France, one the world’s first adopters of the bullpup rifle, will officially be abandoning the stockless rifle concept for good, it seems. The competition to replace the venerable FAMAS bullpup rifle has moved forward, and the only competing bullpup design, HS Produkt’s VHS-2, has been eliminated, along with Swiss Arms’ SG 550 and Beretta’s ARX-160. The downselect means that the next French standard rifle, replacing the four-decade old “Bugle”, will be either the Fabrique Nationale SCAR or the Heckler & Koch HK416, two heavyweight competitors on today’s rifle market. Sputnik News reports:
Earlier, the French procurement agency (the DGA) initiated a tender for assault rifles, chambered in 5.56 mm x 45 NATO ammunition.
Five companies took part in the tender for the purchase of the first 100,000 rifles: Heckler & Koch (Germany), FN Herstal (Belgium), Beretta (Italy), Swiss Arms (Switzerland) and HS Produkt (Croatia).
Last week two finalists were announced: automatic rifle Heckler & Koch HK416 and the Belgian FN SCAR. The final decision is expected to be made by the French military over the course of the month.
The FAMAS was not the world’s first adopted bullpup rifle (that would be the star-crossed British EM-2, which had been adopted for less than three years and never used), but it was one of the first assault rifle’s to be actually put into service as a standard arm by any nation, having been developed and standardized at virtually the same time as Austria’s Steyr AUG. The death of the French small arms industry in the past two decades has meant the end of one of the longest lineages of firearms innovation in the world, a tradition that produced a huge number of groundbreaking designs, including the Bourgeois flintlock, Charleville musket, Chassepot breech-loader, Lebel smokeless repeater, Meunier and RSC 1917 self-loaders, and Chauchat machine rifle. Hopefully, someday the French small arms industry will return to its former prominence, but for now the next French rifle will come from elsewhere in the EU.