SCAR Mk-16 Reverb (To Buy or Not To Buy)

Wow…two full weeks after we broke the news that (officially) US Special Operations Command had canned the Mk-16, the story is still causing ripples across the Internet, in Congress, the services and in industry.

Fervent denials, insults, attaboys and eye-rolls have greeted the story in various corners but for most close observers of the SCAR program, the news was not surprising.

I’m fine with constructive criticism of my stories and was quick to explain where I messed up or was misunderstood.

But as the curiosity of the program changes keep evolving, two days ago the parent company of FNH-USA which has the SCAR contract with SOCOM, issued a release seemingly contradicting our story…(Big props to Thefirearmsblog where I first saw this)

Belgium-based firearms manufacturer FN Herstal hereby refutes the allegations recently found on the web that USSOCOM abandoned the 5.56 version of the SCAR rifle and reconfirms USSOCOM’s decision to acquire the full FN SCAR family of weapons, including the 5.56mm rifle.

But that clearly doesn’t square with what SOCOM told me. Here’s verbatum what SOCOM PAO Maj. Wes Ticer provided for me on June 25:

After completing testing, US Special Operations Command decided to
procure the 7.62 mm Mk 17 rifle, the 40mm Mk 13 grenade launcher and the
Mk 20 Sniper Support rifle variants of the Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) manufactured by FN Herstal. The command will not purchase the 5.56 mm Mk 16. (emphasis added)

Who’s right?

FNH-USA spokeswoman Elaine Golladay suggested we revisit the more detailed July 2 release from the US-based company for a clearer picture of what’s happening…

The issue is whether or not the requirement for a 5.56mm replacement outweighs the numerous other requirements competing for the customers’ limited budget. That is a question that will only be determined by the customer.

So, I went ahead and contacted SOCOM to square the two releases and was told the command hadn’t reversed course…

There are no changes to the information that we previously released to you about USSOCOM plans to acquire the SCAR.

Now look, I understand if we’re splitting hairs here — that what FN Herstal meant to say was that component commands within SOCOM will or may buy the Mk-16 while the overall command, USSOCOM, will not. Or maybe there’s just a translation error. I don’t know.

Suffice it to say that actually nothing has changed — that at least in the customer’s eyes, there’s nothing to “refute” or “reconfirm.”

  • Operator 594

    It’s great we are improving our weapons for all US forces. Teams have been effective with the much more expensive but way more reliable systems including M60A4 and Knight’s SR25 MK11/M110 SASS MK17 HK417 Mark 23 with good numbers in the field. The 7.62 mm is better and more effective in every way. Works great for effective general supression fire with less FTF’s and barrel problems. We think it should be without question to purchase 300,000+ units as many as needed giving every US soldier more advanced, accurate and lethal weapon systems to protect US lives while winning more engagements regardless of the price. we would be much more effective in the field. Give a soldier a choice between an M4 5.56/ 9mm or special purpose high end complete match grade 7.62mm/.45 Auto systems?

    • Bob

      If maintaining the current M4/M16 is too difficult, how are troops going to maintain a “match grade 7.62/45auto? It takes a lot of maintance to keep a match grade weapon in match grade condition.

      • Jason

        its not the maintaining of the M4/M16 its a very reliable weapon. The 7.62 mm round just has much more punch and dropping power then the 5.56 mm. I have personaly seen an insurgent get hit with a 5.56 multiple times and keep walking. I think it would be a great thing to upgrade to 7.62 mm just for pure power and dropping power.

      • Precision and tight tolerances do not have to yield sensitive functioning and poor reliability under adverse conditions. In my opinion, many Heckler & Koch firearms – among others – strongly support this case, some of which “Operator 594” listed in his original comment. For example, many G3 rifles and their derivatives possess DM or near-sniper grade accuracy out of the box, yet counter reliability issues with features like a fluted chamber and a recoil-operated cycling mechanism. The same goes for the Mk 23 SOCOM pistol, which possesses astounding reliability statistics alongside match-grade mechanical accuracy, triggers and sights. Maintenance requirements for these arms are average or easier than average. The main drawbacks with these particular examples are high unit cost and weight (and in the case of the G3 family, stiff recoil, especially when prone).

  • M.G.Halvorsen

    I’m in full agreement with Operator 594: in the curent situation, 7.62 is the way to go. 5.56mm is a round that is best used in close proximity with one’s opponent. 200-plus meters, and [performance falls off dramatically. 5.56 was fine in use in SE Asia, where most engagements were measures in the tens of meters. 7.62 was developed to replace one of the best cartridges used in European ground warfare: the venerable 30-06. Weight issues aside, I still feel 7.62×51 is the best option for warfare in any environment where it is necessary to make longer-range shots…and have them work! But, who am I? Just another old fart…

  • I agree that the real debate is (or should be!) about the glaringly obvious short-comings of the 5.56mm round on the modern battlefield. All this hot air about whether there are reliability problems with the M4, or whether or not the SCAR Mk16 did or did not meet requirements or will or will not be purchased by SOCOM or subordinate commands is just like arguing about the colour of the curtains in a burning house.

    The 7.62x51mm round may not be the Miss Right for the battle – but she’s definitely the Miss Right-Now. And its interesting when you look around at the rest of ISAF and see how many of the European countries have brought their old G3s out of retirement…

    So I say, fair enough, bring on the SCAR Mk17 if that’s the best you can do for now (becuase of budget or contractual requirements) – and then get on with getting rid of the 5.56 varmint round once and for all.

  • johnny c

    5.56mm round is a great one and still has a great need in todays and future battlefeilds. The problems are not the weapons themselves but the need for a much better 5.56mm round which has been around for decades but never put into action saving not only lives but money also. They do have a round that is very effective at 800meters and makes big holes (yaw) in flesh and also knocks through reinforced positions. Those in DC can’t fill their pockets as much with this easy solution thus the need for a whole new system that can bring more money into the pockets of the rats running the show. Yes it is all about money and business and nothing less folks sad to say. A troop can carry twice as much ammo then if he/she had to carry 7.62x51mm and allot less kick with more lead being thrown down range.

    • Personally, I found the old M-14 with its 30 caliber round to be far more accurate at range than any 5.56 round I ever fired. I was hitting man-sized targets at 300 yards with the M-14’s iron sights (I don’t mean match sights) when I couldn’t even get close with the smaller round. Yes, I agree that the round is heavier, but if it takes two to five times more bullets to knock down your enemy with the 5.56, are you really saving weight?

  • johnny c

    The rules go the ones who throw the most the fastest are the winners. So let us look to a better round which we have already but turn a blind eye to just so we can spend money at a time we don’t need to.

    • So what you’re saying is that we need to adopt the old Soviet way of thinking and simply overwhelm the enemy with numbers instead of brains.

      We’ve already seen throughout history that quality overwhelms quantity almost every time. What good is sending hundreds of rounds down range and maybe getting one hit if your enemy can send ten rounds down range and get ten hits? Ramp this up a bit and ask what good is hitting your target five times and he keeps coming while he hits you one time and takes you down?

      I hate to say this, but even today in Afghanistan, when our soldiers get into a firefight, we don’t send nearly as many bullets at the Taliban as they send at us, yet we invariably record more kills. It’s not how many rounds go downrange that counts, it’s how effective those rounds are–how many hits compared to rounds fired. At one time the Soviet Union had a 100:1 advantage in men and a 20:1 advantage in machines against NATO–yet on average our manpower and machines could maintain a 20:1 or higher kill ratio. It’s just one reason why they never attacked. Even now, in air-to-air combat against a shooting enemy, the F-15 has a 120:0 kill ratio–not a single F-15 downed by enemy fire. Quality still wins over quantity.

  • johnny c

    Bigger is not always better and in this case it is so very true and the very sad part is we have the round already and could be put into production a heck of allot quicker then spending hundreds of millions on a new lame weapon system. One lame weapon system to remind some with no bayonet lug? which i am sure it is those same thinkers who felt they didn’t need machine guns on jet fighters anymore because it was the future of warfare? (how wrong they were). Not only do we have to adapt to this type of warfare but we still must maintain large scale warfare even if we haven’t had any in some time doesn’t mean we won’t ever again?. 7.62x51mm has it’s place no doubt but not as much as some try to push it trying to make a buck. 5.56×45 mm can do the job and better with the correct type of 5.56x45mm round that they refuse to field?. get rid of the 14″/16’/18″ barrels and get back to the 20′ barrels for which the rounds were intended for , yes those other barrels had there spot for their section of the world but in the stan they need the 20″ barrels with the improved and very effective 5.56x45mm rounds

  • Rick

    Here is the main issue with the 7.62 that no one has really addressed: has any operator here had experience carrying a full battle load of 7.62 in the field for days on end? Could you tell the difference in weight? Was the effectiveness worth the extra effort? Were you not able to carry as much? Remember, it doesn’t count if you rode on atv’s the whole time.

    No one is arguing the effectiveness of the 7.62, but when soldiers are already finding it difficult to operate in rough terrain with 100+ pds. loads, every extra gram needs to be scrutinized.

  • johnny c

    The most cost effective and money saving and life saving idea is to change the ammo not the weapon. They do have ammo in 5.56x45mm that works even better then 7.62x51mm at 800 meters or closer. I am not posting to get rid of 7.62x51mm at all in fact it does have its place in the field. Yes there does need to be a better weapons change in the future no doubt about that at all but not at this moment in time when the next round of cuts are comming. I would rather make sure the troops get their pay checks then waste money on a weapon system at this time in history and we all know that the pentagon crowd can milk that cow very hard to finally get a weapon out to the troops. Just do a little checking and see that we do have ammo in 5.56x45mm that can do the job allot better then the current 5.56x45mm out to 800 meters. It is easier and more cost effective and quicker to get a new 5.56x45mm round out to the troops then a whole new weapon with a much higher price tag with it.

  • Another question to kick around: Should the U.S. Mil. be looking for a new standard cartridge to bridge the considerable gap in range, power and weight between the 5.56x45mm and the 7.62x51mm? The 6.8 Remington SPC and other .280-ish calibers have been touted as possible compromises, lending a boost in energy over the 5.56×45 without conceding to the pitiful range of the 7.62x39mm.

  • It’s an interesting idea, Alex, but more expensive really than either of the two existing lines of thought. To change to a completely different bore size would require at the minimum all-new receivers, barrels and magazines–if you’re going that far, you might as well simply design all-new weapons.

    I still haven’t read all that much about this supposed high-powered 5.56 round Johnny C is talking about, but I have to believe that if it wasn’t adopted 20 years ago, it’s got to have some fatal flaw preventing its adoption now. The biggest problem with 5.56 is that it’s simply too light a round to be effective at any range beyond a couple hundred meters. To have knock-down power, you need enough mass to carry the energy to the target or make the round explosive on impact. The minute you make a round self-detonating, you increase the chances of a deadly misfire. A tiny .223 caliber round simply doesn’t have the space for a reliable triggering system. In fact, the best shoulder-fired self-detonating round I’ve heard of so far is in the 30mm-40mm grenade launcher and RPG. These rounds are big enough to carry programmable detonators.

    Your infantryman and your assault marine need a shoulder-fired weapon that’s portable, reliable and effective. True, he doesn’t want to carry hundreds of pounds of ammo on his back, but if he needs to carry 5x the number of 5.56 rounds to have the effectiveness of a single 7.62, where’s the weight savings? He could be twice as effective carrying half the rounds.

    • In terms of cost, you are absolutely right. However, the cost of infantry small arms in total is infinitesimal as a percentage of the whole equipment and operating costs of the U.S. Military. Even at retail prices, outfitting all service branches with a new service rifle would cost a few billion dollars, at the most – maybe half a percentage point of DOD’s budget this year. And since we rely so heavily on infantry for the style of warfare being fought today, yet their unit cost is quite low in comparison to armor, aviation, etc., it seems difficult to argue the case against adopting a new caliber on the basis of cost alone. As we are currently at war, however, logistics concerns may indeed demand that we “stay the course” for the time being.

      Whether infantry-intensive COIN is the style of warfare we ought to be fighting today or in the future, well, that is a whole other discussion!

      • Iggy

        So why then are we spending billions on new aircraft and such, while being told that it’s too expensive to replace the M4/M16?

    • Marc J

      It’s the Mk262 77-grain from Black Hills. A lot of Army snipers use it in their M4’s.

    • Marc J

      Mk262 77-grain from Black Hills.

  • Taylor

    +1 I carried the Mark 23 one tour and as soon as I got back traded back to my Sig p226. That thing is way to heavy and almost to big for my hands but man does it deliever a punch

  • pHilo

    Perfect for cess-pool fishing

  • johnny c

    Vulpine , the same question can be applied to why they dropped the M-14 right and the 7.62x51mm round in the first palce correct?. I can say one thing and be very honest it’s all about business and they could care less about the troops, not saying they (pentagon profit mongers) are traitors but they get more money by getting a whole new system then just improving a round. Like others have posted logistics also have to come into play also and the bill just goes up and up filling the pockets along the way. It does happen and always will sad to say. I am not saying change is not needed but not at this moment in time and to improve on a round saves on money time and lives. Marc J is correct in one of just the many many options they have it all comes down to once again business and whos pockets get what, sad very sad but very true.

  • johnny c

    Vulpine, first i think you are a great blogger and have great questions and i hope that you can see my simple minded thoughts, i am first to admit i am not the sharpest knife around (thanks to TBI). The more porwerful thinking is not always the answer with an improved round but more effective in yaw and penetraition into hardend targets with better distance doesn’t always mean more power (even though i love that term more power! more power!), another small example of certain possible rounds “bi-metal” types and other munitions that we catch now and then on even the “flechet”??. If we can do so much with space ect.. we can make a better bullet no doubt just to make it for the moment till cash is ready down the line. I would love to have rail guns small enough for a single troop to carry but that’s a long way off or a laser rifle?. I think i am going far beyond now sorry, lets just get terminators and get it over with already.

  • johnny c

    Vulpine here is your answer and the army along with the marines just purchased this new round that out performs 7.62x51mm. It’s the M855A1 look it up and you can see that i told you so, it is not always more power but the others things i mentioned. I think they are buying several million of these improved rounds. I am sure will have an article about it soon enough but you heard it from me first. Your welcome bro!


    Most of the original point in this post has been diverted into a basic waste field. I am starting to think the people posting this information or what I call disinformation are kids with nothing better to do than look through every subject and add nonsensical non supported claims or maybe they are just terrorists employing UW tactics.
    ie “5.56x45mm that works even better then 7.62x51mm”= False

    You can thank the johnny and bobs out there, good work guys keep it up!

  • Galloglas

    None of the eight troops who died today would have benefitted from carrying a SCAR, HK-16 or any other KILL’O ZAP gun.
    The problem is you cannot trust your allies and your nation to be on your side you cannot stop the determined suicide bomber nor the IED.
    It’s not the rifle nor the troops that are the problem.

  • johnny c

    ZRLIME , with all do respect check it out and then you can know the facts. I didn’t believe it either at first but then i checked the facts and seen the reports and then learned it is no blarney. The truth is there and the army has purchased these new rounds and the troops in afghan will get them very soon so think what you may? but the truth is the truth. Sometimes an opened mind for a different view will make you a smarter person. So please look it up “M855A1” , i am sure will have an article about it soon enough they are always on top of things

  • greenknight0102

    As a soldier and reservist in a “specialist field”, I trained, familiarized with, qualified with, or carried the following issued weapons: M16A1, M16A2, Smith and Wesson Model 10 2 inch round butt, Colt M1911A1, Sig Sauer P228 M11, M4,UZI Mini Closed Bolt, H&K MP5K-PDW, H&K MP-5A3, H&K MP5SD, “FN P90!”, and Remmington 12 GA Shotgun M870. In my military career I have shot over 20,000 rounds of issued ammo. I never had a problem with the M16A1 or A2 except in Basic Training except after crawling through Oklahoma Wet sand in basic training! I also did much training in mud, snow, swap and forrest after basic training. I got to shoot an M4 just before I retired. The weapon in question had just come back from the big sand box. All I got was shoot, jam, jam, shoot. the weapon was a complete failure as far as I was concerned. BUY THE SCAR for the Rangers, and other snake eaters going down range NOW!

  • randy

    my god lets keep our industry here the colt verson is made in the usa git real congress