Top 6 Special Forces Guns that are NOT AR-15s

A little over eight years ago I published a map of the world showing countries which had adopted the AR-15 either as a primary service rifle, or as a niche special forces weapon. Back then about half the world was using the AR-15.m16-world-map21

(Ironically this map was made just after Georgia adopted the M4 Carbines and M16 rifles given to them by the USA. Shortly after publishing the map the 2008 Russo-Georgian diplomatic crisis happened and Russian captured and destroyed most of them.)

Today, the map would look a lot more “blue” that it did back then. It is not necessarily the service rifle of choice around the world, although each year one or two countries adopt the AR in one of its many guises, but special forces around the world seem to love it. I believe they love it because of three reasons:

  1. Unlimited customizability both from the manufacturer and after purchase.
  2. Cost. Not all AR-15s are made equal, and while the sky’s the limit for high-end custom AR-15/10 rifles with 0.5 MOA, M4 clones can be purchased cheaply locally or internationally (China).
  3. Prestige. There is only one superpower, and they use the AR-15. It stands to reason that the AR-15 must be the best! Even organizations and countries that claim to hate the USA are using the AR-15 (ISIS, Iran for example).

As a gun lover, AR-15 mania is taking its toll. I want to see new and interesting designs, not a slightly different AR-15. Alex C calls this “AR Fatigue“. Now before the fan boys and girls jump in to tell me what an amazing design the AR-15 is, let me just say I am not disputing that. The AR-15 is a nothing short of a phenomenon. We would all be poorer has the AR-15 never been invented and its patents expired. But still I crave something new, something different.

Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand, this got me thinking, what guns are popular with special forces are not AR-15s. I am limiting this list to guns that serve as a primary weapon, not a secondary/side arm.

Number 6: VSS Vintorez


(C) Plomarkie

The Vintovka Snayperskaya Spetsialnaya, or in English the Special Sniper Rifle is used by Russian Spetsnaz (Special Forces). It is one of the few mass produced integrally suppressed firearms ever made. The barrel of this rifle is tapped along its length in specific places to bleed as much gas as possible into the barrel-length suppressor, although not enough to prevent the long-stroke gas piston from operating. This ensures that gas leaves the barrel as slowly as possible preventing noise. The downside: high pressure gas contained inside the suppressor wants to escape out the action when the cartridge is ejected, back towards the operator’s face. See below …

Firing the

Gas blowback from VSS Vintorez

The VSS fires an interesting cartridge, the 9x39mm. This cartridge is based on the 7.62x39mm case necked up to 9mm and loaded with a very large ~260 grain bullet, which is about twice as heavy as a 9mm NATO pistol bullet. The bullet is designed to leave the barrel at 920 fps, just under the speed of sound. At that speed, the enemy only hears the bullet as its hits the target.

An armor penetrating load of the the 9x39mm, the SP-6, can penetrate 8mm of steel (0.31″) and still have enough energy to kill a target. Impressive for a round that travels under the speed of sound!


Russian Airborne Troops with the VSS

Number 5: Heckler & Koch MP7

MP7A1 with Zeiss Optics

MP7A1 with Zeiss Optics

The Personal Defence Weapon (PDW) fever took the gun industry, and the military, by storm during the early 1990s and carried through to the 2000s. NATO, and law enforcement agencies around the world, began to worry that a proliferation of cheap ballistic vests would make their 9mm submachine rounds ineffective. This problem never really eventuated, but the PDW concept caught on with special forces in a big way.

Malaysian PASKAL Divers (C) Rizuan

Malaysian PASKAL Divers with the MP7 (C) Rizuan

H&K was a little late to this party with its introduction of the MP7 in 1999, but it was a hit with Special Forces including SEAL Team Six (Naval Special Warfare Development Group) who, some say, used it to kill Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. It is also used by the Japanese Special Forces Group,  Indonesian Army Special Forces Command, Republic of Korea Army 707th Special Mission Battalion, Austrian Einsatzkommando Cobra, Italian 9th Parachute Assault Regiment, Malaysian Navy PASKAL and many others.

Larry Vickers Shoots the MP7

Larry Vickers Shoots the MP7

It is popular for having almost zero recoil when fired on full auto, its small .17 caliber round, the 4.6×30mm, packs about as much muzzle energy as a 9mm but loses little of it during flight and is able to zip through body armor like a hot knife through cosmoline. It weighs 4.1 lbs and is small enough to be holstered, albeit on the leg not hip or chest.

MP7 Holster SMGLee

MP7 Holster (C) SMGLee

Number 4: SG 550 / 551 / 552  / 553


Swiss Army 552 (C) Rama

Swiss Army 552 (C) Rama

The Swiss Arms SG 550 and the later more compact SG 551 and 552 were born out of the Swiss search to replace their aging Sturmgewehr 57 (SG 510) battle rifles with a 5.56mm assault rifle. It was adopted by the Swiss Army in 1990 and Swiss Army soon introduced a shorter carbine version, the SG 551 and a few years later in 1998 with an even shorter SG 552 Commando. An updated 552, the predictably named 553, was introduced in 2008.

SIG 550 Mag Dump

SIG 550 Mag Dump

This is not an exciting or unusual gun, but it is a well regarded and reliable 5.56mm carbine that has been adopted by Special Forces around the world. Its users include Brazilian Air Force PARA-SAR, India’ India NSG Black Cats, Egypts Unit 777, Turkey’s Karşı Atak Timi, Swiss Special Forces, Korea’s Special Sea Attack Team (SSAT), Polish JW GROM and others.

India NSG Black Cats with SIG 550 and H&K MP5

Number 3: The AK in all its forms.

Russian VDU Soldier with AK-74M. (C) Vitaly Kuzmin

Russian VDU Soldier with AK-74M. (C) Vitaly Kuzmin

General Kalashnikov invention has been in use by Eastern Bloc countries and their allies, friends and in some cases enemies since the 1950s. No gun is more ubiquitous and so it is not surprising that Special Forces from around the world are also using it.


AK Mag Dump in Russia

As far as I can tell all of Russian Spetsnaz use the an AK variant. Popular versions with Spetsnaz units are AK-103, AK-105 and the Russian Army’s official service rifle, the AK-74M. The rifle seems to be customized, often adding M4-style and Magpul stocks (either original or clone), aftermarket pistol grips and picatinny rails. Earlier this year the Russian Army adopted an updated version of the Kalashnikov AK-74M which includes these features out of the factory.


Putin with FSB Alpha Group officers in Chechnya.

Putin with FSB Alpha Group officers in Chechnya. Note the customized AK.

Outside of Russia, AKs, clones and derivatives are used by  Indian Naval Special Forces, Saudi Arabian Special Forces, Venezuelan Special Forces, Ukrainian Spetsnaz, Albania RENEA, Serbian Special Forces, South African Recces, Nigerian Special Forces, Ivorian Coast Special Forces, Finnish Special Jaeger and many others.

Ivory Coast Commandoes

Ivory Coast Commandoes

Number 2: IWI Tavor

IWI Caracal Battalion Member with CTAR-21

The IWI Tavor TAR-21 has steadily grown in popularity since its introduction in 2001. It is easily the most popular bullpup service rifle and just about the only bullpup rifle that is being actively adopted rather than axed (the New Zealand Army recently ditched the bullpup Steyr AUG and the French Army is looking for a replacement for the bullpup FAMAS. The former went with an AR-15, the latter probably will as well).

The Tavor was designed to replace the IDF inventory of old Galil and M16 rifles. The IDF started to equip units with the Tavor in 2006 and in 2009 they announced that the MTAR-21, with its ultra compact 13″ barrel, would be the standard service rifle by 2018.  A bullpup makes a lot of sense as a Service Rifle, and equally so for Special Forces. In it’s carbine configuration it is barely larger than a submachine gun, but with 5.56mm carbine ballistics and power.

Indian COBRA Commando (C) Surendra Singh Kaswan

Indian COBRA Commando (C) Surendra Singh Kaswan

Unsurprisingly Israeli Special Forces, such as the Egoz Reconnaissance Unit, use the Tavor. It also also used by the Special Forces of Angola, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Cameroon, Georgia (Gulua Group), Honduras, India (SFF and Marine Commandos), Nepal (Gurkhas), Portugal (GOE), Turkey Bordo Bereliler Commandos), Ukraine and Vietnam.


Our friend Hank Strange Mag Dumps a TAR-21

Number 1: FN SCAR-L / SCAR-H



The number one Special Forces gun (that is not an AR-15) is easily the FN SCAR Heavy and Light.The Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) was designed by  FN Herstal (Belgium) as their entry in the USSOCOM Special Operations Forces (SOF) Combat Assault Rifle Program. In 2004 the SCAR won the competition and the 7.62mm FN SCAR Heavy, 5.56mm FN SCAR Light and the 40mm Grenade launcher FN FN40GL began to be fielded by USSOCOM units in 2009. Later USSOCOM would also purchase the FN SCAR SSR (Sniper Support Rifle), a marksmen version of the FN SCAR Heavy.

Special Forces (unit and county unknown) uses a FN SCAR SSR in Afghanistan.

Special Forces marksman (unit and county not specified) uses a FN SCAR SSR in Afghanistan.

Controversially, In 2010 SOCOM announced they were removing the FN SCAR L from their inventory. SOMCOM said they would use only the FN SCAR Heavy and FN SCAR SSR and would procure 5.56mm conversion kits for the former weapon.

FNH-USA denied that the SCAR Light was being abandoned by US Special Forces. In a press release they said

The choice between the 5.56 and the 7.62 caliber will be left to the discretion of each constitutive component of USSOCOM’s Joint Command (e.g. SEALs, Rangers, Army Special Forces, MARSOC, AFSOC) depending on their specific missions on today’s battlefield”.

fn scar

FN SCAR H 7.62mm Mag Dump

Many commentators and forum users claimed the company was not being truthful and the 5.56mm version of the SCAR had been abandoned. About 18 months later in December 2011 the US Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division placed an order for more FN SCAR rifles, including both the light and heavy, to replenish inventory levels, indicating that the light version had not been abandoned by some units.

Regardless of the ups and downs, the FN SCAR easily remains on of the best Service Rifles hands. It is used by the Special Forces of Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany (GSG9 Counterterrorism), Georgia, Japan Kenya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Peru, South Korea, Pakistan and the USA.


Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Comrade Misfit

    This cartridge is based on the 7.62x39mm case necked down to 9mm

    Necked *up*, you mean.

  • Just say’n

    Great article, thanks!

    r.e. “TheSwiss Arms SG 550 and the later more compact SG 551 and 552 were born
    out of the Swiss search to replace their aging SIG510 battle rifles with
    a 5.56mm assault rifle.”

    Did you mean replace the STG57?

    • Well spotted. I meant SG510 (aka. STG57, which is technically more correct). I have updated it.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    I would do awful things for a select fire MP7.

    • J-

      I don’t get the point of a full auto 17 HMR

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        To put a lot of tiny holes in stuff very quickly.

        • J-

          I much rather have a registered full auto M16 sear and build a full auto 5.56 SBR. Better ammo selection, more powerful cartridge. The 4.7mm just seem pointless to me.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            To each his own.
            I just think its a cool gun.

          • mosinman

            it is cool, and this is coming from a HK hater. IMO it’s round is the very definition of “poodle shooter” though

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            I hate poodles.

          • KestrelBike

            hillary clinton’s latest campaign slogan: We *must* protect the poodles!

          • mosinman

            then i guess that’s the gun for you !

          • Esh325

            I think it has its place. A short barreled 5.56×45 rifle will never be as compact as a firearm like the MP7.

          • Joshua

            The main thing to know when it comes to guns like the MP7 is maximum perceived engagement range.

            5.56 from a Mk18 may not be MP7 small, but you can engage out to 300M. The MP7 is limited to hallway distance, if that’s all that is needed the MP7 is a good choice.

            However in the majority of places distances are not static and you may need to reach out and touch someone.

          • J-

            There is no such thing as a free lunch, and the MP7 tries to convince you otherwise. Sure it is more compact than a 5.56 SBR. But it gives you that compactness at the cost of lethality. The 4.6×30 has terrible terminal ballistics. Tiny holes, no tumbling, little wounding. Sure it can go through armor, but on non-armored targets, you get pass throughs with no knockdown. Against unarmored targets (like most of who we are fighting in the Middle East), I’d rather have a 9mm sub gun than the MP7.

            On the other hand it’s bigger than a pistol, which makes ease of carry difficult. You are really limited to a sling or that big honker of a thigh holster.

            And how compact is compact really? The MP7 is 16.5 inches long with the stock collapsed. A 5.56 PDW with a 7.5 inch barrel – like the TROY or LWRC – is 20 inches long (collapsed). That is all of 3.5 inches difference. What you gain is double the muzzle energy. The 5.56 is still launching a 55 grain bullet at 2400 fps at that barrel length.

            The MP7 is a solution for a problem that didn’t exist. It is the 21st century version of the Glock 18 or Beretta 93R. How do you give non-main line troops something better than a pistol to defend themselves with? A specialty weapon, firing a specialty caliber, is not the answer. A really cut down AR does a lot better, with simpler logistics (same mags and ammo as everybody else) at only a palm’s width extra in length.

          • Kuckameck

            > And how compact is compact really?

            The Czech police have MP7s locked to the doors of standard patrol cars. Those patrol cars that have MP5s or Scorpions EVO3s all have guns locked in the trunk. So, that’s how compact it is.

          • DonDrapersAcidTrip

            “solution for a problem that didn’t exist”

            god will people stop saying this cliche about every firearm thing they personally can’t conceive a use for

          • J-

            Various gun makers around the world have tired to make a compact, specialized, PDW for non-main battle troops since at least before WWI. They have always been a marginal effectiveness and when adopted were quickly replaced.


            The full auto Mauser Broomhandle M712. The gun didn’t give much better performance than a pistol and the stock/holster was too big for easy carry.

            This concept was reintroduced by H&K as the VP70. Beretta had their version, the 93R. None were every adopted in any numbers by any military.

            The US M1 Carbine. Not the manstopper at close range that the Thompson or M3 was. Not as effective at long range as the Garand. Logistical nightmare of having a second 30 caliber round to supply in combat.

            Adding a new weapon, requiring new parts, new ammo, and new maintenance procedures adds logistical problems. This is what the US discovered on more than one occasion.

            Sub machine guns have the benefit of using the same round as the pistol (45 ACP in the M3/M1928/M1911, 9mm in the Luger/P38/MP40). PDW’s based off the primary issue rifle (Troy PDW, LWRC PDW) use the same mags, ammo, and most of the same parts and maintenance as the primary rifle.

            A third gun, in a new caliber, issued to special troops is a nightmare.

            Look at the P90. Who adopted it? Police departments with way too much civil asset forfeiture money. Special forces units in countries that do a lot more parading in Fez than going to war. More rounds have gone through the P90 on Hollywood sound stages than in combat.

            The only group that it made sense for was the Secret Service who replaced the UZI with it, because it had armor piercing capabilities and could be carried under a suit jacket.

            Just because you think it’s a cool gun on paper, doesn’t mean it’s worth all the effort of arming a military unit with it. Just ask the SEALs about the H&K MK23s that are sitting in armories while they carry a SIG p229, because an “offensive” pistol sounds awesome on paper and is a giant brick in real life.

          • DonDrapersAcidTrip

            ok? None of this history lesson has anything to do with what a worn out overused cliche phrase that is.

          • Tom Arnold Palmer

            Will people stop telling other people not to express their opinion. How about this, DonDrapersAcidTrip. Lead by example. Don’t say anything ever.

          • Lt_Scrounge

            Or you can give them something that worked well in WWII, Korea and Vietnam: an M1 Carbine with a more modern folding stock and possibly a more modern cartridge. An M1 Carbine is 2 lbs less than an M4 of the same barrel length and with a folding stock (which you can not have on an AR derivative due to the recoil spring, at least not without altering the upper to place the spring in the receiver ala the FAL paratrooper model) is much more compact. I’d have to take a look at the specs on the cartridges, but a .30 carbine round necked down to 5.56 should give ballistics comparable to the 5.56 x 45 and still fit in the M1 carbine magazine and chamber. It’s piston driven so reliability wouldn’t be an issue. Other than adjusting the gas system, a shorter barrel wouldn’t even require a change of hand guards unlike the AR.

          • KestrelBike

            I’d go full auto .300BLK, so I could breeeeze through a paycheck.

      • To be fair, it has 50-100% more power than a .17 HMR depending on the load.

        • J-

          This is not the first time H&K experimented with a 4.6mm bullet. They tried it with the G11 using the 4.6x33mm case less ammo. That rifle was a total failure, for many reasons, but one of them being that the high velocity 4.6mm bullet had no wounding characteristics. Every test that ran on it showed it punched a tiny hole straight through and that most hits with it were not just survivable, but barely incapacitating.

          But because H&K goes their own way, they tried the 4.6 again. And from what I’ve read about that round, the FMJ is an ice pick that makes tiny little holes with no wounding characteristics.

          At least a 17HMR with a V-max would create a nasty flesh wound.

          • CommonSense23

            You really think the guys who are currently running the MP7 are running FMJ?

          • J-

            In a military deployment, yes.

          • CommonSense23

            Haha. Yeah no.

          • J-

            SO what are they using? I see three listed loads for the 4.6, a lead core FMJ, a copper plated steel bullet for armor penetration (still not expanding), and a JHP that is listed Law Enforcement Only.

          • Bill

            Some units play fast and loose, considering “antiterrorism: as equating to “law enforcement” when it’s convenient. After all, AQ and ISIS aren’t nations, but criminal organizations.

          • CommonSense23

            You really think that JHP is not going to be purchased by the SMUs? For the record the rounds still has horrible terminal ballistics.

      • noob

        The interesting thing happens if you get two holes close enough together that their permanent cavities intersect. All of a sudden you have done more damage in terms of volume of tissue destroyed than a round bigger than both the projectiles.

        Now multiply that by 5 or 10 hits in a palm sized area. No surgeon is going to put that back together. it would be mush. better pray that it was a limb because you aren’t getting it back.

        • J-

          I’m not betting my life on the likelihood of putting two bullets through the same hole at extended distances when I’m moving, the target is moving, and the world is going to hell around me.

          • noob

            Well maybe in that more dynamic situation they are relying on lower recoil of the pdw round (as opposed to a full power cartridge) making the weapon more manageable at a higher cyclic rate, similar to how jet fighter cannons went through a period of tying for higher and higher cyclic rates to increase the probability of even one hit during a fleeting engagement. And one one hit from a slow small bullet at close range is still going to hurt the other guy enough to make him change what he was doing in some way, maybe slowing him down enough for you to land more hits.

            But if you can carry something bigger and it fits in your vehicle or on your person, go ahead. I get the impression that 21st century arms manufacturers seem to be making chamberings all over the caliber vs muzzle velocity envelope so that no matter what your needs you should be able to find something that fits you.

          • Sam

            You’re not betting your life, but it seems the research and development guys are good with it, the testing and evaluation guys are, too, and the end users are as well.

          • J-

            H&K experimented with 4.6mm bullets before and they all failed to impress a military with their stopping power and were never adopted. Steyr too tried for a sub caliber round, modifying the AUG to fire a flechette that could go through armor at 600 yds. It also failed to do much tissue damage on impact.

            NATO tested the 4.6×30 and rejected it, stating that the 5.7×28 met the minimum acceptable performance.

            What I don’t get is that people complain about the lack of knockdown power of the 5.56, then hail the 4.6 which is smaller, weaker, and does even less damage.

            The 4.6×30 is 100% H&K marketing hype. I’ve seen no evidence that it’s an effective combat cartridge, and a lot of evidence that it under performed in every gel and terminal ballistics test out there. It pokes a tiny hole in body armor. Great. It does that well. It does everything else poorly.

          • Sam

            The point of the round isn’t for knockdown power. It’s for armor penetration.

          • CommonSense23

            Except it is already being phased out in the US military. It was used cause it was quiet and accurate. Now with the .300BLK, not much of a purpose anymore.

        • Dan

          I don’t care how big the bullet is or how many hit me. I don’t want to get shot. And i’d probably run around like a little girl crying if it ever happens. I most certainly will not die with dignity lol.

        • Peyton Quinn

          The is the real advantage of a sub machine gun, low recoil. easily handled and multiple rounds hit so close together both time wise and position wise the the TSC may not have collapsed before the next round creates its own. This can be devastating. The PCC can overlap as said as well,The only rounds that count are the ones that hit your enemy. It is a lot easier to hit that enemy with subgun rather than say a CAR 15 or M4. Recoil and recovery time is the main reason too. I would take an MP5 over any AR for close range work.

    • lol, according to the now fired editor of Recoil Magazine, the MP7 is not available to civilians for good reasons 😉

      I would as well, its on my gun bucket list.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        They don’t even offer a semi version?

        • They should. H&K claims there is not enough demand ….. I really doubt that.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Thats a bunch of BS probably.
            If Americans will pay upwards of three grand for an AR they’d pay god knows what for an MP7.

          • Sam

            Could you imagine how ugly that thing would be with a 16″ barrel? It’d look like a narwhal.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Yeah, that would ruin it.

          • nester7929

            I would actually pay HK prices for an MP7.

        • ClintTorres

          This is because HK hates you.

          • Paul White

            and we suck

        • Nope—-

        • Kuckameck

          British police have semi-auto version, so it exists, it just hasn’t hit the civilian market yet.

          The full auto is the trunk gun of Czech police (standard patrol cars) alongside with MP5s and Scorpions EVO3s.

        • Henrik Bergdahl

          Brittish police have a semi version for some reason.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Oh yeah, I remember that now.

          • COL Bull-sigh

            The Brit Police hardly even need nightsticks to clobber their poor unarmed SUBJECTS. We’d have to go rescue them again if they were ever threatened with invasion. (Oh, WAIT!–They ARE being invaded by the Islamo-terrorists now!)

          • MichaelZWilliamson

            The British street gangs have been a serious threat, with guns, for a couple of decades.

      • COL Bull-sigh

        And for what “good reasons” would the MP7 not be available to civilians, HILLARY??? When the 2nd Amendment was written, it guaranteed the right to keep and bear THE SAME ARMS AS WHAT THE ENEMY/ARMY USED!

        • MichaelZWilliamson

          You do realize he’s being facetious and referencing someone else who said that and, rightfully, got exactly your reaction for his elitist attitude, right?

          • MANG

            “Pretty sure that guy is trolling.” – Hillary Clinton

    • BearSlayer338

      It is a cool gun,but I wouldn’t have any confidence in the 4.6 round it uses.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        The lack of confidence in the round is perplexing to me.
        I believe it will still kill you.

      • mitch c

        The 4.6 is a great round for up close & personal use as it slices right through body armor and gets the job done. The same can’t be said of the rounds you mentioned.

        • BearSlayer338

          Actually it can be if you reload the rounds I mentioned,its just not something the Government would approve of.

    • I spent the day with one a couple weeks ago. It was pretty great. 🙂

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        Freaking sweet.

  • TheSmellofNapalm

    Didn’t Battlefield Las Vegas claim that their FN SCARs were lasting longer at ultra-high round counts than any other weapon?

    • Jwedel1231

      I trust Battlefield Las Vegas’ assessment on any gun they have in inventory over just about anything else. If they say SCARs are good, I’ll believe them.

      • TheSmellofNapalm

        I guess I exagerrated, here’s the quote I saw:

        “The bolt is from a SCAR-L that has been on the line since day one (01 OCT 13). I think I’ve said it in this thread that I initially had no confidence in the SCAR, this weapon AK-47 of the West. It just runs and runs and made me a believer. I talked about the SCAR weapons with some the armorers yesterday and they couldn’t believe how long the bolt on this weapon has lasted. We’ve had several barrel swaps and the bolt was perfectly fine. “

        • Joshua

          It’s an interesting data point.

          However they also say every barrel lasts 50,000+ rounds and in numerous tests the Mk-16 was only showing 15,000 rounds Max bolt life under a heavy firing schedule

          Then they also say M4 bolts go 20,000+ rounds, again I have never seen a M4 bolt last beyond 12,000 rounds under a harsh firing schedule. Maintenance schedule on them is 10,000 rounds.

          Battlefield los Angeles guns see a lot of rounds a month, but customers generally get one mag. One mag full auto and then the rifle has time to rest. It’s not the most intensive firing schedule.

          They also have yet to see an aimpoint break…I’ve seen dozens of them break.

          • milesfortis

            And you are definitely right about 416 accuracy diving off a cliff. In my experience, when a barrel goes, it goes from ‘real good’ to ‘WTF?’ with nothing in between.

          • Zachary marrs

            They used a mr556, not a 416

    • I am trying to find out the status of the SCAR Light in the SOCOM inventory from an old contact.

      • Joshua

        Their still around. No one uses them outside of weapons familiarization.

        That’s why parts still get bought.

  • The_Champ

    Good balanced list. Any idea how common those VSS rifles are on the front lines? Seems a pretty specialized weapon.

    Also, I’m now gonna sit back and wait for the commenters who are absolutely livid that you dare include (or not include) so and so gun on your list 🙂

    • Xtorin O’hern

      the VSS sees pretty good use, you can find it in plenty of video’s being used in almost a DMR type role from what i have seen

      • It appears that it is used both as a DMR and an assault rifle. Range is limited in both cases.

        • Xtorin O’hern

          very true, your pretty limited when you are trying to keep under the speed of sound

    • mosinman

      I’m enraged that the Mosin was left out again!!!

    • I think the VSS is quite widely deployed. During the Georgian conflict I saw it in a lot of photos. This may be because Russia uses its airborne troops to spearhead military operations.

      • It is very specialized by design and designation, but apparently either showed off for PR purposes, or actually fielded much more widely than initially projected. (Considering how often you see people with them in actual deployment photos, both genuine SF and “heightened combat readiness units”, maybe the latter is true.)

    • iksnilol

      VSS is pretty common, so is the VSV and its variants.

      Quiet with good penetration seems useful for urban combat it seems.

      • SP mclaughlin

        AS VAL and SR-3M you mean…..VSV is a fictional 5.45 VSK-94 from Metro 2033 🙂

        • iksnilol

          Yes I did, VSK-94 is the real name. I don’t know why I got it confused.

          Regardless, the Metro games are awesome 😀

          The SR-3 is cool, smaller than an MP5. 6 inch barrel + folding stock. :3

  • plingr2

    Where is MP5 ?

    • I almost put in the MP5 / MP5K and MP5SD. I decided not to because it’s being phased out. I love submachine guns, but they are just not popular anymore.

      Here is an interesting photo of Pakistan Marines on an exercise with US forces. They are assaulting a beach with MP5…

      • Esh325

        Honestly I always hear this claim that smg’s are dying and yet I see so much evidence on the contrary.

        • I know its semantics, but I would class the B&T in the Machine Pistol category, along with the Micro Uzi, Glock 18C, Tec 9 and others.

      • Joshua

        Would suck to assault a beach with a MP5.

        • Fred Johnson

          It would suck to assault a beach with that camo, too.

          • That was my first thought 😉 How many swampy marshes do the Pakistan Marines operate in? Enough to justify that camo?

          • Tassiebush

            Apparently there actually is a huge marshland of nearly 2million hectares on the Indian/Pakistan border called the Rann of Kutch! Probably still a really crappy camo though.

          • Giolli Joker

            And that is probably the main front where they expect to fight…

          • Tassiebush

            It almost has that paramilitary police look about it. I know in Papua New Guinea they have police who wear a brown and blue camo. The blue might be just to identify them as police. A huge marshland on a hostile frontier could be pretty lawless place.

      • Paladin

        Screw the MP5, I just want some of that sweet camo!

        Just kidding, I’ll take the MP5 as well.

      • HKGuns

        Yeah, they’ve supposedly being “going out” since the 90’s, yet the platform remains HK’s highest production firearm. I respectfully disagree.

      • Cymond
        • noob

          Mind blown.

          which palace is this and how could this be a good idea?

          • Cymond

            Short version: nerds.
            It’s the Marriott-Marquis in Atlanta, Georgia during DragonCon. The camo was made by Volpin props by photographing the carpet, doing a ‘vector analysis’ and then having custom fabric printed. They offered the fabric for sale for a while, but quit when they received a cease & desist letter.

            Sadly, this iconic carpet is being replaced. Pieces are currently selling on eBay, sometimes for several hundred dollars for a 4’x6′ section.

        • HAHA awesome

  • CommonSense23

    So the MP7 was definitely not used in the UBL raid. Its a gun that had two purposes being quiet, and low vis. And it is really close to being phased out by the 300BLK in SOCOM.
    And the SCAR platform. A gun that neither SMU uses. The 20s are less accurate and reliable than the 11s they replaced. And would love to see who is still using the 16s.

    • Joshua

      No one uses the 16 anymore. Occasionally you’ll see someone new running the conversion kit but those are also rare.

      17 is slowly going the way of the 16 as well.

      • CommonSense23

        It and the 20 need to go faster. Especially the 20.

    • NewMan

      What reliability issue is the SCAR 20 having?

      • CommonSense23

        Ripping out primers and disabling the gun. That was a nasty issue we had. Randomly going full auto. Random POI shifts, that would then randomly shift back. And overall being less accurate than the rifles they replaced.

  • BattleshipGrey

    I hope the Ivory Coast guys figure out which color scheme to go with before the go operating.

    • I think they look quite nifty 😉 Here is a photo of Venezuelan Special Forces with their new AK-103 rifles and Azerbaijan Spec Forces with their Tavors and Mexican Special Forces with Barret .50 rifles

      • SP mclaughlin

        Those Azerbajines don’t seem to understand how bullpups work, I see……

        • Ramsey

          To be fair, if you want to keep your finger out of the trigger guard on the Tavor you really don’t have much to hold on too.

      • Devil_Doc

        I might be losing it, but I don’t see an ak in any of those pictures. Has Steve been drinking?

      • Giolli Joker

        Mexican special forces aren’t kidding… Such a display of big 50s is quite impressive.

        • Captain Kirk

          Try humping one for a few miles ?

          • Giolli Joker

            I’ll let them do it… 🙂

        • Lt_Scrounge

          Yeah the Cartels needed more firepower. Those militia groups on the US side are beginning to interfere with their smugglers by calling in the border patrol whenever they find a cartel crew crossing the border.

      • Marco Antonio Gonzalez

        Steve, i don´t see Venezuelans or AKs in those three pictures

      • Lt_Scrounge

        So you’re saying that for a few hundred dollars and a case of tequila (or a few cases of Bud Light), I can pick up a Barrett south of the border? (That’s if the drug cartels haven’t beaten me to it)

  • iksnilol

    I doubt your average M4 is 0.5 MOA.

    Maybe you get lucky with some good ammo, but for it consistently hold that level of precision is simply impossible.

    • Not at all. I said high end custom ARs. The M4 is not one of these.

      • iksnilol

        Sorry, didn’t see the comma.

    • Joshua

      M4A1 averages 1.5-2 MOA with Mk262 and 2.5 MOA with M855A1.

  • Lance

    You forgot the MP-5. Scrap the SCAR crap for 7.62x51mm rifles still in use M-14 AR-10 and FAL still out there in some use.

    • I replied to a comment below about the MP5, they are on their way out

      • Bill

        I don’t know how you are determining that, but the MP5 will be in inventories for a long. long time. The MP7 didn’t bite into the market the way it was supposed to, being a “PDW” candidate, (whatever the hell that is) and the UMP was a universal flop. If they are on their way out, it’s because carbines can do much the same, better. But there are people who will insist on a sub gun, and it will be an MP5.

        • Lt_Scrounge

          Depending on the situation, carbines may simply not be practical. Hard to fit an assembled and ready to fire carbine into a briefcase or under a suit jacket. An MP5K on the other hand fits perfectly.

          • Scott Hendrycks

            Why not have it on your person instead of sitting in a box on the table?

          • Lt_Scrounge

            The sidearm is. It’s a bit harder to keep a full sized 12 gauge pump action shotgun on your person in a hotel restaurant without attracting attention. The case conceals the shotgun and ammo while in the hotel but transports both through airline baggage without any problems.

    • Agitator

      It’s not a party until Lance mouth-breathes something about the M14.

  • iksnilol

    I would do things for one of those Sig 553s that take AK mags and ammo.

    • Sgt. Stedenko

      A 553 Russian makes my heart skip a beat.

      • iksnilol

        The short barreled version is even nicer. It is the shorty I am lusting for.

        • FarmerB

          Yeah – there are two versions:
          Either barrel length 240mm (9.5“) or 303 (12“) mm

    • FarmerB

      Just ordered one 🙂

      • iksnilol

        Mad jelly, do you intend to SBR it to 25 cm (10 inches) barrel?

        I would recommend it.

        • FarmerB

          We don’t do SBR here – we just order what we want (I haven’t specified the barrel yet – just get in the build queue). I’m leaning towards the 300mm (12″).

          • iksnilol

            Ah, that’s nice. I’d recommend 250 mm but 300 mm is nicer in regards to durability. Should cause even less wear on suppressors. I wouldn’t recommend shorter because even though it will work it will wear out muzzle devices and itself quickly in comparison.

          • FarmerB

            Yes, I agree. It’s just too short for most 7.62×39 ammo out there.

          • iksnilol

            I’ve seen those 7 inch barrels and those suckers burn suppressors and wear themselves out quickly.

          • FarmerB

            Good to know. I’ve a 553 in 9″ or so barrel (IIRC), haven’t seen any durability issues but then it’s 5.56 and I don’t shoot it that much, since I got the HK 243.

          • iksnilol

            My rule of thumb in regards to how short you should go for a “shorty” type build is:


            Where X is the barrel length the cartridge was intended for ( 56 cm for 7.62×51, 50 cm for 5.56 and 40 cm for 7.62×39).

            Using this formula you get:
            25 cm for 7.62×39
            30 cm for 5.56
            35 cm for 308

            That is the absolute shortest I’d go. Even those are uncomfortable (35 cm barrel for 308 for instance). Doubt you’ll see durability issue, but the muzzle pressure is very high compared to a 40 cm barrel in 5.56. The 7.62×39 will be more comfortable with a 9″ or so barrel than the 5.56 will be.

  • gunsandrockets

    I’m surprised the FN P90 didn’t make the list.

    • Seburo

      P90 has more conventional users then SMU/Special forces. While MP7 is adopted exclusively by those units. Still looks like a bit of an oversight.

  • beaver hunter

    Tavors are garbage and yet #2 on this list

    • Esh325

      According to whom?

      • beaver hunter

        Tier One Operators like myself

        • Porty1119

          I didn’t know that gecko45 had left his top-secret corporate security gig to enlist…

    • TFB’s Phil White would disagree with you. He LOVES his Tavor.

    • HKGuns

      Tavor’s are far from garbage, try to get a clue before you post garbage Beaver Boy.

  • Fred Johnson

    Is that Owen Wilson in that first photo?

    That dude is every where.

    • Shes a girl

      • MrEllis

        I’d call that woman a girl only at a great distance…

      • Tassiebush

        Well that just shows what a versatile actor Owen Wilson is…

    • Simcha M.

      The caption of the photo tells you everything you need to know. The Caracal battalion is mixed-gender and as far as I know, seems to work.

  • UCSPanther

    I like the SIG 540, the 1970s era predecessor to the SIG 550 myself.

  • I see the MP7 listed at 2.65lbs; however from what I’ve been able to find and HK’s website lists it at 4.18lbs.

    • Damn, I got my pounds and kg mixed up. I updated it to the weight in lbs without magazine. Thanks for spotting that.

      • Glad to be of help. I only spotted it because I had looked up the MP7’s weight the other day when comparing it to the PP-2000; the little guy is surprisingly heavy for being nearly all polymer.

        • Out of the Blue

          That’s what a gas piston does for your gun. I think they use a scaled down G36 mechanism in the design. The PP-2000 on the other hand very obviously does not use a gas piston.

      • Doug73

        No worries. The copy-editing in this article was horrible anyway. (Seriously, it really was horrible. I mean, there’s a sentence that reads “the FN SCAR easily remains on of the best Service Rifle hands.” What does that sentence even mean?? Numerous other mistakes too.)

        Not a big deal. Just sloppy is all. Might wanna have someone else read your stuff being publishing.

  • Simcha M.

    Pakistan, not Philipines. Sheesh.

  • Chris Miller

    The M14 or HK G3 didn’t make this list?

    • CommonSense23

      Why would the M14 be on this list.

      • Zebra Dun

        I like the M-14, it is dated and offers nothing that cannot be done by newer rifles.
        One could ask, Why No M-1 Garands?
        Yet someone always has to ask, Why No M-14?
        Which is the same rifle except in a shorter cartridge and more rounds.
        The M-14 and the Garand action is not suitable anymore for the tasks that are asked of weapons.
        Frankly in a muddy situation they jam badly.

        • CommonSense23

          Not sure what you are trying to get at here. I am implying that the M14 has never been a real popular weapon in the SOF community by choice, outside a few highly publized accounts.

          • Zebra Dun

            Ain’t trying to say anything Bubba.
            Just a comment on a thread which concerned an old rifle which has since been outpaced by more modern designs.
            I personally like the M-14 many folks do, it doesn’t need to be on this list.

          • Bryan Brah

            Yeah right, Special Operations forces would never use an old obsolete M-14. I guess the whole EBR concept is just one of those “Highly publicized accounts” that CommonSense23 was referring to.

            Anyway, interesting article. I do find it a bit distracting that it wasn’t edited better. Not to sound like a troll or anything, but seriously some of it read like bad Engrish: “We would all be poorer has the AR-15 never been invented” and “The FN SCAR easily remains on of the best Service Rifles hands.” Indeed, all your cheezburger are belong to us!

  • PeterK

    Nice list. Agree on SCAR as number one. 🙂

  • Bill

    Whoever says that an MP7 was used to kill UBL didn’t kill UBL. There may have been some carried by the aircrews. The general consensus was that it was the standard H&K 416, general consensus die to the fact that was what the two teams were carrying.

  • smitty26

    I have worked at the Special Operations Training Group/Marines Frogmen ,Dutch Marines .The last years we used the HK416,with replaced the Diemaco.Next year
    the Marines Special Forces(Marsof) get a new weapon(model not fore sure yet)but
    it will be in caliber 300 black out.

    • Lt_Scrounge

      From what I have seen on the ballistics of that round, I would wonder why they would go with that for any use other than covert operations. It certainly doesn’t look suitable for ranges beyond 200 yards. It’s slow and I have read that the ballistics drop like a stone after 150-200 yards.

  • Nick

    All you fawning over the mp7, and I’m here wanting that VSS.

    I mean, seriously, that thing has to be damn near silent.

    • Giolli Joker

      I’m with you.

      Gas escaping near operator’s face? I doubt it’s really that much more than in a suppressed AR.

    • Lt_Scrounge

      My thoughts exactly.

  • Captain Kirk

    Anyone notice how the MP7 ejected almost every spent case into Vickers chest and neck ? A bit distracting, no ?
    You forgot to mention the Chinese QBZ Type 95 / 97 rifle and the [miserable] SA80 used by the Brits. I’d consider the Chinese military to be a rather large force as well as the British forces.
    I have a Type 97 bullpup in 5.56 Nato and it’s very reliable and well made. The positioning of the mag release and the safety take some getting used to.

    • Friend of Tibet

      That’s only on 556 version, the original 5.8 mm QBZ95 has AK style mag release.

      • Captain Kirk

        Not so bad, once you get used to it. The overall function is smooth and very reliable. Quite a well designed rifle.

        • Friend of Tibet

          Of course, I personally own T97 and if you learn the special reloading way it is almost the same speed as AR…..

    • I will have to point out that he was shooting it from the LEFT shoulder. Probably determining how comfortable that would be. Firing it from the right shoulder should ease your worry =)

      • Captain Kirk

        Or, he forgot what side it ejected from 🙂

  • Does using knockoff Ar-15’s count? If so Iran and China should be on the map too.

  • Rick Pentland

    As a Lefty, the Beretta ARX100 is my dream rifle, although the mag limitations are annoying.

    • Captain Kirk

      Did not the venerable Steyr AUG have ambi capabilities ? I know that my Type 97 would knock out a few teeth if I went lefty on her.

      • Rick Pentland

        You could be right. I don’t know the Steyr rifles. With this Beretta you can quickly change the charging handle to the other side, or change which side the shells eject from with a push of a button.

        • Captain Kirk

          Sounds like a good design. Back in the day, you converted to right hand operation because that’s how it was.

          • Rick Pentland

            True that. I still haven’t fired a left handed rifle. Would probably seem weird now. The Semi’s were a blessing, but not the casings whizzing past my face. .22 are of course the worst. lol.

  • Distant V

    It’s simple to explain what happened to the SCAR-L. Try to fit these together.

    No matter if you had a super rifle that was 3x the performance of the M4 at half the cost…. the money would still come out of SOCOM’s budget. Meanwhile if they utilized M4s or M16s they would be “free” in that they would come out of the parent service’s budget.

    SOCOM was intentionally vague in their statements. They didn’t mention to the blogs that in 2010 SOCOM had a 15% budget cut across the board and an order to stand up an extra battalion at every group.

    No. They told the blogs that it was …”limited funds”… so that the blogs and everyone else would jump to the conclusion that it the rifle and FN was to blame rather than the administration and budget cuts. Never mind SOCOM was in control of the requirements and could move them at any time. Never mind that SOCOM can and has modified the contract at will.

    If FN fought back the rest of their government contracts and the remainder of the SCAR program would be threatened. So they had to keep quiet.

    Short version.

    SOCOM left out critical information about its “limited funds” by omitting the budget cuts and the cost of additional personnel/equipment in the hopes that blogs would be fooled into blaming the rifle. It worked.

  • Giolli Joker

    Comments with links/pictures require approval.
    Vickers is left handed.


    This article really hits it on the nail…With all the countries using highly precision, fully intigrated
    weapon platforms, I noticed that SOCOM’S will be utilizing the FN SCAR because the platform uses both 5.56 and 308 rounds..The Marines will discontinue the M4/AR platforms because their problematic and have been for 20 years..The Marines want a reliable, all purpose semi, full, sniper rifle and the FN SCAR has it all….It is a very, very reliable platform….The Marines have proved it already in the middle east and they want to fully integratequipped it into the corp.

    • Doug73

      Actually, the Marines are adopting the M4 at this very moment. Which has been written about extensively.

  • Dan

    Why 5.56 ?? So many other choices ..

  • Leo

    Scar for sure is superior to any but heavy caliber rounds are not the best option to run around, I like Tavor and FN PS90 (not in list for some reason). HK must be great but we should see them in US first. Russian vintorez is amazing based on what I read, nobody could buy it even in Russia, it is considered as a top secret weapon.

  • Mike

    Send two soldiers of equal ability into the jungle, one armed with an AK 47 and the other with an AR-15 and the same number of rounds…. Which one comes out? End of discussion, aye? Incidentally the IWI has a new version of the AK-47 in the two 7.62 versions….. How come this site hasn’t covered them?

  • Monty01

    Surely the SIG MCX should be added to this list? It’s new and different, although it does incorporate a similar trigger group / magazine well design to that of the AR15, Available in .300 Blackout, the MCX is used by many SF units who utilise this calibre. Many people think this design could become a mainstream military assault rifle.

  • Oh, a great illustration of “anti-recoil”! I’ve read/heard about it concerning many recoilless designs, but never seen such a bizzare demonstration – if it’s real of course. Is it?

  • Jason Lewis

    Unless you’re specifically going for a particular task, submachine guns make zero sense. The same size/weight a short barrel carbine you might as well carry the punch.

  • Jackson Andrew Lewis

    actually france has said no to the ar15…. the only thing close they are looking at is the hk416… and its 50% ar at best… looks like o0ne but lots of the internals are different…. but they are also evaluating the scar, tavor, fnc……

  • Max Glazer

    Also worth mentioning: AS Val, VSK-94, AN-94, ADS, ASh-12.

    I understand that this article refers to assault rifles. VSS is, as correctly mentioned a sniper rifle. Wouldn’t AS Val be more appropriate in this context then VSS? I do realize though that VSS can fire full-auto just like AS and can be used in its place, although it is not recommended by the manufacturer.