Personal Defense Weapons fill a niche. They’re a compact weapon that packs a bigger punch than a pistol, especially in close quarters situations (clearing rooms, the back of a crowded APC, etc). The standard response for gun makers: make something that uses a pistol caliber due to the low recoil and the compact design. But that recipe results in a relatively underpowered weapon that requires proprietary magazines. FN went another way: The FN SCAR PDW.
[DISCLAIMER: The guns I fired at the NDIA (National Industry Defense Association) symposium are generally not available to the public. I didn’t get a whole lot of time to give the weapons a full and complete review. But I did have enough trigger time to get a general idea of how the guns feel and handle.]
First and foremost, this FN SCAR PDW is based on the FN SCAR 16. It looks like FN grabbed one of their black SCAR 16s and lopped off a couple bits, threw an extending stock on it and called it quits. There doesn’t seem to be any real technological improvements on the gun other than the sliding stock.
The stock is minimalist, to say the least. There’s a buttplate and some rails, and that’s about it. FN tried to give the shooter a place to rest their cheek with that little sloped piece of plastic. But you can kiss any hopes of having a good cheek weld goodbye. I tried, and it was slightly painful. There seemed to be some escaping gases kissing my cheek when I fired it.
The exceedingly short barrel off the front of this thing is capped with a four pronged flash hider, which it desperately needs. The PDW was designed to fire standard ammunition, ammunition which was in turn designed to have all the space in a 10.5″ or longer barrel to burn off the powder. In the PDW, you’ve only got a hair over six inches of barrel. That leaves a whole bunch of powder unburned by the time the bullet leaves the barrel; powder which would create a rather large muzzle flash. The flash hider almost eliminates the muzzle flash. That’s good news for people wearing night vision devices.
The FN SCAR PDW fire standard 5.56x45mm NATO ball ammunition. Smart move. The caliber gives the shooter more penetration power on targets (including armor piercing capabilities with certain ammunition). Even better the ammunition and magazines are interchangeable between the carbines and the PDW.
Personal defense weapons are typically issued to soldiers positioned relatively near to the front lines, but not on them. In a perfect world, they’d never see direct fire. We’re talking artillery units, helicopter pilots, truck drivers… The same people the M1 Carbine was designed to protect. So it follows that they would also be issued a limited supply of ammunition, probably one or two magazines. Interchangeable ammunition and magazines means they can resupply from other soldiers, not just those using the same weapon.
So how does the FN SCAR PDW handle?
As the guy in the video pointed out, your thumb is REALLY close to that muzzle. The panels along the gun upon which you hold stop only about an inch short of the actual muzzle. One small slip and your thumb will be severely burned if not blown off.
FN made a lot of compromises to make the PDW fit in as small a space as possible. The shorter barrel reduces velocity, accuracy, and controllability in fully automatic fire. I was having significant trouble keeping the sights on a man-sized target less than 10 yards away. What it lacks in precision it makes up for in weight of fire. The stock is also uncomfortable and not nearly long enough for me and my large arms.
This FN SCAR PDW has a purpose for which it is well suited. Personally, if I were in combat, I’d rather have a full carbine and a pistol. But if you’re already carrying a full pack of gear and have a low probability of needing a weapon, the PDW would work well.
In theory, the PDW would make a good home defense weapon: something small and light with a lot of firepower. That said, it’s not very controllable. The probability of missing your target and hitting something else is unacceptably high. Never mind. They’re military-only.
FN SCAR PDW
Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO
Size: 20.5″ overall length (24.9″ with stock extended)
Weight: 5.5 lbs. empty
Operation: Short stroke gas piston
Finish: Black / Desert Tan
Capacity: Uses standard 5.56x45mm NATO magazines
MSRP: $??? (Experimental)
Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
All ratings are relative compared to the other weapons in the gun’s category.
I don’t think any weapon more exemplifies the phrase “spray and pray.” FN states that it can hit a standard “point” target at 200 meters (which, semi-auto, is probably possible), but I severely doubt that can be done with sustained full auto fire. Full auto is almost impossible to control.
Ergonomics: * * *
The grip and safety are the same as on the SCAR, so at least they’re familiar. Personally I’m not a fan of the safety, but to each their own. The stock is horrible, but everything else feels fine.
Ergonomics Firing: *
Not comfortable in the least. A cheek weld is impossible, and the recoil (especially with the extreme light weight of the gun) is frankly unmanageable in fully automatic fire. There’s also not enough space on the gun to get a good grip to be able to control it.
I didn’t have enough time to test the reliability, but I can guess that lower pressure in the operating system increases the probability of the action being unable to cycle if it’s too dirty or the ammo is loaded too light.
Customization: * * *
It does have four rails including a full length top rail, but adding too much crap to the rifle would kind of defeat the purpose of having an extremely lightweight rifle.
Overall Rating: * *
The interoperability of the magazines is cool, but the HK 416C has that as well with less bulk. The FN SCAR PDW’s reciprocating charging handle seems like it would get in the way in tight spaces, the ammunition is overpowered and leads to a lack of controllability, and it’s just too bulky.
I thought FN already had the PDW thing covered with the P90. And although I’m not a fan of 5.7mm, it makes more sense to me in a role like this than a 5.56 rifle with a less than 7 inch barrel.
5.7 was designed to pierce body armor so that shouldn’t be an issue, it’s more controllable on full auto (something you might want in a weapon meant for close quarters), and the P90 is even smaller than this thing. The only advantage I see to this is it will share mags/ammo with other 5.56 rifles currently in service.
I COMPLETELY AGREE.
I’m thinking the PDW is a FNH USA project. They’ve never had the same common sense as their parent company.
Nor the same designers. Both the P90 and F2000 are much better designed PDWs. Turning the SCAR into an SBR for the sake of portability is ridiculous and the ergonomics are downright dangerous. I’ll take my PS90 over this new design any day of the week.
And the last point is likely the entire reason this thing exists: it’s in 5.56mm. The P90 is easy to adopt when you’re the Secret Service, but the military? I doubt any PDW not in 5.56 will see limited use at best. I’ve see people say that the next main rifle caliber change will be to lasers. Personally, I would love to see them keep 5.56 for PDWs and go to 6.8, 6.5 or .300 Blackout (assuming they can get supplies of .300 Blackout).
It’s actually not a PDW, even if they call it that, it is an SBR. PDWs fire smaller rounds specifically meant for less recoil, among other things. It has the armor penetration thing at 200 meters requirement down, but it’s not a PDW.
I guess it really doesn’t matter.
M4s are good enough for this.
This is why I have a CUJO-fied Kel Tec PLR16, my civvie PDW, with Brownell’s harmonic muzzle brake attached. I also have a green laser, back up red laser and Black hawk’s Gladius flashlight attached for the ride. Good article!
I neglected to clarify that the single point sling is pushed against and acts as the stock-very stable on the PLR16. The instability of the FN is glaringly apparent.
The 5.56 cannot be all things to all soldiers/marines/sailors/airmen, and the only reason to use the 5.56 and the M16 magazine in a PDW is ammunition commonality. This makes for a simpler supply chain, but it also makes for an uncontrollable and thus useless PDW.
If the PDW concept has merit (and the jury is still very much undecided on this) there are much more logical caliber choices including the 5.7×28. The adoption of the 5.7×28 as a PDW caliber would provide an ideal opportunity to replace the M9 service pistol, which is almost completely ineffective when loaded with legally-mandatory FMJ ammunition.
I think a .357 based PDW would be much more effective. I’d like to see that.
Judging this weapon based on how it handles in fully automatic mode is silly. FN probably offered it that way just because it would grab some headlines at the show and not as the configuration they intend for this concept to actually be deployed in the PDW roll.
Fully automatic rifles have little place in current doctrine as the volume of fire from a fire team is generated by a SAW or other light (or heavy) machine gun. M4s and M16s exist to place accurate fire on targets to drive them into the field of fire of the machine gun. Even infantry Marines and Soldiers only have a 3 round burst capability on issue M16s and M4s, and it is rarely used.
In the PDW roll, these would be issued to non-infantry (read; less well trained and experienced) personal. History tells us that most troops in first contact, if given a fully automatic weapon, tend to hold the thing over their head, pointed in the general direction of the evil and hold the trigger down till it runs dry. Not effective at all and this exercise is typically followed by fumbling reloads until out of ammo. (Plenty of video from Iraq and Afghanistan shows that this theory, first discovered in Vietnam, holds perfectly true today). Any PDW that ever actually gets issued to the intended audience will (or at least, should) be semi-auto only.
Personally, I think a SCAR PDW in 300 Blackout would be a fantastic weapon for anything inside of 100 meters.
This rifle is awesome… I will have to get a class III license. Uncontrollable in 5.56mm, you have got to be kidding me. It will be perfect, as it is made in belgium and they have been making weapons for hundreds of years. They got it right with the model 16 and 17. That is why the Navy Seals signed on for another year.Cheers.