I've wanted to update this thread for a while now but I've been kinda' busy. And because I've not been at it for a bit, a lot of information has piled up so this is going to take a few posts. This first post is gonna' be a lot of text. Sorry about that but you can't tell a story without words.
I'll start just a bit before I left off. It turns out that Dave Bane from MarColMar has been reading my posts about the rifle so he contacted me (prior to the zeroing problem) and offered me the opportunity to tour the factory, look through parts for interesting variations and just generally hang out to get a feel for what MarColMar is as a company. Dave even offered to pick me up at the airport. Would you pass up an opportunity to hang out with a manufacturer for a day and play with guns? Neither would I so I eagerly accepted. I asked if I could bring my rifles along and he said "Bring whatever you want. Frank (one of the designers who it turns out looks an awful lot like Hooper from "Jaws") likes Swiss stuff so we'll have some of that here for you to check out too." SO, rather than mess around with airlines, boxing up rifles and all that jazz, I decided to just drive out rather than fly. It's only about seven hours from my place and my Honda hasn't been on a road trip for a while.
Then, just a few days before I was to head out to Indiana, I took my rifle out for its first range trip and discovered the zeroing problem. I contacted MCM and they couldn't have been more pleasant. "Make sure you bring it along and we'll do whatever it takes to make it right." Good customer service is key to a happy customer. So, I packed up the ol' Hondoonie on a Wednesday morning and headed out six hours to Springfield Ohio to spend the night with a lifelong friend before getting up bright and early Thursday morning for the last hour to MCM.
I had no trouble finding the place and the first person I ran into was Jeff, who through the course of the day I discovered is wicked smart (and good looking too!). I introduced myself and asked for Dave. Jeff said he wasn't there and I grinned. Jeff grinned back and motioned me in so I followed along. I knew right away this was going to be fun! On the way through the front office, I met Charlie, the resident Golden Retriever. His main job seems to be saying "hello" with a big wagging tail and instant love. I've never met a dog I didn't like!! Upon entering the factory floor, I was introduced to Dave and Frank (Hooper drives the boat chief). As Dave put his hand out for a shake, I noticed he had working man's hands. He was also wearing a t-shirt with stains and jeans. I liked him immediately. After asking me how the trip was and exchanging niceties, we headed back through the factory to the final assembly and storage room for a very nicely informal meet and greet. As Frank pulled out a stool for me to have a seat on, I looked around the room and admired all the Cetme's sitting on racks. It was part of an order they were getting ready for shipment to a distributor:
We sat for a bit, Dave, Frank and me and just talked; about MarColMar, the Cetme, firearms in general, manufacturing, politics, things unrelated to any of those things and just stuff in general. I think they were feeling me out to make sure I wasn't a nut or a weirdo and I guess I passed the test (HA!! I fooled them!!) because in no time, I felt like I was among friends. When we came around to the topic of my rifle Dave said, "pick any rifle off the rack you want; it's yours." Now THAT'S customer service!! I was tempted as I saw number 112 sitting there but I didn't feel that would be right and my mother raised me better than that. So I declined and asked Dave to try to repair my rifle first. He couldn't sell it as new anymore and I couldn't in good conscience ask for a brand new rifle if mine could be reasonably repaired. He said, "I know you wanted a low serial number so I'll take 112 out of the shipment and set it aside for now. If I can't repair yours, I'll sent you that one." Fair enough. I was also told that, after they read about my problem, they went back and rechecked every rifle they had in stock. Although none were off nearly as much as mine was, they did find a couple that were off more than they would have liked. They tracked the problem down to a misaligned jig and had since made adjustments to correct the problem. Next, we went for a tour of the factory.
As we walked around, Jeff met back up with us and walked me through the process of manufacturing various things step by step. I was welcome to take pictures of some things and I was asked not to take pictures of others. Just to be safe, I took pictures of nothing. Here's why. It was obvious within seconds that MarColMar isn't just putting parts kits back together with a new receiver and barrel. Rather, they are MANUFACTURING an essentially new rifle using highly automated (and outrageously expensive) machines and top Quality materials. The automated machine used to produce the trigger boxes looks like something straight out of NASA and it's as clean as a contraption they would use too! The number of jigs that must be used simply to weld the receiver was amazing and each one had to be designed and built from the ground up. Because of the massive amount of time, energy and money invested, I wouldn't be right or fair to MCM for me to post pictures of all that. It's far, far easier to copy someone else than it is to use your own brain to figure out a problem and I have no interest in helping someone else steal what amounts to industrial secrets from MCM. Go figure it out yourself! I'm not exaggerating when I tell you, this ain't as simple as you think it is. Anyone who has any experience at all in the manufacturing industry knows what I'm talking about. Cost took a back seat to Quality and the amount of engineering that was put into the project must have been considerable to say the least. Dave ran through some of the costs involved. All were high but the one that stuck with me the most was the cost of the dies to make the rear sling swivel. I had wondered if they used originals and simply refinished them but I was told (and later saw first hand) that the originals were in too poor a condition to suit MCM so they decided to reproduce them. When MCM met with the die maker, they were advised that they could be made much cheaper if they were slightly simplified.
"Will they look just like the originals?"
"Not exactly but that is actually a pretty complex part to stamp out the way it is. If we make some subtle changes, it'll really save you some money."
"Nope. We want it to look as original as possible. What'll that cost for dies?"
An original picked at random(there are variations):
A MarColMar reproduction:
Think of that $75,000 price tag for such a seemingly simple part the next time you admire your Cetme. If MarColMar sells 10,000 rifles, just the cost of the dies to make this one part accounts for $7.50 per rifle and that's considering neither the steel the swivel is made from nor the finish applied. An entire M1 Carbine cost the US Govt. about 45 bucks back in WWII. I often hear folks balking at the cost of new firearms these days. Quality ain't cheap folks, especially when you are trying to recreate something that was made decades ago with different technology. I was told the cost of the receiver dies but I didn't retain it. It was sky high though. I can tell you that.
It was much the same with the furniture. A local casket manufacturer was contracted to provide all of the polymer bits. They explained to MarColMar that technology had changed considerably since the original furniture was made and that the molds used to make them back then were very complicated and expensive by todays standards. If they would just simplify the part a bit, e.g. remove the cooling cavities on the bottom of the handguard, the price to produce would drop considerably. Nope...….it's got to be as close to original as possible save for making it out of better polymer.
The examples above illustrated two things about MCM that really impressed me and I discussed that with Dave, Frank and Jeff. First, they are extremely detail oriented. They want to produce a rife that looks as close to original as possible yet is superior to an original both in materials and Quality of build. They also re-engineered some aspects of the design to make it more reliable than an original; little things you'll never even notice like the spring K factors (look up Hooke's Law) and magazine to trunnion feed geometry. The extractor springs are made from (IIRC, I'm no engineer) chrome silicon and the aluminum used for the trigger boxes is of a particular alloy that is superior to an original. The barrels are cold hammer forged and the Ceracote finish used is far better than the original paint.
Second, they are committed to making as many parts as possible in the US and as locally as they can. In fact, ALL new made parts on the rifle, the manual and all of the packaging are made in the United States with most of them being sourced in Indiana. The only exception is the gun lock that ships with each rifle. That part was literally 10x as expensive if sourced in the US. MCM figured that, since most people circular file that thing anyways, save a bit of dough on that one. I'd have made the same decision as I can honestly say I've never used one in almost forty years. Do you?
Another thing I asked about was the finish on the non painted parts, specifically, how did they acquire bolts and bolt carrier that looked as new. I was told that not one part on the rifle has the original finish. Every single original part is stripped to bare metal, inspected and refinished. Where possible and prudent, the original finish is recreated as closely as possible.
I mentioned earlier about the new springs being tuned to the design. This was done using a special high speed camera and a modified receiver. I took a few pictures of the test receiver:
The lines you see on the receiver and bolt carrier are indexing marks. The camera takes thousands of pictures per second and they can figure out the proper spring settings by knowing where the action is in the cycle compared to time elapsed.
This window allows them to see how far the bolt carrier has moved to the rear at the end of its stroke. Too far to the rear and you are beating the rifle to pieces because the springs are too soft. Too far forward and the springs are too stiff which will create feeding problems. It's gotta be juuuust right! Judging from my experience, this was money and research very well spent.
I've got a lot more to post but it's late and I gotta' pay the bills tomorrow. I'll be back with some more.