Belgian bullpup: FN Herstal FS2000: its appearance is wild, its engineering impressive. And you can have a semi-auto version, if you can find one!
As American gun owners scramble to add semiautomatic-only versions of military assault rifles to their collections before any potential legal impediments arise, some truly fascinating options are currently available to us.
Eight years ago, during a visit to the historic facility of Fabrique Nationale D'Armes De Guerre in Herstal, Belgium, I was presented with an opportunity to attend a press conference held at one of FN's test ranges to announce the introduction of the F2000 Integrated Weapon System (IWS), which made its initial debut in March of 2001 at the IDEX defense exhibition held in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.
At the same time, the US Army was very much occupied with its Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW). Fortunately for the United States infantry, the OICW, which was actually based upon a grenade launcher concept, not a rifle, seems to have died of causes natural or otherwise.
The Fabrique Nationale F2000 is based upon a cal. 5.56x45mm NATO bullpup rifle, not upon a grenade launcher. Every soldier needs a rifle, but not every soldier needs a grenade launcher. However, handguard options for the F2000 include a standard forearm, integrated flashlight, integrated laser aiming module, 12-gauge shotgun, XM303 Less-Than-Lethal weapon module, and a 40mm grenade launcher.
The F2000's exterior configuration has been designed with rounded contours and without any protruding components, even when accessories have been attached. At the time of its introduction, FN anticipated that exports would represent 95% of the F2000's production.
The F2000 was not engineered to fire grenades with pinpoint accuracy out to 1000 meters. The 40mm high-low pressure grenade provides adequate area-target accuracy out to approximately 450 meters, is cost-effective and was available "off-the-shelf."
Bullpups are certainly not new. They have been championed by the British throughout the 20th century. In August 1902, British engineer J.B. Thorneycroft presented a proto type bullpup bolt-action rifle to the British War Office for consideration by the Small Arms Committee. In trials it was not impressive and all official interest in the Thorneycroft design ceased by 1903.
During the early part of 1944, work started at Enfield on the design of a new bullpup sniper rifle. Called the Sniper Rifle Experimental Model I (SREM I), the weapon featured a radical design. The bolt traveled in a metal housing inclined 12[degrees] below the bore's axis. The bolt was operated by a pistol grip that carried an arm engaging a cammed slot on the right side of the bolt.
Rearward movement of the pistol grip first rotated the bolt to unlock it and then retracted it. But, military weapons technology during that time frame was firmly dedicated to conventional configuration self-loading rifles and the bullpup sniper rifle project was abandoned in 1945 at war's end.
Despite the slide into postwar obscurity, this early research had sparked some continuing interest. Early efforts culminated in the controversial, ill-fated British EM-2 rifle, which was effectively torpedoed by the Americans in the 1952 Light Rifle trials, held at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Refusing to throw in the cleaning rag, the British eventually adopted the dreadful L85A1 Individual Weapon (IW). Production of this disaster for the British Army ceased in 1994 after 323,920 of the trouble-plagued design had been produced. Without doubt, the most successful military bullpup rifle fielded to date is the Austrian Steyr AUG (Armee Universal Gewehr).
There is a very important justification for the modern caliber 5.56x45mm NATO bullpup. A bullpup envelope provides an opportunity to employ a longer barrel--which maximizes the 5.56x45mm bullet's limited wound ballistics potential--and still end up with an overall length that will provide the compactness demanded by modern military organizations.
The F2000 has a barrel length of 15.75 inches (400mm). In June of 2006, FNH-USA (Dept. SGN, 1420 Beverly Road, Suite 200, McLean, Va. 22101; phone: 703-288-1292; fax: 703-288-1730; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www. fnhusa.com) introduced the FS2000, a semiautomatic-only variant for sale in the United States, which did not become available on the US civilian market until December of 2007.
The FS2000 has a barrel length of 17.44 inches (443mm) and that's really good, as it further enhances the wound ballistics performance capability of the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. Other variants include the selective-fire F2000 Tactical and semiautomatic-only FS2000 Tactical, both of which are equipped with an extended MIL-STD-1913 rail interface on top of the receiver instead of the standard 1.6X optical sight. Any of the variants are available with either black or olive drab (OD) stock bodies.
SHOTGUN NEWS was sent a semiautomatic FS2000 for test and evaluation. Overall length of the FS2000 is 29.3 inches (744mm). At its widest point the rifle is 3.2 inches (80mm), and has a height of 11.5 inches (293mm) with a 30-round magazine and only 9.9 inches (251mm) with a 10-round magazine inserted. The FS2000 weighs 8.05 pounds (3.65 kg) without a magazine, 8.29 pounds (3.76 kg) with an empty 10-round magazine, and 8.39 pounds (3.807 kg) with an empty 30-round magazine. The FS2000 cannot accept the 40mm high-low pressure grenade launcher.
The six-groove barrel has a 1:7 right-hand twist (177.8mm), which means that it's optimized for the heaviest bullets available for the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. The chromed, hammer-forged barrel is said to retain accuracy firing up to 20,000 rounds in normal (not sustained-fire) usage.
The front end of the very effective birdcage flash suppressor on the FS2000 barrel has an unusual forward slope. This is a safety feature designed to inhibit accidental discharges if the weapon is dropped. However, more importantly, it directs the muzzle blast upward and as a result of Newton's third law of motion, in turn drives the muzzle downward slightly.
In all other regards, the flash suppressor is a standard birdcage type with two ports on the top, two on the sides and none on the bottom, to preclude stirring up dust and disclosing the operator's position when firing from the prone position in high dust environments.
The F2000 uses 10- and 30-round staggered-column, detachable box magazines as used in the M16/AR-15 and FNC. While not on the same level as the Kalashnikov magazine and somewhat more difficult to disassemble, the M16 magazine (as made by Colt, FNH and a few others) is battle-proven and reliable.
The difficulty of inserting and removing magazines from a bullpup rifle has been frequently discussed by those who in general are opposed to the bullpup configuration. And, in fact. even though we restricted ourselves to FNH 30-round FNC magazines, it was somewhat difficult to remove magazines from the FS2000 until repeated insertion and removal of the magazines wore down the interior polymer walls of the rifle's magazine well.
This is largely a consequence of the removable dust gaskets inside the magazine well. which also means that the rifle was not designed to have a drop-free magazine system. Magazines must be pulled out manually. However: those of the Kalashnikov series are not drop-free either, and AK magazines must be "rocked" in and out.
The FS2000's magazine release is located at the bottom of the pistol grip, directly in front of the magazine well. Also, again like the AK series, the FS2000 and F2000 do not have a hold-open device and thus the bolt group does not stay back after the last round has been fired.
Note that the 10-round magazines cannot be interchanged with 30-round magazines, as the FS2000 rifles that they are used in were designed to be sold in states that prohibit the sale of rifles with a magazine capacity greater than 10 rounds.
Thus, each FS2000 rifle is shipped with either a 10- or 30-round magazine, a cable lock. owner's manual, tool and combination scraper (OREA 8921, optical sight adjusting tool (OREA 893} and a 2.5mm hexagonal key for removal of the optical sight. These tools are supplied in an M16-type OD nylon cleaning kit pouch that also includes a five-piece steel cleaning rod. chamber and bore brushes, oil bottle, GI gun cleaning "tooth brush" and T-handle wrench.
The manufacturer's suggested retail price for the FS2000, complete as described, is $2,773.27. Other optional FNH-USA accessories include two different kinds of slings, a handguard with three MIL-STD-1913 rail interfaces and a pistol grip for use only with this tri-rail handguard.
Hammer-fired, gas-operated and firing from the closed-bolt position, the locked-breech FS2000 features a six-lug rotary bolt. A seventh lug on top of the bolt head is actually the extractor and not a locking lug. In order to safety check the chamber, an opening has been provided in the rifle's outer body. This opening is protected by a hinged inspection dust cover.
There is a two-position adjustable gas regulator, offset to the left side of the barrel. The normal position, used when the system is clean, lubricated properly and firing standard MilSpec ball ammunition, is at 12 o'clock.
When the system is fouled or if lower pressure ammunition is used, the gas regulator should be rotated clockwise (with the muzzle facing the operator) to approximately 2 o'clock. I prefer gas-operated rifles with adjustable regulators as reliable operation is assured over a wider range of adverse conditions.
The FS2000 is completely ambidextrous. The safety/firing mode selector has been placed under the trigger and can be easily manipulated with the right or left hand. There are two selector positions only on the FS2000: semiautomatic (a red numeral 1) and safe (a white letter S). The cocking handle is located on the left side of the receiver housing and can be easily retracted by either hand.
There-are three safety devices. The manual safety blocks the trigger. A drop safety blocks the sears in case of an accidental drop. The automatic safety prevents ignition of the primer unless the bolt is completely in battery.
Both the safety system and trigger mechanism have been taken from the EN P90 Personal Defense Weapon (PDW). In turn, both the P90's trigger mechanism and hammer group were heavily inspired by the Steyr AUG. The hammer group's pin's and springs are made from stainless steel. All the other components are nylon injection moldings.
As in the Steyr AUG, there is a U-shaped steel rod just above and connected to the nylon trigger. The two ends of the steel rod push against each side of the sear (located in the hammer module at the butt end of the weapon). Unlike the Steyr AUG, the interface between the trigger and rod is not adjustable as the nylon is molded to tighter tolerances than that of the Steyr AUG and the material used is less sensitive to dilation. The trigger pull weight on the FNH-USA FS2000 bullpup sent to SGN for test and evaluation was a spongy 8.25 pounds.
To me, the single most distinctive feature on the F2000 and FS2000 is the completely unique extraction/ejection system. The ejection system can be summarized as forward, soft and controlled. Alter pulling the empty case out of the chamber, the extractor is lifted away from the case.
A plunger-type ejector tilts the case up into an incredibly unusual component called the "switch." The switch moves the case tip into a tube above the barrel. Then the ejector rams the case into the tube. The case is under complete control during this entire phase of the ejection cycle. This tube directs the empty cases to the ejection port located at the front right side of the rifle, just behind the flash suppressor.
As they pass out of the ejection port. the empty cases fall gently to the ground. This is an outstanding feature from the user's perspective, as cases expelled violently into the air will often lead to detection by the enemy during combat. Any feature that inhibits position disclosure should be lauded.
The FS2000 can fire 3 moa groups or smaller at 100 meters. That is considered to be acceptable accuracy for a military rifle firing standard-issue ball ammunition. This is no better, nor worse than any of the almost 100 million Kalashnikovs that have been manufactured by more than a dozen countries. How much accuracy is necessary, or even desired, for a battlefield infantry rifle? In most instances 3 moa is more than "good enough for government work."
The F2000/FS2000 is equipped with an optical sight featuring 1.6X magnification. This is an ideal magnification for combat optical sights. It's just enough power to assist in rapid and well-defined target acquisition. Scopes of greater power restrict the field of view and usually result in failure to lock onto the desired target in the battlefield's confused panorama.
The scope's reticle pattern is unusual and consists of a vertical post at the bottom of the field of view with a pointed aiming tip and a horizontal bar across the entire field of view that is "dished" downward around the vertical post. This optical sight can be adjusted for both windage and elevation zero using the supplied OREA 893 tool.
Each quarter-turn of adjustment change will move the MPI (Mean Point of Impact) by 4 inches at 110 yards (100 meters). The sight is attached to a MIL-STD-1913 rail on top of the receiver and is protected by a tough polymer cover.
There is an emergency sight on the protective cover, consisting of a fixed, open square-notch rear sight and a fixed, square-post front sight with protective ears. Other optical devices, including night vision scopes, can be mounted on the MIL-STD-1913 rail.
Approximately 400 early FS2000 rifles shipped to the United States were recalled in July of 2006, as their heavy military-issue firing pins resulted in premature ignition of ammunition with thin commercial primers. This was not surprising as the same phenomenon occurred when the Israeli Galil and South African R4 rifles were marketed for commercial consumption in a semiautomatic-only configuration. The FS2000 was satisfactorily modified by the installation of a lighter firing pin. captive firing pin spring and a redesigned bolt body.
During its brief lifespan, the selective-fire F2000 bullpup has already met with considerable success. It has been in service with the Belgian army's Special Forces group since 2004 and is presently being issued to regular army formations as a successor to the FNC service rifle.
Initially, both rifles will be used at the rate of two F2000 rifles per eight-man infantry squad. It has been reported that Belgian Special Forces personnel are fielding the F2000 in their area of operations in Afghanistan.
In June of 2006, the ministry of defense of the Republic of Slovenia signed a purchase order with Fabrique Nationale for the acquisition of 6,500 F2000 rifles as the new standard service rifle for the Slovenian army (Slovenska vojska). This is apparently the first confirmed large-scale adoption of the F2000 by a European NATO member nation.
A version designated as the F2000 S was adopted that features a raised MIL-STD-1913 rail interface that also serves as a carrying handle. The purchase order is for an eventual total of 14,000 rifles. Saudi Arabia is rumored to have signed a contract for 50,000 F2000 rifles to complement their FN P90 Personal Defense Weapons (PDW). Special Forces organizations from Chile, Croatia, India, Pakistan, Peru and Poland also field the F2000.
Simultaneously with our test and evaluation of the FS2000 bullpup, we were presented with an opportunity to examine one of the two tactical flashlights marketed by FNH-USA. The Sriker-6 has an output of 150 lumens with a duty cycle of 50 minutes using two 3-volt CR123A batteries. With an overall length of 7.375 inches and weighing 11.1 ounces, it has a vibration-isolated 6-volt xenon lamp assembly with a tempered glass reflector cover and o-ring seals for enhanced water-resistance.
Its rear-mounted switch assembly provides either momentary or constant on/off operation and is extended in length for use with heavy gloves. Other features of this law-enforcement-quality light includes four hardened steel glass-breaking horns, a steel wire belt clip, MilSpec matte black finish and integrated lanyard bores. This really outstanding professional-grade flashlight sells for approximately $250.
Remove the magazine and make sure there is no round in the chamber. Retract the bolt group so as to cock the hammer. Push the sheet metal disassembly pin on the right side of the rifle all the way to the left as far as it will go. Slide the barrel assembly forward and completely away from the frame. Pull the bolt group away and out of the frame.
Position the bolt group vertically by Supporting it on a hard surface on the tip of the recoil spring guide rod. Slide the rear housing with the recoil spring and its guide rod downward and remove the white nylon "switch" from the bolt and bolt carrier assembly.
Slightly raise up on the spring-loaded firing pin retaining plunger located on the top of the bolt and bolt carrier assembly and pull the firing pin and its captive spring out the rear end of the carrier body. Do not under any circumstances attempt to separate the firing pin spring from the firing pin.
Raise the tip of the bolt alignment lever and push the bolt body completely rearward into the carrier housing. Keeping the bolt alignment lever raised and the bolt pushed completely rearward, pivot the locking cam a quarter turn and remove it from the bolt. Then withdraw the bolt out of the carrier body.
Turn the gas regulator clockwise to the 2 o'clock adverse position. Using the pointed tip of the OREA 892 tool, push the spring-loaded gas plug plunger into the gas cylinder and turn the gas regulator clockwise as far as it will go. Withdraw it from the gas cylinder. Use the scraper provided to remove any gas fouling present.
Push the OREA 892 tool into the rear end of the recoil spring/guide rod housing in the barrel support assembly. Use the guide rod to push against the OREA 892 tool until the piston pops out the front of the gas cylinder. The gaps on the piston's three gas valves should remain separated just as they must be on an M 16 bolt head, to prevent excessive gas blow by. Also use the OREA 892 tool's tip to remove the bolt head's extractor axis pin, again exactly as in the case of the M16/AR-15.
To withdraw the hammer assembly from the buttstock, first pull the lower end of the flexible buttplate away from the stock. Then slide the buttplate upward and withdraw it from the stock body. Remove the white nylon hammer assembly by simply withdrawing it out of the buttstock.
The handguard and optical scope covering can be easily removed if desired. No further disassembly is recommended by field operators. Reassemble in the reverse order. The instruction manual is somewhat unclear about reinstallation of the nylon switch onto the bolt/bolt carrier group. When shipped to SGN, I found lubricating oil in the gas system. This should be avoided as lubricants in the gas system will invariably bake into a solid varnish that is quite difficult to remove.
FS2000 Specifications Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO (.223 REM). Method of Gas-operated, two-position operation: adjustable gas regulator, rotary bolt with six locking lugs and a seventh lug on the extractor-fires from the closed-bolt position, with unique forward empty case ejection. Feed mechanism: 10- and 3Q-round (non- interchangeable} two-position-feed, staggered-column; detachable box-type magazines. Length, overall: 29.3 inches (744mm). Width: 3.2 inches (80mm). Height: 11.5 inches (293mm) with a 30-round magazine and only 9.9 inches (251mm) with a 10-round magazine. Weight: 8.05 pounds (3.65kg) without a magazine, 8.29 pounds (3.76kg) with an empty 10-round magazine, and 8.39 pounds (3.807kg) with an empty 30-round magazine. Barrel length: 17.44 inches (443mm). Barrel: Hammer-forged, chromed, six-grooves with a 1:7 right-hand twist (177.8mm). Sights: 1.6X optical sight, adjustable for elevation and windage zero; with fixed emergency sights on top of the optical sight's housing. Finish: Black or olive drab polymer body shell; black oxide barrel and flash suppressor. MSRP: $2,773.27, complete with one magazine, optical sight, special tools and cleaning kit, cable lock and instruction manual. Manufacturer: FNH-USA, Dept. SGN, 1420 Beverly Road, Suite 200, McLean, VA 22101; phone: 703-288-1292, fax: 703-288-1730; E-mail: email@example.com; website: www.fnhusa.com. T&E summary: Compact bullpup configuration with several unique design features in a package that has already met with considerable success. Robust and reliable with many synthetic components and acceptable accuracy for service as an infantry rifle.
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|Author:||Kokalis, Peter G.|
|Article Type:||Product/service evaluation|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2009|
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