By R.K. Campbell
When the FBI contracted with FN Herstal for their patrol rifle, there was a lot of attention given to the rifle. After all, this was a prestigious contract and one that was hard won with extensive testing. The FN Patrol rifle isn’t quite the same rifle, just as the Springfield TRP isn’t quite the same pistol as the Springfield Bureau Model, but that doesn’t mean that the FN Patrol rifle isn’t a great performer. It is simply an affordable alternative to a far more expensive rifle. Not that the Patrol Rifle is inexpensive, but it is well worth the price. The controlled feed bolt action that is the heart of the patrol rifle is the same as the modern (and much improved) Winchester Model 70. An important part of the action is the claw type extractor. A tactical rifle should be a controlled feed action. The claw extractor maintains control of the cartridge from the time the cartridge is picked up from the magazine until it is chambered and then fired and extracted. The Winchester and the FN rifle are under the same corporate umbrella and the use of the Winchester action makes sense. Of course, FN has plenty of experience with Mauser type bolt action rifles. The action is smooth with good leverage. The bolt lifts readily and there is plenty of leverage in feeding. The detachable box magazine is a departure from the non detachable magazine found on most bolt action rifles. The magazine is well made of good material. A detachable magazine makes it more difficult to fire a single round in accuracy testing compared to some bolt guns but it is what it is. The detachable magazine is a tactical feature. The detachable magazine is also less likely to produce bedding problems, per my experience.
The stock and the bedding of such a rifle are vital. The FN features an aluminum pillar system embedded in the Hogue Overmolded stock. The Hogue stock offers excellent fit and comfort. The stock allows a good grip and recoil seems light enough, due in part to the recoil absorbing properties of this stock. The rifle is free floated, which is an absolute requirement for accuracy. The rifle barrel was checked for free floating using a number of business cards and the end result qualifies as custom grade. The rifle left nothing to be desired. The sight attachment is a Picatinny type. This is a solid consistent mount system well suited to a tactical rifle. For evaluation purposes, a Barska optical sight was fitted and gave good results. While it is an inexpensive optical sight at no point could we fault the performance of this rifle scope.
In sizing up the rifle, a considerable amount of ammunition was fired including factory loads and handloads. These included examples from HSM, Nosler, Black Hills and Winchester. The level of accuracy was high. The first three bullets fired were touching and continued firing showed excellent results. This is among the easiest rifles I have tested to achieve good accuracy with. While there are other accurate rifles, the FN design comes together well with a well designed stock and an excellent and particularly smooth trigger action. This combination of features in a controlled feed action makes for an excellent all around rifle. As the term patrol rifle indicates, the rifle is intended for critical use and a quality bolt action rifle is more versatile than some realize. Recent actions in which peace officers have been forced to take out dangerous animals proved that the common .223 rifle and pistol calibers are not the ideal choice. A .308 rifle offers a considerable stand off range for engagement. Public safety is served by a single precision shot rather than a flurry of shots. The .308 patrol is clearly accurate and powerful enough for the task and reliability isn’t a concern. While there are more accurate rifles with most engagement ranges less than 200 yards, the FN Patrol Rifle is more than accurate enough for the task. I will stress again that the optical sight used is a hunter’s sight more than a tactical scope but just the same excellent results were obtained. We did not drop test the Barska but it did hold its adjustment in extensive firing. The rifle was fired from a very solid, carefully taken bench rest for accuracy testing. However, we also fired the rifle from standing and from less than perfect positions. As a shooter learns the rifle and manages the trigger action, the rifle becomes more familiar and accuracy results seem better with each outing. Only a few riflemen may shoot right up to the mechanical accuracy of a rifle and this precision firearm is more accurate than most can hold. The FN Patrol Rifle is well worth its price. It is a great addition to a police armory or for anyone interested in a first class bolt action rifle.
Caliber: .308 Winchester
Empty weight: Nine pounds
Barrel length: 24 inches
Twist: One in 12in, R/H
Magazine: Detachable 4-rd.
Stock: Hogue Overmold
Black Hills Gold 168 grain A Max: .6 inch
Black Hills Gold 150 grain: .8 inch
HSM 168 grain MATCH: .8 inch
Nosler Custom 168 grain: 1.0 inch
Winchester USA White Box: 1.6 inches
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V17N3 (September 2013)|