We're clearly late the review party, but we owe it to our followers.
When it comes to the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge there are plenty of rifle and carbine weapon systems on the market to choose from. The selection of 5.56x45mm NATO “bullpup” rifles is much more slim. When we think if civilian bullpup rifles we think of the Steyr AUG, IWI Tavor, and the Fabrique Nationale Herstal (FNH) FS2000. Like any bullpup rifle, the FS2000 is scrutinized for not being everything that one would want in a full-length rifle, if that makes sense.
After a design process that started in 1995, FNH debuted the F2000 (automatic variant) at the IDEX Defense Exhibition in Abu Dhabi in 2001. It wasn’t until 2006 that the semi-automatic variant was available, the FS2000. The FS2000 has many attributes of the P90/PS90 which is a similar FNH bullpup rifle, however chambered in 5.7x28mm. The PS90 carryover includes the thumbhole stock, trigger well, dial safety, and trigger. Another FNH rifle that lends some similarity is the SCAR, specifically the bolt and adjustable gas valve and gas block, although offset on the FS2000.
As of 2014, FNH dropped the FS2000 from future import to the U.S. Why exactly? Perhaps they were not selling enough to make it worthwhile with revolving production runs. There are indications that FNH has focused heavily on their production of SCARs and newly introduced AR-15 rifles.
The FS2000 is a fully ambidextrous, modular, short-stroke gas piston operated, 6-lug rotating bolt design that fires from a closed bolt. The handguard can be easily removed and a tri-rail (MIL-Standard 1913 “Picatinny”) can be added for additional utility. Moreover, the top of the rifle features a full length 1913 rail for mounting optics. The use of a polymer housing/stock, nylon injection molded components, and quality steel make the FS2000 unique. Even more is the ingenuity that FNH unleashed when they designed the internal mechanisms, not just a concept, but a real, working, and reliable system.
The FS2000 ejection system is likely the most revolutionary aspect of the weapon system. The system revolves around a swiveling polymer tray that intercepts the spent casing from the face of the bolt right after releasing from the extractor. The empty case held while the rocker assembly tilts and lifts it into an ejection tube that runs parallel to the barrel. The ejection tube can hold 5 cases before the ejection port cover is actuated, at which point cases will simply fall to the ground. I know, it sounds complicated and unnecessary, but it fits this design and it has a purpose.
Obsessive Sealed Design
The FS2000 has a ‘sealed’ design. What exactly does that mean, well for this rifle it means everything and is the one concept that drives all the unique features we see. The ejection tube allows up to 5 casings to remain internal to the rifle, at which point the ejection port cover drops and the casings fall out. Because this ejection port is the full length of the rifle in distance from the action, it maintains its ability to keep dust and debris out. There is a hatch at the read of the action, right about where the chin weld is located, flip this up and there is the ejector rocker and tray, bolt, and chamber for inspection. When this ‘inspection’ hatch is closed it forms a seal. The hammer assembly is located inside the stock of the FS2000, it has no exposure to the elements and can be easily removed for cleaning and maintenance by sliding up on the butt plate. The last feature of the FS2000 that contributes to the rifle’s sealed purpose is the rubber gasket that is located inside the magazine well. This gasket is contoured to fit NATO standard (STANAG 4179) steel or aluminum magazines very well. Because of this design and the snugness achieved by sealing the magazine with a gasket, the rifle does not allow the magazines to drop-free. The prominent magazine release is forward of the magazine. By grasping the magazine and pushing the index finger upward to release, the magazines release very well. Because the FS2000 was designed prior to the popularity of polymer magazines that may not share the exact outer dimensions as those STANAG aluminum and steel magazines (GI magazines), it will not accept these due to the length of the magazine well and the internal gasket. That means you will find no luck in using Magpul PMAGs, Surefire’s expanded capacity magazines, or X-Products drum magazines.
Closed Bolt, No Reciprocation!’
The non-reciprocating charging handle on the FS2000 lies on the left side of the rifle, it is easily used by either a left handed or right handed shooter. The charging handle can be pulled back and locked, thus holding the bolt open. However, this needs to be done manually as the FS2000 lacks the typical last-shot hold open which is so common to other rifles. While this may be an issue for some shooters, keep in mind this reinforces FNH’s principle around the FS2000 being a sealed weapon system. The send the bolt forward, the shooter can simply employ the “HK slap” to the charging handle and it will disengage and go forward.
Just Another Gas Piston Operated Rifle
The short-stroke gas piston operation is where the FS2000 finds its reliability. By using a clean operating gas piston, it keeps carbon infused gases out of the chamber and away from critical components like the bolt carrier group, ejection mechanisms, and hammer assembly. This results in a substantially lesser amount of carbon, crud, and heat which is commonly found with traditional direct impingement (DI) rifles like the AR-15. The gas block is located at the front of the rifle just under the front sight and features a two-position adjustment, one of normal operation, the other for adverse conditions such as internal fouling and the use of low pressure ammunition.
Typical Bullpup Trigger?
The FS2000 has the trigger one would expect in a battle tested bullpup rifle. The trigger is polymer and extends back to the hammer assembly fire via two steel rods. With a pull of 9lbs consistently, the trigger is heavy, but this is not a rifle designed for match shooting, however there is a long pull to the trigger, yet a crisp break making is manageable. The drawback with the trigger is not the actual distance from the hammer assembly, but the actual trigger design itself, which would be more contoured to the pad of the finger.
What a Barrel!
FNH is known for making outstanding cold hammer forged (CHF) steel barrels. Carrying over the same barrel as the F2000, the FS2000 is rated to get 20,000 rounds before any degradation of accuracy from its chrome lined barrel. FNH attaches an angled flash suppressor to the barrel that directs the muzzle flash upward to compensate for muzzle rise. With a 17.44” barrel, the FS2000 is accuracy capable in a small package.
What About Accuracy?
All things considered the FS2000 is a combat bullpup rifle and should be held to the appropriate standard. That being said, it will typically shoot 2-3 MOA in terms of “combat accuracy” meaning it will keep these groupings during practical testing. When rested on a bench and fed with 69 grain premium ammunition the FS2000 easily achieves 1 MOA or even sub-MOA depending on the ammunition and trigger control at 100 meters.
FS2000 - Let’s Break it Down!
The FS2000 is made up of two main components, an upper receiver ‘barrel assembly’, and the lower receiver ‘receiver assembly’ which houses the hammer assembly, bolt carrier group and operating rod “moving parts assembly’, trigger, and magazine well. Breaking down the rifle is effortless, simply pop the access pin outward and the entire barrel assembly will slide off. To further disassemble the rifle, pull the operating rod which is part of the moving parts assembly from the receiver assembly. Lastly, remove the hammer assembly from inside the receiver assembly by sliding up on the butt plate to access the rear of the rifle. For additional maintenance, the gas piston can be removed for carbon removal and cleaning by depressing the spring loaded notch on the gas block that manages the locking of the valve adjustment selector. Turn clockwise for removal at which point the piston will be exposed, simply lift it out from the front of the rifle. The bold carrier group can also be broken down for additional cleaning, however spraying cleaner and wiping it down then adding a small amount of oil to critical points on the bolt carrier and bolt will serve you will as this part of the weapon system remains fairly clean.
Manufacturer: Fabrique Nationale Herstal (FNH)
Place of Manufacture: Belgium
Operating System: Short-stroke gas piston, rotating bolt
Cartridge: 5.56x45mm NATO
Overall Length: 29.1”
Overall Height: 10.20”
Overall Width: 3.20”
Overall Weight (w/ unloaded magazine): 7.86lbs
Barrel Type: CHF, 1:7 RH 6 groove wist
Barrel Length: 17.44”
Trigger Pull: 9.0lbs
Muzzle Velocity: 2953 fps
Effective Range: 500 meters
Safety: Manual safety, drop safety
Front Sight: Fixed front post, adjustable for elevation
Rear Sight: Flip-up post style rear, national match sized aperture, adjustable for windage
To be honest, the FS2000 is an odd beast to tame. I actually admire the design, quality, and the way it fires, but with that comes patience and understanding the rifle, not just expecting it to be an AR-15. It will take some effort to overcome the overall bulky feel to the rifle and how it balances. Eventually, like proficiency with any weapon system, it turns into muscle memory. Shooting the FS2000 in a close quarters battle scenario us impressive given the enhanced maneuverability you gain with a reduced lateral profile. The only enduring complaint I have would be that the inspection hatch pinches my beard, thus making it an odd experience at times.
Serpent Tactical LLC recommends installation of the tri-rail from FNH and a GG&G vertical foregrip and Magpul XTM enhanced rail panels. Since the drum and polymer magazine options for the rifle are practically non-existent, it’s highly recommended to invest in top quality metal magazines such as the Heckler & Koch’s steel 30rd STANAG type. In terms of other accessories and options, I have my FS2000 married to the outstanding platform specific Urban E.R.T. sling, and an A.R.M.S. QD mounted Trijicon RX-30 Reflex optic. I’ve tried several optics for the FS2000 and the Reflex works the best in terms of balance and practical utility. While the FS2000 comes in at just shy of 8 lbs in its factory configuration, the addition of rails, grips, slings, mounts, and optics will add some weight for sure, carefully consider your requirements and training before going too heavy and cancelling out the purpose of a compact polymer bullpup rifle.