FN. It’s a little confusing if you’ve been around a while. Is FN the same as Browning? What’s Herstal? What’s FNH? Is that different than Fabrique Nationale? Should John Browning win a Nobel Prize? Are Belgian waffles all they’re cracked up to be?
Let’s answer these questions with a simple history review. In 1889 Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre (FN) was formed for the sole purpose of building 150,000 Mauser rifles for the Belgian Government. A few years later, in 1897, FN’s sales manager traveled to the United States to learn more about bicycle manufacture. We don’t know exactly why, or whether or not he wore those tight biking shorts, but on that trip, biker-student Hart Berg met John Moses Browning, may he rest in peace. That chance encounter kicked off a long and prosperous partnership where FN manufactured many of Browning’s designs including the Browning Auto-5 shotgun, Browning Automatic Rifle and the Hi-Power, which was partly designed by John Browning. John Browning did FN such a solid that when he died of a heart attack in 1926, they stuck his body in the FN board room for visitation. Ewww. I know corporate boardroom meetings are boring, but at least they don’t (usually) include dead people.
Consistent with its military heritage, FN made military rifles, refurbished millions more after the big WWII kerfluffle and then went on to make the FN FAL starting in 1947.
In 1970, Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre officially changed its name to FN Herstal. Just because. Later in the 1970’s, FN acquired controlling interest in Browning, hence some of that confusion between the companies. Now having an insatiable appetite for American gun companies, FN next bought the U.S. Repeating Arms Company, including the license to manufacture Winchester-brand firearms.
Since that time, FN has manufactured gajillions of military rifles including the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, M-16, M4/M4A1, MK46, MK48 and M240L machine guns, and the MK19 grenade launcher.
As to the name stuff, FN Herstal begat it’s own parent, The Herstal Group. FN Herstal then begat FN America, who begat FN Manufacturing and FNH USA. And so on and so forth. Got it?
Anyway, it all nets out to this. You might think of FN as a tactical arms company and not one to beget a competition clays shotgun. But remember the brief history lesson: one of FN’s first products was the Browning A5 autoloader shotgun, right? Since that time, FN has produced the FN SLP Standard auto-loading shotgun and the FN P-12 pump action shotgun.
But we’re here to talk about the FN SC-1 Competition shotgun, so let’s get to it.
What is it?
The FNH SC-1 Over/Under is, you guessed it, a double-barrel shotgun. It’s designed expressly for clays competition, although there is nothing about it that would discourage other uses. Personally, I wouldn’t hesitate to hunt ducks or close geese with it. Why close geese? As a competition gun, it’s got a 2 ¾ inch chamber. Besides, using 3 or 3 ½-inch shells in a competition gun is kind of silly, and you’d only put yourself at a disadvantage. You certainly don’t need the extra power to break clays and the extra recoil would hurt your second shots, not to mention giving you a tremendous flinch as the competition wears on. Remember, unlike hunting, almost any clay target sport will involve hundreds of shots per day. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really into shooting a hundred or so 3 ½ inch turkey loads in one sitting – I have enough pain in my life.
Also giving a nod to its competition design goals, you’ll find ported barrels and easy to configure chokes. One of the two models also features an adjustable comb.
That’s the quick introduction, now let’s talk about the details.
Specifications of the FN SC-1
- Overall Length: 46.38 inches with extended chokes
- 30-inch ported and back-bored barrels
- Invector-Plus choke threads
- 2 ¾-inch chambers
- 10mm ventilated top rib
- Fiber optic front sight with white mid-bead
- Laminated wood stock
- Adjustable or fixed comb models
- Adjustable, recoil activated single-stage trigger
- Tang safety and barrel selector switch
- Weight: 8.2 pounds (empty)
- 5.5 to 7.7 lb. trigger weight
- MSRP (Adjustable comb models): $2,449.00
MSRP (Fixed comb models): $2,149.00
My evaluation SC-1 arrived in a sturdy hard plastic case with four slide latches. It doesn’t have padlock holes, so it’s not appropriate to use for air travel. It’s purpose is local transportation and protection, and the case will do that well. It has molded spaces for separated barrel and stock / receiver assemblies along with space for the other included items.
My evaluation gun came with five choke tubes and a hard plastic case that holds three of them. The other two don’t need case space as they’re mounted on the gun itself. FN also includes a nice choke wrench.
You’ll also find a Ziploc bag with a pile of extras red and yellow fiber optic tubes, so don’t stress about breaking any with hard use – they’re easy to replace. If you don’t like the default color fiber tube on your SC-1, just swap it out with one of the many spares.
The SC-1 includes two chamber locks and a special hex wrench to tighten them in place. They rely on compression inside the chamber to prevent loading of a live cartridge. Simple, but effective.
Last but not least are stock adjustment accessories. Allen wrenches are included for adjusting the comb, assuming you have the blue or black model. The green model features a fixed comb stock, so you probably won’t get the free Allen wrench with that one.
The first thing you’ll notice is the sporty appearance. This is not your daddy’s traditional walnut stocked, and hand checkered shotgun. Think of the SC-1 as a race gun more akin to those souped up Ruger 10/22’s with brightly colored stocks you’ll see at Steel Challenge competitions. The wood is laminated and available in black, blue and green color shades. The evaluation model shown here is the black version, and I would describe the color palette as black-grey-brown.
You’ll see a little bit of checkering in the stock, but only inside of the chevrons cut into the frowned and grip areas. It’s not traditional, but the design is eye catching.
The pistol grip is full and aggressively angled towards the vertical. I like it. If you look closely, you’ll also notice a palm swell on the right side of the pistol grip that fills the pocket between your right-hand thumb and forefinger. It’s subtle but effective in helping develop a comfortable grip. Gripping the stock with my left hand, I can definitely feel the difference.
The blue and black models include a comb adjustable for hight and cast-on / cast-off. Loosen two Allen screws on the right side of the comb and you can raise and lower the comb to your preference. To adjust the cast-on / cast-off, remove the comb completely. The same included Allen wrench is used to loosen two lugs the extend vertically from the main stock body.
Once these are loosened, you can move each lug to the right and left independently. Move the whole comb right or left or angle it in either direction to your preference. During my testing, I had no issues with the comb adjustment loosening, but it’s always a good habit to tighten the comb adjustment screws before starting a round.
The SC-1 is available with 28 or 30-inch barrels. My sample shotgun came with the 30-inch barrels, and this was fine with me. For a competition shotgun, I like the extra length and the swing inertia that longer barrels provide. Yes, I’ll use every possible “crutch” that I can!
The barrels are back bored to smooth out recoil and help ensure pattern uniformity. There’s a big explosion shoving those lead pellets down the barrel, but back boring smooths the transition from shell to bore, which in theory reduces malformation that blows pattern quality. The barrels are also fully chrome lined for the entire length. The chrome lining makes cleaning a bit easier and will add the life and corrosion resistance of the barrels.
The FNH SC-1 (not surprisingly) uses the Browning Invector Plus choke system. The sample SC-1 in this article arrived with a total of five choke tubes: two Skeet chokes, Improved Cylinder, Modified and Full. The choke tubes are extended and have a knurled exterior surface, so they are easily installed, removed, tightened and checked with fingers only. Of course, the Invector Plus tubes have slots for the included choke wrench also, but if you’re going to tighten them down you might want to use a little anti-seize lubricant on the threads.
The nice thing about Invector Plus tubes is the broad availability Browning and aftermarket choke solutions. In addition to the tubes mentioned here, you can obtain Light Modified and Improved Modified direct from Browning. If you check out third party offerings, like Briley for instance, you’ll find dozens of options. For example, you can get Invector Plus tubes in flush fitting format, ported chokes and even helix chokes that impart spin on the shot column, thereby causing some pellets to move outside the pattern. Figure out what you want to do, and then go shopping.
The included choke wrench features a sliding lever. You can crank it to one side if you need some extra leverage to remove a gunked-in choke tube.
Like many single-trigger over/under shotguns, the SC-1 uses a combination safety and barrel selector switch on the tang. Safe and fire modes are selected with forward (fire) and rearward (safe) movement of the sliding switch. An “S” in engraved in the tang – when it’s visible, the shotgun is on safe, when it’s not, it’s ready to fire. Side to side motion selects which barrel fires first with the single trigger. A “U” and “O” are engraved on either side to indicate under and over respectively.
The trigger is adjustable back and forth so you can make fine adjustments to the length of pull without monkeying around with the stock or butt pads. A small allen screw is located on the very top of the trigger face. Loosen this screw and you can slide the trigger over a travel distance of about ⅜ of an inch. Using some highly sophisticated tape measuring, I estimated that the trigger adjustment can provide length of pull ranging from 14 ⅜ to 14 ¾ inches. More or less.
Here’s a little detail that I really came to appreciate. Many over/unders require a bit of coordination to position the forend stock to snap into place. With the FNH SC-1, there are no little levers or notches to line up. Simply put the big convex curve of the receiver together with the big concave curve of the forend and the two pieces snap together as if attracted by magnets. It’s one of the least finicky shotguns to assemble I’ve ever used. Nice touch.
Using my Timney Triggers pull weight gauge, I tested the triggers and found both upper and lower barrels to fire at just about 4 ¾ pounds of pull weight.
You’ll see in the photos that the pistol grip is both aggressive in shape and full in dimension. It’ll certainly fill your hand and is not like those svelte classic shotguns. It’s not better or worse, just different. I had a number of different shooters use this gun with hand size ranging from medium to extra-large, and there were no complaints about the pistol grip area being too full.
The SC-1 is an exceptionally soft shooting over/under. The weight certainly contributes to that, and the ported barrels do an excellent job of mitigating felt recoil. Recoil force is recoil force, but the weight and porting make it feel less than it is. The standard recoil pad is effective as is. Unlike most other shotguns I have in the safe, this one would not need to be swapped for an aftermarket model. It’s got enough give to lessen recoil, but enough firmness so as to not interfere with a quick shoulder mount. I also found the lack of perceived recoil helped eliminate any “cheekbone” spanking that you can experience with lighter guns.
I normally default to single shots from the bottom barrel, so the recoil impulse is more in line with my body. Just for kicks, I shot a round of trap with the upper barrel only, and I could detect no difference at all in felt recoil or muzzle flip. Perhaps the barrel porting make barrel selection more of a non-issue.
The other benefit of the longer barrels and heavier weight, for me anyway, was in tackling crossing targets. Yeah, I know, it’s up to the shooter to keep the gun moving and swing right through those, but I’m open to a little assistance if it’s available. For me, once I got a nice swing going, inertia became my friend, and I had to work pretty hard to stop the gun – that’s a good thing in my book!
I’ve mentioned a few times that the gun is on the heavier side, but it doesn’t feel that way in the hands. The center of gravity, carefully and scientifically calculated by balancing it on my finger, is right under the hinge on the receiver. When I picked it up naturally, without thinking, my support hand rested just about an index finger length behind the front of the forend wood.
A Pleasant Surprise
One of the reasons I love doing this is that I learn something new every day. I have vague memories of hearing somewhere or another that FNH makes competition shotguns, but I never gave the issue much thought. The SC-1 was a pleasant surprise. The fit and finish are excellent. I grew to like the full feel of the pistol grip and forend, and it’s a sweet and gentle shooter. Knocking out hundreds of rounds of 12 gauge with this shotgun is a breeze. No black and blue, no bruised cheekbones and most importantly, no tendency to develop a flinch.
Bottom line? I love it. After using this for a couple of months, I’m dreading the thought of returning it. A good competition shotgun can run well into four-figure territory very quickly, so the list price of this one is certainly towards the bargain end of fair. What will I sell, so I don’t have to give it back? Hmmm. Anyone in the market for a couple of Glocks?