FNH SCAR 16S: The State of the Art in Combat Rifles?

From FNH USA comes their SCAR 16S, the civilian version of the U.S. Special Operations Command's latest service rifle. This rifle has a service life of 90,000 rounds, with a barrel life of 20,000 rounds. It has a 16.25 inch barrel and uses the M16 type magazines. The chrome-lined, free-floating hammer forged barrel is 1:7 rate of twist, allowing the accurate use of heavier, barrier insensitive projectiles than the older, slower twist rate barrels can stabilize. This is essentially the same barrel as used on FNH's belt-fed machine guns such as the M249.

The 223 / 5.56 x 45 NATO SCAR is ambidextrous, featuring a rotating safety on both sides and a magazine release on both sides. Even the charging handle is reversible for left-handed use. The SCAR 16S features an 82% parts commonality with its bigger brother, the SCAR 17S which is .308 / 7.62 x 51 NATO, a SOCOM requirement.

Ambidextrous, bristling with adjustments, the FNH SCAR screams "easy and fast to deploy" regardless of the operator's preferences.

The buttstock of the SCAR 16 is both adjustable for length and folding. The rifle can be fired from the stock-folded position. It comes with flip up iron sights, with the top of the gun having a full-length MIL-STD 1913 integrated rail for mounting optics of your choice. In addition to the top rail, there are three MIL-STD 1913 accessory rails for mounting lights, lasers, and so forth. The comb height is adjustable as well, flipping up to give better eye alignment to optics.

The basic specs of the SCAR-L are:

Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO/223 Remington
Twist Rate: 1 in 7"
Barrel Length: 16.25"
Overall Length: 27.5” to 37.5”
Weight: 7.25 lbs. empty
Ammunition Capacity: 10- or 30-round detachable box magazine

This is the rifle that the Army itself said it wanted, finding that the FN SCAR was 3.85 times more reliable than the M4. To be direct, this rifle makes the hoary AR / M16 / M4 platform look embarrassingly sad. It is so far superior to the M4, it makes me angry. I'm forced to wonder with the trillions of dollars the United States throws at elective wars along with the world's largest and most expensive prison system why we can't just can't be bothered to give our troops the best equipment possible? It is unconscionable.

When in amazingly compact folded position, the SCAR remains completely functional.

The SCAR is a superb achievement, a massive improvement from the M4. I couldn't help but notice how thoroughly adjustable and ambidextrous this rifle is. The charging handle of the bolt can be switched to either side, the safety is ambidextrous, as is the magazine release. The buttstock folds quickly with the rifle fully operational in this condition. As you might expect with a short-barreled, gas operated, bird-cage suppressed .223, recoil is almost non-existent. The short-stroke piston is a big improvement over the antiquated direct impingement system of the ancient AR series.

The SCAR is bristling with MIL-STD 1913 accessory rails, one integral with the receiver and three more at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock on the forearm. The amount of accessories that can be attached without hassle is limited by the imagination. You will want a different grip on the forearm, to be sure, as the rails heat up quickly. Not the place for bare hands with heavy use.

As good as the SCAR platform is, the .223 / 5.56 x 45 remains a weak cartridge, despite the 1:7 rate of twist now used for heavier, more barrier insensitive projectiles. The rifle does a lot to improve things, but the 6.8 SPC is a far more substantial cartridge. This has been established for a whopping 65 years by now. The British, in 1945, following the “Ideal Cartridge Panel” decided that the .270 and the 276 cartridges were just that, ideal, offering good control under automatic fire, more comfort to the shooter, and less muzzle blast. Ironically, it was the United States that rejected the notion with the stance that no cartridge under .30 caliber be adopted. As we sadly know, the 5.56 mousegun was introduced after successful killing watermelons, markedly weak compared to the cartridges championed by the British in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Now, I certainly did not attempt to replicate SOCOM testing, but the example SCAR has vastly improved ergonomics, handling, and controls compared to the AR15. The 90,000 round service life of the SCAR, its easy maintenance, and its parts commonality with the SCAR-H .308 is where the economy of scale appears to pay off. Our decisionally challenged military (and administration) can't seem to get much done in this regard. So while the SCAR is so obviously, so clearly, a better piece for our troops than what they have been long saddled with, the inaction and massive failures of our dysfunctional military system of equipping our troops with the best gear possible seems like the never-ending story. We've had the failure of the ACR morphing into the failure of the OICW program.

The SCAR is here now, it is a superbly reliable, easy to use, versatile platform the gives our military what they have claimed they have always wanted. The question remains if there is any leadership out there that is willing to give the slogan “Support Our Troops” more than lip service. So, far, we just have not right by our troops on many, many levels. We ask a lot of them, we ask the ultimate, but we do not nearly give them enough in return: during our after their service.

The SCAR platform is an outstanding one. It remains to be seen if we think enough of our troops to properly equip them with both SCAR rifles and more effective 6.8 mm ammunition. FNH has created a superb rifle, one that easily obsoletes the creaky AR-15 genre and should be congratulated for it. The SCAR is a outstandingly good, superior field platform with no question. Our troops deserve both it and better chamberings and it can't be too soon.


Copyright 2010 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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