Law enforcement agencies looking to equip their police snipers have an advantage these days. With the advent of contemporary police sniper training and a focus on better equipment, there is considerable competition coming forward from the factories to outfit the law enforcement professional.
I recently evaluated the FN Special Police Rifle (SPR). My initial impression out of the box was very favorable. The test unit I received came safely packed in a Styrofoam- molded shipping box. Included were a 100 yard zero target (group size — .41″); an owner’s manual; a safety booklet; and a progressive shot log/maintenance record.
Features and Benefits
According to FN, their SPRs are “based on the legendary Pre-’64 Model 70-design action.” In accordance with that design, the bolt is fitted with a massive external claw extractor which is known as a “Controlled Round Feed (CRF).” Once the extractor has engaged the rim and is seated in the extractor groove of the cartridge, it’s captive on the face of the bolt until ejected from the receiver.
The rifle I received has a factory installed scope rail onto which a Leupold® 4.5x 14 tactical scope was quickly and easily mounted. The rail is a one- piece steel MIL-STD 1913 style rail with an additional 20 MOA of elevation finished to match in matte black. A Harris S-BR series biped and a I I/4″ GI sling and swivels completed the setup for testing.
Sling swivel studs were properly located fore and aft on the stock, with a double set on the forend for bipod and sling swivel mounting, respectively. The interior stud is particularly useful in maximizing the use of a proper rifle sling for position work.
The stock is a solid McMillan—fiberglass unit which adds weight and a reassuring feel of stability to the rifle. Its weight came in at 14.4 pounds with the scope, bipod and sling mounted. Sans these components, our test sample weighed 11 .6 pounds.
The stock’s finish is a line stipple which provides a positive grip and aids in controllability and it just felt “good” while handling the rifle at the range. Ergonomics are excellent with an”Anschutz” type, near vertical pistol grip. The forend of the stock has a gracious flat bottom which is suitable for shooting off a pack or operating within an urban environment. The synthetic butt pad is mated to a spacer which appears to be removable/stackable for fitting individual operators. Overall length was approximately 44.5″ as tested.
The trigger guard/floor plate unit is a heavy-duty steel, one-piece factory unit. Steel units like this one are generally found on custom-built rifles or fitted as “upgrades” on some factory rifles. They contribute to added strength, rigidity and durability for tactical use. The front and rear tangs are also wider and thicker for additional clamping strength, consistency and, consequently, accuracy.
The FN SPR model tested was not fitted with a height adjustable cheek piece; however, a “slipover” unit could easily be added. The FN SPR A3G and A5M models come with a fully adjustable cheek piece for height and length of pull.
With nearly a 1/8 inch of space, the design of the forend of the stock affords the barrel a gracious channel which ensures a free- floating barrel. The action is solidly embedded into the stock by a synthetic compound applied at all crucial points. The barrel lug is captive and fully bedded.
The trigger is characterized as a “two lever” type. The unit used in the test rifle had a very minor initial “step” to it. It did, however, pull very evenly and broke cleanly and consistently at 4.5 pounds. This is well within the desirable range for an operational police sniper rifle. (The American Sniper Association recommends a trigger weight of 3.5 to five pounds.)
The rifle has a Model 70 design, three-position safety which works in conjunction with bolt removal and positively locking the firing pin.
The 24″ cold hammer forged barrel has a very pleasing taper and offers substantial heft to the rifle. Twist is the optimum I in 12″ for use with most current police sniper factory loads. The exterior finish is a deep matte black matching the stock, receiver, bolt and other components. The recessed crown is finely finished with cleanly machined surfaces.
Arguably, the “heart” of any great rifle is the barrel. According to the manufacturer, “All models have cold hammer forged MIL-SPEC barrels with hard chromed bores, and are held to +/- .001″ headspace to produce and maintain one Minute Of Angle (1 MOA) accuracy, making them natural choices for long-range target shooting and competition.”
It has been said that the only interesting rifle is an accurate one. A trip to the range revealed that accuracy from this rifle was outstanding, especially for one of this price range. Firing sessions resulted in repeated sub-minute of angle three to five shot
groups at 100 yards. Factory ammunition used was the ubiquitous 168-grain match round as supplied by the premier Black Hills and Federal ammunition companies.
The ammunition was equally matched in terms of accuracy in this rifle and resulted in multiple tight clusters with numerous “one hole” groups — providing the shooter did his/her part. All shooting was conducted from the bench with a bipod. The rifle digested 50 rounds of each manufacturer’s ammo with ease. The bolt cycled smoothly, picking the rounds up securely on the face of the bolt and flawlessly capturing each under the extractor claw.
The Pre-’64 Model 70-design type bolt handle offered a bit more leverage than many of its competitors when chambering a round or extracting a spent cartridge. The bolt release is located on the top rear portion of the receiver adjacent to the bolt — a sensible and safe location compared to other manufacturers.
The Police Model comes with a detachable magazine capable of holding four rounds. The release is located directly in front of the magazine well and is easily manipulated — even with a gloved hand.
Once inserted, the magazine sits flush with the stock and seats with a very positive and reassuring “snap.” With an empty magazine inserted, single rounds may be tactically loaded through the ejection port: however, it is not possible to easily load up the magazine via the ejection port. The shooter then has the option of inserting loaded (partial or full) magazines or tactically loading and shooting single rounds through the open port.
The rifle’s accuracy was outstanding and comparable to that of rifles costing thousands of dollars more. The unit I shot was solid in feel, of high quality and construction, and overall fitment was excellent for use as a duty rifle.
Considering the excellent components which comprise this package, agencies would save considerable time, effort and money to bring other systems up to this level. There is also the additional benefit of having purchased a complete package from the factory which is designed to function together and comes with product liability and a warranty.
In summary, the quality of the FN SPR stacks up against other rifles costing three to four times as much. This rifle is an excellent performer and an outstanding value. The MSRP for the SPR Al is $2095; however, a quick check on the Internet revealed a number of competitive dealer prices — some as low as $1429.
Competition is good for the consumer and the FN SPR is a very strong competitor worthy to be on any callout with a police sniper.
About the Author: Edward E Gross is Managing Director of Crosshairs, Inc., a recognized training corporation providing professional sniper training for the law enforcement community.
An operational police sniper for 20 of his 30 year career he served the City of Keene and the County of Cheshire in New Hampshire. He’s a published author of numerous articles for law enforcement tactical periodicals, two current quarterly police sniper newsletters and a contributing author to the 2008 American Sniper Association (ASA) Sniper Manual. He is the current Vice President of the Association; a nonprofit law enforcement organization dedicated to the professional development of law enforcement snipers — wwwamericansniperorg. Crosshairs can be contacted via its Web site at www. crosshairs.org or by E-mail at [email protected] ne.rrcom.