FN-USA has re-released last year’s SCAR 20S in 6.5 Creedmoor, and it’s perfect.
The new SCAR 20S is the same gun, with the same trigger, stock, upper, lower, rails, finish, everything as the gun they released last year, just in a different chambering with a different barrel assembly. It’s the exact same gun, just in the caliber more recently chosen by US Special Operations Command.
Lots of folks first thought that the 20S was just a 20-inch SCAR 17 with a different stock. That’s not quite right, as there some obvious differences in the beefed up upper receiver.
Even beyond that, the barrel extension on the 20S is longer, as is the receiver tenon. That change was made in order to support the longer, heavier barrel and provide more rigidity for increased precision.
The SCAR 20S in 6.5 Creedmoor also shares this six-screw long barrel extension and receiver tenon with the previous 20S.
The barrel is the same manufacture as the 7.62 NATO version; chrome lined, hammer forged, just as before. Obviously the twist rate is different, this one at 1:8″.
Other than caliber, there are only a couple of changes to the barrel.
Most obviously, there’s the barrel contour. The 7.62 version of the 20S had a stepped down profile common on military rifles. The FN representative I spoke with said that this profile was a direct request of the military. Civilians buying the 20S in 7.62 are getting exactly the same thing the military asked for.
The 6.5 Creedmoor version, however, has no step, and is a heavy barrel contour all the way down.
Twenty inches away from the closed bolt face is the Surefire Pro Comp muzzle brake. That was a smart choice by FN. First, the Pro Comp is a good brake. Especially on the lighter recoiling caliber, it is very effective at keeping the muzzle down for fast shots far away. And fast shots far away is exactly what this rifle was built for.
It’s a good enough brake to keep, but also isn’t too precious that those of us who will immediately yank it and replace it with a suppressor will feel like we’ve waisted money tossing a pricey brake in a drawer, with all the others.
Late this last year, the folks at FN-USA reached out to TTAG to see if anyone wanted to join a few shooters and writers at the JL Bar Ranch to shoot the SCAR 20S in a new mystery caliber.
There was no mystery. SOCOM was already shooting the Mk20 and had already announced the switch to 6.5 Creedmoor. FN had already announced the release of the Mk48 Mod 2 machine gun in 6.5 Creedmoor.
The SCAR 20S in 7.62×51 was already selling out, and the SCAR 20S in 6.5 Creedmoor was inevitable. Fanboys of both the SCAR and of all things Operator would have no choice but to buy a SCAR in 6.5, since it was pretty obvious that’s what SOCOM was going to, if they hadn’t already. I’m surprised it took this long.
In 2018 I reviewed the SCAR 20S in 7.62x51mm, and from a guy who never particularly liked the SCAR before, I was very impressed. Since I hadn’t written much about the SCAR in the past, it was probably difficult for most readers to tell how hard it was for me to eat all that crow and love on that gun, reciprocating bolt handle and all. But man, I did.
And now I do, more than ever.
This rifle is the exact same as that one, save the barrel assembly. If you want to learn more about everything else on the rifle, please go and read my previous review.
I live in the Texas Hill Country, only a couple of hours away from the JL Bar ranch where the FN shoot was held. Oddly enough, I’m pretty sure I used to hunt that place, before it was a resort ranch (and a heck of one, at that). Since I had availability and proximity, I attended the shoot.
It was typical December weather for central Texas. Bouts of freezing temperatures, and yet still raining. Old Mother West Wind couldn’t make up her mind, going from nothing to gusting all day long. In short, it was miserable.
Fortunately, the JL Bar ranch had a two story raised platform from which to shoot. That kept us mostly dry and out of the mud.
The folks at FN had set up seven shooting mats and identical rifles with identical Nightforce 4-16×42 scopes and Magpul bipods for each of the shooters in attendance. I didn’t know who would be there before I got to the shoot, but I was happy to run into a few familiar local faces.
A spinal injury sustained during an adventure vacation sponsored by my uncle in DC has made laying in the prone position particularly uncomfortable for me, but that’s how the rifles were set up and my own stubborn pride kept me from asking for an alternate position. That pain, amplified by the cold, wet, windy weather, served to put me in a fairly sour mood, but I had a few friends there to pick up my spirits.
However, the back pain made me want to get down, shoot fast, and get right back up.
When I think about it, that, in and of itself, isn’t a bad test of a rifle. As a shooter, especially one with a “tactical” mindset, a rifle should be not just comfortable to get behind, but quick to set up, fast to deploy, and fast to deploy again. In continually getting down to shoot, get the rounds out quickly, and then getting up again to “redeploy”, I was doing just that.
Of course, the fact that I could repeatedly get to the same position fast owes a bit to my own compulsive habits, but also to the same great set of adjustable ergonomics I laid out in my first article on the 20S. The stock, grip, and overall balance make this a very easy gun to shoot.
Our septet first zeroed our assigned guns and shot for groups. I had already reviewed this rifle before in 7.62 NATO, so the fact that it zeroed quickly and put five rounds inside the one-inch squares at 100 yards did not surprise or impress me.
All of the targets we would shoot over the remainder of the day would be 2.2 MOA to 2.4 MOA steel plates every hundred yards from 500 to 1,000, and then 1,200 and 1,500 yards. FN had laid out several cases of Hornady’s 140gr ELD MATCH ammunition and that was the only ammunition we shot throughout the day.
I went five for five at every target out to 1,200 yards. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one. Hits among all the shooters were common. Misses were not.
We broke for lunch after shooting the 1,000 yard targets only to find that when we returned, the wind went from difficult to downright uncooperative. The only targets left were the 1,200 and 1,500 yard plates.
Wind calls were made by two individuals behind the shooters. My group was called by a friend of mine, and a true patriot, Tim Kennedy. Tim also is a wizard with the wind calls. I suck at wind calls. Like most folks, I overestimate the wind, but in this weather, it was particularly challenging.
In one string, we’d have a full value 9 MPH wind. The next string, half value, and gusting. Even more fun, the wind at the 1,500 yard plate was from a different direction than the 1,200, or any of the previous targets. This was the result of being near the top of a hill, versus the bottom and sides. I was regularly guessing a total wind call of a couple MPH more than Tim’s (correct) wind call.
And there, right there, we see the wisdom of SOCOM’s decision to move to the 6.5 Creedmoor. Because just 2 MPH of being wrong makes a big difference at 1,000 yards, much less 1,500.
If I had been shooting the .308 Win version of the rifle I had previously shot, I would have been 25″ off in my windage at 1,000 yards. Shooting the exact same rifle, but this time in 6.5 Creedmoor, I was only 15″ off.
Considering the average human male’s measurement between his shoulders is about 19″, you can quickly see why minimizing the effect of wind call error is so important in a military focused rifle. Wind is our inconsistent nemesis.
With a good rifle, and Tim’s good call, I shot four for five at 1,200, which included the first round as a hit. I missed the first shot at 1,500, got a new wind call, and hit on the second. And there’s where I rediscovered the other benefit of the semi-auto precision platform. Knowing I had very little time before the wind changed again, I just squeezed off the rounds as fast as I could keep my hash mark on target, and scored hits on seven of the next eight. Those shots took less than a minute.
The last hour of shooting was a free-for-all, each shooter hitting whatever targets they wanted. I was done laying down and figured the rifle needed to be tested in some other position anyway. I took seated and kneeling shots at 500 and 600 yards. Kneeling unsupported and unslung at 600 yards was still a challenge, but I made very few misses over the next couple of boxes of ammunition.
The key there wasn’t my amazing shooting ability — as it was fairly obvious such ability doesn’t actually exist — but the fact that I could get comfortable behind the gun. The heavier weight of the rifle I had so complained about in my previous review was a very welcome thing indeed.
It helped to keep the muzzle down, enabling me not only to follow up quickly, but to see the trace of my shots while in a less than ideal shooting position. A proper sling would have made the whole thing much easier.
When the shooting was done, I took note of the serial number and asked the FNH representative to send me the same gun, exactly as configured for additional testing.
The gun arrived almost a month later, just as I had left it. That delay gave me a fairly limited amount of time to fully test the reliability of the gun. For you, dear reader, that is a feature, not a bug.
I immediately yanked off the muzzle brake, put on suppressor, switched the piston setting, and started blasting. I had a few hundred rounds of home-rolled Hornady 140gr A-MAX rounds pushed by 40.5 grains of Hybrid 100V for use in one of my bolt guns. This bullet has been replaced by Hornady by the ELD-M bullet, so I needed to get rid of it, and this review was a great excuse to burn rounds.
I borrowed some 20-round magazines from a friend (the T&E rifle only included a single 10-rounder), loaded them all up, and shot the first 300 rounds in one morning.
Shooting the rifle suppressed off the bipod on a bench as well as kneeling off a tripod, I just practiced transitioning between targets from 50 to 300 yards. Any shot on the silhouette was a hit, and I was going for speed.
The barrel was steaming hot and this is a great way to ruin a barrel, especially in this caliber. It’s also a great way to test if the gas piston system will hold up to lots of fouling and a superheated system. It did. During what was essentially one long 300-round suppressed string, I had no issues with reliability of any kind.
Over the next few days, I shot several different brands of commercial ammunition. All in all, I logged my normal full 500 rounds for testing, as well as the rounds during the prior group shoot. That’s 628 rounds of mixed ammunition total, about half suppressed, with a few different magazines and varying weather.
That’s about a quarter of the estimated barrel life. At no point during the entire review was the firearm cleaned or lubricated in any way. I assume FN lubed the gun prior to our initial shoot, but I didn’t check.
The rifle performed flawlessly.
I did have one round of commercial 120 gr American Eagle ammunition fail to go off. I chambered the same round again in a Ruger M77 Hawkeye bolt gun and it failed to detonate in that gun as well. This is why we practice malfunction drills.
Those of you who can do basic math and grasp how fast a shooter tends to expend ammunition (and money) with a semi-automatic rifle are recognizing the problem. Any avid shooter, much less a Special Operator in training, is going to expend those estimated 2,500 rounds of barrel life (based on throat erosion) fairly rapidly. If you are unfamiliar with the SCAR, you would see this as a pretty glaring issue, especially in a combat zone.
With a small torque wrench and less than five minutes of time, you can swap out the barrel and the entire gas piston assembly with a new one. That new barrel will obviously shoot a little differently, as every barrel is an environment unto itself. But not much. It should be within a couple of minutes of angle. But without several barrels on hand, how do I verify that?
In fact, the testing of the uniformity of the barrels had already been proven to me.
During the previous shoot, all the way out to 1,500 yards, the windage and elevation calls for seven different shooters, firing seven different rifles, were all the same. Exactly the same to the tenth of a mil.
Consistent hits with the same hold on multiple rifles on those targets all the way out to 85% of a mile means that each rifle, not to mention the ammunition, were perfectly consistent. The manufacturer could have cited the quality control process they went through to get to that level of consistency, but it wouldn’t have meant as much as watching it in action.
But what about taking the barrels on and off?
FN obliged my request to include a separate 7.62×51 NATO barrel assembly with the rifle so that I could test both interoperability with separate calibers, as well as the return to zero of the barrel assemblies.
Testing this was straightforward. I shot five rounds of 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition into a target at 100 yards. I then swapped the barrel to the supplied .308 caliber assembly and shot a five-round group in the target next to it. I then swapped back to the 6.5, shot five, back to the .308, shot five, and then back to the 6.5, and shot five.
As advertised, I ended up with fifteen shots inside of 2″ at 100 yards on one target and ten shots at the same distance, also under 2″ on the other.
So when it comes to the ease and reliability of putting a new barrel on the 6.5 Creedmoor SCAR 20S, it’s not an issue.
The budget for Uncle Sugar isn’t an issue either, but it may be an issue for the civilian market. Although they are not available just yet, the FN rep said that new 6.5 Creedmoor barrel assemblies will be available shortly, and will go for about the same cost as the current SCAR 17 assemblies, about $1,200-$1,400.
For those of you who already have the 20S, that means you can also just get a 6.5 Creedmoor barrel and swap back and forth. The same goes for future 20S Creedmoor owners. You can buy a 7.62 NATO barrel assembly and swap back and forth, just as I have for this review.
Back home on the bench, I also got a chance to shoot a few different types of ammunition in order to measure group size. Using the same brand of ammunition FN had at the JL Bar Ranch shoot, I got an average of .75″ groups. Just for fun, and as a break from my normal routine, I made that the average of four 10 round groups.
My own home rolled rounds actually shot slightly better groups, averaging .7″. The Federal Fusion 140 gr and 120 gr American Eagle rounds both shot a bit worse, coming closer to the 1″ mark. The Hornady 147 gr ELD Match, unsurprisingly, shot the best in this rifle, printing an extremely consistent .70″ even.
All precision shooting was done in a Caldwell Stinger shooting rest at 100 yards with a Nightforce 4-16×42 power scope set at maximum magnification. Again, these were all 10-round groups, averaged in four shot strings.
Shooting for groups was done after all familiarization fire, and the gun was not cleaned or lubed at all during any of the shooting. I wiped it down for photos after the shooting, but not at all at any point during. It might have shot better with a clean bore, it might not.
Armchair generals, especially, it seems, those who have never actually served, have repeatedly told us that the change to 6.5 Creedmoor will never occur. It’s a fad round with no staying power. No US military unit will adopt it.
Until they did. And they didn’t just field the 6.5 Creedmoor, SOCOM fielded this rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor.
I have been able to verify, through two different sources with direct knowledge, that at least one current US Army Special Operations unit has deployed with a version of the SCAR 20 in 6.5 Creedmoor, and have done so for at least a couple of years now. I have also been able to independently verify that other US Army units falling under SOCOM have requested the rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor and are currently training with it.
Those other units may also be deploying with it. A few knowledgeable folks say there are, but I have not been able to independently verify that with those units. I have also been able to verify — again, through multiple sources — that NAVSPECWAR has requested these rifles in 6.5 Creedmoor. I have not been able to verify that they have actually deployed with them.
I begrudgingly liked the SCAR 20S in 7.62×51. It’s just such a good rifle I had to really, really reach to find anything I didn’t like about it. All I could come up with was that it’s a bit of a portly ballerina.
The same rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor, especially with its straight barrel profile, turns my compulsive glances to full-on creepy stares. It brings this platform to its fullest potential, a precision rifle capable of engaging multiple targets at extended ranges.
Just like the previous rifle I reviewed, the controls are great, the ergonomics are perfect for the application, it’s reliable and accurate. Only now, it’s a true multi-caliber platform, and offered in the caliber that makes the wind have to work a little bit harder to make me look bad.
Specifications: FN SCAR 20S Precision Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor
Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor
Operation: Short-stroke gas piston
Mag Capacity: 10 rounds
Barrel Length: 20″ (measured from closed bolt face to the bare muzzle, actual measurement is 20.5″).
Overall Length: 40.6″ – 42.5″
Weight: 11.4 lbs.
Receiver: Hard-anodized monolithic aluminum, MIL-STD-1913 accessory rails at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock positions
Barrel: Cold hammer-forged, chrome-lined, free-floating barrel with Surefire Pro Comp muzzle device, 1:8″ twist
Trigger: Geissele “Super SCAR” (This particular rifle set to 3.25lbs)
Stock: Adjustable for LOP and comb height; Adjustable cheekpiece
Grip: Hogue rubber pistol grip with finger grooves
Operating Controls: Ambidextrous safety lever and magazine release, charging handle may be mounted on right or left side
Magazine: 1 10-round (optional 20)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * *
Tactical banana split. Some love it. To each his or her own.
Customization * * * *
Lots of rails. Rails everywhere. As for the rest of it, the whole point of buying this rifle is that it is exactly as it is.
Reliability * * * * *
Runs and runs and runs. Clean or dirty. Can on the end or not. Any shooter, any round. It runs.
Accuracy * * * * *
Consistent 3/4-inch groups with a 16X scope and several different brands of ammunition.
Overall * * * * *
Last time, in 7.62×51, all I could think to take points off of was for the weight. This version is actually very slightly heavier. It shoots so far, so fast, I can’t justify taking off anything. (Well, it still should come with more than one magazine). It’s now truly multi-caliber, and two great ones. Where’s the fanboy line? I gotta queue up.