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Dan posted an article yesterday about FN’s Military Collector series and the comments weren’t exactly positive. The internet was all a-flutter when FN announced that their M249 would be available in a semi-auto version for civilian purchase, but the $8,000 price tag seems to have proven too much for some people to handle. Here’s the thing: FN already has a line of FN-15 rifles marketed toward the general consumer. They’re priced competitively with other similar guns. The Collector Series is for a different buyer. It’s a smart move on FN’s part. Here’s why . . .

A few days ago a reporter from The Trace called me to ask a couple of questions about bumpfire stocks. They saw that I’d reviewed one. Rather than soil their hands by actually touching such a firearm they apparently figured it would be more expedient to get my opinion. I cooperated (as part of a long-term scheme to turn them away from the dark side of the force) and told them exactly what I wrote in the review: it’s a gimmick. Things like the SlideFire and Bumpfire stocks are only truly useful as range toys, and even then they’re only fun for a few magazines.

But they sell.

The concept the guys from The Trace were trying to wrap their heads around is the exploding accessory market for the AR-15 rifle. Apparently in their world view firearms owners buy guns fully formed and never change a thing, content to have it look the same way it came from the factory. It makes sense if your only consumer experience is with Apple computers where individuality is a mortal sin and changing anything on the device is impossible, but guns are a whole different beast.

What they couldn’t understand: people might actually want something different. Something unique. Everyone in the free world owns a Bushmaster AR-15 or some equivalent model — a standard gun in a standard configuration that looks just like every other gun. In the post-Newtown buying craze looks weren’t important so long as you got a gun before they were banned and getting the same gun as your neighbor was OK. But when those new gun owners started heading to the range and realized that they owned just another black rifle, they started to feel the need to personalize their guns.

That’s where the Bumpfire stocks and other AR-15 accessories come in. They’re a way of customizing an otherwise generic firearm to make it more fun, more useful and stand out on the range. And that’s the market where the FN Military Collector series lives.

Unless you become filthy rich there’s very little chance you’ll have the resources to own a real live full-auto M249 SAW. Pre-ban samples are as rare as hen’s teeth ($94,000 was the lowest price I saw for a 10-year-old listing). Post-ban samples require a ton of paperwork and more money that the average American doesn’t want to spend. The semi-auto M249 offers a compromise: less than 10 percent of the cost of the real thing with only one percent of the aggravation. Pay the freight and you have something unique on the firing line of your local rifle range.

This is the same market that supports Desert Eagle handguns, the one which sees reproduction Thompson SMGs moving through the supply chain at a reasonable pace. The same group of people who buy those 10/22s that have been jazzed up to look like something different. Some people will pay a premium to be “that guy” at the gun club. The one with the coolest gun. The dude who has an M249 on his mantle. There are people willing to part with large stacks of cash for that experience, and FN is giving them exactly what they want.

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FN’s Collector line also appeals to military collectors. In the same way some Porsche collectors obsess about whether your radiator cap is an original, some military collectors look down on you with pity if your Trijicon optic isn’t inscribed with a bible verse. For these collectors an actual M16A4 is out of the question, but a firearm made in the same factory on the same tools with the exact same look and feel (minus one trigger hole) is pretty damn close. Close enough for government work, you might say.

That’s the market for these rifles. Your average Joe isn’t going to run out and buy one of FN’s M4 rifles as his first gun. But it might be something he buys because he was in the military and wants to re-live his service. For collectors, paying $1,700-ish for an as-issued M16 is practically a steal.

Making runs of “as issued” military firearms is nothing new. SIG SAUER has walked this same path with their Mk25 P226 and they’ve seen considerable success. Likewise, FN has decided to make a firearm available to the public for the very first time that’s never been available in a semi-auto version. Yes, they’ll cost a pretty penny, but as one of my friends always says “the loudest boos come from the cheapest seats.”

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54 Responses to Why FN’s Collector Series Makes Sense

  1. Wait, some journalist doesn’t understand a free market system in action? Stop the presses. Color me shocked he didn’t see the point of “because I can economics”.

  2. WHO CARES IF IT MAKES SENSE ? ? ? ! ! !

    Look how happy Nick looks holding the darn thing. : )

    Like GOD says to X-Gamer’s who wipe out spectacularly. . .”That’s precious, you get to play again.”

    Awesome, I am a 240G man myself, but enough people buy these, maybe they’ll make the 249S’s cheaper and then they’ll do some 240(S)s, and then a cheap M2(S) . . . ; )

  3. Summed up my thoughts. An M249 at any price point really isn’t a “practical” purchase (unless it is full auto). The only people that it would appeal to would be those that spend large sums of money for status pieces, not for something to defend their homes with, or take a training course with. They would be those 2nd type of cool guns that are more like a refurbished car from the 40’s. It isn’t cost efficient, energy efficient, or does anything better than anything else on the market other than look cool but people eat that up and it is their money so they can do what they want with it. If I had millions, It might be on the list. I don’t, so its not.

    • If I had millions of dollars I would FN-straw-purchase you one man. OR, errr, um provide you a specified gift card to purchase and pick one up at your local FFL post NICS check ; P

      Just to see you eat crow.
      . . . and cry like a little girl… : )

    • I think the retro look would probably sell, slick sided receiver with the triangle handguards and O.G. 3 prong would be cool. If only a giggle switch…

  4. While your argument for the semi-auto M249 makes sense, that argument for the FN-15 collector guns isn’t as sound. For those, you could buy an off the shelf FN-15 and add those same accessories to get a gun from the same manufacture with the same features that the military uses but for a couple hundred dollars less. Is having that UID tag glued to the magwell instead of having the FN logo really worth an extra $200? Lowering the MSRP to $1,500 would allow FN to get enough sales that they could easily offset making less profit per gun and then some.

    • This is the “built not bought” mentality that is great for some and less desirable for those who have dollars and no sense.

  5. Let them have their fun. Not everything I own is a tool, or even practical in the real world. But it’s all fun.

    I’ll never spend that kind of money on a semi auto clone of a belt fed automatic, but I won’t hate the people who have that kind of money and want it for fun.

  6. Good observation. It’s the same as people who kit out their cars and obsess over the minute details. My previous car was a 1998 Mercedes-Benz E320 (W210 for those who know…) I got secondhand. It was in decent enough shape when I got it, but I took it upon myself to get it back to original Böblingen spec.

    Why? Because I could.

    ChiCom knock-off components never saw the exterior or interior of my car. The US-spec engine controller? Gone and replaced for the as-it-should-be Euro version. The Nexen tires – gone and replaced with OEM Contis. The fogged-up and corroded headlight lenses? Gone and replaced with OEM Hella components which technically rendered my car non-street-legal. Well, the engine controller did that anyways but I live in a state where there’s not much in the way of vehicle inspections…

    I even went as far as replacing the US front bumper impact strip with a color-matched European version. It had the slot for the Euro plate, and lacked the brackets for the DOT-mandated ugly yellow side markers. I was going to swap the trunk for the Euro-version trunk with the wider indentation for the wider number plate (for occasional ‘ha ha’ use) but at that point the car was experiencing component failures (drivetrain was still solid) that were exceeding my budget. However, that lovable secondhand sedan went to a third owner as a pretty-damn-close-to-European-version W210. I just hope the new owner never moves to a state that checks emissions and safety features.

    My guns? I really don’t go for OEM since I know OEM usually is not the best thing to do. A mil-spec trigger isn’t desired, for example, in the AR platform. And you really can’t do OEM when the rifle itself is made from 10 different manufacturers’ components. Or how a GLOCK as-is isn’t necessarily the best for everyone…trigger jobs, etc…

    My gun interest isn’t necessarily about OEM, it’s about making the gun that’s best for me.

    However, if I did have money to burn, I’d buy one of these FN collector items.

  7. Yes, they’ll cost a pretty penny, but as one of my friends always says “the loudest boos come from the cheapest seats.”

    They are welcome to spend 8 grand if they want to. I won’t boo them, but for 8 grand I can have built a one of a kind custom rifle that no one else has.

  8. If I recall correctly, there are seven transferable M249s on the books in the US. One was listed on gunbroker several years ago for something like $120k, but I don’t think it was sold. Post samples aren’t really an option without the 07 FFL, 02 SOT, and a law enforcement letter.

  9. I got bored and built an M4gery and M16A4 clone(tribute?). The M4gery is really light and fun to shoot. It looks just like my issued M4A1 rifle but 2 inches longer. The M16A4 clone I have yet to take to the range. The M4gery gets looks, maybe because people are trying to determine if I just brought my actual M4 to the range. So, I can see the draw of these rifles.

      • Yes it did, but apparently nick is a FN fanboy, or is it a Sig fanboy. No no its a glock fanboy. Some people are never happy. Nick is probably the beat writer on staff but people hate it if he praises a gun.

        • I’ve given Nick crap for his Sig love, but I think he has been very fair when he writes about FN. This still doesn’t change the fact that I would never be able to afford one, and if I could afford it I wouldn’t want one.

  10. “The semi-auto M249 offers a compromise: less than 10 percent of the cost of the real thing with only one percent of the aggravation.”

    Give me a break, you don’t count aftermarket markup when comparing prices. A brand New M249 from FN for those who can buy it is a hair over 4K, that is the price it should be compared to. I am not paying 10K for a semi auto MP5/AK/AR15/anything else because the full auto ones are 30K, now am I? That argument is complete bunk.

    With your logic a SCAR 16/17S should cost 10-15K because the FA version is virtually impossible to get as a civilian at any price. Or that it’s okay to pay 180K for an Audi A4 because you can’t get an RS4 in the US. Just because you can’t get the better one, isn’t a valid reason to vastly overpay for the worse one.

  11. You spend a whole article talking about bump fire stocks and semi auto m-249’s but never connect the dots. Am I interested in an $8,000 semi auto, nope. Would I be tempted if it had a bump fire stock…that is a different question.

  12. Your Apple comment was biased and didn’t move your point. Gamers scratch build their PCs but many just go real easy and buy an XBox or PS. Most PC users buy a machine from a big box store or configured by Dell etc. and leave it stock. I have a tricked out Mac loaded with drives memory and extra cards. Yes fewer Macs are user configurable but buy one tricked and its performance and price equal the best PCs. While this has to be qualified: PCs fully tricked are superior game machines they can be very functional for the arts, graphic design and music production. That fully tricked PC is okay for arts, graphic design and music, while the Mac excels.

    I think that’s a balanced take. I have been though the caliber wars, and the Chev vs Mopar vs Ford wars to steer clear of this old pi&&ing contest. 🙂
    “Certs. You’re both right.” 🙂

  13. I would love to have my old C-7A1, especially if I could have that ELCAN sight. Even a semi-only version would be alright.

      • DIEMACO RIFLES & CARBINES – 2015

        30th Anniversary Limited Edition!

        Colt Canada is pleased to introduce our first commercial rifles to the Canadian shooting community. We have re-introduced the iconic Diemaco™ brand with two commercial rifles similar to the C7A2 and C8A3 rifles in service with the Canadian Armed Forces. The initial 30th Anniversary LIMITED EDITION models will be called the SA20 and the SA15.7. Further models and MILSPEC components are planned for release this year.

        The Diemaco rifles will be built at the Colt Canada facilities in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada to the same exacting standards of quality as our military and police products. These rifles will bring MILSPEC quality and safety to Canadian shooters along with the Maple Leaf and Diemaco proof mark that are recognized around the world. These rifles bring world class hammer forged barrels and over fifty years of Colt and Colt Canada experience to Canadian sport shooters for the first time in thirty years.

        Colt Canada is a proud member of the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association, the Canadian Shooting Sports Association and the National Firearms Association. We look forward to seeing the Diemaco D and our Maple Leaf on ranges across Canada.

        http://www.coltcanada.com/diemaco-products.html

        • Need to get it back to C7A1 by putting on an M16A2 stock.

          Oh, and also need to move to a state where such a thing is allowed. Assuming it’s going to be imported to the US all. Kind of ironic that my buddies still up in Canada have access to more and better modern rifles than I do. Thanks Gov Malloy.

  14. I have been excited about the M249S since it was announced, and looked every few days to see if it had been released. I figured the price would be in the high $3K range, and I could handle that with zero impact by selling off surplus firearms (duplicates and things I haven’t used in years). But $8K is out of the question. If that puts me in the cheap seats then so be it. I didn’t get where I am today by pissing money away on safe queens.

    Historically there have been a number of firearms that just screamed collectable, and the M249S is one of them. But are they a good investment? Probably not. The HK-91 that I bought for $399.95 in 1984 and sold for $4452.01 in December of 2011 represents a rather astonishing 1113% increase in valuation, but it took 27 years, some unusual circumstances, and plain dumb luck to get to that point. Net increase on investment: 41% per year. So it can be done, just don’t count on it.

    If I could go back in time and squirrel some E-Types ($5900.00), Ferrari GTOs ($18,000.00) and 275 GTBs ($11250.00), and Mercedes 300SLs ($7295.00) away, and then zip forward to today I’d be a very rich man in about 3.75 seconds. Hindsight is a bitch!

    Charlie

  15. For those wanting the 249 clone with a bumpfire stock, I would fathom if you’re willing to spend $8K on a semi-auto rifle, you could probably spend some time and money fashioning a bumpfire stock for the rifle.

    Though if this thing moves more than a few units, I’m guessing Bumpfire Systems and/or Slidefire will fashion a stock for it.

    As a matter of fact, I’m sure one of them will, anyways.

  16. Ok, so many places to go. Let’s see if can keep my thoughts collected…

    First off, as a Gun Enthusiast who likes seeing variety, I like seeing that FNH is doing something different. That being said, I believe they’re making the same mistakes with the M249S that they’ve been making with the SCAR series, namely, they’re putting something new out on the market at a ridiculous price, and offering zero support for it. Will the aftermarket come around and offer new stocks, barrels, caliber conversions, handguards, etc? Possibly, but what are the odds that they’ll be made on a scale that makes them affordable? Not bloody likely. So my guess is they’ll make a small batch each year, just enough to justify selling them, but not enough to turn a real profit, and the only people who will buy them will be folks with more money than the average person who already has a safe full of “boring” regular rifles and is looking to shake stuff up.

    As for the AR’s… That was a stupid decision on FN’s part, to be honest. If FN had come out with a “military collectible” AR back in 2004, right at the end of the AWB when the AR parts market was just winding up, the economy didn’t suck, and everyone was still riding a wave of “patriotic” war fever, then yeah, they would’ve sold enough to make a mint. But it’s 2015 now, and everyone who is, was, or wishes they were in the military who wanted an AR probably has several of them by now. Most vets I know who have or want an AR go and put together what they WISH they had, not the bone stock garbage we were issued. *NO ONE* is buying complete AT rifles anymore, unless they offer something that you can’t get in a home assembly (all the proprietary piston designs and War Sport’s LVOA are perfect examples). If FN had thought about it, just selling stripped lowers with the FN rollmark and UID code would’ve been the smart route. Want a clone of your issued rifle, for whatever reason? Put it together. Want your “ideal rifle” that you wish you’d deployed with? Assemble it yourself. When the market is excessively saturated with a particular model, and a drunken monkey can slap together their ideal version of that model from individually sourced parts in an afternoon, there isn’t much of a market for boring, rack grade, mil-spec. I think, as far as the FN-15 goes, they’d have been much better served using that tooling, manpower, and money bringing back the FAL and FNC, or making more SCARs to drive prices down, or rounding out their pistol lines, or even just putting new accessories and components for their existing designs out there.

    Now, as a veteran myself, I find the idea of cashing in on “war nostalgia” a bit disheartening on FN’s part. As my favorite company, and one I highly respect, I expect quality and innovation in the development of exciting NEW products, not recycling the same boring crap AR with a marketing gimmick to make a buck off the military affiliation. I expected better of FN, and I’m a bit disappointed.

    • Excellent viewpoint. The AR market is saturated. Will I pick up another? Sure. I’m eyeballing a true rifle-length build as my next project.

      However, it’s still another 5.56 rifle, albeit with a longer barrel.

      I’ll probably get a Yugo AK or WASR AK before it. Or maybe not.

      • I had an EGR AK underfolder courtesy of Vector Arms. I don’t like to be a wet blanket, but its accuracy was disappointing, and good optics were not in the picture at all.

  17. Making runs of “as issued” military firearms is nothing new. SIG SAUER has walked this same path with their Mk25 P226 and they’ve seen considerable success.”

    — not a belt-fed machine gun; apples and oranges

    “Likewise, FN has decided to make a firearm available to the public for the very first time that’s never been available in a semi-auto version.”

    — there’s a reason for that

    “Yes, they’ll cost a pretty penny, but as one of my friends always says “the loudest boos come from the cheapest seats.”

    — whether you’ve got $8 in savings or $8T, it’s a hard sell. But maybe it’s cause I’m from a mil background. I don’t want a neutered MG, especially for 8 grand.

  18. I certainly won’t complain about it. Will I buy one? Absolutely not!
    But more choices, even silly overpriced semi auto belt feds, is always a good thing.

  19. Your exposition about how AR-15 owners always customize their guns defeats your argument about the need for an M16-A2 or an M4 clone. First of all, the military isn’t running their rifles in stock configuration these days, so who are they emulating? Second, there are plenty of plain jane AR rifles on the market without the ridiculous collector label or price point. Third, you can buy the correct stock and hand guards on the aftermarket and turn any AR into a clone of any issued rifle you want. Hardcore AR aficionados love building their own rifles, so the type of person who would want one of these rifles is likely to just build it. That just leaves the type of person who pays a premium for an H&K rifle because it’s an H&K. Does FN have fans like that? I don’t know.

    As for the SAW, how many average joes can really afford to drop $8k on a gun, or even want to? That’s English double rifle territory. That’s Barret M-82 territory. That’s 4 times as much as a SCAR-17 or an M14 clone with a forged receiver. And for what? A gun that will spend most of its life as a safe queen or a mantle piece. I doubt you’ll see these SAW clones at 3 gun matches, and they can’t be used for any other type of competition. Sure, your buddies will be goggle-eyed, until you admit that it’s semi auto only. If you have $8k of disposable income to buy guns with, you probably have enough to get an actual Class III firearm. Maybe not a real SAW, but a beat up full auto AK-47 will still be more fun than a semi auto SAW clone.

  20. I mentioned it in the other thread and I will mention it again I can’t believe no one has mentioned this already since this is FN and they have a collector series why don’t they bring back the friggin’ FAL!!!

    Everyone and their mother builds AR’s they are not collectible at all; the market is oversaturated with them. On the flipside only one company builds new FAL’s, DSA. They hold a virtual monopoly on it. If FN came back into the fold with FAL’s they would sell like crazy considering they are still quite popular to gun owners especially with FN rollmarks on it

    They should also bring back the FNC, FN marked Hi-Power’s, and other classic FN firearms that us gun owners want more than a semi-auto belt-fed clone of a 5.56 MG that wasn’t really popular in the service anyway. To each their own but bringing back the FAL makes more sense than the SAW.

    • FN could do far worse than bringing back a FN-made commercial Mauser 98 action rifle. FN made some very nice Mauser-actioned rifles – very nice rifles. High quality oozing from the pores of the wood.

      For some reason, FN appears to be wanting to duplicate Colt’s path. They’re starting to ignore the sporting line of guns and they’re obsessing over the tacti-kewl market’s desire to ape military hardware and then chasing government contracts.

      When I buy guns, I’m almost never, ever going to pay extra for a clone of a lowest-bidder government stocked item. I might pay for a rare instance of a government-purchased item (eg, the original .45 ACP Lugers were requested by the US Army, never used, and are now worth huge money), but never for a copy of that item. And that’s what we have here – copies of the originals the government purchased.

  21. “The dude who has an M249 on his mantle.” Except that he won’t have an M249 on his mantle. He will have a hollow shell of an M249. Maybe some of the plastic model companies should get into this. If people will pay $8000 for a neutered shell of an M249, maybe there are people who will pay a couple hundred for an actual M249 shaped plastic shell.

  22. Here’s why I don’t view these as “collector” guns. There’s no limit on how many FN will make. They reserve the right to make as many as they want, if these turn out to be profitable.

    Would I spend $8K on a gun? Sure. I’m much more inclined to drop $2 to $8K on a gun where I know I’m buying a make/model of which there will be no more, eg, a Parker DHE shotgun. The 12’s are worth substantially less than the 28 gauge guns – because so few small-gauge guns were made relative to 12’s and 16’s. Why are the Parker Invincible shotguns worth $1 million+ each? Because there are a) only three of them, and b) there will never be any more of them made. Imitated, maybe, but the Parker Bros. company is gone – and the marque is owned by Remington, who will, we can be sure, drive it far into the ground with their epic Wall Street incompetence and greed.

    Look at the 1911 market. Original Colt commercial market 1911’s are worth money. GI 1911’s? They’re all over the place – some are worth more than others. What about reproduction GI 1911’s? Pfah. There’s plenty of modern reproductions of GI 1911’s. They’ll never be worth much – because there’s so many available from so many sources.

    But a Singer 1911? Ah, now we’re talking. There were only 500 made. A Singer 1911 in excellent condition is worth 10’s of thousands of dollars today.

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