FN Herstal FS2000 Carbine- Bullpups make for some interesting rifle designs. Due to their unconventional layout they have a habit of becoming some of the most memorable firearms with profiles so futuristic that they always look out of this world. They can be hard to miss and have been a staple of the media for decades, often not needing any dressing up to fit the bill of an advanced looking firearm.
What we have here is the civilian version of the F2000, a rifle which saw service from 2001 to present in some European countries. The earliest models in particular were the most noteworthy for their sweeping lines and integral optics, they were sleek and streamlined and looked like nothing else out there.
The closest relative to the F2000 and FS2000 would be the FN P90 and PS90 though they don’t share a whole lot in common. With the PS90 being its own breed of personal defense weapon, the FS2000 is a 5.56 NATO rifle which feeds from typical AR-15 STANAG pattern magazines. Unlike an AR, and most any other platform which takes these magazines, the FS2000 is notably picky about what it will accept. Part of the FS2000’s build and what makes up many of its unique quirks spawns from the idea of having a completely enclosed system in order to keep foreign material out. FN really went all in with this approach as the FS2000 series has some features you won’t find anywhere else.
In regards to the feeding situation only GI pattern mags will fit. Part of this fully enclosed design are rubber gaskets within the mag well which are shaped to the exact dimensions of the ribs inherent with the original stamped aluminum bodies. Because of this tight fit mags are also not drop free and will require a firm hand to seat or remove. From what I’ve heard it’s fairly common to find these gaskets cut away to allow more options like PMags, a potential detail to watch out for if you plan on adding one to your collection.
The release is a large polymer tab in front of the magwell which is easily hit with the side of your index finger while gripping the mag. Straight sided twenty round mags will fit but they’ll be buried quite deep within the shell of the rifle, it works best with standard 30 rounders. FN Herstal FS2000 Carbine
Chambering an FS2000 requires a little faith on the operator’s part. Because of this fully enclosed design you can’t look through the ejection port like you would any other rifle. Instead there’s a hinged cover at the top of the receiver behind the rear flip up sight which you can pop open to watch the action cycle. It really is just a viewing port, too. If you do get a jam don’t expect to have easy access to the internals.
The rifle is charged by a fixed left side non-reciprocating handle which is curious in its own right. The “tab” is hinged in two places to keep it more flush along the receiver while being carried. Again the side of the index finger is used to catch the contoured front edge which will lift it slightly away from the side of the receiver and unlock the handle for operation. Much like a Steyr AUG the handle can be rotated upward when fully drawn to lock the action open. For a bit more fun on the range the FS2000 will take a good HK Slap without complaint.
Worth noting is that you can only manually lock the bolt open. Because the rifle is sealed up FN didn’t include a last round bolt hold open. Like an AK it will need to be manually charged with each reload.
With no access to the action in a sealed design, how the heck does it eject brass? That would be through a chute which runs above and to the right of the barrel. Keltec used a similar design in their .308 caliber RFB rifle some eight years later so it isn’t completely unique but such operation is quite uncommon. Up front is a hinged dust cover not all that different from an AR-15. Fire a round and the spent brass will be kicked down this chute, the dust cover will pop open under pressure and all of the empties will gently fall away from the muzzle end during operation. FN Herstal FS2000 Carbine
While the charging handle on an FS2000 is not lefty-friendly they’ll at least be spared the fun of having to eat the ejected brass.
On the opposite side of the ejection chute is an adjustable gas port for the short stroke piston system and a steel loop at either side for a sling mount. The placement of this mount strikes me as less than ideal as I’ve heard that venting gas on the left side can cut up slings after a while.
The rifle’s ergonomics are what I would call “uniquely FN” since they’ve used them in two platforms now, though compared to the PS90 the FS2000 is a bit more familiar. The primary grip is swept back into a thumbhole design with a small shelf for the middle finger to rest around. The surface area is smooth and wide but not uncomfortable so much as peculiar. As with the PS90 it somehow just works with the overall design.
The FS2000 is more comfortable to hold than might be expected, but there is a catch in the form of forends. The original was much more sleek and followed the overall pattern but offered nothing for accessory mounts and admittedly wasn’t the most ideal to hang onto. Adding in a tri-rail forend gives you many more options but in my opinion it comes at a steep cost. FN Herstal FS2000 Carbine
The FS2000 is a wide rifle to begin with and I recall the originals having good balance. Excluding the charging handle the width of the body is around two and a half inches. With a rail forend installed it’s closer to three inches wide. There’s a lot going on here! Having all of that metal bolted onto the front also makes the rifle much more front heavy.
I have a feeling that the FS2000 wasn’t intended to have a bunch of rails added to the front as even the FN branded upgrade has the look and feel of an aftermarket solution. All of those sleek swooping lines disappear, replaced by cheese grater-like Picatinny blocks. The upshot is having the freedom to add your own foregrip.
The barrel is marked 5.56×45 and is a pencil profile to help keep the weight and balance in check. I’m not sure what the rate of twist was. Up front is a factory pinned flash hider very similar to an A2 birdcage but a little shorter and with a slanted front end which compliments the overall appearance. FN Herstal FS2000 Carbine
The FS2000’s safety is exactly like the PS90 which is a small disk beneath the trigger; Rotate it a short turn counter-clockwise to engage safety and a short clockwise turn for fire. It’s easy to actuate but may require some training to remember which way to turn for what you’re wanting to do.
The trigger is understandably not great but for a largely polymer bullpup with a polymer fire control unit adapted from a service rifle FN did a decent job. Pulling it with the hammer at rest and no extra load you can immediately feel the heavier weight and the stickiness of plastic on plastic. Whether intentional or not this leads to a two stage trigger pull with a bit of stickiness leading up to a solid but not wholly crisp break. FN Herstal FS2000 Carbine
Over-travel seems to be fairly minimal but with the amount of pressure required to pull the trigger you won’t notice any, once the rifle fires the trigger comes to rest at the end of travel. Reset also feels sticky but it’s short and decisive, you can both hear a solid click and feel it in your finger. Definitely not a match trigger but suitable for duty use. At the range it wasn’t one I enjoyed using for long, however. Between the weight and the broad trigger face it wore me out fairly quickly when shooting slow and steady for accuracy.
Recoil is somewhat abrupt, likely due to the piston operation compared to the gas impingement piston of an AR. Being that it’s 5.56 “abrupt” is by no means uncomfortable. Accuracy should be good as FN is well known for making amazing barrels but the trigger in particular makes it difficult to wring out the best of what the rest of the system can deliver. If groupings are your game then an FN SCAR would be the better choice. FN Herstal FS2000 Carbine
Disassembly begins by pushing a captive grey polymer tab located near the center of the receiver out to the left which allows the upper receiver to slide forward out of the stock housing. If desired the trigger unit can be removed by first sliding the buttpad off the back of the stock. If this sounds at all familiar there’s a good reason, the Steyr AUG is field stripped exactly the same way.
Having had an opportunity to shoot an FS2000 on a couple of occasions I can understand why it never caught on with the civilian market and why it only sees limited military use. As a civilian rifle it’s rather ungainly with a poor trigger and offers much less modularity or upgrading potential while also having commanded a premium back when it was new. As is so often the case with the American market the FS2000 is unfortunately one of many 5.56 chambered rifles to have had the same fate. FN Herstal FS2000 Carbine
While I’m a big fan of having options these guns seem destined to be “safe queens,” their values only continue to climb with such limited sales and there’s just no solid reason to go for one even over other bullpups like the Tavor/X95 and AUG. But for military collectors, gamers and enthusiasts, the FS2000 is quite the rare treat and there’s a special feeling which comes from being able to own such a finely built and unique firearm which is no longer available.