FNH SCAR 16S: State of the Art in 5.56mm Combat Carbines?

By Randy Wakeman

Photo courtesy of FNH USA.

From FNH USA comes their SCAR 16S, the civilian version of the U.S. Special Operations Command's latest service rifle. This rifle has a service life of 90,000 rounds, with a barrel life of 20,000 rounds. It has a 16.25 inch barrel and uses the M16 type magazines. The chrome-lined, free-floating hammer forged barrel is 1:7 rate of twist, allowing the accurate use of heavier, barrier insensitive projectiles than the older, slower twist rate barrels can stabilize. This is essentially the same barrel as used on FNH's belt-fed machine guns, such as the M249.

The .223 Remington / 5.56x45mm NATO SCAR is ambidextrous, featuring a rotating safety on both sides and a magazine release on both sides. Even the charging handle is reversible for left-handed use. The SCAR 16S features an 82% parts commonality with its bigger brother, the SCAR 17S, which is chambered for the far more effective .308 Winchester / 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge, a SOCOM requirement.

The buttstock of the SCAR 16 is both adjustable for length and folding. The rifle can be fired from the stock-folded position. It comes with flip up iron sights, with the top of the gun having a full-length MIL-STD 1913 integrated rail for mounting optics of your choice. In addition to the top rail, there are three MIL-STD 1913 accessory rails for mounting lights, lasers and so forth. The comb height is adjustable, flipping up to give better eye alignment to optics.

The basic specs of the SCAR-L are:

    ·        Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO/223 Remington

    ·        Twist Rate: 1 in 7"

    ·        Barrel Length: 16.25"

    ·        Overall Length: 27.5” to 37.5”

    ·        Weight: 7.25 lbs. empty

    ·        Ammunition Capacity: 10- or 30-round detachable box magazine

This is the rifle that the U.S. Army said it wanted, finding that the FN SCAR was 3.85 times more reliable than the M4. This rifle makes the hoary AR / M16 / M4 platform look embarrassingly sad. It is so far superior to the M4 carbine that it makes me angry. I'm forced to wonder why, with the trillions of dollars the United States throws at elective wars, along with the world's largest and most expensive prison system, we can't give our troops the best equipment possible. It is unconscionable.

I couldn't help but notice how thoroughly adjustable and ambidextrous this rifle is. The charging handle of the bolt can be switched to either side, the safety is ambidextrous, as is the magazine release. The buttstock folds quickly with the rifle fully operational in this condition. As you might expect with a short-barreled, gas operated, bird-cage suppressed .223, recoil is almost non-existent. The short-stroke piston is a big improvement over the antiquated direct impingement system of the ancient AR series.

The SCAR is bristling with MIL-STD 1913 accessory rails, one integral with the receiver and three more at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock on the forearm. The amount of accessories that can be attached without hassle is limited only by the imagination. You will want a different grip on the forearm, to be sure, as the rails heat up quickly. Not a place for bare hands with heavy use.

As good as the SCAR platform is, the .223 / 5.56x45 remains a weak cartridge, particularly when fired from barrels shorter than 24", despite the 1:7 rate of twist now used for heavier, more barrier insensitive projectiles. The rifle does a lot to improve things, but the 6.8mm SPC is a far more substantial cartridge. This has been established for a whopping 65 years. The British, in 1945, following the Ideal Cartridge Panel decided that the .270 and the .276 cartridges were just that, ideal, offering good control under automatic fire, more comfort to the shooter and less muzzle blast. Ironically, it was the United States that rejected the notion with the stance that no cartridge under .30 caliber be adopted. As we sadly know, the 5.56mm mousegun was introduced after successfully killing watermelons. It is pathetic compared to the cartridges championed by the British in the late 1940's and early 1950's.

I did not attempt to replicate SOCOM testing, but the example SCAR has vastly improved ergonomics, handling and controls compared to the AR15. The 90,000 round service life of the SCAR, easy maintenance and parts commonality with the SCAR-H .308 is where the economy of scale appears to pay off. Our decisionally challenged military (and political administration) can't seem to get much done in this regard. Thus, while the SCAR is obviously, clearly, a better piece for our troops than the AR rifles they have been long saddled with, the failure of our political leadership to equip our troops with the best gear possible seems to be a never-ending story. We've seen the failure of the proposed ACR morph into the failure of the OICW program.

The SCAR is here now. It is a superbly reliable, easy to use, versatile platform the gives our military what they have claimed they have always wanted. The question remains if there is any political leadership out there that is willing to give the slogan “Support Our Troops” more than lip service. So far, we have not done right by our troops on many levels. We ask a lot of them, we ask the ultimate sacrifice, but we do not nearly give them enough in return, during or after their service.

The SCAR platform is an outstanding one. It remains to be seen if we think enough of our troops to properly equip them with both SCAR rifles and more effective 6.8 mm ammunition.

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Copyright 2010, 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.