The Sniper Rifle to Beat: FN SPR A3G in .308 Review
Major Pandemic 02.16.15
When someone mentions tactical precision sniper rifles, most folks immediately think of rifles based on the Remington 700 platform. But many long-range shooters know that it’s the FN SPR line that really steals the show with out-of-the-box guaranteed accuracy.
The FN SPR A3G was designed for a 2003 FBI evaluation and contract bidding process as the agency looked for a new sniper rifle. The results of FN’s efforts were several improvements and upgrades on FN’s existing, US Made, SPR (Special Police Rifle) model, including fully bedded action, McMillan A3 Stock, and guaranteed ½ MOA (approximately .5” 100-yard accuracy), which will hold its accuracy standard beyond 10,000 rounds. The resulting FN SPR A3G for the contract offers hero-making accuracy right out of the box and only requires the purchasing FBI division to add bipod, rings, and an optic.
FN and GA Precision were the two rifle finalists that passed all the FBI testing. Obviously the GA Precision was a fair amount more costly than the FN, but FBI offered each as an option. As is usually the case when the government has an open checkbook, they choose the $350 hammer more often even when the the $100 hammer will do the same job, so most agencies choose the more expensive GA Precision model more often than the FN SPR A3G. That noted, other federal, state, and local agencies and law enforcement with realistic budgets selected the FN SPR A3G based the FBI testing outcomes. In the end, the SPR A3G has developed quite a following among many agencies as their sniper rifle system for the platform’s reliability, consistent accuracy, and overall quality.
FN does have a fairly expansive lineup of SPR models with various stocks, fixed and detachable magazines and features. Of those FN SPR models, the SPR A3G is typically the most expensive of the line due to the extra features, including action bedding, titanium scope base, barrel fluting, and small gunsmithing details to pump up accuracy. For buyers considering the SPR A3G, the main “buy or build” question is whether you want to sink a lot of time and likely more money building up a Remington 700 rifle to shoot as well as this factory rifle or just drop the cash on this rifle, which guarantees 1/2 MOA accuracy with no mods.
Fabrique Nationale (FN) of Belgium has a very long firearms history that spans from the 1900s, with extensive relationships with John Browning that even today puts FN firearms in the hands of our US military in the form of the SAW and LMG. One of my most prized firearms is a FN Belgium made Browning A5 because of the unequaled quality and durability. I have seen this impeccable quality continued in their current production first hand in the form of my FN SC1 skeet shotgun and this SPR A3G.
Fit, Finish, Feel, Features, and Functions
To understand the quality of the FN SPR A3G, I think people need to understand that difference between this rifle and the Remington 700, a comparison everyone will make. Where the Remington 700 gets the job done, it feels a bit pedestrian in its fit, finish, and operation compared to the quality, precision, and smooth cycling of the FN.
The FN SPR A3G is tight, smooth in operation, and even though it features a similar spec matte phosphate finish, it looks and feels higher quality due to the underlying impeccable machining. The FN SPR is not just a grade up from competing brands like Remington, Savage, Ruger, Mossberg, and Sako, but a number of grades up in quality. In fact, the FN’s quality is every bit as high quality and smooth as all the custom $1000+ Remington 700 actions I have handled and tested, with the exception of the jewelry-quality, buttery cycling, Defiant matched bolt/receivers. From my perspective, the FN SPR series delivers custom quality and features in a price that would take a lot of dollars, parts replacements, surface finishing, gunsmithing, and time to transform a Remington 700 receiver to a “Fit, Feel, and Accuracy” equal to this SPR A3G.
The $650 Remington SPS Tactical is an awesome, entry-level sniper rifle. I love mine, but from my perspective it needs a more rigid stock to consistently deliver group sizes rivaling the FN SPR A3G. You might have gotten lucky to get one of the many Remington 700 rifles that drives tacks, but likely your Rem 700 action realistically delivers somewhere between 1/2″-1″ 100-yard groups and needs a few upgrades to be performance-wise on the same plane as the FN.
1/2 MOA groups from the Remington 700 are not the norm, where the FN SPR A3G it is guaranteed (with premium match ammo). Even after adding a high grade stock (usually exceeds $1,000) to a Remington 700, dropping $250 on a new Timney trigger, having the action blueprinted, receiver bedded, and perhaps a match barrel replacement, you might get the consistency guaranteed out of the box from the FN SPR A3G. My point is, at that point you probably have $2,500-$3,000 invested in Remington action when you could have just slapped down the cash for the FN SPR A3G in the first place. This, at least, is my perspective on why I think the FN SPR A3G is a great deal. Buy it, bolt on an optic, and hit the range all without the fuss in a rifle that holds it value and is in high demand.
Opening the box of my FN SPR A3G, I was greeted with a factory provided target .42″ 3-round 100-yard group “proving 1/2 MOA”. That noted it seems it was a quick test, because I did a bit better with my best 3-round group at .38″. Feed it Federal Gold Match ammo and this gun is a stellar shooting gun.
Keep in mind that most report that the SPR A3G starts to shoot better as the round count increases and the barrel breaks in. I certainly have seen my groups improve a little. From what I hear, the FN SPR has a preference for 168gr Federal Gold Match ammo, which is also used for factory accuracy testing. Gold Match is of course top-shelf and pricey ammo. This is all I used in my initial testing, as I waited on shipments of other .308 ammo to roll in for follow up testing.
The FN SPR (Special Police Rifles) are based on the legendary Pre-‘64 Model 70-style action, which is beefier than the Remington 700 actions. Beeferier means stiffer, which I can’t help but believe increases accuracy. The FN SPR line all feature a massive external claw extractor for Controlled Round Feed (CRF) and blade ejection. The feel of the SPR A3G rifle is that of a larger caliber Remington Long Action, and its 11.5lb heft certainly makes your muscles and brain think it’s a bigger caliber than it is.
The trigger has been extensively tuned but is the original two-lever trigger style with a three-position safety. All models have cold hammer-forged MIL-SPEC barrels with chrome-lined bores and are held to a +/- .001” headspace to produce and maintain 1/2 minute-of-angle (1/2 MOA) accuracy. The rest of the SPR models guarantee 1 MOA accuracy.
A one-piece steel MIL-STD 1913 rail with an additional 20 MOA of elevation is factory installed. SPR rifles are fitted into matte black McMillan fiberglass stocks. The A3G adds an action that is hand-bedded with Marine-Tex epoxy into a fully-adjustable McMillan A3 fiberglass tactical stock for improved accuracy. The McMillan A3 stock is equipped with multiple steel sling studs and an adjustable length-of-pull spacer and adjustable cheek riser.
The trigger on this rifle is exceptional for a factory rifle and broke right at 3.5lbs according to my Timney trigger gauge. So there is no need for an upgrade to get the most from this rifle.
What does surprise me is that the FBI didn’t specify a magazine fed rifle, so the SPR A3G is a standard, five round floorplate, magazine fed rifle. The action is designed to reliably handle hand fed rounds, which is what most benchrest shooters do anyway. I had no issues and do not see that I am going to be laying down cover fire with this rifle. If I did anticipate a higher fire rate, I would probably grab my Black Rain Ordnance AR format 308 instead with a 20-round magazine.
Some will notice that the Millet optic I selected does not seem very big. Although I will circle back later with some discussion around accuracy with a typical higher magnification optic, I decided to test out the new Millet 1-6x Designated Marksman Scope.
Every person I have talked with who has made a living sitting behind a rifle providing overwatch duty has noted that most of their shots are taken on the lowest scope magnification at ranges far under 300 yards. The primary benefit of a low magnification optic is greatly increased field of view, you know so you can see what is going on who is walking around and posing what threats. In most “urban” sniping environments, SWAT/FBI snipers can literally be positioned across the street 20-yards from potential target(s), so even a 4x scope could be way too much.
After validating and bettering factory accuracy testing and pulling off my Nikon 8-32 Monarch, my thought was that I wanted to test out the lower power optic concept with this new Millet DMS 1-6 scope. Let’s not forget that the most effective German snipers used just 4X scopes. What I found was that I could still get the same hits on steel but follow up shots were a lot faster, but I did loose a little precision. As an example, my accuracy at 100-yards opened up to around 1” groups with the Millet DMS scope maxed out on 6x. A rather interesting experiment to have that much field of view on a rifle this precise.
I will admit that I only have a few hundred rounds through the FN SPR A3G, but the accuracy only seems to be getting better. Yet another test and evaluation rifle provided by FN that I was immediately writing a check for. I am still in the process of messing around and customizing my Remington 700 SPS with a stock and a few accessories to get it as consistent as this SPR A3G is out of the box, but the FN could be set up with a higher power optic and is ready to go, which I think was the point when FN created this awesome shooting platform.
SPECS FN SPR A3G
- MSRP: $3,000
- Caliber: 308 Winchester
- Barrel Length: 24″
- Overall Length: 44″
- Twist Rate: 1 in 12″ RH
- Length-of-Pull: Adjustable via interchangeable spacers
- Weight: 11.5 lbs. empty
- Magazine Capacity: 5 rounds with hinged floorplate (FLP)
- Made in the USA
- Forged steel construction with flat bottom profile
- Short magnum action length
- External claw extractor with controlled round feeding
- Blade ejection
- Integral recoil lug
- One-piece titanium MIL-STD 1913 optics rail with an additional 20 MOA elevation built in
- Cold hammer-forged free-floating barrel
- Chrome-lined bore
- Target crown
- McMillan™ fiberglass tactical stock
- Textured gripping surfaces
- Multiple steel sling swivel studs or sling mounting points
- Model 70-type two-lever adjustable trigger
- Three-position safety
- Knurled bolt handle