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Thread: Hill & Mac CETME-L a Closer Look

  1. #1
    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    Hill & Mac CETME-L a Closer Look

    I passed on these rifles when they first came out in late 2016/early 2017 but I always kinda' regretted it. They looked interesting and I was intrigued but I just didn't pull the trigger and I don't really know why. So, after it was too late, I decided to look for one but every one I saw on funbroker ended up in a bidding war and I don't play that. Well, then MarColMar announced that they had bought up all the kits from Apex and were coming out with their own model so I gave up on the HMG offering figuring the MarColMar would be a better built rifle anyways. Those rifles were supposed to be for sale in May......then June.....then July.....then September. Well, here we are in October and still no L. Now they have been posting progress including pictures and video and I have no doubt they WILL eventually show up. Also, knowing the kind of Quality that MarColMar is known for, I have no doubt that they WILL be first rate rifles but I have seen some things in their previews that got me thinking about the HMG rifle again. For one, MarColMar is shipping their rifles with all new US made furniture. I also noticed that their rifle has a modified rear sight; no doubt an improvement over the originals which were known to break but still, they aren't original. There may be some other things that are new too and that's fine I guess so long as it makes the rifle more reliable and robust but still, I tend to be a bit of a purist and want things as close to original as possible and each new made part takes the whole thing a bit farther from that. I also was not impressed with the welds shown on their test rifle. To be fair, the owner of the company assured me that it is just a test mule and that actual production rifles will have much cleaner welds. I have no reason to doubt his word but all the new made parts, even though I'm sure they will actually improve the rifle......well.....as I said, everything taken together just got me thinking about the HMG rifle again. When HMG built them, they used only as many US made parts as is required by law. That means original furniture, original rear site parts and original whatever else MarColMar switched out that HMG didn't. So, I started looking for an HMG again. Long story short, I found one that was bought directly from HMG and had not been fired by the dude who bought it. Perfect....I paid too much but what the hex, I have one now. Mind you, I will be buying the MarColMar rifle too and will, of course, be comparing one to the other but now I will no longer be wondering..."Should I have bought the other one too?"
    This write up is not about the theory behind how it functions or what the shipping box looks like. It's not about the history or features of the rifle either. All of those things have already been VERY well covered by Forgotten Weapons and the Military Arms Channel. Instead, this is intended as a short essay about the details of what you actually get when you buy a Hill & Mac CETME-L or, as I like to call it because of the fact that everything is varying shaded of green, the AMG (Army Man Gun). Is it well built or is it cobbled together? Are the welds nice looking? Is it reliable? Is it worth buying one if you get the chance? Well, I'll give you my take on those questions. I'll also throw in some photos showing various bits of the AMG compared to the equivalent HK93 part because they are so similar in design. This way, you'll have something common that you might have some experience with for scale reference. This will take me a couple posts to get done and I won't get it done tonight so don't get your knickers in a snit. Let's get started.


    The HMG AMG:





    Shown with a couple of its contemporaries:



    The first thing I did was disassemble and go over it with a fine tooth comb. It's always smart to fully check over a new from the factory firearm and, I believe, doubly so for what is essentially a kit built parts gun. I found two things right off the bat that did not bode well. One was the fact that the rear sight was broken so the rife couldn't be adjusted for windage. The other was a loose front sight base. I don't mean the front sight blade was loose; I mean the whole assembly wobbled side to side on the barrel.

    Let's address the rear sight first. I didn't take any pictures but I think I can explain it well enough. Generally speaking, the rear sight is closely based on the M16A1 rear sight (almost a direct copy really) and consists of the sight aperture, an axle screw, an adjustment dial and a lock pin. There are other bits too but they are not relevant to this discussion. If you look at an M16 axle screw, you'll notice that it has a hole in one end where it screws into the adjustment dial, which also has a hole in it. The lock pin passes through both the adjustment dial and axle screw locking them together so that turning the adjustment dial turns the axle screw. The axle screw is threaded through the sight aperture too so that, as it turns, the sight aperture moves from side to side. Simple and efficient. Wellllll, on the AMG, instead of drilling a hole through the axle screw for the lock pin to pass through, those crazy Spaniards they just cut a slot in the end of it. I'm sure it was easier to manufacture but it also left the end of the already thin screw with two very thin ears that had no support at the tip. Apparently, most of these screws had their ears break off in the field leaving troops with a rear sight that was, at best, non adjustable and, at worst, non-useable. Fortunately, mine was broken in such a way that it would still thread into the adjustment dial even though it was no longer locked to it. I just slathered a bit of blue loctite in the adjustment dial and screwed the axle pin home. Would I take it to war like that? Nope. Will it most likely last me a lifetime of use at the range? Yup.
    Here's a closeup of the adjustment dial on the repaired rear sight:


    You can clearly see near the detent ball where the lock pin passes through the adjustment dial and you can also see the ends of the axle screw ears in the hole. They are no longer actually attached to the axle screw mind you but it should hold just fine.



    The loose front sight base is another story.

    Here, we see the handguard removed from the rifle and positioned below the barrel. we can also see above the barrel the transverse pin that holds the front of the handguard in place on the front sight:

    As is standard design with every roller lock rifle I've ever seen, the cocking handle tube is NOT attached to the front sight base. The only thing holding the base to the barrel is one small roller pin. On an HK there is a substantial solid pin that passes through the sight base and catches a notch in the barrel securely locking the base in place. Whoever the engineer was that came up with the bright idea or relying on one tiny roll pin was clearly an idiot. Maybe the original barrel was a larger diameter so that the base had to be mega-pressed on there and the roll pin was just insurance, I simply don't know. But I can tell you that, on my rifle, there is quite a bit of side to side wobble going on. Now, the handguard is quite rigid and, once assembled, the side to side wobble is almost wholly eliminated; so much so that I don't believe there is any impact on point of aim but still, I'm certain there should be zero movement. A spot of tack weld on the barrel would solve the problem but I have no interest in doing that unless it gets worse. Of course, you could also drill the hole out and put a more substantial solid pin in too but again, I'll leave it alone unless it gets worse.

    Alright, it's getting late. Tomorrow, we'll look at the welds and some receiver details. There will be a lot more pictures and a lot less boring drivel, I promise. See you then!
    Last edited by Combloc; 10-11-2018 at 11:38 PM.

  2. #2
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    Great write up so far, as always!
    14EH AIT Instructor-PATRIOT Fire Control Enhanced Operator/Maintainer

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    Part 2?
    14EH AIT Instructor-PATRIOT Fire Control Enhanced Operator/Maintainer

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    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    Part 2 sir!


    In this post, we're mostly going to look at the receiver. I'll post some pictures of the welds, markings, screwups and overall workmanship.

    Let's start with the markings. Of course, the original receivers had all of the markings stamped into the sheet metal and then filled in with white paint. I had planned fill in the serial number, magazine well markings and manufacturer's logo on this rifle in a similar fashion but it was a no go because they are too shallow. In fact, I'm not even sure they were stamped because I've never seen anything like them. Maybe they were laser cut?? I have no idea; maybe you guys will know:

    Notice that the characters aren't even indented into the steel. It's more like an outline than anything else and the lines are so thin and shallow I'm not sure you could paint it in such a way as to make it look anywhere near attractive. You'd probably just end up with a sloppy mess. I did the best I could with the safety markings and they look just ok in person but a closeup reveals just how bad they turned out:

    I guess the above is not a complaint really. I mean, the markings are neat and well done so there is no real reason to complain. I just would have like to have filled them in for a more accurate look.


    For the most part, the welds on the AMG are extremely well done. By that I mean most are as good or better than on my HK's. A couple are a bit wonky but, overall, I'm very pleased with them.


    Here is the area where the barrel and cocking tube plug into the receiver:

    The two spot welds for the trunnion are excellent. The cocking tube weld on the right is original Santa Barbara work while the one on the left was done by HMG. There is a clear quality difference between the two. That's not to say the HMG weld it terrible or ugly but the original is much more pleasing to the eye. Notice too the reinforcing rib stamped into the receiver at the left of the picture. It is very crisp and straight. All of the reinforcing ribs on the receiver are just as well done. Although the receiver stamping is not 100% accurate to the original, HMG clearly spent some cash on Quality dies.


    Here is another example of the reinforcing ribs showing how clean and neat the stamping is:

    Notice too how well executed the radius is where the top of the receiver transitions into the side. Excellent work here.


    Here is the left front side again showing a comparison between Santa Barbara and HMG welds on the cocking tube:

    Nice spot welds on the trunnion again and note the well executed compound curves where the magazine well meets the main body of the receiver.


    Here, we see the front of the trunnion. Lots of parts are coming together here and I have nothing but good to say about it.



    Beautiful welding along the bottom seam and front of the magazine well:




    The rear of the magazine housing is extremely well executed too:




    Bottom of magazine housing showing both finely stamped reinforcing ribs and nicely squared opening. This is clearly NOT a century built CETME:



    It's not all cookies and cream though. Here we see the rear of the trunnion where it meets the bolt carrier guide rails:

    It looks nice and neat and it is. BUT, if you look at an original rifle, this area is covered in weld so that you can't even see the trunnion. Then it is ground down forming a nicely shaped ramp that runs from the guide rail up to the bulge covering the trunnion. I'm probably not explaining it very well but you'll see what I mean if you look at some pictures of an original L.


    The attaching welds on the left side of the rear sight base look pretty good:



    But the front weld on the right side is pretty bad:

    Notice the voids/pitting.


    For some reason lost on me, HMG didn't flair out the rear of the ejection port:
    It's not a huge deal but it should be present. They obviously put a lot of work into designing the receiver so why goof the ejection port?? You can also see where the brass hits the side of the receiver and bungs up the finish. These marks were on there when the rifle was shipped out from HMG so they obviously did a decent amount of test firing.


    We'll finish up this post by looking at the rear of the receiver.

    First up is a look at the cross section:

    We can see nice radii and overall symmetry. At the bottom of the receiver is a milled reinforcing block. Personally, I would have filled the two lower corner voids with some weld and ground it smooth just to give it a more finished and professional look. No, it's not necessary but you know SIG would have!


    Here is the bottom rear of the receiver showing some fine workmanship. You can't see any seams at all:



    Unfortunately, the otherwise exemplary work at the rear of the receiver is badly undermined when we look at the side where the stock pins pass through:

    Rant on. The above picture shows the worst craftsmanship on the entire rifle. Yes, that wobbly sight is pretty bad too but this is just horrid.
    "Hey Hill, something went wrong with the jigs. These holes aren't lining up!"
    "Don't worry about it Mac. Just ram that thing in a vice and egg out the holes. It'll be aright!!"
    It works and it'll probably never give me any problems. And the pins go in easily enough so long as you turn them so that their retaining springs pass through the smooth side of the hole but come on guy's. This is really pretty shoddy work right here. My only two real complaints about this rifle are the funky stock pin holes and the wobbly sight. Otherwise, it's a real winner. Rant off.



    That's it for tonight. In the last post, we'll look at the innards and a few other bits and compare some of them to HK93 innards and bits. I'll also tell you my shooting impressions and wrap it up. Okiedokie...bye for now!

  5. #5
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    Another great post with great pics! I always learn more and see more from your posts of these types than anything else.

    Thank you Sir!
    14EH AIT Instructor-PATRIOT Fire Control Enhanced Operator/Maintainer

  6. #6
    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    You are too kind. Thank you!


    Time to finish this up by looking at internal parts and comparing some of them to an HK93 before giving you my shooting impressions. As stated in the first post, I'm not going into the details of how it works and what does what; its a typical roller lock design just approached from a different angle.

    Here are three of the four assembly pins:

    They are all the same diameter, just different lengths. On the left is a stock pin, there are two of these. In the middle is the pin that holds the front of the trigger housing in place and the one on the right is the handguard pin.


    AMG rubber butt pad compared to the plastic one on an early G3 walnut stock:

    The original HK93 butt pad is almost identical but I have a walnut stock mounted on the 93 instead of the polymer one because I like the looks of it better.



    Here are the stocks compared:

    The recoil springs are shown in a position relative to where they would mount when the rifles are assembled. The AMG spring actually rests in a well molded into the stock much like the STG45 it was derived from. The HK is different in that the recoil spring rests against the stock ferrule.



    Here is a close up of the springs with the AMG on top:

    Notice that the AMG spring is longer and beefier. to the right is a shorter and even heavier spring. This acts as a buffer. Compare that to the HK spring which lacks a buffer because it's built into the stock ferrule and is engaged by the bolt carrier at the end of its travel.


    Two views of the modified to semi-auto only trigger box:



    Notice that HMG has milled away part of the right front side starting just a bit forward of the safety axle hole. This was done to make room for the "full auto block" bar welded inside the receiver.

    In the photo below, the rifle has been disassembled and we are looking up into the trigger box area of the receiver from below. Mounted along the right side of the receiver (which is on the left side of the picture) can be seen the blocking bar referenced above:



    Bottom view of bolt groups with HK on top:

    Notice that both bolt carriers have been modified at the right rear so that neither will any longer engage a full auto trip lever. The AMG bolt carrier has a tail sticking out the rear. The cup at the front of the recoil assembly fits over the end of this tail and the tail is hollowed out to make room for the hammer to swing up into it and hit the firing pin. This setup is very close to that used in the STG45.



    Side view with the AMG on top:

    Notice the little hole on the side of both bolt carriers. Some have stated that this hole is to be used in conjunction with a bullet tip on the AMG as a forward assist. This may or may not be true and I don't have a copy of an original manual for reference. However, I find this claim to be dubious as the HK has the hole too. It also has serrations cut into the bolt which really are meant to be used as a forward assist. The real purpose of the hole is to mount the pin which holds the bolt head locking lever in place. Again, maybe the pin hole on the AMG is meant to double as an ersatz forward assist but I need to see a factory document stating that before I will accept it.


    Here is a left side view of both carriers (AMG on the bottom) showing the bolt head locking levers:



    Firing pins and springs with HK on bottom:



    Bolt heads with HK is on the right. Notice how much larger it is:







    And now, I have to put them both back together. What a mess!!



    Shooting, reliability and accuracy.

    Not much to say about shooting. It's a teensy little 5.56 so recoil is minimal. I will say that the AMG is lighter than the HK. The rear sight aperture is too small for my taste and the rear sight leaf is so big that it destroys your situational awareness if shooting with only one eye open which, of course, is NOT what you are supposed to do. With both eyes open, it's good enough. The trigger is pretty nice; certainly better than the HK. It's a really comfortable rifle to shoot. The fact that everything is green is one of my favorite things about the rifle. Now I know how my little green army men feel! I also like the slightly space ray gun look of it. Also, the generally squared off styling scream 1980's to me. I miss the 80's so I love this rifle if only for the nostalgia factor.

    Moving on to reliability. I've taken it out twice so far over a period of two days. The first day, I took 100 rounds of steel cased Tulammo (HMG recommends steel cased for the first 100 rounds to wear in the chamber) loaded 20 rounds each into 5 USGI used surplus 30 round magazines. I had two jams, both failures to feed. I replaced the jams into the magazines and they fed properly the second time. Additionally, each magazine stopped feeding rounds once they were down to 2-4 rounds left in the magazine. I know the magazines are good as even my crappy Colt AR's feed from them. It occurred to me that roller locks as a general rule have fast and violent bolt cycling. If the surplus magazines have less than stellar springs in them (likely) it might be possible that the action was outrunning the springs once the magazine was nearly empty. So, because it wouldn't empty any of the five magazines, I only shot 98 of the first 100 rounds. I went home and cleaned the rifle. While cleaning, I discovered that the new made flash hider had come loose. HMG had not used a lock washer so I didn't either when I tightened it back down. I did use some blue Loctite though and it didn't come loose after shooting the next day. I'll keep an eye on it for a while.
    On day two, I took eighty rounds of steel cased Tulammo along with two brand new never used D&H Tactical magaines so I knew I had good springs. This time the rifle functioned perfectly. Give me another 900 rounds like day two and I'll call it a good range rifle. On both days, ejection was positive and consistent. As it typical of a roller lock, they just about went into orbit and were thrown to the rear at an approx. 45 degree angle.

    Accuracy.
    I'm a poor shot. I always have been and I always will be. I'll hit you but I don't know where I'll hit you. I'm just a poor shot. I'm also an old man by some people's reckoning. WHat that means is my eyes aren't what they used to be, especially with iron sights. Rarely anymore do I see the tip of the front sight crisp and square. I was also using Russian ammo. It always goes bang at least. With that disclaimer out of the way, I'll say that I was pleasantly surprised by how well I did. I'm sure you could do much better than I can but I was happy with the results. Remember, I'm a poor shot. Anywho, here's my target from day two at 100 yards:

    It's still shooting a hair to the right at 100 yards but I'll get that taken care of next time out. The colored dots are covering my sight in shots taken an 50 yards. To confuse the matter, some of my 100 yard shots hit the dots too but it should be fairly obvious which is which. The black magic marker block represents how wide my sight looks on the target at 100 yards. The black lines running down the sides are there just to drive home how wide the sight is. There are only 70 rounds in that paper with 18-20 of the 70 being sight in shots at 50 yards. The other 10 rounds were shot at rocks in the berm at approx. 125 yards because I like shooting at rocks in the berm.

    So, what's my initial take on the AMG by HMG? I like it! I wish it had been built with a little more care; having to fix things literally right out of the box is not something I'm used to, especially on a rifle that costs $1500 bucks. This kind of stuff is why I generally do not buy commercial products. But sometimes, if you want an example of a particular firearm, you don't have much choice. Besides, this is a range toy, not something I would trust my life to. I put it in the same category as a Colt AR. It's historical and it's fun at the range but I have far better rifles should the Revolution hit. So, I like it...…..so far. If it stays reliable, I'll love it after 1000 rounds. I optimistically give it a thumbs up and my army men do too! Unfortunately, HMG only made 100 of these and I assume they won't ever make these again. BUT, MarColMar is going to be releasing theirs very soon and I'm sure it will be far better built than this one if the Quality of that company's past offerings is any indication I know I'll be buying one to find out for sure. I recommend you buy one too. As always, thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings. I apologize for all the grammatical errors. I really should proofread this stuff better before hitting "post reply" but I'm not writing a polished book here and my entire staff consists of Sasha the dog. She's not much help.

    Well, this wraps up another block of time from my life I'll never get back. See you at the range!!

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    The hole in the bolt carrier, I was always told it was a "vent hole" in case something went horribly wrong with the ammo, a leftover from old bolt actions. Even CETME A ptrototypes had it.


    Of course, when a drill instructor doesn't know something, he invents it, so take the info as it's worth ;-)

  8. #8
    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    I guarantee you it's not for that. I give whoever came up with that one an A+ for effort though!

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    The hole in the bolt carrier is there because you need it to remove the pin holding the bolt latch. That is the piece that is supposed to (but doesn't really) prevent bolt bounce. Its the lever on the left side of the bolt carrier with a very stiff spring under the back end. The hole goes through from bottom to top.....not a forward assist. Its not a vent either as there is nothing close to there that would be venting. Just a way to push a pin out, or in.

    Frank

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    Yeah, it can't vent anything since the bolt head is a separate part. It's the pin for the bolt locking lever which I'd argue is the most critical part of the roller delay system. While it might help with bolt bounce upon closing, it's true purpose is to hold the bolt in the locked position with the rollers out until the leverage from the locking piece overrides it's spring when a cartridge is fired.

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