hammer from falling unless the trigger has been pulled. The second sear fits to the right of the hammer and is under spring tension so it presses up against the bottom of the bolt carrier. As long as the top of the sear is pressed down, the weapon will fire. When the lower receiver is loosened and swung down, the second safety sear is allowed to move up blocking the hammer. This prevents discharge if the weapon is being opened for cleaning. However, most other rifles, including the AR, are perfectly safe without the resort to these additional safety sears and mechanisms, and all it does is complicate the mechanism and drag on the trigger.

      The West Germans, when they adopted the CETME, did not like the order on the selector lever, wanting a system that moved from "safe" to "fire" to "automatic." This involved a redesign of the trigger mechanism. HK did not abandon the two safety sears, but instead, used the second safety sear as the sear for automatic fire. Consequently, most civilian semi-auto weapons will have a second groove cut into the bottom of the bolt carrier for the express purpose, if an automatic trigger group is attached, that the bolt carrier can't press down the second safety sear, effectively preventing the weapon from firing. Thus, a civilian HK must have the second safety sear--the auto sear--removed in order to operate. (Of course, removal of the second safety sear has no impact on the CETME trigger group--one could, in theory, install a full auto CETME trigger group into an HK with a semi-auto bolt carrier and, with the second safety sear removed, still be able to switch between semi- and fully-automatic fire without any issues).

Differences in the Sights:

      Both the CETME and the HK use a rear sight with four settings: an open 100 meter sight, and peep sights ostensibly set for the 200, 300 and 400 meters respectively. Other than that, the two systems are very different.

CETME Rear Sight

      The CETME rear sight is a "paddle wheel" design that rotates along a horizontal axis. Small detents lock it into place at each of the appropriate positions. Other than switching between ranges, there is no other adjustment possible to the rear sight.

CETME front sight. Note the lock screw below the pyramid sight, and the access hole at the top of the protective hood.
      The front sight on the CETME is a pyramid style post that screws up and down. The post is slightly offset from center, so that, as it is screwed up and down, it also moves to the right and left of center as it is turned, allowing for adjustment of both windage and elevation. There is a small lock screw on the front of the sight that must be unloosened before adjusting the front sight. Then, using a sight tool, the post sight can be accessed through a hole in the top of the sight cover and screwed up or down.

Detail of the rear "drum" sight on the HK rifle (Source)

      The rear sight on HK uses a drum arrangement. That is, the three peep holes and open sight are cut into an cylinder set at an incline to allow one edge of the cylinder to project up enough to use an individual peep hole or the open sight. The drum is twisted to select between the different sighting options. The rear sight is also adjustable for windage and elevation.


HK style front sight. Note that the protective hood around the front sight is slightly angled, and there is no provision for adjusting the front sight. (Source)
     The front sight on the HK is not adjustable. It is an insert that is essentially cut out of sheet steel. Although the normal sight is just a post, there are other shapes available, or even tritium sights.

     Both the CETME and HK weapons are designed to accept a scope mount. Scope mounts designed for the HK will work with the CETME. The military "claw" mounts are cumbersome, heavy, and, due to demand from collectors, expensive. Various manufacturers produce aluminum mounts sporting Picatinny rails for mounting optics. Newer civilian weapons often have a  Picatinny rail welded to the top of the upper receiver to allow for optics.

Differences in Furniture:

     Furniture between the designs is interchangeable with little or no modifications.  Pistol grips designed to slip over a grip frame are completely interchangeable between the two systems. However, CETME pistol grips are made of a smooth black plastic, while HK offered black and green pistol grips with some slight texturing. I've also seen photographs of tan stocks for the HK apparently manufactured for--or by--Saudi Arabia.

      The CETME used the same wooden butt stock and handguard throughout its manufacture history. CETME wooden furniture can be used on HK rifles, although some modification may be necessary. The handguard on the CETME uses a screw to tighten down and secure the handguard. The HK system uses a pin to secure the handguard. While the HK handguard can be shifted to the CETME without modification, the CETME will require that the screw be removed and the hole enlarged to accept the front pin.

      HK began by using wooden furniture almost indistinguishable from the CETME. It then switched to using synthetic furniture with a narrow (slim) handguard design that was available in either black or green. HK later offered a wider handguard design (the fat handguard). Any of these handguards can be used on the CETME without modification. In addition, there are many manufacturers that produce alternative handguards, including those with rails, what can be used with either the CETME or the HK.

     The standard butt stock for the HK is a fixed stock which attaches to a steel sleeve with the recoil rod and spring. HK also offered a collapsible stock which is popular. Adapters for using AR style stocks are also available.

     Butt stocks for the HK can be used on the CETME, although the recoil spring and rod system requires a slight modification when switching between the two systems. Basically, the retainer system at the front of the recoil rod is slightly different shape between the CETME and the HK. The HK system uses a wide nylon washer that will not fit into the CETME bolt carrier. The washer can be sanded down to reshape it so it will work, but, if you have a CETME butt stock and recoil rod, it is probably easier to simply remove the retaining piece from the the tip of the CETME recoil rod and install it on the HK recoil rod.

 Continued Availability:

      The CETME/HK G-3 system has had a long and successful history in many areas of the world, including adoption as a general infantry rifle by not only West Germany, but also Turkey, Pakistan, and other Middle-Eastern countries. CETME produced semi-auto sporter models that were imported briefly into the United States, but are rare. Parts kits for the CETME have generally been available and allowed both hobbyists and a few companies to produce them domestically.

       Century is the primary domestic manufacturer using CETME parts kits and US manufactured parts. Century initially produced a model called the Century CETME which earned a poor reputation because of poor quality control, one of the biggest problems being that Century would grind down the back of the bolt in order to adjust head spacing instead of switching out different sized rollers as one should. CETME revamped production and released the C308 a few years ago making use of original CETME parts and US manufactured HK style parts. From what I've seen, the C308 has gotten fairly solid reviews.

      HK also produced the civilian HK 91 which was imported until import restrictions arising as a consequence of the 1994 assault weapons ban forced HK out of the market. The availability of parts kits from decommissioned military weapons allowed several domestic manufacturers, including PTR, to continue manufacture and sales. PTR eventually purchased G3 machining from Pakistan and continues to manufacture the firearms in various models.

      While there is not the supply of after-market parts and accessories as you find for the AR or, even, the AK system, there are plenty of parts and accessories allowing you to modernize your rifle. I have found RTG Parts the best (and least expensive) source for spare parts.

Comments and General Discussion: 

      The CETME/HK design is one of the three .308 "classic" battle rifle designs, the others being the FN FAL and the M-14/Springfield M1A. The primary reason for selecting one of these rifles, or another 7.62 NATO design, is the caliber and power of the round allowing one to reach out and touch an enemy at distances beyond 300 yards or behind light cover.

       In addition, for the prepper, the cartridge is a proven hunting cartridge that, according to common belief, can play double duty as both a defensive cartridge and for hunting medium or large game. This common belief does not hold up very well under examination.

       For one thing, you should avoid using commercial hunting ammunition in a military 7.62 rifle. As one source explains:
7.62 NATO ammunition is loaded to a maximum average pressure of 50,000psi and proof tested at 67,000psi. For reliable feeding in the field, military 7.62 NATO rifles have over sized chambers and military brass is made thick to allow expansion to the chamber walls without cases splitting.  Sporting .308 ammunition is made to the same sized outside dimensions as 7.62 NATO ammunition but lacks the thickness of brass to flow and fill a loose military chamber with the possibility of split or ruptured cases as a result. Commercial hunting ammunition can be loaded up to 62,000psi. 
      The efficacy of the full metal jacket 7.62 NATO is also often overrated. The full metal jacket ammunition is not as lethal as some claim because it generally will not deform or fragment, even at ranges as close as 2.5 m. (See here for full article). Thus, the round is not a magic "one-shot, one-stop" round. Other bullets may offer better performance. The Germans and Danes, for instance, used a bullet employing a cannelure which was capable of fragmentation out to 100 meters. The U.S. military's new 7.62 M80A1 EPR is also designed to enhance fragmentation while retaining good penetration, but good luck getting your hands on any! Hollow-point bullets will tend to deform and fragment very quickly. While this makes hollow-point a poor choice for hunting because of the shallow wounding depth, it makes them a better choice for defensive purposes.

       Although you may be tempted to stock up on inexpensive soft-tip ammunition, keep in mind, as a general rule, that soft-tipped .308 ammunition will not expand and produce hydrostatic shock at less than 2,600 fps. Something to take into account when shooting out of a relatively short barreled weapon such as the CETME/HK, which may only be 2,600 fps at the muzzle. Of course, if you hand load ammunition, you probably could pair an appropriate partition style hunting bullet with a charge that would be safe to use in a military rifle.

      In short, surplus military ammunition will, generally speaking, be very poor for hunting, and not much better for combat. Conversely, sporting loads may be overpressure for military rifles. Thus, the "duel use" for the 7.62 NATO rifles is exaggerated, at least for off-the-shelf ammunition.

      So, where does the extra energy on target come in useful? As one author explains:
The benefit of 7.62mm is that it has more energy.  The impact energy of the 7.62mm is more than twice of the 5.56.  Energy is only needed if you want o penetrate body armor or RHA (rolled homogeneous armor).  If the target is not protected, that energy level is not really needed.
      The one feature that really distinguishes the CETME/G-3 from other .308 battle rifles is the roller-lock system. Because the system does not use a gas system, it has the reputation of being rather indifferent to the quality or charge of ammunition. That is, there is no gas system that needs to be adjusted for different quality of ammo or to compensate for a dirty weapon. Also, it can handle higher pressure ammunition than the FAL or M14/M1A without damaging the weapon. Timothy Mullin, in his book Testing the War Weapons, makes note of this, writing:
Normally, we assume that the lack of a gas system will create problems as the weapon gets dirty or if the ammunition is underpowered. On the H&K G3, however, the weapon does not suffer from such problems, because the stronger the ammunition the stronger the roller-locking system will hold. And because it has no gas system, it does not clog from the gas and residue that are constantly flushed back into the rifle action as is common with so many gas-operated weapons.
(p. 135). Based on its successful history in combat and adaptation into versions used as light machine guns, the weapon is capable of handling sustained firing and harsh field conditions.

      I  believe that the CETME/HK system has a higher potential for accuracy because there is no operating rod or gas pistons, but is limited by the poor trigger. That a modified version, called the PSG-1, has led a successful career as a sniper rifle speaks to the potential for accuracy out of this system. I have gotten excellent accuracy out of the CETME I built when using good quality ammunition and careful trigger control. It probably also helps that my parts kit came with a brand new Spanish barrel.

     The G-3 obviously has a good history of being used in the cold and wet of Scandinavia, and the hot, dry and dusty environments of the Near and Middle-East. I've read that it can have problems in jungle environments, probably because the rollers could corrode or the flutes in the chamber clog more easily with carbon build-up, but its widespread use in Latin America and Africa seem to belie that. Conversely, the FAL has a poor reputation in desert environments, as the Israelis found out, but has widely served throughout South America and Sub-Saharan Africa without major issue.

     As discussed above, while not as easy to break down and clean as the AR, neither is it difficult. The ability to remove the rear stock and bolt carrier allows for easy access to and cleaning of the breach and barrel of the weapon.

     Like all .308 battle rifles, the CETME/G-3 style rifles are heavy--almost as heavy as an M1 Garand which had a reputation as a heavy weapon. The ammunition is also heavy, which means that you cannot carry as much of it as you could of 5.56 or 7.62x39. For instance, assuming a fighting load of 180 rounds, the weight of magazines and ammunition for the AR15 would be about 6 lbs, while that for 7.62x51 would be nearly 15 lbs., or more than twice as much.

       The ergonomics are not as great as could be hoped although the general layout is similar to the AR system: the trigger, as I've already discussed, is poor (although my experience leads me to believe that the CETME is slightly better than the HK); and the magazine release button is hard to reach. Another problem is that the rifle doesn't have a bolt hold-open. Because of this, I would seriously consider putting a tracer as the next to last round and plan on reloading when I see the tracer, although this too has its downsides, not the least that it can create a fire hazard. Also,  the cocking is hard and requires a long reach; although it is, at least, on the left side of the rifle. However, because of its location, you are out of luck if, for some reason, you need to use your right hand to cock the weapon.

     On the plus side, the selector is, at least for me, easy to reach, and if you have rifle with the paddle-mag release, it can easily be accessed by either hand; although that is using the standard lower and not the Navy lower.

       I don't really like the balance of the CETME/HK rifle compared to other combat rifles. I'm not sure how to really describe it, other than it just doesn't seem to come as quickly and easily to the shoulder, or swung around to a different point of aim, as other combat rifles. Mullin, I would point out, also thought the same of the G3.

      The sights on both the CETME and G-3 are not all that great, although a vast improvement on most military rifles up until that time. But they are not as good as the sights for the M14 or FAL in my opinion, or even the standard AR sights. For one thing, the open notch sight for 100 meters or less is so close to the eye that it is blurry and mostly unusable. That type of open sight works well when placed at the rear of the barrel or front of the receiver, but the open design was never intended to be used close to the eye. I generally forgo using the open sight and use the 200 meter peep sight instead. The only time the open sight might be useful is for short-range snap shooting when you could primarily rely on the front sight blade.

      Because of the shape of the stock, optics will be too high to use while maintaining a good cheek weld. A company called Cherokee Accessories makes (or made) a cheek piece to fit on the CETME or HK stocks that works very well for when using a scope, yet is easily removed if you need to switch to iron sights.

      If you are interested in reloading, the CETME/HK system is not for you. These rifles throw the brass into the next county, or close enough. (My CETME will easily throw brass 20 feet or more). For that matter, I am leery of using it at a shooting range for that reason--it will be pummeling people to the right of you with spent casings.

      In short, the CETME/G-3 system has a variety of pluses and minuses. For the prepper, it offers a .308 battle rifle at costs competitive with AR style .308s (the PTR model) or is much less expensive (the Century C308). And it is very much less expensive than other modern .308 designs. (The SCAR 17s, for instance, retails for over $3,000). Unlike the FAL or the M1A, magazines for the CETME/G-3 are inexpensive--the HK aluminum magazines can be had for just a few dollars each and sometimes less. This makes it inexpensive to stock pile magazines. The CETME/HK is about the same weight as the FAL or M1A, but a bit shorter overall. Compared to 5.56 or 7.62x39 weapons, on the other hand, it is large, and heavy, and the cartridges it uses are heavy with relatively hard recoil compared to calibers like the 5.56 and 7.62x39.

     So that brings me to the issue of where these rifles might fit into your preparations. Because of the size of the rifles, both dimensionally and in weight, and the recoil (slower follow up) they are not CQB weapons. The 7.62x51 round was intended for use in fields and woods, and that is where this rifle would excel. In dense vegetation (e.g., jungle) or urban terrain, or inside your house, you would probably be better off with a smaller, lighter 5.56 NATO or 7.62x39 rifle. I think that even for general control of predators in and around a rural homestead, you would be better off with a lighter rifle, even if it was chambered in .308 or a comparable caliber. And, of course, the weight (especially with optics) would make these miserable to have to pack for a long distance.In any event, the lack of a bolt hold open and the awkward cocking arrangement makes this a slower weapon to reload--something that, for me, would eliminate it as a primary choice for a defensive rifle.

      I think that this would be an excellent rifle for a designated marksman in a group if that group were big enough to have such a specialist. An accurate CETME or HK outfitted with a scope would give such group the ability to engage distant targets or targets behind barriers. In this regard, it might be possible to pick up some armor piercing ammunition intended for the .30-06, pull the bullets, and reload it for use in a .308 rifle.

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