just done reading this month's ish of the american rifleman, (march 2011, vol. 159, no. 3) including two articles on socom's decision to purchase the fnh-usa scar 17s.
at page 49, "heavy metal: fnh-usa's scar 17s," by glenn m. gilbert, the shooting editor, and at page 53, "the u.s. military scar program status: present and future," by david crane.
while the rifle described therein is a good rifle, (and it ought to be, ... , to say it is "derived" from the ar-15/m-16 family of rifles is putting it rather mildly), i am rather underwhelmed by the u.s. military's desire to award a major weapons contract to a foreign corporation.
my reason for this lack of enthusiasm is in the parens above.
i see absolutely nothing in the weapons systems produced by fnh that could not have been done by domestic manufacturers to the ar-15/m-16 rifle system, ... , and, absolutely nothing that has not been done by private firms to the ar system and available to civilian shooters for a long, long time. this whole business of contracting with fn for millions of dollars to produce a weapons system not available "in house" from multiple sources strikes me as silly.
the fn rifle has a single extrusion upper, in which the receiver and forearm are one unit, in order to provide a single sight plane for the various goodies the military slaps on these rifles. well, guess what? ar-15/m-16 rifles do too.
the fn rifle features a "quick change" barrel, in which the user can swap out barrels with relatively little fuss. well, guess what, several such comparable systems have been available on the civilian market for some time. and, i believe that some actually predate the fn system.
it is said in the article that it is a virtue that the fn fire controls and basic layout "mimic" the ar-15/m-16 fire control layouts. well, guess what, ... .
about the only thing that i can see that differs in the fnh-usa's effort from the ar system is the gas system which uses a bolt carrier and operating rod system similar to the kalishnikov. i know this is getting repetitious, but the ar-15 has had such systems available on the civilian market for a number of years at this point. (quite amazingly, or perhaps not quite amazingly, fn has been using this same gas system on another rifle it has been manufacturing for about 15 or 20 years or so, ... , so why the expense to "research" its "development" on this rifle? hey, it is a legitimate question.)
when the scar system was initiated, a big "selling point" was that the 5.56mm (5.56x45 mm nato) version would offer parts interchangeability with the 7.62mm (7.62x51 mm nato) to a high degree, thereby reducing costs of adopting two weapons systems. the main difference between the two systems was the size of the receivers, the 7.62 requiring a somewhat larger & heavier receivers, top and bottom. well, after 19 million dollars of "research" fnh-usa & socom have abandoned that, and they are going to build both calibers on the larger 7.62mm platform, simply swapping out barrels and bolt carrier/bolt groups.
well, i fail to see what would have prevented the military from simply adopting that expedient with the ar-10 receivers, or simply adopting a remington/dpms expedient of putting an ar-10 sized barrel extension and bolt face into the ar-15 receiver set, and going from there. see in the same issue, at page 66, "handloading the new .30 [remington] ar," in which this very process is described and discussed, to achieve a weapon with .300 savage performance in an ar-15/m-16 sized receiver.
need i mention, that the 7.62x51 nato is "derived" from the .300 savage cartridge, have simply a slightly longer neck to facilitate a little long cartridge suitable for loading slightly longer/heavier bullets than the venerable .300 savage. this diminutive little cartridge, not exceeding the overall length of the 5.56x45mm nato at 2.260", is capable of shooting a 150 grain round at 2600-2650 fps from the standard ar-15 pattern rifle.
guess how fast the fnh-usa's scar shoots a standard military loading of the 168 grain sierra bullet? just guess.
so, the military has labored mightily to make a new elephant, but has issued forth a mouse, in my estimation. now, it is no mean achievement to make a mouse. and, the fnh-usa rifle/weapons system is a good one.
for the life of me, however, i cannot see how it is any different in kind or in substance from the ar-15/m-16 family of rifles, or how it offers any particular feature not directly derivative from the predecessor weapons system. now, perhaps it is only fair to concede that some of the things that the private manufacturers have hopped on in the ar-15 rifle may have been inspired by the fnh-usa developments. but, saying that, it also has to be conceded and recognized that nothing, and i mean nothing in the fnh rifle is not more or less based upon the ar-15 platform.
oh, the trigger group looks a little different. and, there are some silly looking little minor parts added to the firing pin, which look eminently breakable. i suppose it would have been a little embarrassing for fnh-usa to have just lifted the trigger group from the ar-system. but, why not, they copied everything else.
frankly, i am just underwhelmed. it appears to me that the u.s. military and fnh-usa have achieved nothing not easily obtainable just be tweaking the ar-system rifle. nothing.
well, that is not entirely accurate. the u.s. military has achieved one thing, and that is sending your tax dollars to europe. that it has done. and, fnh-usa has achieved one thing, and that is diverting your tax dollars to its parent corporation in europe, these dollars comprising corporate profits. that they have done.
and, little else, in my estimation.
john jay @ 02.19.2011
p.s. and, i haven't even got to the matter of remington & dpms developing on their own dime a "derivative" of the fnh-usa effort, with an integrated upper with many of the same features. for a hell of a lot less than the $19 million it took fnh to copy the ar-15/m-16.
oh, well. it appears a done deal. and, stupid is, as stupid does.