FNH-USA 5.56mm SCAR 16s Semi-Automatic Rifle


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

November 27th, 2009




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For decades now, detractors of the M16/AR-15 rifle have been calling for the US Military to replace that weapon. Problems have been addressed and solved for the most part over the years, but more recently, the shorter M4 and M4A1 have been experiencing problems in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, and for at least some units of our military, the M4 series is on its way out. The replacement is the short-stroke gas piston operated Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle MK16 and MK17 rifles from FN Herstal. A few months ago, the U.S. Special Operations Command began fielding the new weapons, starting with 600 members of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

The two new weapons are very similar, differing primarily in the cartridge for which each is chambered. The MK 16 fires the 5.56 x 45mm NATO cartridge, and the MK 17 fires the 7.62 x 51mm NATO cartridge. Both weapons feature user-changeable barrels, and barrel lengths vary from ten inches to twenty inches, depending upon the weapon.  The rifles are capable of full-auto fire, have folding/telescopic buttstocks, and both can use the MK 13 grenade launcher. Many in the military have high hopes for the success of these rifles, as do I. Our soldiers and Marines deserve to have the best fighting rifles available to them, and hopefully, these new FN rifles will solve the problems experienced with the M4/M16 series of weapons.

For the rest of us, FNH-USA is marketing the civilian version of these newest weapons in the USA as the SCAR 16s and SCAR 17s.  The 7.62mm 17s is to be formally introduced at the 2010 SHOT Show in January, but the 5.56mm 16s is available now. I recently received the SCAR 16s for review, and will state right off the bat that this is a fine weapon.

The upper receiver is made from aluminum, and the lower is made of polymer. The 16s has ambidextrous controls, and uses M14/M4/AR-15 magazines. The civilian version comes with either one ten-round or one thirty-round aluminum magazine, depending upon the model chosen, to comply with local and state laws regarding magazine capacity. The upper receiver has an integral full-length Picatinny rail for mounting optical sights, and also has three additional rail sections for mounting lights, lasers, bipods, or other accessories. The sixteen and one-quarter inch barrel is free-floating within the hand guard, is rifled one turn in seven inches, and has a hard-chromed bore. The buttstock is adjustable for length-of-pull, and also folds to the right side for easier transport or use in confined quarters. The buttstock locks onto the empty case deflector when folded. There are numerous sling attachment points on the 16s. The grip is of AR-15/M16 style, as is the bolt release lever and the magazine release button. The SCAR 16s is very easy to use, and the controls are logically and conveniently placed.  The SCAR wears a good set of folding sights, fully adjustable for windage and elevation correction, with dual apertures at the rear, and is marked for distance on the elevation adjustment. The comb height is adjustable for easier use with optical sights. The trigger pull weight averaged six and one-quarter pounds, and feels pretty much like an AR-15 trigger pull. With an empty thirty-round magazine in place, the SCAR 16s weighs seven and one-half pounds.

The SCAR 16s has a reciprocating bolt handle that can be switched to either side, and it also serves as a forward assist, for seating a reluctant cartridge, if you like. The magazine release is also ambidextrous, which is a nice feature. The muzzle is finished off with a threaded-on PWS muzzle brake, which is an excellent choice. That is arguably the best muzzle brake made for a 5.56mm rifle. It is very effective.  The gas regulator has two working positions, plus a disassembly position. The normal position (12 O’clock) is for unsuppressed use, and the second operable position (10 O’clock) is for use with a sound suppressor.

I fired the SCAR extensively using the folding sights for a limited amount of time, but mostly using a Trijicon ACOG scope. The ACOG works very well on the SCAR 16s, and has reticle markings out to eight hundred meters. For accuracy testing, I mounted my “mule” scope. That is my Leupold Mark 4, 8.5 to 25 power scope that I use often to see just how much potential accuracy that a weapon possesses. This SCAR 16s is a target rifle, disguised as a fighting rifle. Accuracy was amazing, using Wolf Gold Match and Buffalo Bore match ammo, and was also very, very good using Lake City 1990 manufacture military ball ammo.  This is a half-minute-of-angle rifle. I only have experience with this one sample, but if they all shoot like this, it is an extremely accurate design. I realize that most soldiers and Marines do not need a rifle that is match-accurate, but it certainly does no harm, and makes the rifle viable as a dedicated marksman’s rifle as well. With the SCAR now being in service with U.S. troops, it should qualify the rifle for use in NRA sanctioned service rifle matches as well.

Reliability was perfect with every type of ammo tested. There were no failures to feed, fire, extract, or eject. Perfect. Recoil is, as expected, very light. The muzzle brake does a very effective job. I have used the PWS brake before, and again, it was an excellent choice for this rifle.

With the MK 16, FN Herstal has set out to build the world’s best 5.56mm fighting rifle, and the SCAR 16s is as close to that rifle as most of us can get, legally. It is a well-built rifle, very reliable, easy to shoot, and match-accurate. The price tag to own such a piece is not cheap. As of this writing, the MSRP is bumping right up against the three thousand dollar mark. However, that is not too far out of line with some of the AR-based piston rifles available, and the SCAR system must be pretty good, as it beat out other designs for the USSOCom contract. FN manufacturers the great majority of our small arms now in use with U.S. troops, and the SCAR seems to be well-accepted by those who handled, fired, and fielded the new rifle. The SCAR 16s comes with one magazine and an owner’s manual, and is available either in black or the Flat Dark Earth finish shown here. You never regret buying the best.

For more information on the SCAR 16s and other FN Herstal weapons, go to www.fnhusa.com.

For the location of an FNH dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at www.lipseys.com.

To order the SCAR 16s online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.

For a closer look at the optics used in this review, go to www.leupold.com and www.trijicon.com.

To order the Buffalo Bore Sniper ammo shown here, go to www.buffalobore.com.

Jeff Quinn

For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to: To buy this gun online, go to:




Folding sights.



Leupold 8.5-25x Mark 4 scope was used for all accuracy testing.



Trijicon ACOG scope.



Crimson Trace vertical foregrip / light / laser unit.

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Click pictures for a larger version.


FNH-USA's 5.56mm SCAR 16s rifle.



The SCAR 16s has plenty of Picatinny rail for mounting optics and accessories.



PWS muzzle brake is very effective.



Ambidextrous thumb safeties.





Folding buttstock.



Buttstock is adjustable for length of pull.





Sling attachment points.



Charging handle.



The SCAR 16s uses standard AR-15 magazines.



Gas regulator has positions for normal use (top), and for use with a sound suppressor (bottom).



Magazine release.



Match ammo proved to be very accurate.