This post was published by Taras Oleinik. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.
PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – The birth of a modern assault rifle (eng. – assault rifle) dates back to the 40s of the last century. The main features of the latest class of small arms at that time were smaller dimensions, magazines of increased capacity, as well as the so-called “intermediate” cartridge – inferior in power to rifle, but significantly superior to pistols of the same caliber.
The most popular assault rifle systems in the world (or, in the more familiar terminology, “assault rifles”) are samples created on the basis of AR and AK, less common are FN, H&K, AUG. Personally, I am selflessly in love with the AR-15 concept. In my opinion, this is the most versatile, convenient, accurate and simple weapon system.
In addition, due to the myriad of various accessories, you can build a complex on its basis for a wide range of tasks – whether it be high-precision shooting or hunting, dynamic shooting competitions or “babaching” on weekends at the shooting range, service in the armed forces or law enforcement units. She can’t make you coffee!
The most important thing is that you can get all this within the framework of one carbine purchased in the nearest large arms store. You need only certain accessories and … a little bit of your imagination.
By the way, about accessories and additional devices. I believe that you are no worse than I know: not only comfort, but also accuracy and speed of fire often depends on them.
Apparently, the same thoughts came to mind and the former US Marine Corps spy, Sergeant Robert Fitzpatrick, who in 1999 founded the company Magpul Industries Corporation. Today, Magpul is known to shooters around the world for its widest range of accessories for small arms of various systems. The company’s products appealed to athletes, hunters, bodyguards, police officers, as well as military personnel of many armies of the world.
Of course, a company with such rich experience and serious ambitions in the arms industry could not ignore the government competition “Individual carbine”, which was initiated by the US Department of Defense to select a contender for the replacement of the legendary “black rifle” Eugene Stoner – armed with a full-size M16 assault rifle and its shortened version, the M4 carbine.
At that time, original models of assault rifles had already been created, interesting in a number of design solutions that were tested by the American military. Among these systems stood out FN SCAR, developed by the American division of the Belgian company Fabrique Nationale.
Magpul engineers took only four months to create and present the first model of small arms. In 2006, an assault rifle called the Masada ACWS (aptive Combat Weapon System – “adaptive combat weapon system”) saw the light of day.
It comes from the name of the ancient Masada fortress in Israel (in 66 A.D. this fortress was captured by the Jews rebelling against Roman rule; four years later, when the uprising was brutally crushed, Masada remained the only center of resistance – and 960 of its defenders three years withstood the siege of the Roman legions, preferring to die, but not surrender).
If the original idea was to modernize existing carbines on the AR platform and improve their functionality, convenience and ergonomics, then in the course of their development Magpul engineers moved much further. But let’s talk about everything in order.
The US military needed reliable weapons in the adopted caliber, which would solve a wide range of problems, including frankly specific ones. The new carbines were supposed to be superior in functionality and reliability to the then-armed M16 rifles and M4 carbines. And Magada’s Masada should have been better suited to this role than any other.
Unfortunately, Magpul did not have enough capacity to produce their concept, and in 2008 the rights to produce this carbine were transferred to professionals in the production of small arms – Bushmaster. It is worth noting that Bushmaster dates back to 1973, specializing in the production of Stoner carbines, including under government contracts.
Two years before, Bushmaster merged with the Freedom Group, which today unites 15 arms companies, including monsters such as Remington Arms, Marlin Firearms, Dakota Arms, and DPMS.
It was Remington who brought Masada to perfection for participating in the Army Individual Carabiner contest. As a result, at the end of 2008, a new development called Remington ACR (English Adaptive Combat Rifle – “adaptive combat rifle”) in 5.56×45 mm caliber was introduced by the American military.
At the same time, this weapon is known to the civilian market as the Bushmaster ACR. There are certain differences between the military and civilian modifications: the Remington ACR has a metal (magnesium!) Lower receiver, a modified barrel mount, not designed for its quick change, the cocking handle is folding, but the butt is vice versa. A standard A2 pistol grip was also used. The military version was lighter than the civilian by 800 g.
But what about the competition announced by the Ministry of Defense? A funny story happened to him. Several models reached the final: naturally, our Remington ACR, as well as assault carbines from H&K, FN, Сolt, Beretta and Adcor Defense.
But the winner of it … no one came! The military, having spent $ 30 million on this contest, a few years later came to an unexpected decision: it turned out that rearmament of the army with a new carbine would be very expensive! As a result, the competition was canceled without the announcement of the winner.
However, as a shooter, I was even a little happy with this decision of the American generals. After all, if the Remington ACR had been adopted at the time, who knows how soon its civilian version, the Bushmaster ACR, would hit the mass market?
And when would I happen to shoot from it? In the meantime, I already had that opportunity. And even more than that: I was able to directly compare it with its main competitor – the civilian version of FN SCAR! It is about this – about my impressions of these legendary carbines – that will be discussed in this article.
ACR in detail
Why is ACR so interesting for practicing shooters? First of all, it’s worth stopping at the trunk. With a length of 16.5 ”it has a slightly larger thickness than most carbines based on AR-15. I also note the universal rifling pitch 1: 9 ”and the protective carbonitriding of the bore – the so-called melonite treating.
As a result, the shooter gets a fairly accurate weapon, allowing you to work with almost the entire range of commercial ammunition. At the same time, the resource declared by the manufacturer is 15,000 shots without loss of accuracy! Agree, these are strong arguments in favor of ACR.
The barrel mount design allows you to remove or replace it in a matter of seconds, turning an assault rifle, for example, into a Marxman rifle. In addition, theoretically it would be possible to easily change the caliber of weapons – for example, to the promised 6.8 mm Remington SPC, 6.5 mm Grendel, .300 AAC Blackout or “Orthodox” 7.62×39 mm promised by the manufacturer. But so far, there are no other calibers for ACR. And in our case, when replacement trunks are only expected, the convenience of a quick-detachable barrel is manifested in the simplicity of cleaning and maintenance.
Locking the shutter at the ACR is made for the breech of the barrel. Special attention deserves the automation system. The ACR uses a gas exhaust system with a piston – the so-called Short Stroke Gas Piston (Eng. – “gas piston with a short stroke”).
When fired, this piston acts on the bolt frame under the pressure of the gases discharged from the barrel bore. This is a significant difference from the classic AR-15, in which gases are taken directly to the gate frame, which leads to contamination and can cause failures. In other words, thanks to the use of the piston system, the engineers managed to increase the reliability of the weapon.
Here it’s worth immediately stopping at the possibility of switching the gas block, the regulator of which has two positions – for shooting with and without a sound moderator. What is it for? The use of sound moderators in semi-automatic weapons leads to accelerated pollution of the mechanism with powder deposits.
In addition, when using a moderator, the recharge system works with excessive pressure of the powder gases, which leads to increased wear and potentially faster failure of its parts. Therefore, the ability to switch weapons to a special mode of reduced pressure to work with the moderator should definitely be welcomed.
Learning FN SCAR
The abbreviation SCAR stands for Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle, which is translated from English as “combat assault rifle for special operations forces”. The system was introduced in 2004 by the American division of the Belgian company FN Herstal to participate in the competition for a new assault rifle for USSOCOM fighters.
Testing in the units began in 2007, and since 2009 SCAR has already served in some special units. The automation of this rifle is also based on the removal of powder gases with a short piston stroke; the bolt locks behind the breech of the barrel. The gas block has two positions – for shooting with and without a silencer. The upper receiver, equipped with Picatinny rails, is made of aluminum alloy, the lower one is made of polymer. Barrel – freely posted, chrome.
Butt – adjustable. The rifle is available in two calibers (SCAR-L – in 5.56×45, SCAR-H – in 7.62×51) and several modifications. The civilian version is produced in Belgium, at the headquarters of FN Herstal, and the military version is produced at a plant in Columbia, South Carolina, USA.
Ergonomics and convenience
Frankly speaking, I, as a practical shooter and instructor, are not primarily interested in the technical features of the weapon and the nuances of the technologies used. In the first place in my ranking of the most important features of any weapon are its ergonomics and ease of shooting. This is what allows you to shoot quickly and accurately – and, most importantly, do it systematically.
The forend on the Bushmaster ACR has two varieties. The first version, Enhanced, is made of aluminum and resembles the once fashionable Quad Rail. This forend has three Picatinny rails, and therefore installing additional handles, bipods, LITs, flashlights and other accessories on it will take a few seconds for the shooter, allowing you to adapt the weapon to almost any task.
But I personally found it more convenient to use the plastic forend from Magpul, which is installed on the ACR Basic version. If you do not need additional accessories, then this forend will be more convenient for reliable retention of the carbine. However, forends are easily interchangeable and sold separately.
As for the FN SCAR, the fore-end of this rifle is completely made up with an apper, that is, the upper receiver and, therefore, cannot be replaced. It also has three Picatinny rails for mounting accessories, but the side rails can be removed if necessary. The lower bar is replaced only by the module grenade launcher – for civilians this is unlikely to be relevant.
Bushmaster ACR comes with a folding front sight and the entire Magpul MBUS, which is convenient to use as spare sights – since they are mounted on the top Picatinny rail and take up little space. Yes, and dismantling them is very simple.
But the front sight of the nearest competitor, the FN SCAR carbine, located on the gas block, cannot be dismantled – just fold. By the way, the classic M4 and M16, as you remember, are not folding front sight – and in addition, made completely with the gas block. There, getting rid of the pleasure of seeing it through a collimator or optical sight is often even more difficult.
At the request of the military carbines, the ACR and SCAR are completely “double-sided”, controls are suitable for both left-handed and right-handed people. I note that the original AR-15 was created for the right-hander, and it can only be convenient for the left-hander to install additional accessories. But we definitely need to deal with these bodies in more detail.
The ACR’s cocking grip handle is something! For its creation, special thanks to the designers. It is located in front of the carbine, can easily be moved from right to left or vice versa in a couple of seconds. But the main thing is that she remains motionless during the shooting! This is what distinguishes it from its competitor, FN SCAR – the cocking handle “shoots” along the Upper in the style of a Kalashnikov assault rifle when firing.
The cocking handle of the SCAR can also be moved to the opposite side, but when holding the carabiner, the movement of the handle can lead to contact with an obstacle or the arrow of a hand – which will delay the shooting. Dear Fabrique Nationale designers, for this decision of the cocking lever I give you a rating of “unsatisfactory”! Weapons of the 21st century should not have such a “childhood illness”!
Shutter button At ACR, it is beyond praise – it is also double-sided and is located almost on the trigger guard. This design allows you to instantly bring weapons into combat readiness when changing magazines, without taking the carbine itself off the line of sight. It is enough to move a finger, which is responsible for handling the descent.
This can not be done on SCAR, where the shutter delay button is displayed only on the left side (however, you can do without it using the cocking handle). On the AR-15, you can control the shutter lag with a firing finger, but not in the basic configuration – this requires the installation of an additional lever (for example, Magpul B.A.D. Lever).
The fuse and ACR store reset button are familiar, functional and designed according to the traditional Stoner circuit, but also double-sided. By the way, there is already something to scold for ACR – the fuse box is made of plastic, turns on quite easily, and when working with a carbine in gloves, you can accidentally hit it with a shooting hand. There is clearly scope for tuning. The FN SCAR has better with this, the AR-15 traditionally, that is, good.
The ACR trigger stroke is quite tight, but well predicted. Mindful of the military purpose of the carbine, I would not try to try with this trigger to “collect a bunch” of 0.5 MOA. Fortunately, light sports slopes for ACR are already available on the market – for example, from the company Geissele Automatics, and replacement is also not difficult. However, the FN SCAR trigger similarly left not the best impression, and it is also not suitable for sports shooting – like the stock trigger of most AR-15s. All this needs to be changed!
Butts of modern assault rifles became ridicule at one time – they too remind of their popular warm ugg “uggs” (it should be noted that both rifles delivered to Ukraine have their butt folding mechanisms locked). But the extravagant appearance of the stock is a tribute to its functionality, reliability and convenience.
The ACR butt can be adjusted in length, as well as, albeit only slightly, in height (thanks to the special design of the cheek piece). The design of Magpul turned out to be almost monolithic, the backlashes in it are minimal and, in my opinion, do not affect the accuracy of this weapon.
The SCAR butt has a similar design, but only at first glance. There is also an adjustment of the butt length and height adjustment of the cheek. But at the same time, the plastic parts have quite noticeable backlashes, resembling the classic and many unloved stock butt of the M4 carbine. Moreover: if you shake the carbine, you can clearly hear how the “rumble” and dangling details of his butt! Then SCAR disappointed me again.
There’s also something to praise for this: for example, replacing the pistol grip in it with a more convenient one is very simple, since they are compatible with the AR-15 standard. But with ACR this will not work – in the Bushmaster version the ACR is an integral pistol grip part of a polymer carabiner lover. Well, you have to get used to this feature.
At the shooting range
I did not limit myself to a detailed inspection and comparison – shooting tests were ahead! And not only her …
Having shot several stores from ACR at different rates for short and medium distances, I just “caught fire” with this carbine! It seemed to me more balanced and, as they say, directly fell into the hands! You probably know the feeling when you try someone else’s weapon or get behind the wheel of another car. Everything seems to be the same, but still different! So in the case of the Bushmaster ACR, I had a feeling similar to returning to my cozy home after a hard working day – comfort, convenience and even some kind of relationship.
FN SCAR against the background of ACR was not impressed. Not my choice at all. In addition, having “run into” the thumb of the left arm once with the thumb of the left arm when firing, it somehow got sick of continuing to shoot from this weapon.
Here the reader might think: Is this a test? Yes, I shoot at my carbine for training 200-300 rounds of ammunition, and besides, I’m not cleaning it very often! And he will be right, by the way. However, on that winter day it was especially cold and damp at the training ground, it was wet all the time. So the idea to subject our experimental ACR to additional tests came by itself. Wet and dirty carbine was thoroughly … buried in the snow! Then they got him out of there and, without even shaking it off, removed it from the fuse and started firing. As expected, he worked like a Swiss watch!
It was interesting for me to look at what was going on inside the mechanism of the weapon after a busy shooting day and the “ice and flame” test. The carbine is disassembled intuitively, without the help of any tool. You may only need a cartridge – to squeeze out the nose of a bullet fixing pins. As a result of the service, I can only say that in the field, cleaning the ACR is a process, if not elementary, then certainly not burdensome for a fighter.
What to say? Gentlemen, the American military, you made a mistake by not adopting the Adaptive Combat Rifle!
The reader is likely to say that instead of an objective comparison, he read the laudatory ode to ACR. After all, he cannot fail to have any shortcomings! Of course it cannot. I would blame the designers for the fire control handle, which is made entirely with the weapon catcher – unlike the FN SCAR or AR-15, where changing the handle is easy.
Why did Magpul, having in its assortment a number of very successful handles, not foresee the possibility of their installation? The riddle. The most interesting thing is that the military version of Remington ACR has a handle … replaceable, standard AR-15!
Another disadvantage is the rather tangible cost of a carbine … But we remember that a good thing is worth the money! In addition, this carbine will serve you faithfully for many years – I have tested a specimen that has been used for presentation firing for several years and has a considerable shot. And at the same time – not a single problem.
Would I recommend this carabiner for purchase? Definitely yes! Both for shooters just taking their first steps in shooting, and for advanced athletes and lovers of firearms. Bushmaster ACR is truly a weapon of the 21st century: high-tech, ergonomic, modular, which will fire even in the most extreme conditions with minimal maintenance.
Do not, however, forget that simply owning even the most modern and “pumped” weapons will not make you a shooter. You can quickly and accurately hit targets at different distances, only by regularly practicing in shooting!
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