Caliber choice for patrol rifles has always been something that engenders almost ad-nauseam conversation. And I'm not going to start that argument here. That's not because the decision isn't critical. It's because caliber choice is not rocket science.
Most of the time the caliber discussion revolves around penetration or more likely overpenetration. Again, it is a valid debate, but often people on both sides base their arguments on myth, pseudo-science, and what amounts to nothing more than marketing claims. It is simply amazing how much the "industry" drives the decisions made by law enforcement and even the military. Instead of choice being determined by what's best for the operator, the industry often tells us what we "need."
As a SWAT lieutenant, I have tested numerous rifles, suppressors, and other gear, and I've learned to take vendor claims with a healthy dose of skepticism. A lot of stuff just doesn't meet the grade.
My point here is that you simply cannot take someone else's word about a police firearm. You have got to test it and test it well. The decision you make may determine the outcome of a real life-and-death situation; it is truly critical.
Which brings me back to the caliber debate and leads us into this discussion of the FNH USA SCAR 17S, a .308 caliber patrol rifle.
There are agencies and jurisdictions where the extra range and penetration of the .308 rifle is a necessity. Many rural jurisdictions may have to deal with four-legged critters that a 5.56 round would simply irritate. And there are also areas where every home owner has a 7mm Magnum or bigger rifle for deer hunting where local law enforcement needs the power and performance of .308 rifles.
You can control the penetration of the .308 with bullet selection, but you cannot add range to the 5.56mm. Whether a .308 patrol rifle is for you depends on what you actually need and the ranges at which you will need it.
OK. Lets's talk about the SCAR 17S.
The SCAR 17S may be the most perfect .308 patrol rifle that I have ever evaluated. I know that's a strong statement. So let me elaborate.
In my experience all but some custom rifles are often problematic or erratic when purchased in bulk. One of the most popular guns on the market came to me in a pair, and it took all kinds of tweaking to get these to work at all for the first 100 rounds. That's not the case so far for the FNH USA SCAR 17S.
The SCAR 17S is not an AR-type rifle, it just looks like one. The gas system is different and has more in common with rifles like the Heckler & Koch G36, the FN FAL, and other proven systems. It does, however, have the ergonomics associated with the AR platform.
The SCAR 17S was developed for the military, and the military wanted to smooth the transition for its troops from ARs to the SCAR so all of the controls are in the same place with a couple extras. Some of these out-of-the-box extras are what we should have on every rifle intended for police work. For example, there's an ambi-safety control. Another nice touch is the ambidextrous magazine release. Not only does this facilitate left-handed shooting, it also makes magazine changes from the prone position easier to perform regardless of which side you shoot from.