Meet the FN Ballista

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Two years ago Remington jumped into the modular precision rifle platform with their MSR line, this year FN hit back hard with their Ballista rifle. Easily convertible from .338 Lapua, .300win mag, and .308. Swapping out calibers can be done under 1.5-2 minutes, and is done so by loosening 4 captive barrel screws, and uses a self-adjusting bolt for proper head-spacing. The gun utilizes a composite mix of aluminum, steel, and polymer stock, with folding stock (adjustable), and more rails then AMTRAK. Coming in around 17lbs this looks to be a strong competitor in the military precision platform market.



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  • Alex Pawelczyk

    I. Want. One. Now. Pretty. Please.

  • Joe Schmoe

    As a sniper, I’ve been trying to think of a good reason why being able to switch in the field from .300 to .308 and .338 with corresponding barrels is a good idea…. didn’t think of one yet.

    In fact, why would you even need to change caliber so drastically and if so then why not on base with an armorer (you do need to re-zero everything after all).

    Just a pointless addition.

    • Joe Schmoe

      One more thing, you would figure that they would throw a mirage shield under the top rail already; why don’t they ever do that on all new rifles? Not calculated in the 3D modeling?

    • Marc

      It’s not a “pointless addition”, it’s just a by-product of the fact that the bolt locks directly into the barrel and thus switching barrels requires nothing more than loosening a few screws. Make use of it or not, it doesn’t come at any additional cost.

      • Joe Schmoe

        I was under the impression that it does add to the cost.

        Though I may be approaching this from the wrong angle, but to me the article made it sound like they were advertising in-field caliber change. If it is just another way to change the barrel back in the armory with no connection to the soldier then by all means.

    • Marc

      It surely wouldn’t cost any less if the barrel was attached more permanently than with set screws.

  • W

    haha nice :)

    What a beautiful rifle and a fitting name

  • Other Steve

    “Coming in around 17lbs”

    Yikes. That had better be a 338 fully loaded with a round in the chamber, with rings, scope, mini red dot, bipod, all the picitinity rails…… and wet.

    You’re doing something wrong if you’re making AI platforms look lightweight. :)

    Really though, looks great and a good match against the M2010, but both too heavy and pricey for most civilian use. Like where the market is going though.

  • http://seriousgunblog.com SGB

    I have to agree with Joe Schmoe. What’s the practicality of it?

  • Flounder

    I always thought of the caliber switch capability as making an armorers job much easier. Meaning they need less tools and thus even a crappy middle of nowhere outpost can have the equipment needed to swap calibers.

    And It means you can market one rifle to SOCOM, the army, the marines, and whoever else you want to…

    But 17 pounds is very beefy for a 308 rifle… but for a 338 lapua I don’t think it is too ridiculously heavy.

    • Joe Schmoe

      You are going to need pretty much the same equipment for changing a barrel on a regular sniper rifle and for this one. All you need is the key and a way to tighten it in-line.

      And I still have yet to meet a soldier or even SF who ever wanted a weapon that could change caliber in-field. The only request I’ve ever seen was for a weapon that could fire both 9MM or 5.56MM with correct kits from some SF units, but the work would be done on base before a mission (after all, they do need be re-zeroed).

      For a sniper that already can fire .338 it’s pointless to change to another caliber in-field; not to mention that you will have to drag along the correct kit (barrel, key, and zeroing equipment) and shoot to re-zero which kind of defeats the purpose, especially for a sniper.

  • SpudGun

    The caliber conversion capability is really quite simple – .308 rounds are cheap and plentiful in the military, so it brings training costs right down. Once the sniper / marksman learns his trade, he can transfer to the more expensive stuff.

    • Joe Schmoe

      In training you use the rounds you are going to fire in a real fight. It’s useless to train on the ballistics of a .308 when you are going to fire a .338 .

      And if you really need that, then there are plenty of .308 rifles lying around (M24, etc) any respectable sniper training base.

      And again, this would be something done by an armorer, not to be advertised as a quick switch kit .

      • Other Steve

        It might not be perfect, but I would hardly say it’s useless.

        What if you wanted to practice wind and range estimation for when you’re shooting 338, 308 would be plenty fine for that as it’ll exaggerate both of those effects.

      • Joe Schmoe

        Again, basing off my experience as a sniper, you only train with the ammunition you are going to use on the rifle you are going to use. If you ever need to train to judge the wind but not use your ammunition (too expensive, shortage, etc), they you just set up and send someone or two down range with a Kestrel and a radio and see if you judged the wind right.

        In any case, as far as I know modifying weapons, especially calibers and barrels, is work restricted to an armorer and not the soldier.

      • SpudGun

        Hi Joe,

        From what I understand, the barrel, bolt, magazine and headspacing could all be done by the sniper in less then 2 minutes, in the field and with limited tools.

        I think the modular approach is to do away with every other bolt gun in the armory – so you bring new recruits in, train them on the .308, see which ones have talent and then move them up to .300WM or .338.

        Everyone is looking to streamline / cut costs, even Big Army.

      • Joe Schmoe

        Hello Spud,

        In training you usually use what we christen “whore rifles” to fire with. These are sniper rifles that have seen better days but are used so as not to wear out the duty rifles you deploy with. They are slightly more innacurate (due to wear) and jam more often but are still far cheaper than maintaining dozens of rifles.

        And the problem is that it doesn’t cut costs, as you would still have an inventory fully of older sniper rifles in the .308 caliber that would be used for early training.

        In regards to changing the barrel/caliber in the field, read my remarks on other posts in this thread.

      • SpudGun

        Much in the same way that the AR platform has gone modular, I think the same reasons will apply for future sniper rifles – commonality of parts, less training time, less armorer training, parts always being in stock, a simplified logistical and supply chain, etc., etc.

        .338 is a big round, a heavy round and most importantly, an expensive round. Not everyone will have access to it all of the time (either in training or on the battlefield), this seems a pretty good compromise.

  • Vitor

    Basically a non-bullpup DTA SRS.

    • Other Steve

      Oh, like EVERY other bolt action rifle ever made. Just as the ARs are just non-bullpup AUGs?

  • MAJ Mike

    Looks like a weapon in search of a mission. Simplicity is best, I see too many things to go wrong. Too much PX bling.

  • Tony

    Pretty, but pointless weapon.

  • Tinkerer

    I do appreciate the fine manufacture, the advanced materials, the smart design… really I do.

    But I have to agree with Joe: I really don’t see the reason for a quick caliber change in a weapon that is meant to be extremely accurate -when caliber swap can damage that accuracy-, with calibers that overlap a lot when it comes to mission profile, and in missions when you’re supposed to bring only the bare essentials with you -which shouldn’t include a spare barrel in a different caliber, ammo for that barrel, and I bet a sight designed for that calliber’s ballistics.

    I can see more sense in the classic AUG design -one platform, different barrels for different missions with just pressing a lever-, but then again an assault rifle isn’t supposed to be as accurate as a sniper rifle, and the barrel switch is something more intended to be done back at the base in preparation for the specific mission that you have to perform.

    • Jay

      Actually caliber conversions are very good for training. Your guys can train on the same platform without blowing two dolars every time they pull the trigger. They don’t need to train all the time with .338LM. To keep the skill fresh it’s ok to shoot the cheaper .308.

      • Tinkerer

        Mh, I don’t know about that. Joe -who seems experienced in the matter- insists that you train with the gun and caliber that you’re going to use, and I tend to agree with him in that, since different calibers have very different ballistic behaviours. Training in .308 wouldn’t necesarily carry on to shooting .300 magnum, or even less with .338 Lapua, considering how very different are their respective behaviours.

    • Nater

      Training in .308, even if you’re shooting a heavier caliber in combat, has several advantages. First of all, it’s significantly less expensive. Probably more importantly, it’s a lot harder. Shooting .308 at a given range is usually twice as hard as shooting .338 Lapua because the small projectile is more vulnerably to the wind. Shooting a .308 at 400m is akin to shooting .338 Lapua at 800m, shooting .308 at 800m is akin to shooting .338 Lapua at 1,600m, ect.

      The big question that I have is why the US military even bothered with .300 Winchester Magnum at all.

  • Alex-mac

    Quick calibre change rifles were made for one reason, to reduce costs. They reduce costs in training and maintenance as it’s not a completely different weapon system. And money is saved on logistics. The trade off seems to be a higher initial cost and a slight weight increase.

  • Bozz

    Did anyone mention or notice this appears to be semi auto .338 and not single shot bolt action like DTA SRS?

    • EncircledPurple

      Looks like a bolt-action to me, otherwise you would have a charging handle visible on one of the pictures.

    • Devang

      Dude, check the full version of the first image (click on it). It has a big round bolt like the AX338.

      • Bozz

        I clicked and there it was! Thanks for your help.

        But shucks, I was really hoping for the auto loader style.

  • TCBA_Joe

    Was there ever a published price for this bad boy?

  • Reverend Clint
    • Other Steve

      Eh, I wouldn’t say it’s exactly an AX. It’s close yea, but so is the MSR chassis. Basically your going to have all your designs look similar when the only thing there is only the things that NEED to be. There is nothing on any of these chassis that is extra. Unless humans change shape, or rifle tech changes drastically, expect chassis to just kind of look like this.

  • Bandito762

    I can see needing some sort of quick change in certain situations. Like if you are at some outpost in the middle of nowhere and you are out of .338 you could potentially use some ammo from someone else.

    • Joe Schmoe

      Honest question: When’s the last time you heard of snipers running out of ammunition on-base?

      Honest question 2: If they did run out of [let's say] .338 ammo, then what are the chances that they brought with them some sniper [match] grade .308 ammo instead? You would figure that they would have filled up their quota fully with the .338 ammo and not wasted some of it on the .308 ammo.

  • Marc

    It’s actually an FN-branded Unique Alpine TPG-2. Unique and later Unique Alpine have been making modular precision rifles for well over a decade.

    • FourString

      If this is basically a TPG, then I want one. (I don’t think you can buy directly from the Swiss, can you?)

      • Marc

        Unique Alpin is German, and you can buy a TPG-1 directly from them. The civilian variant of the TPG-2 hasn’t been released yet.

      • FourString

        Thanks for the correction. I was under the impression they were French, but then again I’ve never purchased a product from them.

      • FourString

        edit: Swiss
        wow i need sleep >_<

  • Paul

    very exciting, but couldn’t you get any better pics?

    • fw226

      What? Click on em for full size. What are you looking for?

      • Tony

        dead on from both sides, full weapon
        above and behind, full weapon
        in front dead on, muzzle focus

      • Paul

        what Tony said. There are pics in full profile available elsewhere tho…

  • Mat

    Anyone familiar with European sniper rifles should be able to tell that the rifle is based on TPG Uniqe Alpine ,many European sniper rifles had a switch barrel actions more or less based on French Uniqe that had this kind of system 20 + years ago.You have to consider that this is a .338 rifle with bolts and barrels that enable you to downsize in caliber ,one thing that new rifle lost over TPS is compactnes , TPG are normaly transported disasebled so with a short barrel almost fits in a briefcase.
    Its funny how military seems to be going ‘tacticool’on most weapons with lots of rails that weigh a ton ,remember 5 pound full auto M16 now they are geting closer to 9lbs ,aluminum chassis are a step back in weight department .

    • Rangefinder

      Was covert…now overtly tacticool.

    • FourString

      COme to think of it, it DOES look like a TPG! Good eye.

  • G
  • Riceball

    I can think of two possible reasons for having modular capability in your rifle. One is from the manufacturer’s standpoint, being modular allows them to sell one model of rifle to more clients since it will potentially attract more clients or at least won’t rule any clients out because of caliber. Don’t like or use .308, fine, put in the parts for .300 win mag or .338 and for the manufacturer they don’t have to have the tooling or inventory for 3 separate models of rifle. This is also why it would benefit a potential client, it means that they don’t have to necessarily rule out this rifle because it’s chambered for a round/caliber they don’t use, it means one more rifle they can choose from to issue to their forces.

    The other potential benefit to modularity is that would allow for the rifle to be configured differently according to the mission. Now I don’t know if this is something that’s ever an issue with military or police snipers but being modular could mean that you could choose whichever caliber of round that the sniper felt would be best suited for the mission. Perhaps there are missions that a .338 or .300 WinMag is too much then the rifle would be configured for .308. Likewise there might be times where the expected targets are likely to be outside the range of a .308 then the rifle can be upgunned and configured for either. 300 WinMag or .338 depending on the sniper’s preference.

    • Marc

      A real benefit of modularity is maintenence. A part is worn or damaged? Replace it in a breeze, enjoy your working gun.

      • Riceball

        It would but in this case the modularity has little to nothing to do with maintenance, it’s to allow easy conversion from caliber to another. With the possible exception of the barrel being easier to remove, there’s nothing inherent in this rifle’s design that makes it any easier to replace parts than any other rife. All of the parts that get swapped out to switch the rifle from caliber to another would almost certainly be the same parts that you’d remove for cleaning just like on every other rifle, namely the bolt/bolt carrier group.

  • Tinkerer

    On another note: have you people notice the small holographic sight attached to the front scope ring? See the third pic.

    • TCBA_Joe

      Yup. Why do you ask? I can think of a few scenarios where a non-magnified red dot would make a piece of gear to have on a bolt gun.

  • El Duderino

    F N cool!

  • Pete

    Offer this baby in .300 AAC Blackout and I’m in.

  • Ian

    Seventeen pounds.

    • Alex-mac

      Average sniper shots in a urban environments are much less than the limit of the .308 let alone larger calibers. So the .308 will be more effective (allows faster followup shots due to recoil and also barrel heatup, easier to suppress) and much cheaper to operate. The savings in weapon/ammo weight would also increase mobility or enable one to carry more ammo.

      Also since snipers work in teams, carrying an extra barrel and ammo for the larger caliber might not be that farfetched. Each calibre has it’s advantages and disadvantages So the sniper teams capability can be increased on the fly depending on the situation and terrain. With the FN SCAR H, the spotter might even carry sniper rifle compatible ammo with him.

      We also need to remember the barrel lifespans. .338 lapua are around 1000-1200 rounds, while a .308 barrel can last upto 70 000 rounds. When you take that into account the higher initial cost of the Ballista will pay itself off in no time at all.

  • Private Jetson

    Sorry for the off topic…
    But the thing out of focus at upper center, is that a helmet?
    And if it is… it´s not very shining for combat stuff?

    • Private Jetson

      1st photo.

      • Rangefinder

        I suppose you are referring to the UV visor shield of the new ABU for EVA low orbit environments. Due to an initiative by the current administration to create an international code of conduct for space, the application of this system will be limited.

  • chris B

    I think its more the shooter uses the same rifle , same ergonomics etc.

    Euro laws often only allow 1-2 rifles per hunter therefore the ability to switch calibre was much to be desired.
    Unfortunately before modern decent CNC it was an expensive option.

    Since its the Europeans who seem to be only ones making real working detachable scope mounts for the last 80+ years – you have a real scope for every barrel /bolt head combo. No one voluntarily uses US made optics.

    It’s a different philosophy from the mass produced, after market tweaked, US style of gun making.

    Weapons production in the US has much based on the ww2 model – you make 100,000 and hope 20 are accurate, or make the rifles properly in the first place. My 30-06 is post ww1 springfield sporter its smooth as glass and still accurate to 300yards.
    I think these rifles are aimed at para military forces and enthusiasts.

  • jamieb

    Finally a rifle I can hand off to complainers, biitching about how hefty my fal is. Here carry this 17lber ten miles, and then get back to me.

  • Josh

    Anyone know what scope mount that is? With the 45 degree offset rail?

  • Cris

    Hell of a Rifle, seen it in Afghanistan (German Commando field testing it)

    Just mind blowing! Gun porn piece out a space!

    Really cool: the grip, safety

    Not so cool: price, got told 15k +

    But want one!

  • Jay

    I believe the modular platform can be very useful. Navy SEAL snipers bring 4me weapons in country. The MK12 5.56, the MK25 7.62, a .300 Win mag and a .338 Lapua. That’s a big kit, now they can bring 2 rifles and s box of parts. All capable of hitting center mass at a grand.

  • Jay

    Excuse the grammar, missed that auto correct.

  • Jim

    Love the idea of being able to simply change calibers. Hate the idea of price. I think some are getting the wrong idea of caliber convertion here. No one is going to be changing calibers in the field. I wouldn’t expect any rifle to maintain it’s zero after removing it’s barrel let alone firing an entirely different round from an entirely different barrel. The idea is to be able to take the right round for the job(ie. inside 1,000 yards=7.62 and so forth).

  • Sam,

    The Ballista is a german construction * -* Oh man