Springfield's G3: the SAR3 and SAR8

  1. chriseger
    One of the best-known and loved weapons of the 20th century, used by more than fifty countries, was the German Heckler and Koch designed G3 rifle. This 7.62x51mm NATO battle rifle used a unique action to produce an accurate and utterly reliable gun that proved itself worldwide. As you may or may not know, Springfield Armory imported some of these of their own.

    What is the G3?

    In the late 1950s, the West German Army was looking to equip their force with a new rifle to replace the hodgepodge of WWII-era and Allied-loaned weapons with something more modern. They bought the design of the CETME Modelo B select-fire rifle from Spain (where former German weapons engineers who worked for Mauser and escaped after the war had designed it). Once the new firm of Heckler and Koch revamped the design for the 7.62x51mm NATO round and gave it some tweaks, the Army adopted it as the G3.

    The design used a roller-delayed blowback action similar to that found on the WWII German Army's utterly reliable MG42 machinegun. With a 17.7-inch barrel coupled to this action, the gun was 40-inches overall and weighed 9-pounds. Rugged, cheap to make from a stamped sheet metal receiver, and as dependable as the sunrise, these guns were made overseas in more than a dozen countries under license from HK. One of these nations was Greece, which leads us to...

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    The SAR3

    Springfield Armory is well known as an importer of top quality firearms from abroad. Their XD pistols come from Croatia; their 1911's come from the Philippines, from Brazil came the SAR48/4800 FN FAL clone. Well in the 1960s, the firm of EBO/EAS in Greece was making G3s by the thousands for the Hellenic Armed Forces (Greek military). As a NATO partner with West Germany, many European countries were making licensed 100% authentic copies of the G3 for their own military use. These guns were made on HK tooling, with German engineers overseeing the operation. By the 1980s, with the patents and trademarks more in the public domain than not, EBO decided they could make some scratch selling semi-auto G3 sporters on the open market.

    Springfield and EBO teamed up to sell a Greek-made semi-auto G3 called the Springfield Auto Rifle Model 3 (SAR3). This gun was copied directly from HK's Model 91 Sporter. This gun, officially chambered in civilian .308 Winchester (which is 99.99% the same round as the 7.62x51mm NATO and will feed the military round), was a 1:1 clone of the G3, just in semi-auto only. Imported into the US between 1985-1989, it was a beautiful gun. Today these run $900 or more.

    SAR8

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    Due to increasing import restrictions on foreign 'military-style' rifles coming to into the US, the plan to bring in more SAR3 guns was met with a roadblock. To get around this hurdle, Springfield imported parts from Greece, added them to a US-made cast aluminum receiver and either a black plastic or walnut stock, and sold it as the SAR8. While not entirely made on HK tooling, these guns were functional.

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    (Many SAR3 recievers aleady in the country --note the MADE IN GREECE rollmark, were overstamped with an '8' over the '3'. This is common)

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    (Later US made receivers are marked Geneseo, IL but still sometimes show signs of overmark on the '3'/'8')

    Between 1990 and 1998 when they were discontinued the company faced issues from the Assault Weapons Ban that forced it to sell the SAR8 with a thumbhole stock and 10-round magazine. This made these rifles much less appealing when the AWB expired and subsequently these guns are often found with their thumbhole stocks replaced with more standard G3 ware. Either way, you can usually pick up these rifles for about $700-$900 in good condition.

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    There was also a special heavy-barreled "Tactical Counter-Sniper" rifle made of the SAR8 targeted to police sharpshooters. It was a budget clone of the HK PSG-1 and often passed off as such. This rifle was only sold for two years and if you can find one in good condition, it can be worth upwards of $1500.

    Thus, you have the story of the Spanish-designed, German-perfected, and Greek-made, US-modified SAR3/8 rifles.

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