There is something that can be said about being different or going against the grain. Undoubtedly, the AR15 is America’s favorite rifle and sales have been through the roof for years now. Most people that shoot and appreciate the Second Amendment own one at this point. If you already own an AR15, or dozens of them, maybe its time to branch out a bit. If you are looking for something a little different but in the same price range, look no further. Shooting a C308 may be the most fun you have had on the range in a long time!
A Rich History
Century Arms is well-known in the gun industry for selling relatively inexpensive firearms that are American made and imported. They are known for their AK variants, Turkish-made shotguns, and they are also the exclusive dealer for the Canik TP9 series of Turkish made handguns. The rifle that was sent to me by Century Arms is another well-known firearm with the C308. The C308 is a clone of a previous battle rifle design with the Spanish CETME Model 58 and the German H&K G3. Both of which are chambered in 7.62x51 NATO.
The original CETME design was established in the early 1950s and was based off German weapon designs of WWII. In 1958, the Spanish military adopted the CETME Modelo 58 as their military service rifle. Around the same timeline, West Germany was searching for a rifle for their newly formed military force the Bundeswehr. After some field trials, and some fine tuning and small changes, Heckler and Koch began making the G3, which ultimately was a joint effort between Spain and Germany.
Unlike the AR10 of the time, the CETME/G3 is a roller-delayed blowback action instead of a direct gas impingement system. With the AR10, or more current AR15 design, hot gas from the burning of gun powder is syphoned back into the system via a gas block and gas tube. This gas pressurizes the system which operates the bolt by unlocking the bolt from the barrel extension. This also propels the bolt to the rear which extracts and ejects the spent casing. With the CETME/G3 design, the firearm operates by the spent casing pushing back on the bolt assembly. It is delayed by a two-piece bolt assembly that works with spring-loaded rollers to delay bolt travel until the chamber reaches safe pressure levels. The design is hard to describe and much easier to envision by looking at this animated diagram.
H&K stuck with that design, and it can still be found in multiple firearm designs, most notably the MP5 sub-machine gun which most people would immediately recognize. There are a few options currently on the market if you want a CETME/G3 clone. PTR Inc. offers the PTR-91, but rifles tend to cost over $900, and can go north of $1100 depending on model and included features. Century Arms offers their C308 for considerably less with MSRPs starting at $749 and can be found in the mid $600s. But is it worth it? A more inexpensive version doesn’t mean very much if the rifle doesn’t function properly or hit a target accurately.
First Impressions, Out of the Box
I won’t deny it. With a firearm of this design, I had ZERO experience. I have never shot a roller-delayed blowback rifle in my 20+ years of shooting, and to say I was excited was an understatement. Arriving at my local FFL, Shooter’s Place in New Brighton, PA, I found myself nearly salivating at the chance to get this “new-to-me” gun out on the range and see what it could do. I wasn’t totally sure which model I would receive, but upon opening the box I saw the beautifully aged wood stock on the C308 they had sent.
After pulling the rifle out of the shipping carton, immediately you can tell that rifle is solid and well built. The polymer lower receiver does not feel cheap and didn’t notice that it was polymer at first. The safety selector switch moved back and forth in a crisp manner although it took a bit of a hand re-positioning to reach. Oil, and what I can only assume was cosmolene was thoroughly covering the exterior of the rifle to prevent rust, and a chamber flag indicator was planted inside of the chamber. An owner’s manual and two 20-round magazines were included inside the box.
The rifle had some heft to it, but it didn’t feel as heavy as I originally anticipated. The charging handle located toward the muzzle takes more force than a typical AR platform. After cycling the bolt a few times, it seemed to loosen up slightly, but the spring force is noticeable as well as the rollers. The front iron is a hooded design like H&K designed weapons, and the rear site is a typical peep sight with multiple apertures for different ranges. The wooden furniture shows wear, but overall is in good condition. In my opinion, it gives the weapon some character, and I grew to love the finish while I had the rifle.
On the Range
The first thing I wanted to do was test the accuracy of the C308. Accuracy, in my opinion, is paramount with any firearm regardless of price. If the gun runs reliably, but can’t effectively hit the target, it doesn’t have much use. I did not expect stellar accuracy from the rifle considering its cost and heavy trigger, so I mounted my Trijicon Accupower 1-4x on the welded 1913 picatinny rail. After all, a combat style rifle deserves a combat style optic. Hindsight is 20/20 though, and this rifle may have been even more capable with a higher magnified optic. All accuracy testing was done off a bench using bags for support.
The TulAmmo really surprised me in terms of accuracy from the C308’s fluted chamber. My best 5-shot group measured in at 3.25 MOA which may not sound impressive. But when you consider I was only using a 4x optic, and that the trigger is a long and heavy pull, the barrel is a solid shooter. Of the 5 groups that I shot with TulAmmo, they were all very consistent between 3.25 MOA and 3.5 MOA. With a higher magnification, and more trigger time, I am confident that the group would shrink noticeably.
Switching to a match grade ammunition, the groups tightened up more. Remington Premier Match loads in any caliber have proved to be excellent quality in my experience. My best group with the match-grade Remington loads measured in at 2.11 MOA. Every group usually had only one flyer that opened the 5-shot group up. More than likely, I was the reason for it since I wasn’t completely used to the heavier trigger pull.
On a separate range session, I pulled the Trijicon Accupower off the C308, and decided to do some iron sight work at extended ranges. At my cousin’s farm, I have a steel plate that is roughly the size of a silhouette torso that hangs at 400 yards. Shooting from a round bale for support, I loaded a 20-round magazine with some military surplus 7.62x51 FMJs. I wasn’t expecting impressive accuracy from aged mil-surplus ammunition, but again the C308 surprised the hell out of me, as you can see from this video below.
The Century Arms C308 surprised me in terms of quality, and accuracy. While the lower receiver is made of polymer, I experienced no issues with it and would expect it to handle normal range abuse. The safety selector switch may be a little hard to reach if you have small hands, but for me it wasn’t much of an issue. The wooden surplus furniture gives the rifle some character and, in my opinion, looks great. The iron sights are more than capable with most ranges people would experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed ringing steel out to 400 yards.
Both surplus magazines that were sent with the rifle worked flawlessly with multiple types of ammo, whether FMJs or HPBTs. Loading the magazine into the rifle took only a short time to get familiar. Sticking one end in, like and AK, and then rolling the magazine to the rear provided a firm and solid seat for the magazine. Racking the charging handle to the rear requires some force but is still an easy action to accomplish.
Accuracy was much better than I originally expected from an inexpensive clone of the CETME/G3 rifle.
The barrel is solid, and if the rifle had a bit lighter and shorter pull, it would be one hell of a shooter. For plinking and range work, the rifle is plenty accurate and can easily hit steel with bulk military surplus ammunition out to 400 yards. There is something satisfying about ringing steel, especially with iron sights out of a battle rifle in 7.62x51 NATO. The recoil management of the rifle is also impressive considering the rifle only ways 8 lbs. The roller-delayed blowback design works well in taming felt recoil.
This rifle would be an excellent purchase for someone looking to buy an inexpensive clone of the Spanish CETME, or H&K G3 design. It is a relatively light, full-sized battle rifle and is accurate out to most ranges people shoot for plinking on the range. Although .308 Winchester and 7.62x51 NATO are not as cheap as .223/5.56, this rifle would still make an excellent “fun gun” to let your friends and family have fun shooting steel or busting rocks at extended ranges. I honestly can say that I did not want to send this rifle back. It is fun to shoot, does not punish your shoulder, and seems to run very well with any type of ammunition.
Barrel: 18” 4140 Chrome-Moly with 5/8x24 TPI muzzle
Receivers: Stamped Steel Receiver, with Lower Polymer Frame
Stock and Foregrip: Original Wooden Surplus Furniture
Rail: Welded 1913 Picatinny Rail on Top Receiver
Iron Sights: Hooded H&K Style Front Sight with Rotating 4 Peep Rear Sight
Chamber: Fluted for Increased Reliability
By the Numbers
Reliability – 5/5
Although I did not put more than 300 rounds through this rifle, for a range rifle, the C308 did not have one hiccup, and chugged along with premium brass case loads, steel case loads, and older mil-surplus ammunition.
Accuracy – 4/5
Considering this rifle is not built to be a precision rifle, accuracy was impressive and even steel case ammunition performed better than my initial expectations. With a little lighter, and shorter trigger pull, and with a higher magnified optic, I would expect this rifle to be able to beat out other types of rifles within its price point.
Customization – 3.5/5
While there isn’t a booming market for accessories like the AR15, there are companies that make aftermarket accessories for the G3/CETME/C308 rifle. There may be modifications needed, but companies like H&K or Midwest Industries sell upgraded handguards and stocks.
Affordability – 5/5
There are more expensive models available in this type of rifle, but Century Arms is attractive at its price point. For the money, in my opinion, the Century Arms C308 is feature packed. With the welded Picatinny rail, mounting optics is easy, and the barrel in the test rifle sent to me is excellent in its price range.
Overall – 4.5/5
Between the accuracy potential, reliability, price point, and the soft recoiling roller-delayed blowback system inside the C308, this is an excellent choice for a fun range rifle and more. Reloaders for the .308 Winchester or 7.62x51 NATO won’t feel the same sting on purchasing ammunition. For the price, the C308 by Century Arms is a winner and I would highly recommend it!
For more information on the Century Arms C308, check out their website at: