Gun Review: FN SCAR

In the name of ‘work’, I have had the privilege of shooting the hell out of a SCAR 16S and telling you how much fun I had. Before you think ill of me, please know this: I didn’t set out to write a superlative-laden gushfest with less objectivity than a Tiger Beat biography of Taylor Lautner.  I really didn’t.

I was looking for a ‘warts-and-all’ review, maybe with a snarky title like SCAR Needs Plastic Surgery, or SOCOM Was Right To Cancel This Contract. After putting several hundred rounds through the gun, however, I just couldn’t find any warts. The SCAR did everything that was expected of it, efficiently and without fail, and it’s hard to find a snarky title that says SCAR: A Damn Nice Rifle.

 

To test the SCAR’s handling, reliability and practical accuracy, I joined a few old friends at a very secluded forest property. The weather was sunny and calm, both of which are shockingly atypical for Oregon in January. On the downside, it was only 25° F and there was four inches of snow on the ground, but I’m a Colorado mountain man (or I used to be) and I was in my native element.

Snow or no, we set up targets from 15 yards to 100 yards, including a walkthrough firing course. We brought along several other tactical carbines for comparison (which I’ll compare/review in future articles) and we shot the hell out of them. Well, all of them except one. Don’t worry, I’ll name names (we tell the truth about guns here, after all) but that will have to wait for another article.

ERGONOMICS

In my preview video, I predicted that the SCAR’s muzzle brake would be highly effective, and I was right. As you can see in the above video, Andrew shot that SCAR like he stole it. Even though he was shooting a SCAR instead of a SAW, he kept all his über-rapidfire shots on a human silhouette-sized target at 25 yards, and most of them on target at 50 yards.

He’s a former U.S. Army infantry captain, and he positively loved the SCAR’s light weight and stable firing dynamics. His only negative comment: he wished the trigger reset were shorter, so he could shoot it even faster. We can forgive him; as a former soldier he’s used to Uncle Sam giving him his ammo for free.

Whether firing from a bench and bipod or offhand and on the move, the SCAR exhibits zero muzzle climb, recoil, or torque. Muzzle blast is quite pronounced for bystanders, however, because the muzzle brake redirects much of the exhaust gasses rearward and to the sides.

By ‘quite pronounced’, I mean a good bit louder than an AR-15. Louder than a 5.45x39mm AK-74 with a muzzle device.  Louder, in fact, than a short-barreled (16”) AR-10 in 7.62 NATO with an A2 flash hider. Pretty damned loud for a .223, but not so loud that you’ll want double hearing protection. (And thus, not as loud as a Mosin-Nagant M44 carbine.)

OPTICS

We evaluated the SCAR for accuracy at short and medium ranges using the mission-appropriate (but nonmagnifying) Aimpoint Micro H1 red-dot sight.

The Aimpoint Micro H1 is an excellent choice of optic for a carbine of this type. With the adjustable cheek-rest in the fully upright and locked position, the H1 delivered quick target acquisition and immediate hits on target. The field of view though the small-aperture (20mm) Aimpoint isn’t terribly wide, but the little red dot is right where your eye looks for it, and the body of the sight is so tiny that it obstructs almost none of your peripheral vision. Especially if you shoot it with both eyes open.

The H1 isn’t cheap (list price $600 and up) but it’s guaranteed to be waterproof to 1,000 meters, shockproof to 1,000 g’s, and to have a battery life of 420,000 years at full reticule brightness. I’m just kidding (kind of) but the H1, like every Aimpoint, is nearly impossible to destroy unless you try really hard.

The H1’s red dot is advertised as subtending four minutes of arc, which is very visible but not terribly precise. Turning the brightness down seemed to reduce the apparent size of the dot, which was good for precise aiming. Turning the brightness way up (as we had to do when the sun set behind our targets in the show) made the dot seem larger and a little ‘twinkly’ to my mediocre eyes, and I don’t think this helped our accuracy results much.

Note: The test gun’s Aimpoint Micro H1 currently sits on a quick-release riser mount, which sits slightly too high for the red dot to co-witness with the SCAR’s flip-up iron sights. You can see through the iron sights and the H1 at the same time, but the iron sights sit at the very bottom of the H1’s aperture.

PRACTICAL ACCURACY

For our day of running and gunning, we shot a mix of Remington and Federal value-pack factory loads along with HSM commercial reloads. In all, we fired about 600 rounds through the SCAR, all of them brass-cased 55-grain FMJs. The SCAR fired every single round without drama or malfunction, from a motley collection of magazines. Most were 20 year-old GI magazines, and a smattering of FN, Armalite, and H&K factory magazines. Shiny, new, dirty, dented or old, the SCAR digested every magazine and every round we fed it.

From a bench, firing from sandbags or a bipod, the SCAR with the Aimpoint Micro  repeatedly produced groups from 1.5” to 2” at 50 yards. The best group was slightly under 1.25”, and two of the bullets went through the same slightly elongated hole. I believe the SCAR is capable of slightly better accuracy than these targets represent, because we were shooting cheap 55-grain ammunition under challenging visual conditions.

The SCAR’s fast 1 in 7” twist barrel is optimized to stabilize heavier bullets, with longer bearing surfaces and a higher coefficient of drag. We didn’t shoot the pricier heavyweight bullets during the practical accuracy test, since limited quantities were available. I suspect that the barrel-clamping plastic bipod (my own shooting aid) might interfere with the harmonics of the free-floated barrel. Andrew achieved slightly better accuracy from sandbags than I obtained with the bipod, and I refuse to admit (yet) that he’s just a better shot than I am.

In any event, 1.5” groups at 50 yards are perfectly acceptable accuracy for a short-barreled tactical carbine, and they represent better accuracy than most of us would be capable of in a live-fire, life-or-death situation. If I shot groups like that at a 3-gun match with my adrenaline pumping, I’d be amazed. A soldier who can shoot like that in actual combat is a stone-cold badass.

We didn’t perform any accuracy testing at longer ranges using the Aimpoint H1 red-dot sight, because shooting at such ranges without magnification is more a test of eyesight (at which I fail) than a test of gun or ammunition. We did set up a human silhouette target at 100 yards, but it was so easy to land center-mass hits on it from the offhand position that we stopped keeping track. By the end of the afternoon I counted over 100 holes in it.

Tack-driving precision, after all, is not what makes an ideal tactical carbine. One hundred percent flawless reliability is a necessary-but-not-sufficient prerequisite (duh); decent accuracy, good handling and ergonomics, and firepower make up the rest.  In all these regards, the SCAR is a damned-near perfect tactical carbine in my book.

AFTERMATH

In the aftermath of our day in the woods, I had a man’s job ahead of me as I cleaned the rifles I’d shot.  I tackled the gnarliest cleaning projects first, slogging through the filthy AK-74 (heavily fired with corrosive Soviet surplus ammo) and the also-filthy Armalite M-15 before diving into the SCAR.

As the video explains, this rifle is easier to disassemble than a LEGO TIE Fighter. When I mentioned that it took me five minutes to disassemble and clean, that included the time it took to record the previous video. Compared to the greasy, sooty nightmare of an AR-15 bolt carrier, or the foul corrosive slurry that issues from the barrel of an AK fired with corrosive ammo, the SCAR runs cleaner than the cafeteria at IKEA.

It runs so cool, and so clean, that the bolt carrier was still mostly clean and slightly oily after 600 rounds fired in the snow, and the mainspring and lower receiver were still showroom-clean and lightly lubricated. If this is the wave of the future for tactical carbines, then I’m all for it; I’m sick of rifles that come home from the range blacker than a coal miner’s lungs.

SUMMARY

Quick handling, stone-cold reliability, accuracy, and firepower; it’s all good, baby.  $2,300.00, plus optics and ammo, can make you a happy man.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO/.223 Remington
Barrel: 16.25”, 1 in 7” rifling.
Overall Length: 37” with stock fully extended, 27” with stock folded.
Weight: 7.25 lbs empty, YMMV depending on the goodies you hang off the miles of Picatinny rail.
Action: Short-stroke gas piston operated semi-automatic rifle.
Finish: Anodized alloy upper receiver, green or tan polymer lower receiver and stock, phosphated barrel.
Capacity: 10, 20, 30 round (included) box magazine; accepts standard M-16/AR-15 magazines.
Price: $2,300 and up. Way up, if you include worthy optics. If you put a cheap Chinese scope on this rifle you should be punched in the mouth.

RATINGS: (out of five)

Accuracy:  * * * *

Perfectly acceptable ‘operational’ accuracy with cheap plinking ammo, and surprising bench accuracy with a scope and heavier bullets.

Ergonomics:  * * * * *

Fast, light, and zero recoil. Ambidextrous controls are all in the right places, and if they’re not you can probably move them to the other side. The stock folds, flips, tilts and telescopes like the driver’s seat of a Lincoln Navigator. You will want a vertical foregrip; gripping Picatinny rails sucks.

Reliability: * * * * *

700 rounds fired with zero failures to feed, fire, or eject. Zero problems with magazines. Elegant, robust and clean-running design should give very long service life.

Customize This: * * * * 1/2

Several feet of Picatinny rail to adorn with anything you want. No aftermarket (yet) for butt-stocks or trigger groups, but no need for them either.

Overall Rating: * * * * *

Astonishing tactical carbine with a hefty price tag.