Noir Review | The FN SCAR 17S

posted on March 2, 2015

As much as I love AR-15s, they’re constantly flirting with redundancy and oversaturation. So rifles like the Fabrique Nationale SCAR 17S are welcome additions to the modern rifle marketplace. But beyond its contribution to increased market variety, does the 17S have true staying power, or is it simply a niche rifle with “Call of Duty” looks and a Ferrari price tag?

Visually, the design language of the 17S commands attention. Nevertheless, some people reject its looks as juvenile gamer delusions of grandeur. Personally, I like the playful balance between futuristic laser blaster and moderately evolved AR. Sometimes ARs can look disjointed and lacking uniformity, as if put together from a MacGyver parts bin. In contrast, the SCAR 17S looks like it was designed from one solid piece of material.

The stock is to me the most defining visual characteristic of the SCAR. Unfortunately, it also looks incredibly similar to an UGG boot. I like the stock, but I can’t look at the SCAR without an image of that fur-covered turd that pre-pubescent teenagers call a boot popping up in my head. Still, there’s a toy-like quality about the looks of the 17S that gives the impression that it’s an incredibly fun gun to shoot.

Ergonomically, I don’t think the 17S is an obvious winner. It can feel a little bloated and not as nimble as other .308 AR-pattern rifles; but what it lacks in finesse and grace, it makes up for in weight, balance and comfort. ARs typically feel like they were designed with straight-edge rulers, but the SCAR’s ergonomics feel like they were conceived with a protractor, signifying FN’s understanding that the human body is a combination of curves, straight lines and right angles.

Yes, the stock looks like a Taylor Swift uniform staple, but it’s a big part of why this gun’s ergonomics are much better than they appear at first glance. The slight curve on the back end of the stock conforms nicely to the natural curve created where my chest and shoulder meet. The adjustable cheek weld is a silent blessing to my neck; I’m not forced to hyperextend or contract it to see through my optic like a damn ninja turtle.

The balance this gun exhibits rivals that of an Olympic gymnast on a balance beam. I love it. The rifle’s weight remained consistently balanced and centered right over the magazine well. Speaking of weight, the SCAR 17S is creepy light. At eight pounds, it may look bloated; but it’s clearly all gas, because it’s one of the lightest – if not the lightest – in its peer class.

What I love about the SCAR is how complicated it looks, but how basic and intuitive it feels in your hands. Again, the stock steals the show in that you can fold it over, decreasing its profile. Your fingers naturally land on all the things that matter. The SCAR is completely ambidextrous, including the reciprocating charging handle.

In many ways the SCAR 17S is a freak of nature. How it manages to be so light and maneuverable and manage the recoil of the .308 the way it does is debatably brilliant. It’s like it doesn’t know it’s shooting a .308. You put the gun up to your shoulder and brace yourself for what you expect to be scoliosis-inducing recoil that will cause you to question whether it’s worth shooting all 20 rounds in its magazine. You pull the trigger and instead of hitting you like an anvil, it firmly shoves you on the chest and says, “See, not so bad, now let’s do it again because that was awesome!”

The reciprocating charging handle on the SCAR is an obvious point of contention for some people. Theoretically, it can get caught on things and cause your gun to malfunction when you’re in a fight. But out here where I’m not being shot at, a reciprocating charging handle is to shooting what skeletonized watches are to the timepiece world. Seeing the beautifully placed gears turning makes the watch feel special, the same way seeing the charging handle of the SCAR 17S crashing back and forth each time you pull the trigger makes the shooting experience feel more epic.

Double-taps and rapid fire were enjoyable and didn’t make me feel like I was a crash test  dummy holding on for dear life. The trigger on the SCAR isn’t the greatest in the world, but it’s nowhere near as bad as some people make it out to be. It’s heavy, with some creep, and the reset feels a little hollow, but it’s hardly horrible. 

The SCAR doesn’t come cheap, so be ready to pony up between $2,500 and $2,800 for one. Not to mention that the magazines are proprietary and also not budget-friendly. But for the money, you don’t just get a rifle. You really do get an experience. It’s a rifle that, when shot, makes you feel like you’re defying some law of physics. It’s a gun of many talents. 

Many rifles can do the long game just fine, but not many can play the short distance game just as well; they’re just too heavy and a bit unwieldy. Currently, if I were forced to pick one rifle as my sole .308 piston-driven rifle, it would be the SCAR 17S. Considering the love I have for the HK MR762, that’s saying a hell of a lot.  

Colion Noir is an NRA News Commentator and the host of NOIR on NRA Freestyle.  


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