Here at the NRA Annual Meeting, the talk of the show is the semi-auto M249 from FNH USA. Everyone is talking about it, and three days later, the original story is still the most popular article on TTAG. Half a million people have seen it on Facebook, another 100,000 people have read the original article. And while there was some good information in that piece, some details were missing. I circled back to get the full details, and get my hands on the actual article.
First things first, the price. There’s no official word on how much this will cost — the R&D process for this specific firearm only kicked off in December, so they’ve barely made one much less figured out all the costs involved. But the hope is that the price will stay as close to what the U.S. Government pays for the real deal as possible. Wikipedia puts the unit cost of an M249 at a hair over $4,000 under contract, but my spidey sense is telling me MSRP will be $1k to $2k higher (and street price somewhere in between). Like I said they are nowhere near done quite yet with all the planning, so everything is subject to change.
The overall design of the rifle is identical in every way to the original M249, with the exception of the innards. There are some extra bits that have been welded into the receiver to keep the full-auto parts from fitting in the gun, and the moving pieces are similar in construction to the originals but re-designed to use a moving firing pin instead of the fixed firing pin of the open-bolt full auto gun. The trigger pack has also been re-designed to use a hammer instead of the usual bolt release at the end of the trigger mechanism, but the trigger itself is the exact same as the original.
In other words, everything about the look and feel of the rifle is as identical to the original as you can legally get without a demo letter or a really cool millionaire friend. The only real difference is that there will be no delay between pulling the trigger and the round going off like there is in the full-auto version. But really, is that such a bad thing?
To be fair, the design of the gun isn’t the most up-to-date version, and that’s for a reason. The latest and greatest M249 sports rail sections all over the place and the bipod no longer folds away, but FN decided to roll with a slightly older but more recognizable version of the rifle that includes the fold-away easy storage bipod and has a much slicker stock. That reduces price, makes the gun more comfortable to hold, and honestly makes it look a lot more cool.
We asked very nicely, and FN cracked the case open to let me fondle the gun. It feels… exactly like a full auto M249. From the feed tray cover (which they yelled at me when I tried to open) to the weight and balance, it is every bit an FN M249. Which makes sense, since it is made with the same parts and is 100% compatible with existing replacement barrels, accessories, and generally everything that doesn’t interact with the main operating bits.
Speaking of parts compatibility, a 300 AAC Blackout version might not be imminently available, but with the easy barrel change system (seriously it takes like 5 seconds) it should be a trivial matter to get a replacement barrel in whatever 5.56 NATO based caliber your heart desires.