We have a simple measurement standard in my family that we hold up when someone strives to remake or improve something. Basically, whatever is presented, be it a song, movie, vehicle, etc., it must be better than the original, or it doesn’t get our support. Firearms and ammunition are not exempt from this standard. Goodness knows there’s been plenty of well-intended attempts throughout the history of firearms when “improvements” failed.
I had the opportunity to test this standard again on the new 2020 FN SCAR 20S at a special product reveal at the JL Bar Ranch, Resort and Spa, located in the Hill Country of Texas near Sonora.
Upon first glance, the new rifle looked like any other 20S, but a clue that change was afoot was sticking out as plain as day — the barrel.
Roll Out The Barrel
Beginning in 2020, FN will feature SCAR 20S rifles with a new 6.5 Creedmoor, straight-contour, 20-inch heavy barrel with a chrome lining. FN also plans on releasing the rifle in all black alongside their familiar Flat Dark Earth motif.
Asked if this will be the only new chambering to be released for the 20S, FN representatives at the event said that the 20S receivers are still marked “multi-caliber.” This would lead one to believe that there’s more to come in the future. Can’t wait to see what comes next.
As for the latest decision, the excellent 6.5 Creedmoor is the perfect choice to join the 7.62x51mm for this platform. Not only does thesofter recoil of the 6.5 Creedmoor help with controllability, its proven long-range target and hunting track record is tough to beat. With the 6.5 barrels sporting a 1:8-inch right-hand twist, the SCAR definitely has some legs to carry itself out to 1,500 yards and beyond.
To accommodate the heavier barrel, FN designers gave the barrel assembly a redesigned barrel extension that is 30 percent longer than found on the SCAR 17S and has more lugs for added stability. According to FN, this creates a stronger interface with the receiver to handle the additional weight and to enhance accuracy even further. With the longer interface, the new barrels need eight captive screws to lock everything down. Torque is still 62.5 pounds for each screw.
Another improvement FN made was to improve the tolerances of the barrel yoke for a tighter, more secure fit. Two things they didn’t change were the gas regulator that adjusts the gas system for suppressed and unsuppressed fire and the durable 20S gas block that’s staked to the barrel.
With a thicker barrel, a wider shoulder at the muzzle allows shooters to run a larger variety of brakes, compensators and suppressors than before. FN is taking advantage of the new shoulder dimensions by shipping each new 6.5 barrel with a SureFire ProComp muzzlebrake.
During test firing, the ProComp worked well to contain muzzle jump and to help direct the rifle rearward for faster repeat shots. Besides the benefits the device gives the gun, FN was also aware that customers are picky when it comes to their attachments. That’s why the choice was made to go with a commercial device from SureFire rather than giving customers a custom FN brake.
One thing the company wanted to stress to customers who own older SCAR 20S rifles was that the new barrels will fit all original 20S rifles. However, while the 20S shares up to 75 percent of the same parts with its SCAR 16S and 17S cousins, the barrels will not work on these rifles. Shooters who own a 20S 7.62mm barrel will find the new 6.5 Creedmoor barrels are fully interchangeable and come with an accuracy guarantee of being no more than 1-MOA off zero when a switch happens. Twist and caliber are marked on each barrel near the muzzle end to avoid confusion.
For those shooters who own an older SCAR 20S and wish to upgrade to the new barrel configuration, they will have to wait a bit for complete upper assemblies to come later this year. No price was quoted at the time of the reveal, but FN representatives did say the cost would be comparable to what one would spend for either a SCAR 16S or 17S assembly.
Enough Barrel Talk
While the 6.5 barrel assembly receives the lion’s share of the attention, it’s just as important to note the other fine accoutrements on a rifle that was made for shooting in the prone position.
Starting up front, the rifle comes with an excellent rail system with a full-length intergral rail on top and auxiliary rails at the three-, six- and nine-o’clock positions.
For fans of side-charging handles, the SCAR has one that can be mounted on either side of the gun. Mine was on the left side, and it was especially handy when I inadvertently hit the bolt release lever on a reload and had to quickly charge the rifle. It was refreshing how it allowed me to stay engaged with the cheekrest and in my shooting position and still cycle the action. As for the other controls, both the selector switch and magazine release are ambidextrous.
The rifle features a Hogue OverMolded grip with finger grooves. I know some shooters detest finger grooves, but I had no trouble getting a confident and unbothered grip with what the SCAR sported.
Just above the grip, shooters will find an excellent 3.5-pound, two-stage Geissele Super SCAR match trigger. While some in the media group voiced their preference for a lighter trigger, I found the trigger to my liking with its small takeup, a definite wall before easily breaking, and a short and quick reset that was a definite plus when sending three-shot volleys at distant steel.
Behind the rifle, you’ll find FN’s rugged precision adjustable stock assembly. Whoever thought this up should be on the company’s wall of fame, for not only does it offer a place to install a monopod, it was given ample length of pull and comb height adjustments in nonslip locking arrangements. The rubberized cheekrest was a welcomed touch and is so much better than cold plastic.
To adjust each, you first have to press in on a release that was easy to work even with gloves on. I even gave the cheekrest a few whacks to see if I could get it to skip out of its setting. It stayed solidly in place.
As a fitting end to the whole works, the curved rubber buttpad settled in nicely with my shoulder and made felt recoil almost nonexistent. Gas piston systems tend to have more felt recoil over gas-impingement designs, but with the SCAR 20S, recoil was the least of my concerns and made concentrating on the targets that much easier.
And concentrate on targets we did as we proved the new rifle’s mettle during live-fire testing at the JL Bar’s shooting range. The assembled gun media had little trouble eating up steel out to 1,200 yards. The targets at 1,500, however, proved challenging due to the shifting Texas Hill Country winds. But when the winds cooperated, the targets at 1,500 quickly became toast for the 20S rifles, the 6.5 cartridge and the Nightforce ATACR 4-16x50mm F1 riflescopes.
According to FN, the longevity for the 6.5 Creedmoor barrel is between 3,000 to 5,000 rounds. For those keeping score at home, the 7.62 barrel will last a mite longer to around 16,000 rounds. Either way, that is a whole lot of shooting enjoyment.
Looking back on the full day of shooting, I never once made note of a malfunction as each of the six rifles at the event finished off all the Hornady 140-grain Extremely Low-Drag (ELD) Match ammo we could feed them.
While other guns with a combat heritage have failed to win over a commercial following, the new and improved FN SCAR 20S in 6.5 Creedmoor has broken out of its old warhorse persona and passed the “remake” challenge I stand by. With the adoption of the ever-popular 6.5 Creedmoor and with the potential to release other .30-caliber chamberings, FN has a definite winning formula that should please the pickiest of shooters. The 2020 models will be arriving soon at a dealer near you, so try to get a test drive if you can. I think you’ll be hooked.
FN SCAR 20S 6.5 Creedmoor SpecsType:
6.5 Creedmoor (tested), 7.62x51Capacity:
20-in., 1:8-in. RH twistOverall Length:
40.6 in. (collapsed), 42.5 in. (extended)Weight:
Integral with receiverStock:
Flat Dark Earth, blackTrigger:
Geissele Super SCARMagazine:
FN America; fnamerica.com