The FN SCAR may come across as a video-game special on first glance, but when you take a closer look, it’s obvious that this is a weapon modified to include the best of several firearms forged into one. To some, it’s an abomination. To others, it’s the perfect blend of the features any field operative would be glad to have in their hands.
The first impression is drawn from the utility angle. A pickitinny rail on all sides allows for adaptation on top, bottom, and both sides for tactical gear modifications reminiscent of the AR-15/HK416 hand guard. The top rail is continuous, allowing for modification based on mission and specialty configurations to meet just about any demand. All the gadgets and peripherals add whatever bling you could ask for to the rifle, but the real clincher is the inner workings.
Special operations teams contributed to the evolution of the previous standard AR-15 style of rifle to something that could be more versatile in combat, more reliable, more accurate, and more ergonomic. So, it makes sense that the SCAR gets its name from the people who made it stand out. The Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle is fast earning its place among modern and urban warfare mainstays. One of the unique aspects is the short-stroke gas piston system. This allows gasses to vent forward to prevent combustion gasses and byproducts from creating problems on the bolt and chamber. The change allowed for greater accuracy as a result of less fouling and an overall cleaner firearm during use.
It’s clear that FN answered the call to create a multi-functional weapon that is versatile, customizable, and effective. The first significant advancement is through a multi-caliber common receiver system that contributes to the adaptability of this rifle. Specific applications extend beyond the standard 5.56 NATO round and incorporates a 40MM Grenade Launcher Module. Magazines are available in 10- or 20-round capacity with the 7.62X51 bottleneck rimless NATO standard in mind.
Though widely used and preferred by special forces operatives in all branches, it is still comparatively young on the battlefield. Versions of the FN SCAR is being used by 20 countries around the world. The SCAR earned its stripes in successful combat missions in 2010, eight years after initial development and subsequent field testing. The proof of concept lead to contract production of the MK16, MK17, and MK 13 models. SOCOM went after full production of all variants but funding was pulled within nine months and reassigned to SCAR-H and Mk-20 sniper rifle. But some units went back to the SCAR and have since made it a solid weapon of choice on the battlefield because of its stopping power and versatility.
The side-folding stock has the beefy signature of the AK-47 with the same level of versatility in mind. Rather than keep just the telescoping buttstock of the AR-15, the SCAR designed the folding stock variant to include both. The buttstock has a base pull of 13” and extends two inches. It allows for significant tactical maneuvers without sacrificing accuracy. Plus, ambidextrous controls make way for both left- or right-handed shooters and the potential for use if one or the other is disabled, injured or otherwise unavailable.
It has an impressive rate of fire with the SCAR-H pushing 600 rounds/minute down range and the SCAR-L sending 625 rounds/minute. Effective range is 330 yards at 2,870 FPS for the SCAR-L and 440 yards at 2,342 FPS for the SCAR-H. Recent Guns and Ammo reviews placed nearly one-inch groups at 100 yards using three different types of ammo.
The barrel is another means for adaptation with this piece. Short- or long-barrel options are available depending on whether they’re used for close-combat scenarios or snipers at long range. The 40MM grenade launcher option provides a whole other level of power and force to the SCAR combination. The below-the-barrel mount has its own trigger and can be removed and used independent of the rifle. It is feasible that a standard military grade 40MM grenade has potential to reach distances of 400-800 meters using Hellhound rounds.
Variants of the FN SCAR are available to the public in the 16S, 17S, and 20S models. The 16S is chambered in 5.56X45 and holds a 10- or 30 round magazine. It weighs in at 7.25 lbs. with a barrel length of 16.25.” The 17S is nearly identical to the 16S and similar in length with the same size barrel but a more limited magazine capacity of 10-20 rounds due to the larger 7.62X51 cartridge. The 20S has a longer, beefier, 20” barrel with a 1:12 twist rate and enough strength to allow for a silencer. Magazine capacity is limited to 10 rounds of 7.62X51. With an overall length of 40.6-42.5” it is the longer of the three. The barrel life is estimated at 7,000 rounds with a goal of reaching 15,000 rounds while maintaining a respectable group. Standard overall length with stock extended is 31-43” depending on the model.
Availability of the civilian models is limited in states subject to heavy firearm restrictions. Naturally, some elements are reserved for military use only. However, the elements of design and function remain the same. The cost is prohibitive in massive numbers and understandably should be considered when making an individual purchase versus a massive government order. The cost-benefit ratio is debatable and when compared to other SCAR competitors and the already established standard. Some special forces retirees are speaking out on the various points of failure, which may contribute to future improvements that could become the new standard.
All-in-all, the SCAR is a representation of field tested, warrior approved weaponry designed to remedy problems of the previous era of assault rifles while looking ahead at the potential challenges of modern warfare. It is less of a hodgepodge of features and more of the culmination of effective components that have been battle tested over the past 50 years. The adaptation aspect of the SCAR puts it above its counterparts. With the help of special forces and their input during the design, and moving forward, the SCAR embodies SOCOM by getting the job done with every means available.