Bullpup-style rifles have always generated strong opinions—both for and against. The bullpup is a firearm configuration in which the action is located behind the trigger group in the space normally solely reserved for the stock. This permits at least a seven- to ten-inch shorter firearm length for the same barrel length, thus improving maneuverability and handling and reducing weight.
Bullpup pro and con advocates put forth a litany of reasons regarding the concept to support their position. Advocates claim that nothing more than pointless moribund traditionalism is stifling bullpup-style weapons from being adopted widespread, with detractors denigrating bullpup effectiveness to the point of challenging the basic raison d’être for the design.
I recently had the opportunity to T&E the FNH USA FS2000 Tactical chambered in 5.56mm. The F2000 was introduced in 2001 by FN Herstal. It had been on the drawing board since 1995. FNH USA is the U.S. subsidiary of the Belgium-based FN Herstal. Whereas the F2000 is a select-fire weapon, the FS2000 is semiautomatic and emerged in 2006 for markets where select-fire weapons are controlled.
The FS2000 Tactical weighs 7.5 pounds and measures approximately 29 inches long. A full-length Picatinny rail runs down the upper receiver. The FS2000 comes with functional iron sights that also serve well as back-up iron sights (BUIS), since the rail cries out for a reddot or low-powered optic.
The FS2000 is operated via a shortstroke adjustable piston system firing from a closed bolt. The FS2000 features a rotating bolt with six radial locking lugs, a spring-powered extractor and ejector. The chamber, bolt, and ejector mechanism can be accessed by flipping up a hinged inspection cover at the rear of the receiver.
The FS2000 uses a unique ejection system that sends cartridge casings forward down a tube on the right side of the weapon. This design allows for fully ambidextrous operation without needing any alteration to the rifle. Transitions between right and left shoulder are seamless. Only when the ejection tube accumulates a handful of empty cases is the first trickled out forward through a port just behind and to the right of the muzzle. This feature is not only beneficial in terms of ambidextrous use, but also limits empty brass bouncing around in confined spaces or into teammates close by—more on this later.
The safety selector type and location on the FS2000 were adapted from an earlier FN design, the P90. The safety toggle is a rotating disc located below the trigger. The safety selector has 2 settings: “S”—safe and “1”—semi-automatic.
found on bullpups are not as crisp as other designs due to the linkage required between forward trigger and rearward action. Good advice here is to treat bullpup triggers like a Glock or double-action revolver trigger. One should not try to stage the trigger, but rather work it smoothly, thus allowing for more precise shots. The FS2000 Tactical trigger took approximately eight pounds of pressure to fire the round with a short reset, facilitating rapid sequences of fire.
The hammers, group pins, and springs are steel, while all other components are nylon injection molding.
The shell of the rifle is made of composite materials. The FS2000 is designed to be fed from metal 30-round AR-15/M16 magazines. The gasket and size of the magwell prevent use of polymer magazines. A 20-round magazine does not protrude far enough below the stock to effectively grip it with your hand to remove the mag.
The magazine release button is installed in front of the magazine behind the trigger. The magazine catch is oversized and easily actuated even when wearing gloves. The FS2000 is not configured to drop-free magazines due to the friction from the removable dust gaskets. The magazine needs to be pulled out manually. The hand is positioned to remove the magazine as it engages the catch. Some advocate that a rifle encouraging magazine retention is refreshing versus dropping magazines haphazardly on the deck during reloads.
Showing its European heritage, the FS2000 Tactical does not have a hold-open device. The non-reciprocating charging handle is placed on the left side of the receiver along the handguard like the HK G3. Overall, the FS2000 design is sealed tight with few points for dirt or debris even the charging handle slot is sealed. This is surely a reason why Saudi Arabia, with its harsh operating environment, chose to purchase the F2000 model for its National Guard forces.
Their compactness while maintaining a fulllength barrel to maximize cartridge performance is one of the most often-mentioned positive attributes of bullpup rifles. The FS2000 features a 17.4-inch hammer-forged chrome-lined barrel, and still measures only 29 inches in total length.
Working in and around vehicles is one situation where this compactness would be beneficial. As a driver or passenger, you can have the FS2000 bullpup rifle pointed muzzle down between your legs, with the buttstock resting on the seat cushion. Moving with the FS2000 bullpup inside structures is much easier and very similar to the size advantage offered by an SMG without the terminal ballistic penalty. It is easy to use an FS2000 with one hand because its center of gravity is farther back, so if you have to open a door or perform similar tasks, the FS2000 gives you an advantage.
There are shooters who ignore the bullpup design, citing various reasons such as they can’t get past its looks and “strange” ergonomics. The hesitancy of shooters adapting to the bullpup stems from the manual of arms compared to “standard” rifles that most of us have more experience with.
For example, bullpup magazine changes are different, combined with the action not being as readily visible. The action is contained in the stock and thus out of view in most bullpup designs, including the FS2000. Another point raised is that some bullpups are not as ambidextrous as others. This is not the case with the FS2000. In fact, ambidextrous use is its strong point. It seems more an issue of ingrained conservatism than anything else why more people have not taken a liking to bullpups.
While bullpups existed as far back as the early 1900s, bullpup designs started in earnest after World War II, with most sources pointing to the British being at the forefront of development. The ground-breaking German StG 44, the father of the assault rifle genre of weapons, prompted this with its high-capacity detachable magazine, select-fire capability, and 7.92x33mm Kurz cartridge.
The British saw an opportunity to get rifle-like ballistic performance out of a package that up to that point had been reserved for SMGs firing pistol-caliber cartridges. The emphasis was on finding one platform to replace multiple patterns of submachine guns and battle rifles. The WWII experience made it obvious that modern warfare would require the infantry to be armed with a light, compact, select-fire weapon, with effective range of fire much longer than that of a submachine gun, but shorter than that of conventional semiautomatic or bolt-action battle rifles. The choice of bullpup design was seen as a necessity to retain accuracy while reducing overall length.
I had the opportunity to observe and handle multiple FS2000 Tacticals during this review. The first was an FS2000 Tactical matte black model I had acquired and taken to Echo Valley Training Center (EVTC) on multiple occasions in an effort to get to know the FS2000 bullpup better.
The other FS2000 Tactical was an olive drab model that a fellow student ran exclusively during a Graham Combat three-day rifle/handgun course at EVTC. I put nearly 600 rounds through the one I acquired and witnessed over 1,200 rounds from the FS2000 during the Graham course.
The Graham course focused on dynamic training in and around vehicles. The features alluded to with the FS2000 involving ambidextrous use and controlled empty ejection proved invaluable in getting a better appreciation of the FS2000 Tactical’s reliability and benefits.
The FS2000 Tactical’s exterior is slick, with virtually no projections to hang up on straps, lines, vehicle interiors, vegetation or just about anything else. A 30-round magazine protrudes only about 2.5 inches outside the stock at its rear. At the forward end, the forend is rounded, thus further limiting the chance of getting the FS2000 Tactical snagged unintentionally while operating in tight environments.
It did not take an inordinate amount of time to become familiar with the FS2000 bullpup and its handling during T&E—it was really no harder than switching between an AR and an AK. The magazine sitting closer to the body took a little getting used to during reloads, as well as orienting hand location when racking the charging handle during weapon manipulation.
The FS2000 Tactical was evaluated by multiple persons, each with extensive prior experience with AKs or ARs. Range tests consisted of moving around barricades and simulated cover while engaging an assortment of paper and steel targets, including automobiles. Shooters liked the compact nature of the FS2000 Tactical, combined with its maintaining full-length barrel ballistics for the 5.56mm chambering. The FS2000 Tactical showed its true promise by performing not only within the 100-yard bays at EVTC engaging multiple targets, but also back at the prepared firing position line with targets placed out to 300 yards.
The recoil impulse of any 5.56mm chambered rifle is minimal, however when working on sending multiple rounds downrange accurately, recoil management is important. The straight line bore axis and relatively large buttstock found on the FS2000 dampen recoil better than most 5.56mm rifles I have handled.
The FS2000 bullpup being closer to the body, with resultant center of gravity more toward the rear due to weight of action at the butt—combined with the shooter’s hands being next to each other on the weapon—makes the weapon seem lighter than it is. This contributes to better handling over longer time frames due to lessening fatigue on the arms and shoulders.
Some may question the effects of muzzle blast with the barrel and action being oriented closer than normal to a user’s face during operation. Evaluators did not find this troublesome or noticeable. It was no different than user experience with an SBR and possibly less, considering that the FS2000 offers 17- plus inches of barrel for powder burn.
The FS2000 Tactical allows easy mounting of optics with its full-length Picatinny rail. The dilemma is whether to go with a red dot optic to take advantage of the FS2000’s compact stature for the CQB arena, or mount a magnified optic since the FS2000 is capable of longrange accuracy.
I chose to evaluate the FS2000 Tactical with multiple optics, including the Trijicon SRS red dot, Leupold Prismatic, Leupold Mk4 CQ/T, and Leupold VX-R Patrol 1.25-4X20mm with FireDot Special Purpose Reticle.
Both the Leupold Mk4 CQ/T and VX-R optics are designed for instinctive close-range/low-magnification situations with illuminated reticles, yet allow shooters to engage targets with greater precision at longer ranges than generally possible with non-magnified red dot optics.
The Leupold VX-R will strike many as unconventional in terms of commonly associated optics on a military-style rifle. However, for law enforcement, private citizens or security contractors, it’s worthy of consideration as it supplements the FS2000’s performance flexibility.
The FS2000 mated to the Leupold VX-R is able to handle diverse roles, whether at close range or farther out. As many maturing shooters can attest, the single focus plane associated with red dot or low-powered optics is easier to shoot accurately than coordinating front and rear sights. The 5.56mm flat trajectory aids in making hits out to 250 yards without having to compensate excessively for bullet drop.
Accuracy test protocol consisted of three five-shot groups with each ammunition type. Velocity figures ranged from 2,700 to 3,000 feet-per-second over an RCBS chronograph.
Ammunition tested with the FS2000 Tactical was a combination of Black Hills Ammunition loads, multiple Hornady TAP loads, and Winchester 55-grain FMJ. The FS2000 kept all loads tested under two inches at 100 yards, with two Black Hills loads—50-grain TSX and 77-grain Match—producing near-MOA groups out to 200 yards. This accuracy level justifies considering mounting a magnified optic such as Leupold’s adjustable power Mk4 CQ/T or VX-R depending on the intended mission.
Arms aficionados will find the FS2000 Tactical bullpup differences compared to typical standard-pattern rifles intriguing and may desire one based on this uniqueness. Many will find the FS2000 desirable due to its compactness, reliability and accuracy. This is a combination hard to argue against in terms of utility for any user.
The handling advantages of SBR rifles are often touted as the difference maker in terms of effectiveness. Why not enjoy this advantage while retaining a barrel length that maintains ballistic performance? This is what the FS2000 Tactical bullpup offers. Too often individuals get overly invested in a weapon platform and ignore what might be a more advantageous system. A student should be able to show up at a training course with an AR, AK, FAL, HK, or FS2000 and perform with equal aplomb.
The individual is the key to effectiveness, not the weapon. An operator with this type of mindset will surely appreciate the FS2000.