FN SCAR: A perfect weapon for the CQC and for infantry

Eric Sof

FN SCAR is an assault rifle manufactured by FN Herstal in Belgium. The standard issue rifle comes in NATO 5.56 mm caliber. The rifle is specially designed for the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to satisfy the requirements of the SCAR competition. SCAR is short for Special Operations Forces Combat Assualt Rifle.

Introduction

In 2009, a SOCOM launched a new assault rifle for special forces to replace the old M4 carabine. All leading arms manufacturers shipped their assault rifles to SOCOM for testing. Among them, one rifle was from Belgium company FN Herstal. SCAR-L CQC is a version for close combat with shortened barrel. CQC is an abbreviation for Close Quarter Combat.

Belgian Special Forces Group (SFG) operator with the FN SCAR rifle in Jordan, pictured in November 2014
Belgian Special Forces Group (SFG) operator with the F FN SCAR rifle in Jordan, pictured in November 2014 (Photo: XY)

This family of rifles consists of two main types. The SCAR-L, for “light,” is chambered in a 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge, and the SCAR-H, for “heavy,” is chambered in 7.62×51mm NATO. Both are available in Close Quarters Combat (CQC), Standard (STD), and Long Barrel (LB) variants.

Design

The Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) is a modular assault rifle family designed by FN Herstal (FNH) responding to US special Operations Command requirements. FN won US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) development contract in November 2004. The SCAR family of weapons includes the SCAR Heavy 7.62mm rifle, SCAR L (Light) 5.56 mm version, and Enhanced Grenade Launcher (EGLM) grenade launcher, which will be able to fire Fuse Programmable Ammunition.

FN SCAR-L in 5.56 mm caliber and FN SCAR-H chambered in 7.62 mm caliber
FN SCAR-L in 5.56 mm caliber and FN SCAR-H chambered in 7.62 mm caliber (Photo: FN Herstal)

This rifle is specially designed for special forces’ needs; it is accurate, compact, and lightweight. Many parts of the SCAR rifle are fully adjustable for the operator’s needs, whether left or right-handed. There are also a few Picatinny rails mounted on a rifle, and there is enough room to mount many gadgets like red dot sights, laser sights, and other additional equipment.

SOCOM testings

This rifle got the best scores in SOCOM tests and proved itself like a perfect assault rifle. SCAR-L CQC has moderate recoil and has two fire modes: single shot and full-auto. When firing in the single-shot mode, you can feel how good the SCAR rifle is.

SOCOM made a few criteria for testing. The first one is accuracy in both single and full auto mode. We engaged target from 50 meters for single-mode, and from ten shots, we got 95/100 with mechanical sight on target with 10 points diameter of 5 cm. We engaged a target from 20 meters for full autotest and got a solid result. Nine were targets creating a score of 57/100, which appears as a reliable result for burst fire from ten shots.

The second criteria were the overall length and height of the weapon and using it in urban combat or houses, buildings, and other places with so much space. SCAR-L CQC is almost ideal for this part of the job. It’s good in urban terrains, almost like a compact assault rifle in open areas.

The third criterion was SCAR reliability. It’s stone-cold reliable. An elegant, robust, and clean-running design should give a long service life.

Initial production

The FN SCAR system completed low rate initial production testing in June 2007. After some delays, the first rifles were issued to operational units in April 2009. A battalion of the US 75th Ranger Regiment was the first large unit deployed into combat with 600 rifles in 2009. The US Special Operations Command later canceled their purchase of the SCAR-L and planned to remove the rifle from their inventory by 2013. However, they will continue to purchase the SCAR-H version and plan to purchase 5.56 mm conversion kits for the SCAR-H, allowing it to substitute for the SCAR-L.

USAF Operator armed with FN SCAR-L (Mk 16)
This undated handout photo provided by the US Air Force shows Capt. Barry F. Crawford Jr. There’s multitasking. And then there’s extreme, hair-raising multitasking, which is what Crawford accomplished in Afghanistan to earn the Air Force’s highest honor. Much of what Crawford did wasn’t even his job to do. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz will award the Air Force Cross to Crawford in a Pentagon ceremony Thursday for his “extraordinary heroism” in a battle with Taliban insurgents on May 4, 2010. (AP Photo/USAF)

Can SCAR rifles replace the M4 series?

They could have advantages over the M16 family of rifles, but they may not be worth the advantages. In theory, yes. If the SCAR-L became the standard infantry rifle of the USA, it might help even more with standardization across the board. The US military already uses the SCAR-H, and Special Ops sometimes use the SCAR-L.

I would prefer a SCAR-H, but honestly, the SCAR-L looks way more remarkable than the M4 and would intimidate the enemy a bit more. Also, since at range, it would be more difficult to tell who has a .308 and who has a 5.56mm, enemy snipers/sharpshooters would have a more difficult time distinguishing targets by sight and would have to wait for them to fire, slowing down the rate at which soldiers are taken out.

Operators with an M4A1 SOPMOD Block II in Afghanistan in 2012
Operators with an M4A1 SOPMOD Block II in Afghanistan in 2012 (Photo: XY)

Is that a greater advantage than how cheap you can get an M4 series rifle? Maybe, maybe not. Keep in mind you can get a decent AR-15 (not necessarily a Colt, mind you, I think one of those or an Armalite or Bushmaster will run you $1000, but a decent one) for about $600 brand new(there was a time you could build one for that price. Now it’s crazy cheap to build one out.) High demand, high popularity, high supply.

This led to cheaper processes to make the guns and lower prices. A SCAR-L will run you about $1500 in comparison, and the SCAR-H will run about $3000, compared to $1500 for an M1A/M14-style rifle. Prices are from the civilian side as the military is likely paying about 10x more than they should for weapons anyway.

Also, there’s an accuracy issue after it starts heating up from shooting. Any “not an AR” 5.56 on the civilian side starts stringing shots pretty bad as they heat up. Even the SCAR-L has that problem. However, it seems that the SCAR rifles are decent at minimizing that, so it keeps up with the M16/4. I don’t think military versions are too heavily different, though they may do it faster because of the full-auto fire if needed to get out of a situation.

Variants

Military variants

SCAR-L (FN MK 16) – 5.56×45mm NATO assault rifle

  • SCAR-L CQC (FN MK 16 CQC) (Close Quarter Combat) – 250 mm (10 in) barrel
  • SCAR-L STD (FN MK 16) (Standard) – 360 mm (14 in) barrel
  • SCAR-L LB (FN MK 16 LB) (Long Barrel) – 460 mm (18 in) barrel

SCAR PDW – 5.56×45mm NATO personal defense weapon variant with a 170 mm (6.5 in) barrel length. No longer in production, and was replaced by the SCAR-SC.

SCAR-SC – 5.56×45mm NATO / .300 Blackout subcompact carbine. It Weighs 3.1 kilos (about 6.8 pounds), has a 7.5-inch barrel, and has a pistol grip with no finger rest. It has a lower effective range of 200 meters. It became available in mid-2018.

SCAR-H (FN MK 17) – 7.62×51mm NATO battle rifle

  • SCAR-H CQC (FN MK 17 CQC) (Close Quarters Combat) – 330 mm (13 in) barrel
  • SCAR-H STD (FN MK 17) (Standard) – 410 mm (16 in) barrel
  • SCAR-H LB (FN MK 17 LB) (Long Barrel) – 510 mm (20 in) barrel

Precision Rifles – 7.62×51mm NATO

  • FN SCAR-H PR (Precision Rifle) – 510 mm (20 in) barrel, two-stage semi-auto trigger, folding stock, and M16A2 pistol grip.
  • FN SCAR-H TPR (Tactical Precision Rifle) (FN MK 20 SSR Sniper Support Rifle)- 510 mm (20 in) barrel, two-stage match semi-auto trigger, adjustable fixed stock, and M16A2 pistol grip.

Prototypes

  • HAMR (Heat Adaptive Modular Rifle) – Automatic rifle entered the United States Marine Corps Infantry Automatic Rifle competition. It was eventually beaten by the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, a Heckler & Koch HK416 variant.
  • FNAC (FN Advanced Carbine) – A 5.56 mm NATO assault rifle entered the US Army Individual Carbine contest. The US Army canceled the contest before a winning weapon was chosen.

Civilian variants

  • SCAR 16S – Civilian 5.56×45mm NATO semi-automatic version of FN Mk 16. They are offered in matte black or flat dark earth (brown) color.
  • SCAR 17S – Civilian 7.62×51mm NATO semi-automatic version of FN Mk 17. They are offered in matte black or flat dark earth color.
  • SCAR 20S – Civilian 7.62×51mm NATO semi-automatic version of FN Mk 20 SSR. They are offered in flat dark earth color only.
  • SCAR 20S 6.5CM – Civilian 6.5mm Creedmoor semi-automatic version of FN Mk 20 SSR. They are offered in matte black or flat dark earth color.

Technical specifications

Manufacturer:Fabrique Nationale de Herstal (FN Herstal), Belgium
Type: short-stroke gas piston operated semi-automatic rifle
Caliber:.223 (5.56 mm) and .308 (7.62 mm)
Barrel (SCAR-L):16.25″, 1 in 7″ rifling
Weight (SCAR-L):7.25 lbs empty, YMMV depending on the goodies, you hang off the miles of Picatinny rail.
Magazine capacity:10, 20, 30 round (included) box magazine; accepts standard M-16/AR-15 magazines.
Cyclic rate of fire:550–650 rounds/min
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