If you’ve been on the firearms scene for any length of time, you will surely know the company called Century Arms. Century used to import a lot of military surplus long guns and handguns, at quite good prices. Then, some years ago, they started making AK-47 style rifles – using a mix of used mil-surplus parts and some brand-new parts. Now, if you know anything about the AK-47 rifle, you know it is simplicity at its best. They were designed that way, so they were easy to maintain by fighters in Third World countries, who didn’t know anything about firearms. The AKs were used and abused, and rarely cleaned. However they had a reputation of working without any lube or being cleaned – not the most accurate battle rifles, but they worked.
It has been widely reported that Century Arms, were using trained chimps to assemble their semi-auto only version of the AK-47. There were a lot of problems with Century Arms AK-47s not functioning. I know, I owned a few of them myself. Fortunately, I was able to do a little gunsmithing on those guns and get them up and running. On one gun, it simply needed the gas piston rod straightened out – who would have been so stupid to install a bent gas piston rod? Obviously, Century doesn’t test-fire the guns they assemble The good news is that Century Arms has improved their quality control. They are now taking extra care in assembling the military pattern rifles that they are selling.
Many years ago, I purchased a used Century Arms rifle that was marked “C308” and it looked very similar to the H&K Model 91 (“HK91”) battle rifle, with only a few slight differences. One difference was it had a faux flash hider on it, not a deal-breaker. And, whoever owned it before I did, performed a fairly decent spray paint can camo paint job on the entire gun – again, not a deal-breaker. And, best of all, used, but as-new Aluminum light-weight paratrooper 20-rd magazines were selling for 99-cents each. That was a give away price on magazines. I believe I had at least a hundred spare mags for that C308.
As is the case at times, I got stupid, and traded that rifle off, and I regretted it the moment I did the trade. The rifle never had a malfunction of any kind, using a good variety of military surplus 7.62 NATO ammo – and it was plenty accurate, too. A few weeks later, I was back in that same gun shop in Boise, Idaho and spied my old C308 – no one had bought it. So I bought it right back, and was happy. But then I fell on hard times and I was forced to sell it – not trade it. And, that was the last I saw of it.
My regular gun shop that I now haunt in Oregon bought a large gun collection. And in that collection was a brand-new Century Arms C308 – I did a quick trade and brought it home. It was assembled with a mix of brand-new and surplus (used) parts. The barrel and upper receiver are brand-new – made by PTR, who produces some outstanding clones of the original H&K 91 battle rifle. There are a few more U.S.-made parts, to meet the requirements of the Federal Section 922(r) import law. The remainder of the parts are used military parts – from military surplus HK and CETME rifles from around the world. The H&K Model 91 is a civilian version of the select-fire G3 rifle. All of the parts should be interchangeable – but some are and some aren’t. The main differences are in the fire control group — to prevent illicit conversion to full auto.
But a C308 could be made up of military surplus parts from a variety of countries – you just don’t know. The pistol grip and trigger housing holds the trigger. The variety used on mine is called a “Navy” lower – it is made out of polymer. The innards are partly military parts and partly civilian parts, to keep this rifle strictly semi-auto.
The safety is on the left side of the pistol grip, and it slips up for “safe” and down for “fire” and it has a short throw – easy to do. The magazine release is a push button on the right side of the mag well, easy to operate, and it locks in those same 20-round aluminum alloy G3 mags nicely. (But they’ve crept up in price to $4.88–still a relative bargain–in today’s world of $30 apiece FAL and M14 magazines.) Needles to say, I ordered up a lot of G3 alloy magazines from CDNN to have plenty of spares on-hand. At under $5 each, they are almost disposable.
My new C308 uses an old CETME rear sight – the CETME was the forerunner of the G3 and it has a rear sight that rotates from 100-yards up to 400-yards and that’s about the farthest you can accurately shoot with open sights. However, the Model 91/G3 had a rear sight that was rotary – very fast and easy to change the sights for range. The CETME – not so fast, but it is okay. The front sight is the CETME version, too…hard to adjust for elevation, but once adjusted you don’t need to play with it anymore. HH&K sells a tool meant for front and rear sight adjustments – for $89.99 – no thanks. I modified a pair of tiny needle-nose pliers for the front sight adjustment.
So, what do we have with the Century Arms C308? Well, it’s chambered in .308 Winchester. However it will also fire 7.62mm NATO ammo and that’s a good thing. The gun weighs in at 9-lbs – it’s heavy, then again, it is a “battle” rifle, not a light-weight small-caliber carbine The barrel is 18-inches long – and as mentioned, is brand-new. The chamber has “flutes” cut into it, which is part of the delayed roller block design. Early PTR chambers didn’t have deep enough flutes cut into them, nor were they deep enough. But their recent production have that problem rectified. We also have the black polymer thin ventilated forearm, which is much preferred over the larger, triangular one found on most H&K Model 91 rifles.
The front sight is protected from damage by a ring around it. Then we have the charging handle parallel to the barrel…it is stout to pull back and chamber a round, but as I’ll mention I worked on it to get it to work smoother. The H&K design is quite a bit different than other military rifles…it has a bolt that locks/unlocks via delayed roller design…the rollers in the bolt carrier stay locked to reduce recoil after firing – thus the “delayed” version of locking/unlocking the bolt/bolt carrier – it does help reduce a lot of felt recoil. The buttstock is mil-surplus. The muzzle device is a commercial brake, but a military flash hider could be substituted if you prefer.
Takedown the C308 for cleaning, you press out two pins between the buttstock and upper/lower receivers – the buttstock pulls off, then you can remove the bolt/bolt carrier and the trigger housing drops down. The gun is easy to clean – clean the barrel and chamber as you would any gun, then clean the bolt/bolt carrier. The best way to clean that is using some automotive spray brake cleaner – quick and easy. I also use the brake cleaner to spray out the chamber…it’s a snap. Then of course lightly re-lubricate before re-assembly.
The trigger housing group – you can easily remove it from the polymer group and clean it, or once again, use the brake cleaner…then lube all the articulating parts – and you don’t have to over-due it with lube. Same for the bolt/bolt carrier group – I apply Break Free lube to those articulating parts, and slide the bolt/bolt carrier back into the upper receiver and put it all back together with the two pins you took out and you’re good to go. BTW, those two pins you removed…there are two holes provided in the buttstock where you put those pins while your rifle is disassembled – so that you don’t lose them.
Curing a Stiff Charging Handle
My C308 had a very, very heavy charging handle, it took two men, and a small boy to pull it back to chamber a round – ouch! I took some extra-fine sandpaper, and smoothed out the top of the hammer in the trigger group – it was rough – extremely rough…once I had a nice shiny look on the hammer, I applied some gun grease to it. I also lubed the charging handle assembly heavily. Then, when the charging handle was pulled back, it pulled the bolt/bolt carrier over that smooth hammer with the lube – it made a huge difference. And after firing more than 300-rds through the gun during my testing, it smoothed out further and made the charging handle even easier to pull back.
The proper way you’re supposed to charge the C308 is to pull back on the charging handle, and lock it in the notch at the end of the travel…then insert a loaded magazine, and make sure it locks in place, and then you simply “slap” the charging handle downward, and it will chamber a round. And when I say “slap” that charging handle downward, that’s what I mean, don’t try to release it slowly – slap that thing down and a round will chamber every time.
I had some spare parts from my previous C308 – I always try to keep some spare parts around for my long guns…and one part was the sling attachment, so you could clip the sling on the top/side of the gun, and then attach the sling to the buttstock. It makes carrying the gun much easier with a sling. I should also mention that the buttstock even has a rubber butt pad.
Before shooting any new or used guns, I always check them out, and looking down the barrel is one of the things I do. I couldn’t see much light down the barrel…a plastic barrel “flag” had obviously broken off in the barrel…had I chambered a round and fired it, the gun would have blown up – so always check the barrel of any gun – new or used.
I had a lot of South African military surplus 7.62 NATO ammo on hand. It is more than 40-years old, but every round I tested fired without any problems. The nice folks at Black Hills Ammunition sent me some of their .308 Winchester 168-gr Match HP ammo for testing in this new gun, too.
In all, I fired slightly more than 300 rounds, but was on my own for testing – we have this Coronavirus we are fighting, and I’m doing the social distancing thing. I don’t want to be around anyone other than family. So, it was a lot of work to load all those magazines and do all that shooting. Had lots of flat out fun shooting with that surplus ammo – it’s rock ‘n roll time with a substantial caliber gun.
I settled down for accuracy testing at 50-yards, using a rolled-up sleeping bag over the hood of my truck…just too hard to shoot 100-yards for accuracy with open sights. I got consist groups of 3+ inches with the surplus ammo – I was surprised it was shooting that well. When I hunkered down with the Black Hills .308 Win ammo, I was getting pretty consistent groups of slightly over 2-inches – again, I was shocked – for a gun made-up of mostly surplus parts, it was shooting very well – think it will do even better once it gets broke-in a little more.
I’m more than a little happy with this battle rifle – I needed it, wanted it, ok, I desired it – a good addition to my meager gun collection. Check one out – they are a bit hard to find – I checked around…seems like they are going around $700 price range. A genuine H&K Model 91 – will set you back at least $2,500 or a lot more – if you can find one.