Very few military assault rifles have excited the shooting public as has the FN Special Operations Forces (SOF) Combat Assault Rifle. Designated the MK16/17 SCAR Light (5.56x45mm) and Heavy (7.62x51mm) by the military, civilians have passionately agitated for a semiautomatic civilian legal version and a few years ago were finally rewarded for their efforts.
However, the MK16 SCAR comes at a steep price and caused budget-minded enthusiasts to look elsewhere for their run-and-gun needs. Hopefully, with SOCOM’s (Special Operations Command) cancellation of the SCAR L rifle because of “tight budgets” and “performance similar to the existing MK4 platform,” some of these select-fire weapons can be converted back to semi-auto only and sold to the public.
Folks, in spite of scarcity and price, please take heart. Legacy Sports, a rapidly rising import stable of quality firearms, has to a large degree captured the SCAR mystique with the near-mirror image Austrian ISSC MK22 sub-caliber version of FN’s martial masterpiece chambered in .22 Long Rifle.
While not an exact sub-caliber reproduction of its full-caliber antecedent, it will readily lend itself to the increasingly popular .22-caliber action shooting events or merely serve as an exotic plinker, which is what company officials told me it was designed for.
Like the AR-15 explosion, spitting image sub-caliber versions of their big brothers are currently some of the hottest firearms sought by both veteran and neophyte shooters.
As outlined, the ISSC SCAR mostly satisfies that requirement. Besides its military black or desert tan colored profile, with fixed and folding stock versions, it weighs within a pound plus of the 5.56x45mm rifle and has many of its attributes as well as some unique features, such as its Universal Cocking Adaptation System (UCAS). The UCAS permits the shooter to locate the stubby but accessible cocking handle almost anywhere, port or starboard, fore or aft on the forward receiver.
WHAT YOU GET
Its package comes with one 22-round magazine, removable front and rear sights, chamber cleaning brush, assorted Allen wrenches, and a manual. Additional 22-round magazines cost $50. My magnet tells me that the breech and barrel are steel, but the majority of the rifle is polymer and aluminum.
Starting at its large hard-rubber, ribbed non-slip folding buttstock, the MK22 has three linear stops for length of pull adjustments. In addition, its comb can be raised approximately one inch to elevate cheek weld when sighting through a scope. The stock has attachment points for a sling or aftermarket sling swivels and is easily disengaged for compact carry via a large port-side button. The stock can be completely detached by tapping out a steel pin with a plastic or brass hammer.
Picatinny rails can be found in all the cardinal directions on the receiver, foregrip and forward barrel lug.
The MK22’s safety/selector are ambidextrous, large and rotate easily and positively. However, like the M16 and H&K MP5 platforms, it is difficult to activate with the dominant hand’s thumb when at the low ready. The selector can be accessed and tripped by rotating the rifle outboard and into the shoulder while flicking the lever down.
The trigger guard is large enough to be used with gloves. The trigger is a typical two-stage military with a good bit of take-up, some creep and then a crisp break. My sample weighed in at 4.75 pounds. It is backed up with a pistol grip with one finger groove.
The end cap on the hollow pistol grip is removable with the application of a screwdriver or knife tips. While not mentioned in the rifle’s literature, it appears that this can be used for storage of small items and accessories.
There are no ambidextrous bolt releases, and this must be accomplished with the cocking lever. However, ambidextrous button and levered magazine releases, on the right and left sides of the receiver respectively, eject the magazine.
Moving forward, past the starboardside ejection port and folding-stock retention stud, the rail-encompassed foregrip leads to the CQB front blade and flip-up pin sight. Just slightly ahead are small ambidextrous “D” rings for sling snap clip attachment. These are followed by abbreviated top and bottom rails for under- and over-barrel jacket attachments.
The M16-style birdcage flash hider does not replicate the FN SCAR 16’s and is a bit of overkill for the sub caliber, but with its faux grenade-launching rings looks good.
The proprietary 22-round polymer magazines are rock solid with a witness slot that runs the length of the magazine on both sides and has round-count numbers adjacent to it. Two topside tabs can be depressed to compress the magazine spring by thumb and forefinger to aid in loading. The magazine can be completely disassembled for maintenance. A reminder to use high-velocity ammo is engraved at the bottom.
Topside, the MK22’s CQB white dot sights can be adjusted for windage only, but while they were nearly centered at 25 yards, they initially printed six inches low. These sights are designed for close quarters work, and at ten yards, bullet impact is three inches above point of aim. When cowitnessing the front blade through the Trijicon TA47G-4 ACOG fixed mount’s tunnel, impact is further raised several inches at ten yards. When employing these sights in this manner, one must hold well below the desired strike area to hit it.
The removable flip-up irons feature a rear peep aperture and front pin that does not lock into place and can be easily moved unintentionally. The rear takes care of shifts in windage and the front handles elevation like the M16. Initially, this combination printed low left at the 900-inch mark.
The boys at Trijicon’s Military & Law Enforcement Division loaned me the above lightweight 2X20 fixed compact optic, which provides a superb green highlighted crosshair sight picture. The small ACOG invites both-eyes-open target acquisition with plenty of eye relief. In low light, the crosshairs are dimly luminous, but can be located without additional illumination. At seven yards, bullet impact was only two inches below the scope’s point of aim.
Fieldstripping the MK22 is both simple and frustrating. After checking the rifle to make sure the chamber is clear and decocked (the magazine must be inserted to pull the trigger and decocked), four intersecting slotted screws located on the lower receiver must be loosened and removed. This permits you to remove the fire control system (grip) so cleaning from the chamber to the muzzle may be conducted. Although a cleaning rod was listed in the manual, none was in evidence.
The rear screw turned but would not unlock from its opposite female screw. The forward screws would not yield even with a screwdriver with more leverage and when the resisting screw heads were being mutilated. This mechanical stubbornness could have been avoided with simple pushpins. When the screws finally began to rotate, a second screwdriver was required to hold one screw head while turning the other in order to release them from their male/female relationship. Disassembly without scratching the rifle or damaging the screws requires two people or a vise to steady it during this operation.
Ten different high-velocity rounds with bullet weights ranging from 31 to 40 grains were evaluated in the MK22.
I had high hopes to lock in the rifle in my mechanical HySkore Black Rifle Rest in order to eliminate human error, but the rifle’s folding stock with all its adjustments had too much play in it. Even with its very light recoil, when I fired a round, my point of aim would shift laterally, so I had to default to good old Marine Corps marksmanship techniques and shoot off a padded HySkore shooting bag. Nevertheless, some 50-yard groups were outstanding. However, if competition is your game and accuracy is paramount, consider the fixed-stock version, which will not shift when pressure or recoil forces are applied to it.
CCI appears to have done its homework when it comes to the sub-caliber assault rifle genre. Its 40-grain Copper Plated Round Nose (CPRN) was the top performer in this department at .56 inch. The highest individual velocity of 1,532 feet-per-second (fps) was delivered by CCI 32-grain Stinger.
Remington Golden Bullet is usually an excellent all-around load, but I experienced two misfires with it, and accuracy was mediocre in the MK22.
As the gun got dirty, it resisted chambering the top round in the magazine fired, which at the time contained Federal Auto Match. But after manually dumping five rounds, it ran fine. I squirted some lubrication into its ejection port and wet its bolt.
Subsequently, I inserted a second magazine charged with 22 CCI CPRN rounds and except for two misfires (that ignited upon a second strike), it spit the bullets out as fast as I could manipulate the trigger. The bolt consistently locks to the rear after the final round is expended.
Semi-auto .22-caliber firearms can be very picky when it comes to ammunition, and some manufacturers are adamant about what makes and types of cartridges work best in their conversion kits or dedicated guns.
In this case, I speculate that after sustained firing without cleaning the piece, I probably dried out the rifle and also began to load up its chamber with debris. This lead and carbon accumulation can prevent a round from fully seating and, when struck by a firing pin, the round will give as it goes all the way into battery and not offer enough resistance for the pin to crush the primer. Its fouled condition may also have contributed to periodic stovepipes and double feeds.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
To get a feel for the firearm’s handling and target acquisition, my federal-agent shooting buddy and I executed pivots to a single target and added a transition to an Advantage Arms (AA) .22-caliber kit converted 1911. The only stipulations were to put two rounds into the target’s “A” zone as fast as possible.
To access the selector with his thumb, he had to roll the rifle inboard and place the flat of the stock onto his shoulder and choke up on the piece. As he pivoted to the target, he rolled the gun outboard and up into the pocket of his shoulder while simultaneously flicking the safety off. The combination of the Trijicon sight and almost no recoil made center-mass hits nearly effortless with the MK22, while the AAmodified 1911 proved to be more of a challenge with one hand.
On gun handling, the agent advised that although it was difficult to access the safety/selector with the shooting hand’s thumb, the rifle has excellent ergonomics, pointed well, and possessed good target acquisition. It has a good trigger, was accurate, and ran quite well. He felt that the ACOG was a perfect match for this rifle.
Idiosyncrasies aside, this is a well-made, attractive and accurate rifle. However, I cannot recommend it for the professional or competitor who is looking for a cost-effective way to maintain or enhance his skills with a SCAR 16/17, nor for the trainer who is introducing neophyte shooters to the full-caliber combat weapon by initially drilling on the .22.
This reluctance on my part is because some of the essential operational controls on the MK22 are different from the FN SCAR and would result in confusion for the aspiring or accomplished rifleman.
Nevertheless, this is a high-quality firearm that will satisfy the sub-caliber shooting requirements of a military enthusiast without setting one back thousands of dollars.