Imagine you’re a military decision-maker in country with a mighty imperial past that has to arm and maintain a large conscript army and a dizzying array of paramilitary police, border guards, and other forces.
Now, imagine your generals have brought you a design for an indigenous rifle and better cartridge — thanks to some engineering talent from abroad that found a stay in your country a good alternative to life at home for a while. You know you’ve gotten the last mile out of the round you adopted over 60 years ago. But you also can’t arm 2 million cooks, clerks and bottle washers with the new rifles.
You’d probably do what Spain did, because this is a situation that really occurred. You’d buy the new rifles (in this case, the CETME) in the quantity you could afford for now, and you’d convert your old rifles to use the accessories and some features of the new ones.
That produced the FR-7 and FR-8 rifles, updated carbines rebarreled in 7.62 CETME (=7.62 NATO) and modified to use CETME or CETME-like sights, flash suppressor/grenade launcher, and bayonet. Adapting the rifle to the CETME bayonet included adding a “gas tube” for the bayonet to attach to.
The result was a short, handy, rugged and totally unique looking rifle.
FR-7s were made from Spanish 7 mm M1916 (and presumably German-made Spanish M1893) “small ring” Mausers, and FR-8s were made from 7.92 mm M1943 “large ring” Mausers. The actions also have some other small differences — the later one has a third safety lug, and a gas deflector, features that Mauser developed between the 1896 and 1898 actions. But it’s pretty much a standard Mauser action. This one is an FR-8.
In recent years, many imported FR-8s have been given the Scout Rifle treatment by many American owners. After all, La Coruña, the Spanish arsenal, took them half way! But these guns are actually an artifact of an interesting time and place in history; it will always be our preference to keep them more or less as issued.
Still, they have a lot of features people like in a Mauser action for sporter conversion, like a machined lower end (trigger guard and mag base), and a nicely turned-down bolt.
Most of them have seen extensive service in Spain’s Guardia Civil or other organizations, and so they’ve been carried hard and not shot a lot.
But let’s look at the unique FR-8 (or -7) features of this puppy, shall we? Here’s the muzzle device, one of the most characteristic features of the FR-8. As you can see, it’s a standard CETME part which looks to us at a glance to be identical with a G-3 or HK-91 part. (We don’t have a Hah und Kah to compare it to). You can also make out the bayonet lug. The Spanish bayonet is different from the German one, but allegedly they’re interchangeable. (We don’t have a bayonet for this rifle at the moment, but they’re widely available for little money).
This shows the faux “gas tube,” the Spanish CETME/FR sling, and the front sight and bayonet mount arrangement.
The front sight base starts off as a CETME part, but in the select-fire or semi CETME (or G3), the barrel is in the lowest bout of the forging, the cocking-handle tube in the middle one, and the sight on top. That is why, if you see a CETME or G3 with bayonet fixed, the bayonet is above, not below, the barrel. (Some original AR-10s had the bayonet oriented this way, too). It doesn’t really make any significant difference to the employment of the bayonet whether it’s under or over the barrel; to be used as a bayonet per se and not as a knife, a bayonet need not be sharpened, even.
After the jump, the CETME-derived sights.
The rear sight is a u-shaped frame holding a rotary rear sight. The three options are a v-notch, a large aperture, and a small aperture, intended to be used from closest to furthest distance from the target. Given the intended short-range application of these carbines, a tangent sight is unlikely to justify the expense of developing it, let alone training all those draftees for something they’re unlikely to use.
The front sight is the standard CETME pointed blade. While this kind of sight is much more likely to produce vertically dispersed groups than the square-top blade with parallel sides seen on US rifles, it was a pretty common European installation at the time.
And here’s a sense of the aperture version.
Was the FR-8 a great rifle? Of course not; it was obsolete at birth, but you can’t think about military (and in this case, police) issue weapons on some absolute scale of perfection. The right question is: did this rifle meet its designers’ and purchasers’ need?
On that scale, the FR-8 was a resounding success. For many years, it armed groups of Spanish officials who needed a firearm, but perhaps didn’t need the latest model; and it did so while saving the nation lots of money.