The French Army has selected the SCAR-H PR as their new Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle.
In French that becomes: Fusil de précision semi-automatique (FPSA).
In 2018, the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) – which is the French Government Defence procurement agency responsible for purchasing – launched the tender for more than 2,600 semi-automatic sniper rifles.
For those who need a reminder about the details, please check TFB’s article: France In Search of New Sharpshooter Rifle.
The deal includes 2,600 rifles from FN Herstal, equipped with high-end rifle scopes from Schmidt & Bender with clip-on night sights as well as clip-on thermal sights from OIP Sensor Systems depending on the mission.
The new sniper system seems to tick all the right boxes and replaces the current FR-F2 (seen below), which means quite a leap in technology for the French Snipers. The only thing missing is a sound suppressor.
The FN SCAR-H PR is a semiautomatic Sniper Rifle and uses the 7.62x51mm NATO round. The SCAR’s ‘H’ suffix stands for ‘Heavy’, as opposed to the SCAR-L (Light), which chambers 5.56x45mm NATO.
The FN SCAR-H-PR is also in use with units in Lithuania, Belgium and Portugal. Some U.S. Special Forces use the rifle under model designation MK20 SSR. In 2013, Lithuania’s Ministry of Defense purchased the SCAR-H PR, together with optics from Schmidt & Bender.
As we began writing this article there were no official pictures of the French SCAR-H PR, and we considered what the French configuration of the SCAR-H may be, below is one example is featured belo with US NAVY Seals on a skiing mission. The full set of pictures can be enjoyed here.
How did FN Herstal win with the SCAR-H PR?
Some French Military units already use the HK417, so it may come as a surprise that the HK417 didn’t win. As I’m sure you’re aware, Heckler & Koch won the huge order to replace the FAMAS rifles with their HK416s. After all, it would make some sense to have one supplier for their small arms. However, it is our understanding that H&K didn’t bid for this order, as the factory is currently too busy.
A company that hoped to win, at least in 2018, was Verney-Carron Defense which is one of France’s premier sporting gun makers. In TFB’s earlier article (Verney-Carron Defense’s New Precision Rifle) Matthew Moss described the situation and their new semi-automatic precision rifle VCD-10. The rifle is essentially a French-built AR-10 and there is a good picture of the VCD-10 in this French article.
The Ultima Ratio from PGM Précision was also mentioned at the time, but the rifle is bolt-action only and PGM is a relatively small company. The details of the tender from DGA stated that in order for an arms manufacturer to participate in the tender, the annual turnover must be at least 50 million Euros (about 55 Million USD). In reality, that rules out more or less every French company, including Verney-Carron, as a potential supplier and leaves only the large dragons.
The general specifications of the French SCAR-H PR is described below:
- FN SCAR®-H PR precision rifle, cal. 7.62x51mm NATO, fixed buttstock.
- Schmidt & Bender optics
- Sound suppressor
- Carrying bag
- Sets of accessories
Problems with ITAR
Additionally, ITAR played another role in closing American companies out of the tender, as DGA and the French Army did not wish to end up in a situation where the use of any weapon could be blocked by a third State.
TFB has reported about this several times before in articles including: “Germany’s next Army Rifle cannot be American due to ITAR“, “ITAR: SIG Sauer is Out. Withdraws from the German tender” and “Trump Administration to Ease ITAR Export Restrictions, Industry Stocks Spike“. (I guess the last thing never happened). As a result the winning sniper rifle had to come from the European Union or the European Economic Zone, and FN Herstal ended up being the winning submission.
Below: US NAVY Seal with suppressed SCAR-H. More pictures here.
Technical Details of the SCAR-H PR
About the SCAR-H PR (Source FN Herstal)
The FN SCAR-H PR incorporates features seldom found in a semi-auto or full auto precision rifle. This rifle retains the same performances as an assault rifle at shorter ranges. It is durable yet lightweight, and guarantees rapid and accurate fire at long and close ranges
- Utilizes the proven operating system and modular architecture found in the FN SCAR® family
- High accuracy with a heavy 16″ (semi-auto) or 20″ (semi-auto only or semi-auto/full auto) barrel.
- Two stage match grade trigger
- Long one-piece top rail allows in-line mounting of telescopic sight and night vision optics or night and day scopes
- Comes standard with a foldable, adjustable buttstock (6 positions in length) and adjustable cheek rest height (2 positions) (FN SCAR®-H PR)
- Mechanical sights to engage targets at long ranges
Below: One option for the SCAR-H PR is a fixed tactical sniper type buttstock, which allows 10-position length adjustment and 8-position cheek rest height adjustment (FN SCAR-H TPR).
The Optics – Schmidt & Bender and OIS Thermal / Light Amplifiers
Everyone calls the French SCAR a Sniper Rifle. In my opinion, with the optic they have chosen it is more suited to a DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle).
There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it makes more sense as the SCAR is supposed to be used by someone in the squad who is a really good rifleman – as opposed to a selected and trained sniper – and to be used with Low Light Amplifiers or Thermal Optics from time to time. The rest of the squad will be armed with the H&K HK416F.
The optic is a Schmidt & Bender 1-8×24 PM II Dual CC, from Germany.
Make no mistake, this is a high-end optic with a list price of roughly €3,500 in Europe ($3,900).
S&B describe it as:
This is a most technically advanced day scope, with a true 8x zoom, as well as a true 1x power setting. At 1x setting, it is an ideal both-eyes-open optical sight. When zoomed to 8x, the operator can easily identify and engage distant targets.
It incorporates a first focal plane Mil Dot-based reticle for accurate ranging and compensation for hold-offs, hold-under, and hold-over.
The mount is from Era Tac and has a 20 MOA incline. There are only two reticles available for this scope and at this time we do not know which they have chosen.
For a true Sniper Rifle (semi-auto) the the excellent Schmidt & Bender 5-25 PMII, which TFB recently reviewed would have made more sense. But this scope shines at much higher magnification rates, where the 1-8x power ends. There might also be compability issues with the night vision they have chosen, but this is speculation.
Below is an example of what the new French sniper system could have looked like with a scope with higher magnification.
The Belgian company OIP Sensor Systems will be supplying the Night Vision Optics. They were established in 1919, as ‘Optique et Instruments de Précision’ in Belgium and with a century of experience, OIP call themselves “a leader in the field of design, development & production of electro-optical systems for Defence, Aerospace, Homeland Security and High-end Industrial markets, serving a variety of different applications“.
Apart from the IRBIS Night Vision Sight they also have the two following options:
TIGRIS-IL is a compact, lightweight, high performance clip-on night sight for sniper rifles which allows the user to move from day to night operation without need of boresight realignment, for added combat value.
TIGRIS-IL is weapon-mounted by means of a convenient quick mount/release mechanism, without the use of any tools or adapters. The system fits various day sights with magnification op to 8x.
TIGRIS-IR is a compact, lightweight, high performance clip-on thermal sight for sniper rifles which allows the user to move from day to night operation without need of boresight realignment, for added combat value.
TIGRIS-IR is weapon-mounted by means of a convenient quick mount/release mechanism, without the use of any tools or adapters. The system fits various day sights with magnification op to 8x.
TIGRIS-IR features an uncooled 8-12µ, 640-480 pixels, 17µm pitch detector, is powered from standard AA batteries and can be powered from an external power supply.
OIS Sensor Systems is currently owned by Elbit Systems (Israel).
This PGM bipod is easy to use, robust and ergonomic. You can fix it on any gun equipped with picatinny rail.
- Folding and adjustable forward and backward, for a perfect integration on the rifle.
- This bipod has an adjustable left to right pan and cant.
- Made of 7075 aeronautical alloy for a significant lightness and solidity.
- Quick mount system for Picatinny rail with just a lever.
Suppressor – from Switzerland:
Below: The reading says “Rotex-V SCAR-H”. Note the Quick Attach-Detach function.
From B&T about the Rotex-V:
Compatible with the standard NATO flash hider, the Rotex-V is the optimal solution when a suppressor, mount- and detachable within seconds with a high suppression rate is needed. Besides that it very effectively suppresses the muzzle flash.
The material is Inconel & Thermax and the sound suppression is specified as 28 dB (A). Full Auto capability is mentioned as “until glowing red”. Note that the French SCAR-H doesn’t have a full auto capability – see below.
I have shot the SCAR-H a few times (not the PR version), from short distance to precision shooting at 300 meters with a suppressed (Swiss B&T) version. It was a nice experience, and it’s a rifle I’d like to have in my collection: light for a heavy rifle and very accurate.
Unfortunately, when I was looking for one, the prices were way beyond list prices which cooled my interest.
Below: The French FN SCAR-H PR comes with a case including magazines and spares.
Every day TFB runs a photo (POTD). In relation to this article please check out the French Foreign Legion and the PGM Hécate II Sniper Rifle for a view through the reticle of a French Sniper rifle.
Tweet from Florence Parly, Minister for the Armed Forces (France).
Nos tireurs d’élite auront bientôt un nouveau fusil de précision : nous venons d’en commander 2620 qui arriveront dans les forces dès 2020. De jour comme de nuit, ces fusils permettent des tirs jusqu’à une distance de 800 mètres. pic.twitter.com/enrQyS4lOu
— Florence Parly (@florence_parly) January 6, 2020
What do you think of the SCAR-H PR and the accessories described? Did you notice the lack of back-up sights? Would you have made the same choice? Please let us know in the comments below.