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Out of the blue: FNH USA's FNAR takes the famed browning bar action to a whole new level.

For the benefit of those who scan all the photos included in a rifle review prior to reading the text, I'll begin by explaining why the FNAR rifle from FNH USA looks a lot like the BAR that's been available from Browning since 1967. The two appear to be the same because they are built around the same gas-operated action.

To understand how this came to be, we have to go back to the year 1977 and the acquisition of Browning by Fabrique Nationale of Herstal, Belgium. In 1981 FNH began operating a new factory in Columbia, South Carolina, called FN Manufacturing. About the same time, FNH USA of McLean, Virginia, was formed as a marketing arm of FNH to offer a variety of firearms--some made in South Carolina, others in Belgium and Portugal.

Whereas FNH USA mostly pursues military, law enforcement and civilian tactical markets, Browning specializes in sporting arms designed specifically for hunting and shotgun shooting. Only a few product crossovers exist between the two companies. The Sporting Competition in 12 gauge built in Portugal is the only over/under shotgun offered by FNH USA while many pages of the Browning catalog are filled with various models, types and styles in all the bore sizes.

Like the Browning BAR, all parts of the FNAR are made in Belgium and then shipped to a Browning facility in Viana, Portugal, for assembly. As the FNAR name implies, two of the FNH USA rifles are AR-ish in styling. Those from Browning are styled for more traditional-minded hunters. Only occasionally will one company tiptoe through the other's tulips. A major difference in design is their magazines. All FNH USA versions of the BAR have detachable magazines. Browning BARs have an internal magazine, and while also detachable, it is enclosed by a hinged floorplate. A recent exception to the rule was the 2014 special-run Browning BAR ShortTrac Hog Stalker that used the detachable magazine system of the FNH USA rifle.

The FNAR is available in three variations. All are chambered to 7.62x51 NATO, which means they also run happily on .308 Win. ammunition. The six-groove rifling has a right-hand twist rate of 1:12. The use of a lightweight receiver machined from aircraft-grade aluminum is made possible by the engagement of lugs on the rotating bolt with seats inside a steel extension of the barrel. The hammer-forged, chrome-moly barrel has a chromed bore, recessed muzzle crown and exterior fluting.

The piston-driven gas system begins with a gas cylinder dovetailed to the bottom of the barrel about six inches forward of its chamber. Propellant gas flowing into the cylinder during firing drives the piston rearward about 0.50 inch where energy is transferred to a steel inertia block measuring just over three inches long. As the piston reaches the limit of its travel, excess propellant gas is dumped through a vent at the bottom of the cylinder.

The forward ends of right- and left-side steel action bars are connected to the inertia block while their rear ends engage the bolt carrier. During its 4.25-inch travel to the rear, the inertia bar rides on a steel rod containing the action spring. Once the bolt carrier reaches the limit of its rearward travel during firing, forward pressure by the spring on the inertia block pushes it forward, drawing the carrier forward to engage the locking lugs of the bolt with the barrel extension.

A red dot at the bottom edge of the ejection port serves as a bolt position indicator. The dot is in view only when the bolt is fully forward in its locked position.

A spring-loaded bolt catch is located on the right-hand, bottom edge of the receiver. As the bolt chambers the last cartridge from the magazine, the follower pushes the catch against the bottom of the right-hand action bar. Then as the fired case is ejected and the carrier reaches the limit of its rearward travel, the catch engages a deep notch in the bottom edge of the action bar.

The carrier is released by pushing down on the large tab of the latch or by pulling and releasing its handle. The bolt can be locked back with the magazine removed by retracting it while pushing up on the latch.

An aluminum housing attached to the bottom of the receiver adapts the action for use with detachable magazines with capacity options of five, 10 and 20 rounds. The magazine consists of a steel body with leaf-style spring and low-friction synthetic follower.

Of proprietary design, it differs from the magazines of M1A/M14 and AR-10 rifles. The tabs of the ambidextrous magazine release have a checkered surface for no-slip grip, and because they are positioned 3.5 inches forward of the trigger, they cannot be reached with the shooting hand without removing it from the grip of the stock. The bolt release tab is located just above the magazine well, and I found it convenient to use with my left hand after inserting a loaded magazine. The mouth of the magazine well is not flared but is beveled for smooth magazine insertion.

As mentioned earlier, the FNAR is available in three variations, with the major differences being the type of stock and barrel length. The Standard and Heavy models have a matte-finished, black synthetic stock with extended grip. Standard length of pull is 13.875 inches, but three interchangeable recoil pads of various thicknesses allow it to be shortened or lengthened. Metal shims enable the user to adjust cast in the stock. Also included are three comb inserts of various heights.

The Standard rifle has a 16-inch barrel and weighs 8.75 pounds empty. In addition to being four inches longer, the barrel of the Heavy has a heavier contour, which increases its weight to 9.75 pounds. Both models have four MIL-STD 1913 mounting rails, a 9.5-incher attached to the top of the receiver and three shorter rails at the three, six and nine o'clock positions on the forearm.

The Competition version of the FNAR featured in this report has the 20-inch barrel of the Heavy variant and measures 0.770 inch at the muzzle. Also included in its hard storage case are a safety lock and 10- and 20-round magazines. Overall length is 41.25 inches, and according to my digital postal scale, it weighs eight pounds, nine ounces. Attaching a crystal-clear Nightforce NXS 1-4X scope with medium-high steel rings increased that to nine pounds, 15 ounces.

The anodized finish of the receiver is blue in color rather than the black of the other two models. Stock and fore-end are laminated hardwood with the laminates alternating in color from blue to gray. The wrist and fore-end have laser-cut checkering, and while the pattern gives the rifle a racy appearance, it could be considerably improved by increasing coverage.

Rather than utilizing shims and interchangeable comb inserts, the comb is easily adjusted for both height and cast. A supplied 3mm hex wrench is used to loosen two retention bolts, allowing the comb to be adjusted to the desired height. Cast-on and cast-off are fine-tuned by completely removing the comb, loosening its two support posts, shifting them left or right on their base plates and tightening into position. But prior to removing the comb, be sure and measure the distance between its bottom surface and the top surface of the stock.

With the comb removed, turn out two screws located beside the support posts until they are protruding the measured distance. Then each time the comb is removed and reinstalled, the two memory screws will position it at the chosen height. The rifle leaves the factory with a 13.875-inch length of pull. Switching to the thinner of two other recoil pads included in the package shortens pull to 13.375 inches while installing the thickest pad lengthens it to 14.125 inches.

The receiver of the Competition version wears the same Picatinny rail as the other two variants, but rather than having additional rails on the fore-end, it has a short rail attached out near the muzzle of the barrel for attaching a front sight. The top surfaces of the front and rear rails are 0.945 inch above the centerline of the bore. Maximum sight radius between the two is 17.5 inches.

The owner's manual contains detailed takedown instructions for cleaning, including removal of the gas piston and all associated parts of the gas-handling system. During takedown keep in mind that side-pressure from the fore-end holds the two action bars in place. If the fore-end is removed while the bolt is forward in its locked position, they can become disengaged from the carrier and inertia block and fall from the rifle. Placing them back into position is not difficult although there is a short learning curve. This won't happen if the fore-end is removed while the bolt and its carrier are locked to the rear. One hand then eases the bolt forward as the other holds the action bars in position.

The fire control group is also easily removed for cleaning. With the bolt forward on an empty chamber, a nylon dowel is used to push two transverse retention pins from the receiver. A downward pull on the front of the trigger guard removes the assembly from the receiver.

When accuracy-testing the FNAR, I fired five five-shot groups at 100 yards from a sandbag rest. I was unable to learn what type of competitive shooting the rifle is intended for, but since it was given the name Competition, the barrel was cooled down only between each 25-round string rather than the usual five rounds. Three match loads were included, and because my interest in the gun is for bumping off feral hogs, Hornady's new Full Boar ammo loaded with the 165-grain GMX and Barnes VOR-TX with the 150-grain TTSX BT were added to my range bag.

Best accuracy was achieved with Black Hills Gold loaded with the fairly new Sierra 175-grain Tipped MatchKing, with the smallest group coming in at 1.46 inches. Averages and velocities are found in the accompanying chart.

Due to its weight and gas operation, the FNAR is comfortable to shoot. After squeezing off close to 150 rounds from the bench, I emptied 20-round magazines offhand at distant clay targets placed against a dirt berm until there was no more ammunition.

The BAR trigger has always been in the "not bad but could be better" category. It begins with a slight amount of free-travel, followed by a tiny bit of creep and then breaks at an average of four pounds with no detectable over-travel. The trigger-blocking, transverse safety button at the rear of the trigger guard operates smoothly with strong spring detents at its two positions.

When shooting the FNAR offhand, I mostly held it upright but also shot it right-side down and left-side down to check functioning. It gobbled up every round without a single bobble and begged for more. My only issue with the rifle came before the fun and games began. It was shooting high and right with the Nightforce scope pegged at the end of its adjustment ranges.


TYPE             piston-driven semiauto

CALIBER          7.62x51 NATO

CAPACITY         5-, 10-, 20-round magazines (where legal)

BARREL           20 in., 1:12 twist

OVERALL LENGTH   41.25 in.

WEIGHT           9.56 lb.

STOCK            laminated hardwood

FINISH           blued steel barrel, anodized aluminum blue receiver

TRIGGER          two stage, nonadjustable

PRICE            $1,767


                            Bullet    Muzzle                Avg.
                            Weight   Velocity   Standard    Group
.308 WIN.                   (gr.)     (fps)     Deviation   (in.)

BLACK HILLS GOLD SIERRA      175      2,646        12       1.59

BARNES V0R-TXTTSXBT          150      2,755        15       1.82

H0RNADY FULL BOAR GMX        165      2,577        23       2.05

N0SLER CUSTOM COMPETITION    155      2,819        11       2.21

FEDERAL GOLD MEDAL MATCH     168      2,655        28       2.34

NOTES: Accuracy results are averages of five five-shot groups at
100 yards from a benchrest. Velocities are averages of 10 shots
measured by an Oehler Model 33 chronograph at 12 feet.
Abbrevations: BT, boattail
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Author:Simpson, Layne
Publication:Petersen's Rifle Shooter
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Nov 1, 2015
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