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FN SCAR Review – The Most Refined Assault Rifle in the World by WILL DABBS

The FN SCAR 16S is the semiauto-only version of the SCAR-L that is available to us mere mortals. Rugged, well reasoned, and fun, the SCAR is the optimized modern combat rifle.

The HK416 that DevGru used to introduce Osama bin Laden to his seventy dark-eyed virgins was itself an evolutionary offshoot of the space age weapon that Gene Stoner and a few others conjured up way back in 1958. While its ergonomics are unparalleled and its design undeniably inspired, the basic chassis is more than half a century old. Back in 1958 a telephone was tethered to the wall, weighed as much as a frying pan, and was nearly as large. Surely this deep into the Information Age we could do better.
About every twenty minutes, somebody in the US Army posts a list of specifications that drives the flower of modern engineering prowess into an apoplectic furor of frenetic gun design. The carrot that drives all this capitalistic chaos is the prestige and subsequent vast market share that opens up to the weapons company that supplies the guns that American grunts pack downrange. In addition to the obvious monetary benefits of a fat government production contract, everybody knows that the coolest kids on the block serve with the US Special Operations Command. If Uncle Sam’s Bad Boys are humping a particular smoke pole then everybody else on the planet will want one just like it.
Most of these fishing expeditions don’t amount to much. Everybody gets tooled up for a while, but budget priorities change, somebody new moves into the White House, or we go to war someplace else and the process starts anew. Such boondoggles brought us the XM8 assault rifle as well as the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. These weapons were both undeniably awesome, but you can’t find one outside a museum nowadays. However, every now and then something truly magical happens.
Sig’s new M17 Modular Handgun System made such a splash. Uncle Sam now wants more than 400,000 copies. Additionally, everybody’s aunt out here in the civilian world is waiting in line for one as well. A proper government arms contract can put a company firmly on the map. With this as an impetus in 2004, Fabrique Nationale rejoiced when their newest rifle system was selected as the new Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle.

SCAR—The World’s Coolest Acronym (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle)

It was decided soon after the turn of the century that our boys and girls in SOCOM needed something spiffier than a fifty-year-old M16 variant. They go places and do things that others don’t, so their requirements might be a bit more stringent than is the case for the rest of us mere mortals. After a competitive comparison wherein the baddest operators in the business did their dead level best to tear up everybody’s newest toys the FN offering reigned supreme. The end result was indeed a spanking piece of iron.

The SCAR-L saw some active service before Uncle Sam changed his mind and pulled it from the inventory. Here we see the SCAR-L in the hands of USAF Captain Barry Crawford, winner of the Air Force Cross for gallantry in combat in Afghanistan.

Modularity is the new gospel in modern firepower, and the FN SCAR just drips with it. The upper receiver starts out as an extruded bit of aluminum, while the polymer lower contains the fire control system and secures the magazine. There are two major subtypes. The SCAR-Light (SCAR-L) runs 5.56x45mm. The SCAR-Heavy (SCAR-H) chambers 7.62x51mm. There were rumors of conversions allowing these guns to fire 7.62x39mm and 6.8x43mm Remington, but these variants never really made it to prime time. The SCAR-H can also be fitted with a conversion kit allowing it to run smaller 5.56x45mm rounds. The SCAR-L cannot be scaled up, however.
Both versions run off of a gas tappet design similar to that of the M1 Carbine. This particular method of operation keeps all the crud up front in the weapon so the operating parts stay clean and cool. The bolt carrier is a fairly massive piece of kit, so the rifle has plenty of spare energy to keep the action running when it gets dirty. The barrels are chrome-lined, free-floated, and easily exchanged. This allows a single chassis to be used for long-range engagements, mid-range assault rifle chores, and close-range CQB missions. There’s that modularity again.
Starting at the nose, the SCAR uses a proprietary muzzle brake/flash suppressor that looks like a Jackson Pollack painting but remains undeniably effective. The gas system of the SCAR is easily adjustable without tools. Top quality backup iron sights fold when not needed yet deploy quickly for use when life goes truly sideways. The front sight is adjustable for zero, while the rear sight readily compensates for bullet drop. The gun sprouts enough Picatinny rail space to mount a tactical crockpot along with a modest pinball machine.

The front backup iron sight is robust steel and folds down when not in use. The SCAR’s gas system is easily adjustable without tools.

The charging handle is rigid and reciprocates with the action so it can be used as a forward assist device if needed. This appendage is easily reversible at the user level, but one needs to mind one’s fingers lest they get pinched when rushed. The magazine release is in the expected place on both sides of the rifle, while the bolt release runs exactly like that of an M4. You can drop the bolt just as easily by giving the charging handle a quick snatch to the rear.

The rigid charging handle reciprocates with the bolt and can be used as a forward assist if necessary.

The safety/selector is bilateral and in the same spot as that of the M4. However, it only rotates through maybe 80 degrees. In this regard, it more closely resembles that of an HK G36. The SCAR-L is designed to feed from any NATO-standard 5.56mm magazine. The SCAR-H uses proprietary FN magazines.

The FN SCAR’s controls will seem familiar to anyone who has run an M4.

The real magic happens with the rear end of the rifle. The stock on the SCAR is as adjustable as your favorite recliner. Once you get it tweaked the gun fits you like your most beloved pair of broken-in boxer shorts. In addition to a readily adjustable length of pull and comb height, the whole shebang pivots to the right for storage if need be. The rifle will still shoot fine with the stock folded, but nobody in his right mind would run it that way for real. By my count, there are six different sling attachment points. If you can’t find a handy place to hook a sling you are being too picky.

The SCAR’s buttstock adjusts all over the place to ideally interface with the gun’s operator. It also folds to the right for storage or transport.

The side-folding stock on the FN SCAR readily adjusts for both comb height and length of pull without tools.

Tactical Glass

I topped my SCAR with a new EOTech EXPS2 Holosight sporting a green reticle in concert with a flip-up magnifier. These two items are hardly cheap, but the last thing Osama bin Laden saw as he embarked for his well-earned eternal reward was the angry end of a Holosight. I can think of no higher accolade.

The newest EOTech EXPS2 Green Holosight takes the world’s best gun sight to a new level of performance. While it is hardly cheap, the end result is easy target acquisition and fast engagement times.

The perception of color is a billion dollar industry. The good ladies in my medical clinic will order blue t-shirts calling them periwinkle and pink ones titled mauve. Out here in guy-world where I live such things are much simpler. Blue is just blue, while pink is simply pink. However, our eyes do typically get a lot more mileage out of green than red.
Take laser sights as an example. Both green and red laser sights may put out the same 500mw of power, yet the green sort is perceived as being much brighter. Green dots seem to throw much farther than red. In the case of the newest Holosight, the same cool laser-born holographic reticle seems to magically hover out over your target, but the green reticle is six times easier to see in daylight than is the red sort.
I have more than half a century on my eyes so I suffer from the inevitable age-related Presbyopia. This means I can see fine at a distance but need reading glasses up close. However, that weird Holosight reticle projected onto a little pane of indestructible glass two inches from my eyeball remains crystal clear just like my distant target. I have no idea how it works. Fairy dust maybe.

Trigger Time

A tricked-out SCAR is an absolute dream on the range. The controls are all easily accessible, and once properly adjusted the buttstock fits me like a second skin. Recoil is a joke, and the gun stays flat and true at reasonable assault rifle ranges. The reciprocating charging handle takes a little getting used to, but it’s not a chore. Care must be exercised, however, not to pinch your fingers between the charging handle and the Holosight.
The gun is bulkier than your M4 though no heavier. The safety doesn’t seem quite so easy to re-engage, but I’ve been running an M16 since I was seventeen. Some things are tough to unlearn.
They say a direct gas impingement AR is more accurate, but that’s nuance at best. The SCAR shoots great as far as my eyes will allow. Anybody who splits those hairs is just a snob.
Particularly with a can in place the gun is pleasantly front-heavy. This means doubles are fast and easy. Muzzle rise on semi auto with the SCAR is not a real thing. After a proper afternoon turning ammo into noise I find I must agree with SOCOM. The SCAR is the ultimate shooting machine.

The Rest of the Story…

After a great deal of fanfare, USSOCOM bought enough SCAR-L rifles to outfit a Ranger Battalion and then sent them downrange with their best wishes. By all accounts the weapons performed admirably, but, like a dog chasing a squirrel, Uncle Sam got distracted, ran out of money, and called the whole thing off. By 2013 all those lovely SCAR-L rifles had been pulled out of inventory and likely, knowing the government, ended up chopped up into beer cans or something comparably ignoble.

Though the SCAR-L fell prey to budgetary woes, it is nonetheless a superb and mature special ops small arms solution.

The SCAR-H still soldiers on with alacrity albeit in markedly smaller numbers. A conversion kit indeed allows this rifle to run 5.56 ammo if desired, and the SCAR-H occupies the Designated Marksman Rifle role that had been filled by antiquated though updated M14 variants previously. Internet chatter claims that the Navy SEALs are still particularly fond of the gun. That is likely true. However, the Internet also tells me that Caitlyn Jenner is carrying the Loch Ness Monster’s baby and that the moon landings were faked on a soundstage in New Mexico. One mustn’t believe everything one reads.

The Navy SEALs are said to be quite fond of the SCAR-H rifles. The SCAR-H is a modular weapon that can be configured to fire either 5.56x45mm or 7.62x51mm rounds.

FN is quick to point out that the SCAR got binned for budgetary reasons and not something more sinister. Nobody disputes that the SCAR is a better rifle than the M4. It is simply that Uncle Sam discovered more pressing places to spend our hard-earned cash. After a little trigger time on mine, I find myself quite taken with the gun as well.


The FN SCAR 16S is the semiauto civilian version of the SCAR-L. It’s an undeniably great rifle that is pretty crazy expensive. If you are in possession of a robust credit card you can usually find a couple right here at GunsAmerica. I bought mine at a good price at a Sheriff’s auction of seized guns, of all places. The rifle is in fine condition, but I am intrigued by the story. How someone on the wrong side of the law ended up with such a rarefied combat rifle is thought provoking to say the least.
The SCAR rode its SOCOM cred to be adopted by twenty-seven different countries as well as LAPD SWAT. Belgium adopted the SCAR as their standard Infantry arm. Though our snake-eaters took a step back to their old M4 carbines I suspect we will still see more of the SCAR in the future. The FN SCAR really is tomorrow’s high-end combat rifle.

Though the SCAR-L was pulled from the SOCOM inventory, some twenty-seven different nations adopted the weapon in one form or another.

To learn more about the FN SCAR visit FN America by clicking here.
To learn more about EOTech click here.

Technical Specifications

Caliber                           5.56x45mm
Operation                       Short-stroke Gas Piston
Magazine Capacity          10/30
Weight                           7.25 pounds
Barrel Length                  16.25 inches
Overall Length                27.5 inches folded/37.5 inches extended
Barrel                             Hammer-forged, Chrome-lined, Free-floated
MSRP                            $3299
Performance Specifications
Load                               Group Size (inches)        Velocity (feet per second)
American Eagle 55gr FMJ                 2.1                        2969
American Eagle 50gr JHP                  1.9                        3194
HSM 55gr Sierra Blitzking                0.8                        2976
SIG 60gr HT                                     1.5                        2605
Group size is the best four of five shots measured center to center and fired from a simple rest at 100 meters. Velocity is the average of three shots fired across a Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph oriented ten feet from the muzzle.

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