CAI - CETME vs. L1A1


February 27, 2003, 04:40 PM
I'm looking at these two rifles and wondering what functional differences I would find between them. What are the differences (if any) in things like: Accuracy, weight, perceived recoil, ergonomics, and general reliability.
Yes, I've heard all about Century Arms' potential problems, and why don't I just buy a DS Arms FAL, but I'm a cheap SOB who probably wouldn't appreciate the superiority of the $1,000 rifle anyway.

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February 27, 2003, 05:04 PM
CETME = H&K G3 proto-type.
L1A1 = presumably British spec FN FAL.

Two rather uncommon rifles, though te L1A1 shares a lot of parts with other FALs. It'd get my vote for that reason.

The DSA Stg58's while they're still left are less than $1000 and are a better choice though. The magazines are dirty cheap ($10), and very easy to get ahold of.


February 27, 2003, 05:16 PM
Define "less than $1000". Are you talking $600 or $800, because $800 is still too rich for my blood.

February 27, 2003, 07:02 PM
Regarding the Century Arms Cetme's, go here: for lots of good info and advice on them. You might also do a serach on the site for 'Century ground bolt'. It seems that in order to get these guns to headspace correctly, Century decided to grind the rear of the bolt, instead of determining the real problem and correcting it. This 'could' lead to other problems, some serious. I'd highly suggest you check out a few of the threads over there before making up you mind.

And for what it's worth, I have one of these Cetme's with the ground bolt. Mine headspaced fine, and although I have had several FTF's, it shoots like a dream. But knowing what I do now about how they were put together, I wouldn't buy another Century made firearm.

February 27, 2003, 08:14 PM
Retail is about $1000 but I've seen'em advertised for $800 IIRC.

I'm all for not spending more than something is worth, but in general with firearms its usually worth the money. As my mom likes to say, it's a lot cheaper to buy the right thing once, than to save a few pennies now and have it fall apart later.

You might be able to get a used one for $600.


February 27, 2003, 08:31 PM
I own a Century G3 and have a lot of experience with a buddies STG58. Here's my (personal opinion) verdict. BTW, I bought a G3 instead of the CETME because of the ground bolt was worth the extra $100 to not worry about the potential problems.

Ergonomics = FAL gets the nod. Selector easier to reach, bolt hold open, mag release are better. G3/CETME is by no means an ergonomically unfriendly gun, but FAL is better.

Reliability = Tie. In the guns <$500 you have a 50% chance of needing to do some work on them anyway and once you do they'll both run. I got lucky and mine is 100%.

Accuracy = both are capable of acceptable Main Battle Rifle accuracy for this vintage. 2-4 " at 100 yards. Some will do MOA.

Sights = G3 wins. HK sight is superior to either CETME or FAL. I'd call FAL vs. CETME a tie.

Recoil = my experience is CETME/G3 is a softer recoiling gun which is wierd since FAL is gas operated.

Complexity = G3/CETME use complicated delayed roller lock system but it is reliable. FAL uses more-prone-to-clog gas system but it adjusts. Draw? I know more people who have to futz with their FALs though. YMMV.

Coolness factor = Tie. Both get looks from the AK/AR crowd. She goes BOOM is a commanding manner that a 5.56 or a 7.62x39 just don't. Bolt rifle crowd tends to ask what they are.

Net-net...I think its a toss up. I know its a cliche, but I'm getting both then adding a M1A. Nothing like a 1960-1970 NATO triumverate.

February 27, 2003, 08:52 PM
I have both. Well actually for the FAL, parts from CAI were assembled by a gunsmith.

Both have actually functioned extremely well. for the CETME (stamped receiver/paddle wheel rear sight), I can only recall it failing to feed twice out of ~3000 rounds. After setting the gas knob, the FAL (no brake, Imbel Type III) has failed maybe a handful of times over ~5000 rounds. I've only soht south African, Portuguese, and Hirt through them. The Port seems to be the best.

Shouldered, the FAL's grip is just slightly too rakish for me but that is a very minor point. The buttstock that came with the gun, though, was a bit too high on the comb and I couldn't line up the sights at the 100 meter setting. replaced it with a Penguin.

For me, the felt recoil from the CETME is noticably less. It does fling the beat-up brass about as far as the bullet. Well, maybe not that far. The FAL ejects like any normal semi. Mags for both can be had for cheap. A lot more aftermarket parts available for the FAL and also easier to swap out the upper for a change of applications, though.

Both about the same accuracy-wise. The CETME is a bit more complicated (but not difficult) to take down than the FAL. Also, my CETME seems to get more dirty than the FAL, due mainly to the fluted chamber.

Either way, both guns are pretty good for under $500, IMO. A lot of people don't like the stamped CAI CETMEs due to potential problems with misaligned sights, headspacing, etc. but mine has work out well out of the box.

February 27, 2003, 08:56 PM
Thanks Kris,
That's exactly the run down I was looking for. I will definately consider the G3 since the price is right in the same ballpark.
Thanks to everybody else, too!
I know you get what you pay for with firearms, and I'm no stranger to laying down the green for my guns. That's why I carry an H&K, but this is not a "my life may depend on it" type of gun, it's just for fun, and my wife and kids can do wonders with the other $300 or $400 a lot of guys would like me to spend.

February 27, 2003, 10:34 PM
Where did you see them for $800 ?
It just so happens that I will have a little spare cash around IF the IRS can get off of their lazy boys and send me my money already.
Anyway, I was, and may still be leaning toward an Arsenal AK.
But the idea of bieng able to zing 308's out there has always appealed to me. That is why I have three already.
But there is always room for one more.:D

March 1, 2003, 08:56 AM
Having looked at many rables full of CETME and G-3(looking to buy) rifles and FAL clones I decided to shy away form any H&K clone. Even hand inspecting each potential purchase no two rifles were the same, even the location of the welds varied greatly. Of course its not possible to test fire a rifle at the gunshow so I gave up. Truth be know I had the H&K 91 & 93 15-20 years ago and without all the current hype they just seemed heavier but not better than whats still available. I'd take the FAL or clone over the H&K or clone 10 out of 10 times. Quality being equal, the H&K having a unique locking system and chamber does not mean its better.

March 1, 2003, 07:58 PM
Well the CAI Cetme probably won't blow up and kill you as soon as the L1A1 but the Cetme does have the advantage of seriously crappy welds and the worst condition parts on the planet.

Both are pretty bad but it's a hard call to detemine which one is actually crappiest, has the worst condition parts, poorest attention to detail, worst build or is more inherently dangerous to the shooter and anyone standing in close proximity.

All in all though both are excellent candidates for the French military.

March 2, 2003, 09:20 AM
i had the g1 hk91 clone with a receiver made by hesse.mags didnt fit correctly and the welds where they put the two halves together were off(the halves werent spaced but rather one was slightly bigger than the other half-to fix this,they ground off one corner and added extra welds to fill in the hole-gimme a break),ive got a imbel fal clone with austrian stg parts.replaced the gas piston with a dsa(the dsa is slightly larger)added the dsa muzzle brake and the light steel bipod,wood stock and it looks and shoots durn can also buy a kit from tapco for the fal and add a imbel a competant smith to assemble it all and end up with a great gun stuck on 1 piece milled receivers where the barrel is threaded into the more welded halves for me.

March 4, 2003, 02:12 PM
Imbel metric kits still going for $99.99 each, two or more are $89.99 each. Kits are drying up fast everywhere and there is no more to be had. :uhoh:

March 4, 2003, 03:31 PM
Another factor to consider is that should there be something wrong with your Century gun, a FAL-based design is MUCH easier to work on than the CETME. Many, many people buy those cheap CAI FAL's and either they work fine out of the box or they spend a few minutes searching the FAL Files and can fix their problem at home. The downside to that is it won't be long before you're building your own from scratch - then they begin to multiply :D

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