In 2003 the United States Special Operations Command approved a Joint Operational Requirements Document launching a search for a rifle that would satisfy the multifaceted needs of our special forces. By this time some of the luster had worn off the relatively new M4 carbine that many of these troops were issued. Problems with reliability, service life, and fouling from extended firing convinced officials that we needed to supply our Special Operation Forces (SOF) with a better weapon. What they needed was a new rifle without the shortcomings of the M4.
The criterion for the new weapon was assembled by the same men that use these weapons in combat-operators who know the faults and idiosyncrasies of issue rifles as well as their strong points. The wish list that they developed would be a veritable dream gun for SOF troops.
In 2004, FN, the company that already produces the M16, M249, and M240 weapon systems for the U.S. Military, won the SOF Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) solicitation. In all cases, FN's weapons met the requirements and, in many more, exceeded them.
The SCAR-L (light) is chambered for the 5.56 x 45mm NATO round and the SCAR-H (heavy) fires the more powerful 7.62 x 51mm NATO round. The FN SCAR system was produced in small numbers initially for testing and just recently has been deployed with operational units.
A Clean System
Among the innovative features of the SCAR rifles is their ability to change their barrels quickly to one of a different length. The rifles also use a short stroke piston system that keeps the receiver cleaner and cooler for better reliability. This system also allows the use of a side folding stock and FN designed one that is adjustable for length of pull and, believe it or not, incorporates an adjustable cheek rest. The weapon's modular design lends well to reconfiguring it for a specific mission.
While the military guns are true select fire weapons the interest that they have generated has not been lost among those in law enforcement. In response to this demand, FN has just introduced the SCAR 16S, a semi-auto-only version with a 16.25-inch barrel. All of the features that make it well suited for combat also make it desirable for use as a patrol carbine or perimeter weapon.
Piston drive guns seem to be the current rage and, while I personally do not have a problem with standard gas impingement rifles, there is no arguing that piston drive weapons keep fouling out of the receiver. Heat in the upper receiver is also reduced dramatically with piston systems and that prevents the baking of carbon fouling to parts and evaporation of lubricants.
The SCAR rifles use a short stroke piston system. Gas bled from the barrel impacts the piston, which in turn hits the bolt carrier hard enough to drive it rearward, starting the feed cycle. Excess gas is expelled forward and clear of the gun through the gas regulator just below the front sight. The gas regulator has three settings: suppressed, unsuppressed, and disassembly. For most semi-auto shooting, the regulator will be left at the 12 o'clock position.
FN's SCAR uses a very heavy bolt carrier-about 40 percent heavier than that of an AR-and that extra mass ensures that the bolt goes into battery even if the rifle is very dirty. In the unlikely event that it fails to go into battery, the user can use the bolt handle as a forward assist. The reciprocating charging handle can be moved to either side.
My test rifle had the handle on the left side and for me, a right handed shooter; this is perfect as I could charge the chamber with my left hand while my right hand maintained a firing grip. Caution: Position your support hand so that it does not get in the way of the charging handle.
The upper of the SCAR 16S is the serialized part and is made from an aluminum extrusion. A Picatinny rail runs the length of the upper receiver and there are also additional rails at the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock, which are removable if desired.
The SCAR features a hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel with a 1:7 inch twist and is designed to fire the M855 62-grain bullet with exceptional accuracy. The military rifle has a quick-change barrel feature, which is not offered on the civilian model.
FN is equipping the civilian model with the Primary Weapons Systems flash hider that is designed to keep the flash out of optics and line of sight. The barrel is threaded with a standard 1/2 inch x 28 thread so that a multitude of other flash hiders can be used if desired. That's especially important if the weapon will be used with a suppressor, as the manufacturers often use a proprietary flash hider for quick installation.
The SCAR's buttstock is a work of art. There's just no other way to explain it. It is adjustable for length of pull, giving the users about 2 1/2 inches of adjustment. That's welcome news especially if you're wearing armor. By depressing a button on the left side of the stock, the cheek rest can be raised in half inches so the shooter can have a positive cheek weld when using optics or iron sights.
Below the cheek rest button is the steel buttstock lock that, when depressed, releases the hinged buttstock from the backplate and allows it to fold to the right side of the weapon. The rifle can be fired with the stock in the folded position, but this feature's real benefit is to dramatically reduce the gun's overall length in tight quarters or for storage.
The stock locks onto a protuberance at the rear of the ejection port, which also serves as a shell deflector. To re-deploy the stock, pull down and away sharply, swinging it to the left until it locks back into the backplate. A rubber buttplate ensures that the stock won't slide off a nylon vest or chest rig. What I like most about this buttstock is that all adjustments are quiet, and it is absolutely wobble free.