Century Arms CETME Review (2009)

Seeing as how there aren’t many recent reviews of this often criticized rifle, I think I will do a quick write up on my experience.

About a week ago I placed an order with Henderson Defense Industries for one of their Century Arms CETME rifles. Henderson, along with Classic Arms lists these rifles for $599 plus shipping with two magazines. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got a call from John Gallion at Wabash Tactical Supply letting me know that he had the rifle and that I could come by to pick it up whenever convenient. Naturally, I decided that the best time to pick it up would be right after I hung up the phone. Meeting John for the first time was a really pleasant experience, he is a really good guy and I highly recommend him to anyone in the Terre Haute area. He offers transfers for a rather reasonable $20.

When I got home with the rifle and started looking it over, I must say that I was impressed. Century has drastically improved the outward appearance of these rifles in comparison to older CETME offerings. The paint, although relatively thick, is evenly applied and while not as durable as higher end products such as GunKote, is no less resilient than the finish on my Izhmash Saiga. The F (Fire) and S (Safe) selector markings are attractively highlighted in red and white. The US made black polymer furniture resembles that seen on H&K G3 rifles but lacks a rear sling swivel, an issue that can be easily rectified with the substitution of a German made stock, but then another part will need to be swapped in order to maintain 922(r) compliance. Overall, the furniture feels satisfactory although the stock is hollow and probably wouldn’t be ideal on a true combat weapon. Seam lines can be seen rather easily on the furniture as well.


As far as the welds on this particular weapon are concerned, they look pretty good, but I don’t have a whole lot of experience with welding.

The flash hider is similar to the one found on the G3 and appears to be either permanently attached or very very difficult to remove.


The sights appear to be well aligned with no noticeable cant. The rear sight provides settings for 100 to 400 meters.

Century chose to retain the original fire control parts, instead relying on the furniture, charging handle, barrel, and receiver for compliance.


Now that the externals have been pretty well covered, let’s move on to the internal workings.


The barrel is a new production US made piece. In my opinion, this is a bonus on a rifle of this sort. Some older CETMEs have been reported as having poor surplus barrels which cannot provide satisfactory groupings. Were this an AK, I would not be pleased with a US made barrel, but I look for greater accuracy from this full sized battle rifle. The new US barrel ensures that this rifle will not likely be plagued by the same accuracy issues found in older examples. A quick look down the pipe revealed the shiny, defined lands and grooves one would expect from a new barrel.

As I have previously mentioned, the fire control group is composed of original military parts. The trigger pull is comparable to a stock Saiga trigger in terms of tension but is a little grittier. It is noticeably heavier than an AK equipped with a G2 trigger.


The rifle I received shows no signs of grinding on the bolt head.

At first glance, my rifle appeared to have very acceptable bolt gap. However, I am not sure that is the case. Please allow me to elaborate on this a little. When I first charged the weapon, I noticed that it was incredibly difficult to pull the handle all the way back to the locked position. After slapping it out of the locked position and letting it slam back home, I witnessed what appeared to be gap that was towards the upper end of the acceptable range. After pulling the trigger however, this gap would close up.


Initially, I believed this to be SOP and thought little of it. I was however, very much bothered by the difficulties associated with charging the rifle. My arms tired from repeatedly working the action in futile efforts to loosen it up, I decided this evening to tear the CETME down and give it a thorough cleaning.

The inside of the rifle was a lubrication nightmare. Most of the internal parts were covered in a gritty black grease. My first goal was to get all of this garbage off, a task easily completed with the help of some WD40, CLP, and some rags.

However, cleaning the rifle did little good as far as loosening the action was concerned so I decided to go over some of the internal parts with some fine steel wool in order to smooth out what appeared to be a very rough parkerization job (nowhere near the quality seen on US milsurps like the M1). The parts I hit were the bolt carrrier, charging handle, and the small tube that the charging handle attaches to. In addition, I decided to smooth out some of the roughness found on the receiver rails and trigger parts. While doing this, I noticed that my spring guide rod had what appeared to be a small bulge near its forward end. I ground this down very slightly so that the spring could move along the guide more smoothly.

After all the cleaning/tuning was done, I reassembled the rifle and checked my gap. To my horror, my rifle’s bolt gap disappeared! Scared that I may have ruined my new rifle, I tried a few more times and as long as I let the bolt slam home properly, I received the same results. I did however, notice that if I provided even the slightest bit of resistance as the action slammed closed, my bolt gap would be temporarily restored. This has led me to believe that the general grime and roughness of the rifle had initally made it appear as though the rifle had very solid bolt gap as it provided that small bit of friction necessary to prevent the bolt head and locking piece from fully engaging the trunion. Hopefully a new locking piece along with some +2 rollers will provide a much needed fix.

Overall, I am very pleased with this rifle. Sure, it has a few issues, but these are relatively minor and can be fixed without incurring excessive expense. I hope to get it out to shoot sometime soon (after I fix the issues with the gap) and will be sure to post an AAR.

It should also be mentioned that I picked up a few of Cheaper Than Dirt’s 99 cent aluminum G3 magazines. They lock up very well in the CETME and look great for the price.


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