Life has certainly become busier since we closed the door on trying to update the AK and began looking at new platforms. In the corporate armory we see SCARs (Light & Heavy), all the SIG line from 556Rs to 516s and 716s, the FS2000, the new AUGs, and a few others.
A life of quality is made up of the quality of choices we have available to us and these days, a rifle student has a very nice life. In this article, I will discuss two rifles I have spent some time with lately...the FS2000, and the Steyr AUG. I will discuss the goods and the bads and arrive at what is best in my view.
First the bullpup. Some guys hate it. The more I work with them, the more I like them. Now I am referring to quality bullpups, and not some cobbled together AK conversion bullpup. Today, the only quality bullpups are the FN P90, the FS2000, and the Steyr AUG. I know all about the Tavor, but right now, its vaporware. I will ommit the P90 as that is a niche weapon, and limit things to the two 5.56x45 guns.
Both are exquisitely made and truly examples of European quality. No, they are not cheap, but that is not the point of the discussion here. I am not going to go into histories, propellerhead engineering concepts, or such things as there is no point in restating what has been around for everyone to read. Rather, my simple impressions.
The AUG is a thin gun, and handy. The new models are far better than the older pre-bans as you can use whatever optics you wish. The field of optics has changed a great deal since 1994 and being stuck with the Austrian doughnut is not a good thing. This one can take anything from an Aimpoint to an ACOG and from a Valdada to a Nightforce. In contrast, the FS2000 is a thicker gun, but not objectionable. It also has a full length rail to add any optic you wish.
Trigger is fine on both, but I noticed the FS2000 has a far better trigger than the AUG. The more I shot the FS, the more the trigger smoothed out. Operation is very similar on both rifles. Charging handles are very similar and magazine changes are very similar. Both systems encourage magazine retention which is a breath of fresh air to me.
On the magazines. The AUG uses proprietary magazines while the FS2000 uses metal GI M4 magazines. That is a big deal. I understand that Steyr has a model that will take M4 magazines but nobody seems to have one so I suspect they are waiting to see if the USA re-elects Mugabe before committing. If they do bring it on board, that would increase desirability for the AUG. Any 223 sold in the USA must accept M4 magazines to be economically viable.
The AUG has no handguard, per se, but rather a VFG attached to the barrel. I did not like this at all and is one of the two failings of the AUG. The VFG on the AUG must be held with a locked thumb grip rather than the more popular, and preferred by me, thumb forward grip. A locked down grip does not provide the same weapon index that a thumb forward grip does. Try a thumb forward grip on the AUG and you will probably burn your thumbprint off.
The FS2000 has a strange handguard system, but an effective one that allows any sort of grip the user wants. Most guys who run these will opt for the FN handguard system. I did, and added a MagPul VFG. That gives the FS a whole new pointability and allows the shooter to run the gun better in my opinion. It also provides for attachment of lights which are a good idea on any CQB gun.
The FS has an innovative and ingenious ejection system. Brass cases are ejected forward into a tube coaxial with the barrel and dribble out through the ejection gate just forward of the handguards. Range rats don't see the value in this, but load up a Jeep with three guys and workk on some mobile firing drills and NOT having your buddy's brass ejected into your eyes or face is a very nice thing. The FS beats the AUG hands down for firing in confined spaces like a motor vehicle.
While on the subject of motor vehicles, the ability to fire the weapon from either shoulder comes up. We are very ambidextrous in our approach to rifle work and that is where the AUG leaves us cold. With the AUG you cannot fire the weapon easily with your left cheek on the rifle using the mirror image of the right side cheekweld unless you pre-emptively turn the rifle into a lefty version. Try the shoulder switch exercise without running your face all the way back to the butt of the AUG and you will likely be pegged in the face with ejected brass. Yes, I know you can modify your shooting position....or add some sort of case deflector, or whatever. In my view, these are all less than optimal answers.
The FS however, is truly ambidextrous...in every way and action.
Given the magazine issue (proprietary magazine versus metal GI M4 mags), VFG issues, and absolute need to be truly "mirror image" ambidextrous, my vote has to go with the FN FS2000.
If you have been looking for a good CQB gun. A gun that is an SBR size without any needed tax stamps. A gun that is as modern as tomorrow, take good look at the FS2000. It is an excellent weapon with answers to questions everyone has been trying to find. Until a better bullpup comes around, the FS2000 is the best one there is.