CETME is an acronym for Centro de Estudios Técnicos de Materiales Especiales (Center for Technical Studies of Special Materials), a Spanish government design and development establishment. While being involved in many projects CETME was mostly known for its small arms research and development. The CETME rifle is its most famous project and the CETME name is most often used to refer to this rifle.
CETME also designed the CETME C2 a 9mm advanced Sterling-like submachine gun, and the CETME Ameli (AMEtralladora LIgera) a light machine gun in 5.56x45mm NATO.
The CETME rifle was designed primarily by the German engineer Ludwig Vorgrimler, who based his design on the experimental GermanStG 45(M) and the French-made AME 49. 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 MG42. 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. The first prototype rifles fired the same7.92x33mm Kurz round as the StG45, and a variety of experimental 7.92 and 7.62mm cartridges were tested before settling on the 7.62×51 CETME. This round was dimensionally identical to 7.62x51mm NATO, but with a lighter bullet and powder charge to reduce recoil, making fully automatic fire more controllable. Due to feedback from Heckler & Koch, the production rifle was chambered for the more powerful 7.62mm NATO. The Model B went on to be the foundation of the widely-deployed Heckler & Koch G3 battle rifle.
The CETME Model A began manufacture in Spain in 1957. The CETME series of battle rifles was manufactured in five models, the A, B, C, L, LC, and LV models. The primary difference in the three first models is the absence of bipod and the lightweight C model, and the fact that the L, LC, and LV models fire the smaller 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge.
Modelo A and A1
Production model, with steel handguard, manufactured for light weight 7.62 CETME round, which fired a lighter weight projectile than standard 7.62 NATO round. The parts for these for the most part interchange with the later “C” model rifles. On the current Century rifles there have been reports of model “B” parts in the Model “C” Century built rifles.
The “C” model was a lightweight version.
The CETME Modelo E was an attempt to replace 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.
CETME L and LC
The CETME Model L was a downsized variant of the CETME system, chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. It was adopted in 1984 and replaced in 1999 by the Heckler and Koch G36 rifle.
Other CETME weapon designs
The CETME C2 is a Sterling type SMG.
This model was an unsuccessful attempt to replace the MG3 with a 5.56 mm Light Squad Automatic Weapon. The prototypes of the weapon were quite good, having good if not excellent performance in trials and first units, being tested not only in the Spanish army but by the British 22nd SAS regiment in 1984, beating the FN Minimi and HK33E. Production examples had far less quality, with poorer materials. The British Army returned their serial production units (a total of 600 purchased for SAS, SBS, and paratroopers) to Santa Bárbara and Spanish Army units never fully replaced MG3 (which is still in service) with AMELI (with only about 300 units in service and many units with functional problems due to low quality materials; further orders were cancelled). Both models are reportedly going to be replaced with H&K MG4.
Spanish marines lightly modified the weapon adding reinforcements and additional weldings in order to correct some functional problems.