"We have four boxes with which to defend our freedom: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box and the cartridge box." - Congressman Larry McDonald M.D.
(1 April, 1935 - 1 Sept., 1983)


God Save The Republic

14 September 2010

Lessons Learned . . . The Hard Way

Near where I grew up was a used car dealer who, like many used car dealers, had a highly shady reputation. This guy could take a total wreck and have it looking "cherry" using little more than baling wire, body filler and household spray paint. Of course, that A-1 appearance usually wound up all over a customer's driveway after a heavy rain fall. Moral to the story is: buyer beware.

For those of us who are prepping on a budget, the absolute last thing you want is to find out a piece of equipment that you paid good money for won't work or hold up. Especially at the most critical moments when you need it most. Probably top on that equipment list would be your firearm. It's better to have one and not need it than to need one after you discover yours suddenly doesn't work anymore. Enter Century Arms International.

Century Arms markets a number of older military firearms at low prices. Obviously an eye-catcher for buyers on a budget. The problem is, you never know the quality of the weapon you're going to receive.

As an example: Century markets a CETME rifle in .308 caliber, for right around $500.00 each. An outstanding price for a .308 battle rifle. CETME, (Center For The Technical Study of Special Materials) of Madrid, Spain built thousands of these fine rifles for their military as well as for armed forces for a few other countries. As any good business does, they also produced thousands of spare parts. So when the CETME rifle was eventually replaced with new arms, CETME was left holding thousands of unused and used rifles and thousands of unused and used spare parts. Think in terms of warehouses full of rifles and parts.

Through legal business, Century was able to purchase huge lots of the parts, bring them into the U.S. then assemble and market the final product, with some modifications to comply with U.S. gun laws, and to appease the BATF&E. These modifications include; changing the fire control parts so the rifle will not fire in full auto mode and replacing a specific number of original parts (like barrels, receivers, stocks, bolts, etc.) with ones manufactured in the United States. (called compliance parts or a weapon being 922r compliant)

This is where the problems occur. When the "craftsmen" at Century assemble the rifles, they are using whatever parts they have in front of them, be they unused parts in perfect condition, or used parts that are worn to near or outside of their specs. It's not unusual to find rifles that have been assembled with both used and unused parts. Then there is a very common quality control issue where new barrels are out of spec when welded into the receivers, causing a potentially dangerous problem with the chamber headspace.

To be fair, Century has put out some good acceptable rifles. Unfortunately, it's a hit or miss proposition. If the rifle is purchased under warranty, Century will make repairs on the issues brought to their attention. Just don't expect them to look for and correct problems you aren't aware of or don't bring to their attention. Also, they have been known to fix one problem but create another, and lastly, they have a very long turnaround time. On the other hand, if the weapon is no longer under warranty, the cost of having an experienced gunsmith make the repairs can cost a few hundred dollars. At this point, you could have bought a new gun of name brand.

How do I know these things? I own three Century assembled weapons; two AK-47s and a CETME. However, I am an experienced gunsmith / armorer so all I had to invest was a little time and a little cash for replacement parts to bring all three guns into spec.

For those who are unable to do that kind of firearm repairs, you need to be aware of the potential for problems with Century Arms' "pieces / parts" guns if you're considering buying one. If you already own one, it would be in your best interests to have it inspected for problems.

Besides CETMEs and AKs, Century also markets ARs, FN FALs and a host of other foreign produced shotguns and pistols. I'm not saying don't buy'em. I am only warning through experience... buyer beware. It could turn into a lesson learned the hard way.



  1. ...i guess ya could put this under the category of "if i knew then,what i know now"...i take back the bad things i said about Century(and to Century)...hindsight is always 20-20...

    ...thanx Mike...

  2. Thanks for the information. I couldn't help but notice their prices, and the "made in the USA" tags, so I've considered them. I think I'd better look closer.

    A guy I took a class from said, "I never buy cheap tools - they're too expensive". Sounds like that sort of situation.

  3. Thanks for the confirmation of what a friend of mine has been telling me for a long time. He steered me away from purchasing one of their FN FALs a while ago with the exact observations that you made.

    I guess it's further proof that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  4. Century has long been known for selling junk, at least the stuff that they assemble. Things like Russian 91/30s and M44s that are marked CAI are usually ok because Century didn't touch them except to put their import marks on them. The same goes for the stripped Imbel FAL receivers they used to import. The receiver was fine and as long as someone else assembled the rifle you were ok.

    I avoid them because I don't want to spend the time on the headaches.