Most shooters, especially those in the military, are quite familiar with the manufacturer FN or Fabrique Nationale Herstal. In fact if you have served in the US Military sometime in the past 25 years, you likely are very familiar with the defense offerings from FN. Since the 1990’s they are the primary contractor for the M16/M4 series of rifles as well as the M249, M240 and M2 machine guns that are in use by all branches of the US military. FN is a Belgiam company, and a member of the Belgian Herstal Group which also owns Winchester and Browning Arms Company. With the merger, FN America was formed and they manufacture most of the FN products sold in the US including both civilian firearms and those used by the military. We have even done a review on both their FN SPR A3G and their older Patrol Bolt Rifle.
FN also has their hand in the Special Operations world with their SCAR (Special-Operations-Force Combat Assault Rifle) 16, 17, 17H and the MK20 SSR. During the development of the SCAR family of rifles, FN says they designed the system to the “operator’s requirements-not adapted to them”. Meaning that they did not try to adapt an existing rifle system to fit the requirements but rather they designed an entire new system specifically for those requirements. The SCAR is a modular, Short-stroke gas piston rifle system, with operating controls for both left- and right-hand shooters. That modular design allows the SCAR to be capable of not only barrel changes, but caliber changes making it adaptable for anything from close quarter battle (CQB) to heavy long barrel variants intended for Designated Marksmen and Sniper use. The two main versions are the SCAR-L (Light) chambered in 5.56/223 Rem and the SCAR-H (Heavy) chambered in 7.62/308 Win.
The variant of the SCAR family that we want to focus on here is the MK20 MOD 0 Sniper Support Rifle (SSR). The Mk20 is based off the SCAR-H with a few modifications which enhance its ability to fill the long-range role. Those modifications include a longer receiver for mounting night vision and other devices, an enhanced trigger that allows for either a single or two stage pull, a heavier barrel and barrel extension for improved accuracy, and a fully adjustable stock. The Mk20 was approved in 2010 for adoption after an extensive field evaluation and has served with various special operations units since then.
The short-stroke piston design helps reduce felt recoil as well as improves long term reliability compared with a direct impingement design like the AR. That reduction in recoil improves the ability to do rapid followup shots and with accuracy around the 1 MOA mark, engagements out to 800 meters are possible. FN claims 1000 yards as their max effective range and that sounds about right.
With the ability to use forward mounted night-vision devices, the system becomes a very nice supplemental or support rifle for special operations sniper teams. Is it better than the new H&K M110A1 CSASS? Well, that is a very difficult question to answer. The Mk20 weighs a 11.2 lbs without any optics which gives it significant heft and that is one of the areas where the M110A1 tried to focus on and it does weight a bit less. The shape of the Mk20 also carries some bulk with it which some like, and others do not. The effectiveness of the rifle seems to be determined by the intended role it will be used for.
As is common with weapons used by Special Operations Forces, the exact make and model of optics that are mounted on the Mk20 vary widely. There seems to be a good number of Leupold and Nightforce optics mounted on them in the field, which is no real surprise due to the popularity of those brands with the SOF community. Many of the images from combat zones also show the wide use of attached suppressors on these rifles as well. It seems that there have been a few reported issues with the charging handle but otherwise they have been durable and reliable.
Due to the success of the MK20 SSR, FN has recently announced the availability of this rifle to the civilian and law enforcement market. In this guise it is known as the SCAR 20S and there is also a limited run of 200 special edition rifles with the full kit available. The SCAR 20S has the same 20” Heavy Cold hammer-forged, chrome lined, free floated barrel with a 1:12” twist and muzzle break. The trigger on the SCAR 20S version is a two-stage Geissele “Super SCAR” which like all Geissele triggers is very good. The stock is the same fully adjustable stock found on the military version with its Hogue rubber grip with finger grooves. The safety lever and magazine release remain ambidextrous, and the reciprocation charging handle may be mounted on either side.
The Mk20 SSR not only makes a good Sniper Support Rifle, but it also makes a suitable DMR with its solid performance and semi-auto capability. The rifles have seen extensive combat and FN also has a very good reputation and while the rifle is heavy and a bit bulky, we would be comfortable taking one in the field. If a semi-auto rifle fits your requirements, then the Mk20 could also serve as a primary Sniper Weapon System as well. Though the FN SCAR 20S rifles available to civilians are a bit spendy at $4500 MSRP. But if you are military or law enforcement, contact FN directly and you can likely obtain military and LE pricing.
Sniper Central 2019