In this episode of Select-Fire, we packed our bags for FN’s factory in Columbia, South Carolina to see how they craft the “world’s most battle-proven firearms.”
FN, or Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre, was originally formed in 1889 in Belgium, where they have a rich history and are still active today. After initially producing more than 150,000 Mauser bolt-action rifles for the Belgian government and others, they soon entered into a long collaboration with American firearms genius John Moses Browning. This relationship led to the Auto 5, the world’s first successful mass-produced semi-auto shotgun– a design that proved so popular it remained in production for almost a full century.
Browning and FN also produced some of the most iconic semi-auto pistols of the early 20th Century including the Model 1900, 1910, 1922 and the revolutionary Hi-Power, which set the bar for a double-stack combat handgun for generations. For the hattrick, FN also produced variants of the Browning Automatic Rifle, which saw military service around the world, and collaborated with the inventor’s sons and grandsons on commercial designs even as the gun maker introduced its wildly successful FAL series of battle rifles. Today, they still produce the M2 Browning heavy machine gun, the vaunted “Ma Deuce,” which is the Western standard for rock and roll support weapons.
Over the past 130 years, the more things change, the more they stay the same at FN
Speaking of going cyclic, FN came to South Carolina in 1981 to produce the M240 medium machine gun for the U.S. military. A variant of the company’s extremely popular FN MAG 58, the company still makes over 300 M240s in the Palmetto State every month.
The current M240 series, in use by every branch of the U.S. military for the past three decades, is born in South Carolina, often in the hands of workers who are Veterans
Besides the M240, the Columbia plant also cranks out 500 M4 rifles for military contracts every single day.
FN makes roughly 500 M4s every day. After they’re test fired, they’re disassembled, cleaned, then reassembled and given a 101-point inspection. Then, they’re literally dipped in preservation oil and packaged 50 rifles to a large wooden crate.
FN’s M4 series is made in Columbia at a rate of 500 per day for military contracts in addition to production for LE and the consumer market.
Other current FN staples include the Minimi–short for the French “Mini Mitrailleuse” or mini machine gun– which was adopted in the U.S. as the M249 SAW along with specialized variants like the Mk 46 and Mk 48; the MK19 40mm grenade machine gun, and the M3 .50 cal.
The ghost of John Browning is very much alive with FN, as his M2 BMG, which debuted in 1921, is still in production. Further, his design innovations are commonly encountered across many of the company’s current offerings.
The company’s past success and the desire to constantly innovate led to the development of modern firearm platforms that have seen adoption across not only military and law enforcement users but on the commercial market as well. These include the FN Five-SeveN, the FN-15, the FNS/FNX, and 509 series handguns, as well as the crowd-pleasing SCAR.
According to ATF statistics, FN produced no less than 45,384 at the Columbia factory in 2017 alone.
The SCAR is an excellent example of a weapon system developed by FN for the military, that went on to be very successful in the consumer market.