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Preview – CETME-L

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Hill & Mac Gunworks Shows Off its DIY Vintage-Inspired Rifle

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

In the 1970s, most NATO countries saw the writing on the wall and started the process of converting their armed forces’ main small arms over to the 5.56 cartridge. This must have been particularly galling for many, as they were originally forced to adopt the 7.62 NATO round by the U.S., despite several of them coming up with smaller, better, general-purpose designs. After being in service for less than a decade, America then did an about face and introduced the .22 caliber as its main infantry round, while keeping the 7.62 for crew-served weapons.

As part of the switch to the lighter caliber, Spain looked at its successful CETME 58 battle rifle and used it as a basis for a smaller version. If you think the CETME looks like an HK, well there’s a very good reason for that. Ludwig Vorgrimmler designed the CETME in the early 1950s, in a career path that took him full circle from Mauser during WWII, to France in the immediate post-war years, to Spain, and finally back to Mauser in 1956. During his time in Santa Barbara, the West German government adopted and adapted the design of the CETME 58, producing it under license as the G3 in the factories of Rheinmettal and Heckler & Koch. HK then used it as the basis of an entire line of some of the most iconic 20th-century firearms.

The CETME-L then, while it isn’t an HK design, certainly shares some DNA, and is an interesting side note in small-arms development. Due to asinine federal legislation, we mere serfs aren’t able to own a real CETME-L, though Hill & Mac Gunworks has an interesting workaround that allows us to own a semi-auto version of the original. It’s also a cool project to show off to your friends at the range, as you’ll create a fully functioning rifle from a collection of scrap metal.

hill-and-mac-gunworks cetme-l-rifle

You’ll need to get your hands dirty for this one, but isn’t that part of the fun? The H&M non-rifle arrives as several bags of parts, some of which are recognizable as bits of a weapon. There’s also a big, honkin’ shiny steel assembly used to form the included stamped sheetmetal flat into a working receiver — but for now, resist the urge to just jump in and start screwing things together. Before you go any further, it’s time to bust out the Dremel.

Step 1
In order to import the CETME-L kit, it first has to be chopped up so that it’s no longer a firearm. Sad, but blame those paragons of virtue in Washington. The various destroyed chunks still have usable components welded to them, so you’ll need to separate them from the remaining scrap. Using a rotary tool fitted with a fiber-reinforced cutting wheel, carefully cut the welds securing the rearsight assembly, cocking tube, and trunnion to the remains of the butchered receiver. Remember to cut on the waste side of the line, so that you don’t remove steel from the components you want to save. Once the welds have been cut, you’ll need to peel away the scrap receiver from them. We used a set of Vise Grips and a small prybar to do this, but there are many ways to skin this cat.

Once you’ve delivered up the usable components from the old gun’s carcass, dress up their rough edges using a file or abrasive of your choice. We used a square to ensure the cocking tube would mate up with the forward edge of the new receiver.

Semi-Auto Conversion
As the original CETME-L was a select-fire weapon, you’ll need to ensure that your newly built rifle won’t land you a stay in Club Fed. This means you’ll convert it to semi-auto only by removing a portion of the bolt carrier that trips the auto sear and grinding away a portion of the trigger group, so that it clears the denial block that you’ll then weld into the new receiver. The latter ensures that you can’t insert an original, unmodified trigger pack into the gun, keeping you nice and legal-like.

As a final measure, you’ll also  completely destroy the auto sear by cutting off its actuator arm, while retaining the sleeve that fits over the trigger pin. By completing these three steps, you remove any possibility of the rifle ever firing in rock-’n’-roll mode. Final legal niceties are addressed by H&M’s including the requisite U.S.-made parts to ensure compliance with 922(r).


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