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Some time after starting my precision rifle project, I was talking with a friend
of mine about .308 rifles. We were at the range and he was showing me his new
.308 semi-auto. As we talked about it, between shots, he mentioned that he
wished he had purchased this rifle instead of the "other .308". As we talked, I
told him I would be interested in that other .308 but wanted to test drive it
before I committed to anything. We agreed to meet at the range the next week so
I could check it out. Long story short, I purchased his barely used FNAR
7.62x51/.308 Win along with a handful of magazines.
The design of the FNAR can be traced back to the FN / Browning BAR hunting rifle that was introduced in the late 1960s. Contrary to some on the internet, the FNAR is not a descendent of the military M1918 BAR from the WWII aera.
The FNAR is chambered for both 7.62x51 NATO and .308 Win cartridges. My FNAR sports a 20" cold hammer forged MIL-SPEC fluted heavy barrel and has a hard-chromed bore. The barrel is finished with a recessed target crown. The twist rate is 1 in 12" right hand. The rifle is operated via a short-stroke gas piston which is located under the barrel and hidden in the forearm. The cartridge is secured in the chamber via a multi-lugged rotary bolt setup.
Devoid of iron sights, the FNAR's receiver has a MIL-STD 1913 rail to accept your optic of choice. At present, I am using a handed down Bushnell 4200 Elite 6-24x50 FFP mil/mil scope. The forearm has short Picatinny rails that can accommodate lights, lasers, and in my case, my Harris bipod. With the 4200 optic and an empty 10 round magazine, my FNAR weighs in right at 11.25 pounds. A bipod would push it over 12 pounds.
The receiver is manufactured from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy. The stock is delivered with three interchangeable recoil pads (for changing length of pull) as well as three interchangeable comb inserts. The later will help you maintain a suitable cheek weld necessary for a repeatable sight picture. The sling swivel studs, mounted on the stock and forearm, appear solid and ready for sling use or a bipod up front.
On and off over the following months, as time permitted, I worked on obtaining suitable glass for the FNAR. Once that task was done, I could start on working up some hand loads. This didn't get the attention it warranted as I was often times pre-occupied with load development for my Savage 10 FCP H-S Precision and the upcoming precision rifle course I was schedule for at Front Sight.
The more rounds I put downrange from my Savage, the more I wanted to replace the
Bushnell 4200 Elite optic I had bought for it. I had gotten it on a pretty
good close out price so it wasn't like I was going to take a really bad beating
if I replaced it. Back to the forums to do some more research. I
finally decided on a new Vortex Viper PST for my Savage.
With my bolt gun sporting the new Viper PST, I decided to mount the Bushnell Elite 4200 on the FNAR. That took care of the need for finding an optic for the FNAR, at least for the short term. I picked up another set of Burris Xtreme Tactical rings and lapped them for a good fit with the 4200. At least I could now shoot it and I could work on some hand loads as time permitted. I also picked up several boxes of factory ammo to use as a baseline for running over the chronograph.
A month or so after the Front Sight course, I turned my attention back to the FNAR. The more I worked on new hand loads, the worse my groups seem to get. Something wasn't making sense at all. Having read about early FNARs and their receiver Picatinny rail bedding issues, I was beginning to suspect that might be my problem. While I could get better than a .5 MOA five shot group out of my Savage, it was a great day when 5 shots fell within a 1.5" circle, using the FNAR, and often times more like a 2" group at 100 yds.
In addition to my hand loads, I had tried Federal Gold Medal Match 168 gr., Black Hills 175 gr. SMK, Hornady 150 gr. SST, and even some Winchester 150 gr. hunting loads. It made virtually no difference....they all grouped somewhere around the 2" (or worse) area.
The above target is an example of how poor the FNAR groups had gotten. In contrast, you can see a 5 shot group from my Savage 10 FCP. It's not that I can't shoot a half way decent group....I just couldn't squeeze anything resembling half of what the Savage could produce. One other thing....FNH guarantees the FNAR to be a 1 MOA rifle. Clearly mine wasn't. I contacted FNH customer service and they requested I send it back. It took a bit over 5 weeks to make the trip to and from the FNH gunsmith shop. The work order indicated a new barrel was installed and the test target they sent with the work order indicated slightly better than a 1 MOA three shot group. I'll get back to how it shot for me in a bit.