FN SCAR Review: A Shootist’s Odyssey: SCARd For Life

Editors note 1:  Many comparisons are made to the ACR, a review of which can be found here

A Shootist’s Odyssey:  SCARd For Life

Another “Top to Bottom” Review by Dave@rifleshooter.com

This is one of those epic sagas, that were it not for the fact that the end must come for sake of the tale, would endlessly change direction over time.On first handling I liked it.After more handling I hated it.After first shooting it fell into favor again.After more shooting I dissed it.In the end, I understood.

There is some FAIL in this offering to be sure.But then it does something to pull you back in.Like that psycho chick you dated for awhile.You wanted to walk away but couldn’t.After you decided the screwing wasn’t worth the mind games, and bugged out, all you remember is the sex. Then you realize all women are crazy.So why did you leave?And on and on.

I was provided the loan of this high-end rifle with high-end optic, but no magazine, factory manual, sight and disassembly tools.No matter, I had plenty of mags and figuring out how to get the rifle apart was not difficult.Due to the nature of the acquisition, I did not give this firearm hard use.Indeed, I did not even mount a sling because the attachment points feature eyelets, not swivels studs, and I didn’t want to “SCAR” the rifle finish with an HK or MASH hook.

It was natural to want to test this rifle as a comparison review to the recently surveyed Bushy ACR.While it can stand and fall on it’s own, some comparisons will be in order.

I have a fair bit of firing experience with the military SCAR, both Light and Heavy versions, in pre-production and prototype versions.I was curious to see what the final version commercial model would do, especially right after reviewing the much ballyhooed ACR.

Upon initial examination, I was impressed with the SCAR package.It appears professional and well-engineered.It is a much “livelier” weapon than the ACR, despite looking heavy.The ACR, by contrast, appears light, but weighs in ponderous and slow.The SCAR handles much like an M4; the ACR is reminiscent of the defunct HK OICWor G36.The SCAR actually uses much more plastic in construction than the ACR, and uses an aluminium upper receiver with few steel insert.Colored in some approximation of FDE Brown, the SCAR colors don’t quite match up, depending upon the light.This a function of pigment impacting differing materials in unique ways.For $2500 you are not getting a monolithic colored rifle.

The Amazing Tri-Color SCAR


However, it still camouflages well if you are fighting on a Persian rug.

This carbine operates on a short-stroke piston, which taps a long rectangular angular techno-chic crude bolt carrier/piston rod assembly near the gas block.Driving it backwards, the multi-lug rotating bolt contained within (similar but not interchangeable with the M4) does the work.Bolt carrier travel is stopped in the rear by a steel recoil plate, and the carrier/piston is powered forward by a spring and guide rod behind it, the end of which is trapped by the recoil plate.

The recoil plate is at the juncture of the stock, so the stock can fold to side, in addition to collapse for user-adjustability.The weapon will fire with the stock folded, if you want to feel cool and Hollywood and don’t care where the bullets land.

The operation of this stock, while well-intentioned, was balky and imprecise.It was difficult if not impossible to fold or lock open one-handed while maintaining dominant-hand control of the pistol grip.The sliding control mechanism was balky to engage and disengage, and the position stops were easily overrun, causing delay and requiring a fine touch.Moreover, the parts themselves are completely polymer, including the hinge joint.Rumors of stock breakage in the field are believable given an examination of the design and materials.A weight savings was gained with the extensive polymer use, at an apparent loss of durability.Certainly not an improvement over the more robust M4 stock, and the ACR fixed stock is superior as well.The only advantage is if you require the carbine to fold in half.But you could almost get a halved M4 into action as quick as this SCAR.

Break Me, I’m Cheap

The stock offers a cheekpiece of limited adjustment, as on the ACR.But the SCAR versions feels cheap, and while more easily operated , the ACR version islocks more solidly in position.

Most of the controls are AR-like in function and placement.Ambi capability for the mag catch and selector are added.Unlike the ACR, the SCAR selector lever is an excellent design, usable from all shooting positions and does not interfere with the trigger finger.

However, both the bolt magazine catches were stiff in operation, and required a greater range of motion than an M4.Seating a magazine was more difficult than in an AR.The bolt catch is so stiff in operation that after reloading, the sensation is that bolt catch was not actuated and the bolt did not lock back.It is quite heavy.An operator could get used to anything, but in this case the transition from the AR is not so seemless as it might be.

What do we have in common?

We all fail to eject from the SCAR!Yes, the million-dollar wunderrifle will not eject the most popular polymer magazines on the market.You have to pull them out.In fact, the standard Lancer will not even seat reliably.

Good Old Ole USGIWorks

 

I even added an FDE Brown magpully to try and hide the rifle.Don’t want to be snooped and pooped because your grey mag gave you away!

Much has been made of the reciprocating bolt handle.Most guns had such a thing for many years, including the revered M1 and M14 rifles.Why is it such a bad thing all of sudden?Well on the SCAR, when placed on the left side of the weapon for support hand use, it is difficult for the right-hand shooter to avoid, or to administratively handle the weapon, such as locking the bolt open.

“Charlie, they took my thumb, Charlie…”

Wow look at that FAIL.A thumb about to be lopped off.WTF was FNH thinking?That charging handle is poorly placed and too far to the rear.Also, you would need three hands to retract the bolt handle and hold the rifle and operate the bolt catch.

And lookie here!If you mount any optics on standard top rail positions, you get interference with the operation of the charging handle:

I installed the charging handle to the right side, where it would be less likely to chop my fingers off and interfere with general operation.Even then, I had to operate it with my dominant hand, palm down, to be close to having something positive, repeatable and reasonably non-interfering.Yes, that is slow as well.You cycle this bolt like an AK.Slow.It’s 1947 all over again at FNH.

Like the ACR, this rifle has an interchangeable barrel.I did not test this feature, not having the manual and further not wanting to possibly mar the test weapon.However, a few comments on this “feature” are in order.In the context of a military institution, the provision is a cost-saver.If The Powers That Be (TPTB) decide that the proper infantry squad should have 3 DMR rifles instead of one, then it is a small matter to switch barrels and outfit the weapon with optics and etc, as opposed to acquiring an entire new weapons system, or doing a more labor-intensive arsenal overhaul.

However, for the individual military unit, or LE agency or officer, or private individual interested in a defensive weapon, this is a non-feature that you pay through the nose for.Once you change barrels, you must re-zero the weapon.(If you don’t know why, take my word for it or ask around, this review is too long already to explain it)There is no time for that immediately before a mission, much less time to play with barrels, nor is there time or opportunity for that in the LE or civvies situation.It is an oxymoron, a straw-man and a sales pitch to nowhere.The only possible benefit is to the private tinkering hobbiest, who will busy himself switching barrels and optics ad nauseum to his OCD heart’s content, who will for the most part have these pricey assemblies reside comfortably in his temperature controlled safe.

Moreover, the AR style complete upper assembly is a far more practical and economical way of IMMEDIATELY changing capabilities of your rifle.A pre-zeroed upper assembly complete with sighting system is popped on and off in under a minute.Because the SCAR (and ACR) use the upper receiver as the serial numbered part, in order for those rifles to have the same capability as an AR, you would have to buy numerous actual serial-numbered SCAR or ACR rifles.Fail, fail and more fail.

The SCAR uses a monolithic upper receiver, like the ACR, but rather than a forend rail system, the SCAR has a permanent bottom and top rail, and two PLASTIC rail pieces screwed onto the forend area.This renders the resulting grip uncomfortable, as it is neither hand-filling nor hand-friendly.Not even skinny little crappy overpriced polymer rail ladders are provided.

Got Plastic?Good, now let me BURN you…

 

While the forend area is of acceptable (M4ish) length, many users would prefer a longer one, and indeed due to the nature of the gas operation, would be desirable.Due to the short-stroke piston, all of the heat of the gas operation is concentrated at the gas block and couple of inches behind it.Yes, right where your hand wants to be, beyond the finger-loping reciprocating charging handle.The gas block is exposed right at the end of the forend, which is not much wider in diameter than the gas block itself.I fired only 80 rounds, 50 of them within about 10 minutes, and that point my thumb moved slightly forward onto the gas block, and got burned.Moreover, I could detect little heating shielding and minimal venting in the forend, and that part was already getting hot.

This is major fail in heavy use combat weapon.Now I understand why every SCAR I shot provided by FNH had a VFG attached.You don’t wanna be near that “handguard”.Another oxymoron.

The long snoot 16” barrel is ridiculously exposed for “carbine”, and it is skinny.It heats up very quickly, and being exposed, is difficult to avoid.Being used to the M4, I got burned on the SCAR barrel, grabbing the weapon about 10 minutes AFTER shooting had stopped and bolt locked open.An M4 fired in the same manner would absolutely not cause a burn under the same circumstances.

On Day Two of the firing I attempted to light a leaf on fire from the heat, but the combination of wet leaf and cold wind prevented it.I think I could do it mid-summer.

The barrel end is finished with a FSC556 looking compensator/flash suppressor, which works quite well in controlling muzzle bounce with no added noise level.Firing sensation of the SCAR is much more M4-like than the ACR, with the rifle bouncing around a bit with a light hold in the manner of the M4/AR.Recoil is about the same, so there is no advantage in that area, such as the ACR possesses.

The sights unfortunately are another story of something that could have been great, but were pretty stupefied.  The front sight has an M4 post in circle sight guard, which is an excellent arrangement allowing very fast close range engagement and obscuring nothing at distance.However, a longer-than-standard M4-type sight tool is needed – another way for FN to get you money wise.

The rear sight is “tang-style” with a range-adjustable aperture folding down and here it borders on greatness. The twin apertures are just the right sizes:the small is precise and the larger one is not overly large as in the M4.Range is adjustable through a twisting sight base, easily read by the operator behind the sights, where he should be.Sight picture and speed are great.

Call of Duty:Call your Office


But I did say “borders” and yet here again FNH mars this greatness with notable fail.The windage is ambi on both sides of the sight base (weird and unnecessary), and dials made of polymer, along with other parts of the rear sight.The rear sight does not lock in the up position, and if that has to be my only sight, I expect it to stay up.But the spring tension is not particularly strong either for it do to that without locking.The front sight is located right on top of that cherry red hot gas block, folds forward, and so requires you to interface with the sizzling component to deploy the front sight in an emergency.Moreover, the front sight locks in BOTH the up and down positions, and is unlocked via a very small button with a very stiff spring.If you need to deploy the front sight after firing numerous rounds, you will probably be getting your fingers burned.Possibly not a problem for HSLD Operators that always wear the latest in tacticool gloves. The front sight housing appears to be lightweight aluminum, rather than durable steel.Poor.

 

Reloading is straight forward but as mentioned the mag well tolerances, heavy mag catch and bolt catch springs, make for a slower than possible reload. During my reloading drills I was noticeably slower than with the M4.

There are plenty of sling positions on this rifle.However, once again, there are few unmitigated goods on this FNH product – they are mostly all ring snap points.These are noisy, and subject the surrounding areas to wear.Simple QD swivel stops like the ACR would have better.

The grip is straight M4, so is modular and can be replaced to no end.

The lower receiver/trigger housing is polymer, but obviously a different material than the flimsy stock.It is very heavy duty.A different color as well.

Why didn’t they make the stock out of this stuff?

 

Speaking of fire control groups, you’re not finding parts for this in a blister pack at Sports Authority.

 

How much more FAIL can be built into a weapon that is twice the price of a serviceable M4gery?Let’s shoot it and find out!

At the range I decided to try the issue “iron sights” and the owner-provided ACOG TA- in FDE with uber-gamer Doktor Optik 8 MOA red dot mini-sight on top, and triple backup silly ghost rings irons with 3” sight radius.

I fired 80 rounds, 30 to zero and 50 on a quickie qual course.The BUIS could not be zeroed as I did not have the factory tool nor a suitable AR tool immediately in hand.The Doktor Optic could not be zeroed because I didn’t have the manual or the super-mini screwdriver need to do a trial-n-error adjustment.The tertiary ACOG irons could not be zeroed, because they are fixed.

The ACOG 4x optic, that I could zero.This was a custom reticle, a green donut center, especially suitable for plunking Zombies.Looks small in the photo, but functional for distance targets in reality.

I Need Brains


I cleaned an M4 qual course 100-50X with the ACOG.It’s a nice sight for target clarity and precision within carbine parameters.However, it’s not a good sight for inside 50 yards.Since the course is 50 yards and in, it became something of a gamer exercise.The offset from the bore is considerable, and small close shots require both knowledge of the bore/sight relationship and a general ignoring of your surroundings other than a small target spot.Not very practical.

After Day One handling, I was less than impressed with Mr SCAR.For $3K I expected a significant design improvements over the M4.It was not there.

After Day One shooting, I was pleased with the functioning and accuracy characteristics of the SCAR, and in comparison to the ACR it handled quickly on the range. The charging handle was useable, and the stock didn’t break.But I was shocked at the heat level at the gas block, how close it was to the fingers of the support hand, and I got burned twice on the gun.I felt like a tyro, but in fact it pointed out some design issues with the weapon.

Day Two I got off my ass and dug up the proper iron sight tool, and also a mini-screwdriver for the Eel Doktoor.I did the plastic irons first, and that was an easy adjustment.Then Eel Doktoor – which having had experience with a J-Point I knew would be an ass-tear (especially without any provided sight correction disk) – which thankfully zeroed within 15 rounds.I was skeptical of the HUGE 8 MOA dot, but it was accurate.

I could not obtain anything close to an American stock weld with Eel Doktoor.Instead I used a “chin weld” and felt like a Kraut firing one of those bizarre scoped drillings with stock of massive drop.

Zeroing two of the many redundant sight systems

Now I was starting to like this SCAR again.Next up was some accuracy work.After yesterdays burn therapy, I said “F*** this” and put some Ergo FDE Brown rail covers on the side rails of the rifle to protect my hands, and some Ergo FDE Brown rail ladders on the top rail to protect it from scuffs. This looked better, felt better, was more functional, and less expensive than an aftermarket $120 rail extension to cover the pizza-oven gas block.

An added benefit was that now I was nearly invisible!

 

I shot on elbows off a bench with the ACOG 4x at 100 yards – nothing sophisticated here.One 5-shot groupie each, and threw out the most distant shot: neither weapon nor operator was Camp Perry-grade.The trigger was single stage and better than a stock Colt M4, but was not match-grade and had some funky scratchy creep.

Winchester 55 grain JSP 2.84”

Military M8553.78”

Federal 69 grain BTHP2.84”

Federal 62 grain SP 2.71”

Winchester 60 grain SP 3.03”

Neatly thrown pile for you brAss Pickers

Not hostage-rescue material, but OK for a carbine.If you knew your dope, 400 yards would be obtainable.These groups were shot one right after another.POI varied somewhat between groups – could have been the heat of firing, the fact that I forgot which T-number the ACOG was mounted on (yes it has T-numbered top rail unlike the pretender ACR) and the target was somewhat inappropriate for a 4xish scope.

Next up was our standard Operator Drill listed in the standards section of this site.I popped off the ACOG and used the plastico irons for this.They were very fast, and the carbine handled quickly and soundly from all start positions.Accuracy was 100% within the time limits.Reloading drills struggled to stay in the 4-5 second range, due to the stiffness of the controls.

The Ergo rail covers were especially a good idea, and the carbine pointed well and quickly.I decided to finish up with some snap shooting at 50 yard smoke canisters (the individual kind, not the artillery type).The plastico irons were very fast, whatever signs the carbine had exhibited before were forgotten as shot after shot hit its mark quickly and reliably.It was faster than an M4 in this regard.

With some trepidation, I tried the same snaps with the ACOG back on, and used Eel Doktoor and his notorious Chin Weld.Wow, I was impressed.It did far better than I imagined.Not as good as the irons, but certainly more than useable.

Eel Doktoor

 

Clean up was a breeze.The gas regulator has that same goofy suppressed/unsuppressed setting as the ACR, only this time without markings.Helpful!The gas piston was a PITA to get out of the gas cylinder as it is a tight fit and has gas rings on it.No tool was provided to assist with this, so the short end of an allen key sufficed.But what little fouling there was cleaned up quickly with carbon solvent.The bolt area was hardly dirty.

Not much to clean.

 

Retrospective

The SCAR is a lively and responsive carbine that features gas piston operation.It is reasonably accurate off the bench, and very accurate for snap shooting.Handling is similar to an M4/AR, although somewhat slower.Certain features are unnecessary in a LE or civ carbine, and there are some features which are poorly designed and/or executed.In the end I cannot see the advantage over an M4, given the price differential, and in fact see some downsides.

In comparison to the ACR, I think it is superior in weight and fast handling, although the ACR has the better stock design and more durable-appearing materials.Both are over-priced for what they are.

2 Comments to FN SCAR Review: A Shootist’s Odyssey: SCARd For Life

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