CETME-L: Ready to roller
I first encountered MarColMar’s resurrection of the CETME-L at SHOT 2019. I must admit I was immediately drawn to these stamped beauties. Designed in the late 70’s/early 80’s and fielded from 1987-1999 in the Spanish military, the CETME-L is a pretty neat variation on the roller-delayed theme, all while having full STANAG-magazine compatibility. MarColMar spent millions modernizing the reassembly of parts kits (including the use of robots), and has been cranking out easily the best examples available on the US market. For this interested in the manufacturing process, MarColMar has some great videos available on their site.
New for this year, MarColMar has LC and LV models available. The LC is a 12.5″ compact model with collapsible stock, and the LV comes with an integrated scope mount and optional heavy barrel. The squared off gen1 handguards, usually only seen with the Guardia Civil these days, are also now available from MarColMar.
- Brand new USA receiver – from a 4 station progressive die – 600 ton press
- Robot-welded, die-folded receiver
- 16.1″ Cold-Hammer-Forged barrel, chambered in 5.56/.223, fluted to original specs, nitrided, enhanced chamfer for better feeding
- 1:7 Twist rate
- New USA furniture modelled just like the original Spanish furniture, with upgraded materials – Nylon 6 NOT Polypropelene
- ATF Approved semi-auto design
- Mag feed optimized for STANAG M-16/AR-15 Magazines
- Finished in Cerakote by a certified Cerakote installer
- 922(r) Compliant using 8 imported parts
- 1 Year Limited Warranty on parts and workmanship
- Weight: 7.5lbs
- MSRP $1349, plus $50 for railed receiver
Right out of the box, I was impressed by the fit and finish of the CETME-L. MarColMar offers a Cerakote E series finish in grey, green, FDE or black. I opted for green, and it looks great. The only blemish I observed was from the original parts kit heat shield, just under the intersection of the front sight gas block and the cocking tube. Other than that, the rifle looked and functioned excellently right out of the box.
The folding, non-reciprocating cocking handle is somewhat like an HK, but does not lock upwards into the cocking tube in order to hold the bolt back. Instead, the bolt catch is a serrated button located on the right hand side of the rear sight tower. The easiest way to release the bolt is to quickly run the charging handle all the way rearwards. It should be noted that the CETME-L does not have a LRBHO.
Trigger pull averaged out at 10lbs, and is much more “military” than “match” in feel. The one positive aspect is that trigger reset and over-travel were short on my particular model. The rear sight windage adjustments clicked positively into place, as did the front sight elevation adjustments.
A note on magazines: The CETME-L works best with aluminum or steel mags, MarColMar recommends and ships their rifles with Okay Industries 30-round magazines where legal. Pmags simply won’t work with the magwell. While there are Desert Storm-era reports of Spanish soldiers encountering a lot of malfunctions with these rifles, it seems that it had a lot more to do with problems with their magazines and ammunition than with the rifles themselves.
Equipped with an assortment of 5.56 and a few different metal magazines, I headed out to the range several times over the course of a few months with the CETME-L. Sighting in with the irons proved interesting, as I had to elevate the front sight post rather high when zeroing. Initial performance with the iron sights yielded 2 MOA groups across 55, 62, 68, 75, and 77gr ammo. I then mounted a Trijicon ACOG to try and wring a little more precision from the platform. On the average, groups tightened up to 1.7MOA. This accuracy was good enough that I could reliably engage steel silhouettes out to 500 yards. Overall, not bad for a non-free floated barrel with sling attachment points and given the trigger pull.
Moving on to more dynamic barricade and movement drills, the CETME-L performed well. The 7.5lb weight soaked up the puny recoil of the 5.56 like a champ, no need for a brake here. Compared to an AR15 platform, mag changes did take a bit longer due to the fact that one is alerted to being empty by a “click”, and the fact that one has to run the charging handle after inserting a fresh mag. Empty mags did drop freely for the most part, except on very cold days near 0 degrees F. As far as the more cumbersome bolt catch manipulation, I did not have one malfunction with the CETME-L to necessitate using it during firing drills in the roughly 1000 rounds I put through the gun. Snow, mud, blowing dust, rain, the rifle worked fine through all of them.
The CETME-L from MarColMar is a reliable, and good looking stamped, roller delayed rifle. It is about the best thing that could have happened to all those CETME-L parts kits. Objectively, my sample of one was 100% reliable across 5 different magazines and 7 different loadings of ammunition, including different bullet profiles. Accuracy was adequate enough, and MarColMar has made the mounting of modern optics easy with the option of a welded-on rail.
Subjectively, I find the CETME-L to be an unusual and attractive addition to one’s collection, especially if one is interested in roller-delayed platforms such as the G3 and the MP5. It has a cool 80’s aesthetic and an interesting history behind the platform.
Thanks to HSS Idaho for logistical support and range time.