Thing From the Vault: Spanish FR-8

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.

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The result was a short, handy, rugged and totally unique looking rifle.

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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.

fr8-02

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.

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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.

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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).

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Let’s take a closer look at that vaguely M14-like nose section:fr8-03

This shows the faux “gas tube,” the Spanish CETME/FR sling, and the front sight and bayonet mount arrangement.

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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.

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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.

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This picture may give a little sense on how easily the open rear sight could pick up the target.fr8-11

And here’s a sense of the aperture version.

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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.

26 thoughts on “Thing From the Vault: Spanish FR-8

  1. LSWCHP

    Fabulous! I like learning new things, and these unusual and historic gun articles are one of the many things that brings me back here every day. Thank you.

  2. anonymous

    A ranch carry – truck rifle in 7.62 NATO. Just the thing to have in your stash. I may be mistaken, but I thought the bolt handles of these FR8s were normally straight vs. turned down like the pictured above. The apertures for the rear sight are (supposedly) set for 200, 300 and 400 meters, with the ‘V’ notch set for 100 meters. Stripper clips for the original 8mm easily fit the 7.62 ammunition and the receiver wings allow fast reloading. Sight adjustment are built into front sight – the post is offset, so that when post is rotated for adjusting elevation, the blade moves from side to side as well – clever !

    1. Boat Guy

      The bolt handles usually are straight. I have one, actually my older brother now has it. One of the things I was gonna do is have the bolt handle bent down.
      A NIFTY little rifle. The sight adjustment’s a little tedious, I’m hard-pressed to think it “clever”.

  3. Klaus

    I believe the flash hider is indeed Cetme.The G3s and 91s I have seen and own have an exposed retention spring. I have always thought these FR-8 s kinda of interesting and have always wanted to pick one up.It would fit in nicely with my other small ring Mausers as a hybrid.

  4. Tam

    I love the heck out of mine.

    I’d read somewhere that the sight was meant as a cheaper, simpler imitation of the rotating drum on the CETME/G3, since it would be familiar to users from their draftee days.

    1. Sommerbiwak

      the cetme rear sight is already simpler with its fold up “paddles” than the cuckoo clockwork drum arrangement
      of the H&K version. That simple disc is imho simple and effective enough. your average José Soldato is not realistically able to see and shoot farther than 400 metres anyway. For private range use I would probably fit an H&K machine gun rear sight just because. ;-)

      I wonder if you can shoot NATO standard rifle grenades with the FR-7 and-8? For police to project tear gas grenades these rifles would still have a use me thinks.

      Hognose, you forgot to mention that the tube below the barrel can store a cleaning kit. Nice touch imho and what else to do with the fake cocking tube?

  5. DSM

    The first I saw one of these some 15 years ago I thought it was an unholy tacticool Bubba creation. I wish I would’ve picked one up when they were going for a couple bills in the SGN. I still might, it’d be a handy rifle.

  6. Sommerbiwak

    Now looking at it… it needs a trench magazine!

    10 or fifteen rounds, a red dot or 1-6 variable scope. Scout rifle for colonel cooper or jurisdictions that dislike the 20th century firearms developments (read: semi-automatic mass murder killer boom sticks)

  7. Bonifacio Echeverria

    So you have a CEMETON? The name is a mix of CETME and Mosquetón (a word for what you anglos would call a Carbine, although there are actualy three different words for three different weapons that you would call a carbine in Spanish arms jargon).

    IIRC, these were always military issue only. I don’t think the Guardia Civil used them, certainly not the Armed Police (GC is part of the Army, after all), but I could be mistaken, can’t check the sources right now. What is for sure is that it kept soldiering on as a honor guard weapon for parades, color guards, etc… even with the Guardia Real.

    Was it good? Well… some of the finer examples were used as sniper rifles in SF units before the arrival of dedicated sniper rifles.

    Also, those of you having one, try opening the storage space in the false gas tube bellow the barrel. And let me know what do you find inside… There are all kind of stories about CEMETON treasures inside the cleaning kit chamber.

  8. Al T.

    Bonifacio, had one, no treasure. :(

    For users, be aware that the front sight has a set screw that is very unobtrusive. On mine, bubba had stripped the front sight.

  9. raven

    ” You know you’ve gotten the last mile out of the round you adopted over 60 years ago. ”

    Surely this is an unkind cut for the 7×57 Mauser. Even today it can hold it’s own , and it has a nice balance of weight, velocity, and low recoil . I would suggest that “last mile” has more to do with NATO standardization than any problem with the 7×57.

    1. Sommerbiwak

      Exactly. 7*57 is still a fine hunting cartridge. And only a barrel swap away in your 98 action. :-)

      Only downside is the no longer existant supply of surplus ammunition.

  10. Gary Johannsen

    always have liked the FR-8. unfortunately it’s a bolt-action so I would only use it for hunting… and I don’t hunt. a knowledgeable collector has one for sale on Gunbroker and here’s what he says in the description:

    “Fine, matching and non-import marked FR-8 carbine….this model was a conversion of existing stocks of the 1943 Mauser short rifle. With WWII changing the nature of warfare and weapons doctrine, the Spanish were among the first to adopt a semi-automatic rifle, with the 7.62 caliber CETME. The FR-8 was conceived as a stop-gap measure designed to take advantage of surplus CETME components(barrel and flash hider), while substituting in the absence of the newer self-loading rifles. Intended for training and auxilliary use, the FR-8 nonetheless proved popular with the Guardia Civil, who made regular use of the handy carbines through the 1970’s. This weapon, along with the British No.5 “Jungle Carbine”, famously served as the direct inspiration for Colonel Jeff Cooper’s Scout Rifle.”

    the bolt handle is straight.

    regarding the 7.57mm, although it’s a rimless cartridge, I would guess the landing between the rim and the case where the extractor goes, is a bit too tight for reliability in a semi-auto. if that’s true, maybe that’s one reason they decided to leave it behind when moving on with the CETME.

    1. Tim, '80s Mech Guy

      Off hand I don’t see too much difference between the 7×57 and 8×57 cases but then it doesn’t take much to make a difference. The driving force of the Germans going with the 8mm and developing a good portion of the MG designs probably killed the development of 7mm automatics. I’ve never heard of problems with the SAFN/FN49 in 7mm either.

    2. Hognose Post author

      There’s no reason the 7 mm doesn’t work well in semi and auto weapons. There were numerous 7 mm machine guns, the caliber just fell out of favor. Colt, Madsen, Vickers and many others made them in the interwar period. The reason the FR-8 was made in 7.62 was simply that that was what they were going to with the CETME already. The FR-8s were converted from M1943 Mausers, which were all 7.92 x 57 mm to start with. I’m not sure why Spain adopted 7.92 x 57, but perhaps because they used it in their volunteer Blue Division in WWII.

      A straight bolt on a Spanish Mauser is pretty rare, except for the original Model 1893.

      1. Bonifacio Echeverria

        Easier than that. It was the German cartridge. They got it by the truckload as German “aid” during the Civil War and… if you are of the distrusting type, just like Franco, it made a lot of sense using the same cartridge as the victors of all Europe… and your only landside neighbours with an army and an attitude to be feared.

    3. Gary Johannsen

      aha! article on surplusrifle.com tells about the bolt handle. if it’s bent, most likely it’s an FR-7.

      FR-7
      Uses 1916 Mauser action
      Bent bold handle
      Caliber 7.62 CETME
      Straight stock grip
      Bolt uses 2 locking lugs
      Bolt has flat base

      FR-8
      Uses 1943 Mauser Action
      Straight bolt handle (usually)
      Caliber 7.62 NATO
      Pistol grip stock
      Bolt has 3 locking lugs
      Bolt has round base
      Fore stock has finger grooves

  11. Aesop

    A handy rack-full of those would make a dandy training rifle for anyone looking to do so, like for scouting groups, general initial weapons training, or other contingency purposes.

    Not the intermediate 7.6×39 of SKS rifles, stupid-simple and bloody accurate Mauser action, and all the handy oomph of the 7.62 Nato round, which renders most forms of “cover” on a standard city block from the 5.56, into mere “concealment”.

    They don’t seem to turn up much hereabouts, but at least they don’t fall afoul of the statutes here in PRC. Yet.

  12. raven

    I ran into a 7×57 Garand at the gun show a while back- the owner was a high power competitor and liked the reduced recoil of the 7mm, so he had a custom barrel put on.

  13. bloke_from_ohio

    “… 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…”

    That is an interesting tidbit I would love to learn more about. It applies to more than just weird Spanish guns I will likely never shoot let alone own. Thanks Hognose!

    1. Hognose Post author

      It’s just harder to line up the tip of the sight consistently with the level of the rear notch or center of the aperture. The differences are infinitesimal, but an infinitesimal change in angle at the muzzle shows up large on the target, and so groups from sights like this tend to string vertically, like a breathing control issue, but not quite as badly. It is exacerbated by conditions of varying light, like a partly cloudy day.

      The US found that we had improvements in groups just from the M16A1 to A2 change from a very slightly tapered post with a squared-off top to the truly parallel-sided A2 blade. I believe that was a USMC brainstorm, also changing the sight post to perfectly square and four sides rather than tapered round x-section and five adjustments. We lost 20% of fine adjustment but the groups tightened.

  14. obdo

    7.62×51 CETME =/= NATO

    Reloads with less propellant behind 122gr M43 boolits are so much easier on the shoulder…

  15. Tam

    It should be noted that the FR-8 conversions use CETME C barrels and CETME C’s were chambered for 7.62 NATO and not 7.62 CETME.

    Also, the main differences between the original 7.62 CETME Model Bs and the ones converted to 7.62 NATO were in the mass of the bolt carrier and weight of the recoil springs.

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