Sunday, April 17, 2016

Review: FNAR - Competition rifle that is not ready for competition

For many years Fabrique Nationale (FN) has produced many fine products.  But no one bats a thousand and every company produces a mediocre or bad product.  Today I review one of FN’s least desirable products.  The FNAR. 

The FNAR is a semi-automatic rifle based on the Browning BAR.  (The hunting rifle, not the military rifle)  FN took the Browning design and added a magazine well to accommodate 5, 10 and 20 round magazines and a PIcatinny rail and a fancy stock.  Otherwise, the action is the same.  It is chambered only in .308 Winchester. 

Overall it is a sound design.  The fit and finish is excellent.  Just what you expect from a FN. The Competition model is colored blue (the company color) and looks sharp.  Has a nice adjustable cheek piece to fit the shooter.  A large Picatinny rail for mounting any optic.  It also includes a small Picatinny rail on the end of the barrel if you are so inclined to add iron sights.  The short, medium weight, 20 inch barrel is handy.  The action is smooth and functions well. 
This is where the good ends.  Let me move on to why this is not a good rifle, especially for a competition rifle. 

The Bad:

11. The medium weight barrel unbalances the rifle.  All the weight is up front and makes the rifle clumsy to move quickly and efficiently.
22. The Competition stock has no provisions for a sling or for a bi-pod.  This tells me this rifle was designed for one and only one type of competition.  One that does not require the use of a sling or bi-pod.  Without aftermarket gunsmithing, this rifle is not useful for multiple uses or competition types.    
33. The front Picatinny rail is pointless.  It is intended to put iron sights on.  But with iron sights you want a longer sight radius to minimize aiming errors.  The 20 inch barrel is a bit short for iron sights, especially if you want to win at competition.  Just remove the front Picatinny rail.   Most people will be using some sort of optic in today's world. 
Also, the iron sights sit very high above the bore, which will not allow for a good cheek weld.  This is not good for your accuracy.

44. The magazine release is too far forward.  Though ambidextrous, it is located too far forward for easy access, which will slow down your magazine changes.  This fact alone will lose you the competition.
55. Proprietary magazines that are stupid expensive.  Running around $50 each.  Ouch!  Since you added an extended magazine well, How about using standard off the shelf magazines?  Way to think of your customers needs FN.   
66. The bolt release is also in a bad location that will slow you down. 

77. Trigger.  It is definitely not what I would call a competition trigger.  Though light at approximately 3 – 3.5 pounds.  It is full of slack, creep, grit and crunch.  It is everything but a competition trigger.  Fine for a hunting rifle.
88. Complex gas system that is major pain to take apart to clean.  Definitely follow the instruction manual.  Lots of small screws, pins and springs that need to be taken out.  Good news, you do not need to pull it apart very frequently.  Bad news is the instruction manual that came with the rifle is incomplete.  It only explains how to disassemble the gas system.  But does not tell you how remove the bolt from the receiver.  Thank Google for the power of YouTube.  And a big thanks to FN for doing a half-ass job on the instruction manual.  Incomplete, small with tiny black and white pictures that are hard to see. 
99. Only chambered in .308 Winchester.  Why not 6.5 Creedmoor?  Same horsepower but much less recoil.  Less recoil means faster return to target.  How about .223?  Even less recoil and lower ammunition costs.  The only advantage of .308 is knockdown power at longer ranges (400+ yards).  Assuming you can hit your target.
110. Accuracy:  Definitely mediocre.  Even with the medium weight barrel, the rifle acts very much like a light weight hunting rifle.  The accuracy expands and contracts with the temperature of the barrel.  See Photo.
1.    First group, cold bore.  This is what you expect from a competition rifle.  The separation is most likely operator error. 
2.    2nd group.  As the barrel heats up, the group open ups.  Still not bad.  Ignore the flying on the lower left of the group.
3.    3rd group.  WTF?  Pushing 3 inches and no clue where shot #5 went.  This is AK territory.  Or Tavor is you prefer.  It also limits your maximum effective range depending on target size.  A 3 inch group at 100 yards gives you have a theoretical 15 inch group at 500 yards.
4.    4th group.  After a short barrel cool down, the group closes up a bit.  Getting back to normal.  Again, separation is probably is operator error.

Not good for a competition rifle.  Fine for a hunting rifle.   


The FNAR evolved from the Browning BAR hunting rifle.  Fabrique Nationale sexed it up and threw it out into the market place and marketed it as a “competition” rifle.  The FNAR is not a competition rifle in any way shape or form.  It is outclassed by the AR-15.  Hell, it is outclassed by an AK-47 and even a Tavor. 

I know YouTube is full of videos of people singing the praises of this rifle.  Sure, if a 1-3 inch gun is accurate enough and you limit your range to not more than 500 yards on a target not smaller than 10” in diameter, then yes, the FNAR is a fine rifle. 
I disagree with most people on this rifle.  It is outclassed by almost all other rifles.  For the same $1500 I can build a hell of a great AR-15 that will outshine the FNAR in all respects. 
It is the height of mediocrity for a “competition” rifle.  It is something I would expect out of Taurus, not FN.   

Fabrique Nationale needs to discontinue this rifle and remove it from the catalog.  Shut down the assembly line and put the money into fixing their other craptactular products.  

If you are hell bent on owning one of these, I do recommend the Browning BAR version.  It is a nice, sleek design with a flush fit magazine and available in multiple calibers.  It is hunting oriented, but that is what this design was meant to be and nothing else. 

Browning BAR Rifle

This is my $1.02 worth.  

By: Mez



Double Tap said...

What kind of competition do they intend the rifle to be used for? I would think distance precision by its appearance, but that grouping - no way.

Momma Fargo said...

I need to read that again because all I could think of was..."GAWD, that is a purty gun!" Great review. I love the fact you are very thorough and really examine the important things about a device.

John Willett said...

Agree with Mama Fargo - fine looking gun and love, love, love my SCAR 17 - so I was hoping to hear it was what it purports to be - and I am a little disappointed in FN hearing about this one - I have not really known them to extol a product for something it's not but I don't really see any holes in your argument.

My SCAR IS SUB MOA with average off the shelf ammo - almost everything I've run through it I can get sub MOA and half MOA with the good stuff - I really thought I was gonna hear this thing was a tack driver right out of the box since my battle rifle with a Timney 4 lb trigger as the only mod is so accurate for me - I was ready to go buy this thing.

Some of the things you mention I could live with but. Competition rifle - don't care what kind - has to be accurate and have a barrel that doesn't significantly shift POI when it heats up.

Thanks for the warning

Paul Bonneau said...

Thanks for the rant. However I have a few questions:
22. Is it really so difficult to put sling swivels on a stock?
33. How can the cheek weld be bad, when you have an adjustable cheek piece?
55. Yes this is annoying, but how many mags are needed for competition? Just wondering. The mags are very high quality.
66. That's what gunsmiths are for.
88. Yes it's difficult. A good thing it shoots clean so you don't have to do it often.
110. Funny, every other review raves about accuracy. Interesting that all these groups on your example target have flyers and operator errors. Maybe the test should be done again by a competent shooter.

In 11 you suggest the barrel is too heavy, in 110 you imply it is not heavy enough. Make up your mind...

Yes, few people use .308 in competition any more. So I would say it's more a gun that has a few competition features and a nicer look, than anything serious. I'd trade my base FNAR for this gun in a second, just because I like the looks and dislike separate pistol grips. No, I wouldn't compete with it, except for maybe the odd informal match or a hunting gun competition. I'd just use it as it is, a bolt-gun accurate semi-auto for defense or hunting or whatever a .308 gets used for these days.

Michael Em said...

22. It is the "competition" model. you are already paying extra. You should not need to add these. Sling swivels are standard on the hunting model why not the "competition" model?
33. First, see that sharp stabby point at the front of the check riser? yep, not that comfortable when it stabs you. Yes, I lean forward on my stocks. Second, it does not go high enough to give a good cheek weld and put your eye directly behind the optic. It needs longer standoffs. Especially if you use a large diameter optic. Again, not "competition: ready.
55. True you only need a few magazines for competition. But, since FN was redesigning the gun anyway with a magwell they could have used an off the shelf magazine, such as MagPul, like everyone else does. Why reinvent the wheel? Why force your customer to buy overpriced magazines when there are less expensive magazines of equal quality?
66. It is the "competition" model. You are paying extra already. The rifle should be squared away right out of the box. Why pay extra, then pay even more to get what you want. Might as well just build a rifle from scratch and get what you want up front instead of modifying an incomplete rifle. And explain to me how you are going to gunsmith the bolt release back 3-4 inches? That I would like to see. And what did it cost you.
88. Ah yes, not cleaning your gun is great for accuracy and reliability. Just want you want in a competition gun.
110. Accuracy is relative. This is hunting accurate, not competition accurate. Funny, I did not see you there at the range when I tested this rifle. Funny, didn't realize we know each other and have seen each other shoot. I'm not as bad as you think I am. Why do you discount flyers? Sounds like you cherry pick your data. Why do you assume operator error? A competition gun should do this especially to the extent you see here. This is what the rifle actually did. The groups opened and closed with the temperature of the barrel just like a hunting rifle does. It wasn't me.

No, you infer that I implied the barrel is not heavy enough. What I actually said was, it ACTS like a lightweight hunting rifle. Never said the barrel wasn't heavy enough. And the rifle actually is unbalanced.

To address your final paragraph, the fact you won't but the FNAR "competition" head to head in a real competition of accuracy tells me I'm not far off the mark. Therefore I stand by my opinion. And yes, it is my opinion. I call them as I see them based on MY experience. MY experience is the FNAR "competition" is nothing more than a sexed up Browning BAR hunting rifle that is not worth the extra cost. It should be squared away out of the box and it is not. It is not what it is advertised as, a COMPETITION rifle.

One of the benefits of being a small independent blog is I can write my 100% truthful opinion about a product. I'm not sponsored. No one pays me for reviews. No one sends me product to review. I can only review products I have purchased with my own money. So if a product sucks I will say so.
How many negative reviews of guns have you seen by the big time publishers? Basically never. Rarely do you see a negative review by the YouTube reviewers as well. They are a bit more honest than the longtime mainstream guys, but not by much.

Hope I satisfied your questions. Glad you are happy with your FNAR. I was not. To me it is still an overpriced, sexed up hunting rifle not ready for competition.