Century International Arms now offers a well-made HK91/G3 .308 clone dubbed the C308 that is less expensive than most AR-15s. The design is without question one of the most recognized .308 battle rifles in the world and remains in service today with militaries operating in extreme environments, including Africa and South America. In fact, a little more than 70 countries officially use a version of this rifle.
The narrow profile, relatively light weight and battle-tested chambering in 7.62×51 make it an extremely versatile rifle. Part of the allure within the U.S. is the hard-core tactical marketing by Heckler & Koch, however, the design itself has a significant storied and proven military heritage.
One of the primary reasons H&K’s G3/HK91 design has remained in service for all these years is that the design delivers stunningly reliable function even in full auto. All the credit goes to the bulletproof rolling lock design, which keeps working even in the most adverse environments. Mauser created the initial predecessor to the HK91, the STG-45, during World War II in Germany, but it saw a limited wartime release.
After the war, engineers took the design to Spain where CETME began manufacturing the rifle and continued the development of the design gun. H&K initially worked jointly with CETME and then later purchased the updated CETME design in 1959. H&K released models that became known as the G3 series in select-fire and the semi-auto HK91 in the U.S. The modular design allowed a diverse array of short to long barrel and fixed to collapsible stock options to serve virtually any military configuration. The decade-long U.S. “Assault Weapons Ban” skyrocketed prices on original “pre-ban” rifles.
If you are in the mood for some original HK91 .308 rifle loving, then prepare to have around $5,000 or more removed from your bank account. The originals are not cheap guns by any stretch of the imagination, but there are options. A few companies, such as PTR and Century International Arms, began making much more affordable HK91 clones using surplus parts. PTR later replicated all the tooling in-house and now makes its own rifle parts for its version in the U.S., but they are not particularly inexpensive rifles either.
Century International Arms came to the rescue with an affordable $680 street-priced .308 HK91 clone based on Spanish CETME and U.S.-made parts to meet import “points” restrictions. The outcome is one heck of a deal on a .308 semi-auto rifle that could do battle and take any North American game all in the same day.
Fit, Finish And Feel
The original HK91s are a higher grade than what you see with the Century C308, though that “grade” difference is not worth $5,000 — or even $500 more unless you are a collector. Though some of the parts are surplus, you’d never know it from looking at the rifle. The fit is great and the black painted finish seems durable. I found the rifle to be solid and overall a very tight gun.
Features And Function
The rifle is pretty close from a feature perspective with a original HK91 design variant. The barrel is 18 inches, which allows almost a complete .308 Remington powder burn and reduces noise levels for the shooter. Century tipped the barrel with one of its standard threaded chevron comps.
Another key feature is a welded optic rail that does not interfere with the iron sights. No longer do you need to use one of those funky and expensive H&K claw mounts that never really work right. Customers can just drop on an optic or red-dot on the rifle without extra cost and in a fashion that’s ultimately more reliable than any other mount. A factory-welded Picatinny rail on the receiver is about as reliable as it gets.
The fixed sights are functionally similar to the HK91, however the designs are a little different. The front hooded sight appears to be nearly identical as the HK91. The rear C308 sight features a horizontally spinning sight with four apertures — three increasingly smaller apertures for 200, 300 and 400 yards and a faster open 100-yard notch combat sight. The Century International Arms C308’s rear sight is factory zeroed and welded in place, which is a departure from the adjustable HK91 model.
The polymer furniture seems to be of high quality and fit. Although many of the parts are imported CETME surplus, PTR makes the receiver, while Century makes the barrel and compensator. The C308 is completely compatible with any surplus HK91 or G3 magazines available in the market. Magazines are prolific in steel, aluminum and polymer. Most new surplus standard 20-round magazine prices start around $20, and used mags can be as low as $3.
Functionally, the design is destructive to brass, so if you are a reloader, just plan that this gun will execute last rights on any brass-cased ammo you feed it. Early on in the design process it was noted that cases would stick, so German and Spanish engineers fluted the chamber so some of the gas pressure could float the brass out of the chamber. This design update delivers infallible reliability, but the trade-off is that the gun mortally wounds all potentially reloadable brass run through the gun.
Operationally, the C308 is a lot like a side-charge AR-15, however, you need to run the gun hard like you are ticked off at it. The magazines need to be seated with authority and shooters need to pull back the folding charging handle with great zeal. The weenies in the group will have a tough time making the C308 ready to party. Press down on the safety to fire just as you would with any AR-15, and the giggles begin. The trigger is a bit gritty with a long take-up, but once .308 rounds are tipping over heavy full-sized steel torso targets at the 50-yard line, you forget about the trigger. This gun can bring the power and put giant smiles on the faces of everyone who shoots it.
The semi-auto action soaks up much of the recoil from the .308 and delivers a very fast-shooting rifle that can lay down some convincing firepower for defense. Two 20-round and one five-round mag are included in the package. For hunting, the C308 would make a great low-cost hog gun that would level hogs with authority.
The mags were reliable with all types of brass- and steel-cased ammo tested, but my accuracy results were average. I would not expect to see much better than 1.25-inch 100-yard groups even with top-line match ammo. The steel-cased Wolf ammo I had on hand was fun but not particularly accurate, delivering around 3.5-inch groups. My best was actually a 1.3-inch group with Hornady Zombie Max ammo with a Lucid 3-14 Crossover scope. Testing through many other quality ammo brands convinced me that the C308 is a consistent sub-2 MOA gun.
Buyers have to remember that the design intent was a battle rifle for war and not a precision target rifle — it’s the AK of the .308 world. Consider that even if you are delivering 6- to 10-inch 400-yard groups consistently with even a low-power optic, this is still defensive level accuracy and certainly not bad for a .308 rifle priced under $700. You could drop a pretty high-power optic on this rifle, but that would be a bit wasteful. Based on my observations and experience, a simple red-dot or 1-4 scope would be a perfect choice. Leupold’s illuminated Hog Plex comes to mind as a perfect fit for the intent of the rifle.
Based on my time so far with the Century International Arms C308, I think they have a home run firearm considering the very reasonable sub-$700 price that delivers stone-cold reliably.
In a time where every overweight .308 seems to have an insanely overpowered optic on it to “do (wishful) work” at 500 yards or more, there is the Century International Arms C308. The C308 delivers a slim, light .308 platform with welded-on iron sights and a design that does not care whether it was stored in a humidity-controlled safe or secure inside the engine compartment of your truck. In either case it will work regardless of how it’s treated. This is one heck of a gun for under $700 that was designed to do work even when the target is just 2 feet away.
- MSRP $699 – Street $680
- Century Arms C308 Sporter rifle, semi-auto
- .308 Remington
- 18-inch barrel with 5/8th x 24 threads and compensator
- Integral top Picatinny rail mount
- Accepts G3 20-round mags
- Includes two 20-round mags and one five-round mag
- 1 year warranty
- Barrel: 18 inches
- Overall: 40.2 inches
- Weight: 8 pounds