FIRST LOOK: FN EVOLYS

    FIRST LOOK: FN EVOLYS

    FN EVOLYS (Matthew Moss)

    Last week TFB travelled to the UK’s largest defense exposition, Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), where we took a look at some of the newest small arms technology – including FN Herstal’s new EVOLYS. Officially unveiled in May, DSEI 2021 is the first major event where the FN EVOLYS has been on display for the public to handle. On its launch FN Herstal hailed it as a ‘new chapter’ but some asked what set it apart from the battle-tested FN Minimi light machine gun, which FN continue to upgrade and offer for sale.

    FN Herstal @ TFB:

    FN EVOLYS in 5.56x45mm – right side (Matthew Moss)

    Kristof Verjans, one of FN’s team at DSEI, talked us through the weapon. He noted a number of the weapon’s key characteristics that set it apart from FN’s earlier products and some of their competitors. The new weapon weighs significantly less than FN’s Minimi, with the EVOLYS 2kg lighter, at 5.5-6kg (12-13lbs) unloaded and without accessories. The full-length top rail provides significant real estate for mounting optics, image intensifiers and other kit while MLOK on the forend offers space for designators and weapon lights. The full-length top rail is increasingly something that militaries are coming to expect and is something that has been seen on a number of the latest generation light machine guns. The weapons were also displayed on lightweight carbon fiber bipods.

    FN EVOLYS in 7.62x51mm – left side (Matthew Moss)

    FN EVOLYS in 7.62x51mm – right side (Matthew Moss)

    Perhaps the EVOLYS’ most interesting feature is its self-correcting lateral feed system which sees the feed tray cover hinged on the left side of the weapon. While this removes the need for a top opening cover and allows for a full-length top rail, Verjans demonstrated how a belt of ammunition could be poorly aligned when fed into the tray. Instead of inducing feed issues, the rounds are aligned by a pair of spring-loaded feed lips which grip the cartridges fore and aft. With a smart smack of the aluminum feed tray cover (which was still a 3D printed part on the display models we examined), the self-correcting lateral feed indexes the belt and when the weapon is cocked the first round is stripped from the links with no issue.

    FN EVOLYS with feed tray open, note the spring-loaded feed lips which index the rounds as they enter the action (Matthew Moss)

    FN EVOLYS with feed tray closed (Matthew Moss)

    FN envisage the EVOLYS as a lightweight machine gun for reconnaissance, light role and special operations troops. This is largely because it does not have a quick change barrel, instead it has what FN describe as an ‘easy change’ barrel which Verjans noted takes about 2 minutes to swap out – when not in the field. FN describe the weapon as an ‘ultralight machine gun’ the profile of the barrels used remains unspecified but the 5.56x45mm model comes with a 14in barrel as standard, while the 7.62x51mm weapon has a 16in barrel. It offers a lighter, more ergonomic platform with rifle-like handling characteristics. From simply handling the machine gun it did feel handier than a Minimi – largely due to the weight difference previously discussed.

    Here are the technical specs from FN for both of the 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm weapons:

    EVOLYS 5.56

    Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO
    Operating principle: Gas operated, open bolt, short stroke piston
    Buttstock: Adjustable in length and height
    Weapon length –
    Fully extended: 950mm (37.40″)
    Fully retracted: 850mm (33.46″)
    Barrel length: 355mm (14″)
    Weight: ± 5.5 kg (± 12.12 lb)
    Weapon width: 133mm
    Firing modes: Full automatic &, semi-automatic
    Cycling rate of fire: ± 750 rounds/min
    Feeding: Either free belt or FN MINIMI® pouch
    Pouches: 100 or 200 rounds
    Max. effective range: 800m

    EVOLYS 7.62

    Caliber: 7.62x51mm NATO
    Operating principle: Gas operated, open bolt, short stroke piston
    Buttstock: Adjustable in length and height
    Weapon length –
    Fully extended: 1,025mm (40.35″)
    Fully retracted: 925mm (36.42″)
    Barrel length: 406mm (16″)
    Weight: ± 6.2 kg (± 13.67 lb)
    Weapon width: 135mm
    Firing modes: Full automatic & semi-automatic
    Cycling rate of fire: ± 750 rounds/min
    Feeding: Either free belt or FN MINIMI® pouch
    Pouches: 50 rounds
    Max. effective range: 1,000m

    FN EVOLYS in 5.56x45mm – left side (Matthew Moss)

    FN had both the 5.56×45 and 7.62x51mm weapons on display at DSEI but representatives noted that 6.5CM and .260 Remington were in development for potential special operations requirements. The weapon has a short stroke gas system and uses a rotating bolt. The weapon has a small hydraulic buffer which Verjans explained was not designed to address recoil but to flatten the curve of discrepancies between ammunition types (subsonic/supersonic), ammunition quality, as well as fouling and the varying weight of the ammunition belt which is being pulled up into the action – all of which FN claims can lead to variance in feed and lead to an inconsistent cyclic rate. The hydraulic buffer in the rear of the receiver (the EVOLYS has a folding stock, similar to that of the SCAR) evens out the recoil impulse, a side effect of which is a flat shooting platform. According to FN, the EVOLYS is now entering pre-production.

    Matthew Moss

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    TheFirearmBlog.com – Managing Editor
    OvertDefense.com – Managing Editor

    Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. He also runs Historical Firearms, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of The Armourer’s Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms.

    Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news.

    Reach Matt at: [email protected]


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