FN’s Over Under Performs Tremendously, Looks Gorgeous, but May Have a Major Design Flaw (It Does)
Why Are O/U Shotguns Popular?
Over and under (O/U) shotguns have been the firearm of choice for discerning clay shooters and wingshooters alike for decades. Well made O/U shotguns are reliable, effective, pleasant to shoot, and typically beautiful, if prohibitively expensive for many. The popularity of the over under shotgun in the United States can likely be attributed to the 19th century nostalgia for a wealthy European aesthetic, hand-fitting, classic craftsmanship, dependability, and ease of use. Advantages of this platform include the ability to quickly fire two controlled shots, the use of two different chokes, and often exceptional balance. There are plenty of lower cost over unders on the market, but the fact is that they simply won’t last as long or perform as well as their more expensive counterparts, which typically start at the $1,600 range.
Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal (FNH) is one of the oldest names in the game. Their military production line includes standbys like the SCAR, M249, M240, Browning Hi-Power, and more. FN also had a relationship with John Moses Browning, inventor of one of the most popular firearms in the world, the 1911. In fact, the Belgian Herstal Group, an FN subsidiary, owns Winchester and Browning. The FNH SC1 is FN’s attempt at an O/U competition gun, and is currently used by the FN Pro Team.
2 3/4″ Chamber
10mm Ventilated Rib
Invector Plus Choke Threads
Current Market: $2,000
This 12 gauge over under was designed for competition. It features an adjustable comb, ported barrels, white mid bead, a interchangeable fiberoptic front sight, 30″ barrels, and a thick recoil reduction pad. It boasts a variety of laminate finishes including a striking (if gaudy) blue, green, and undeniably jaw dropping grey/black. The box contains the shotgun, a manual, Invector Plus chokes, and a number of fiber optic rods. Breaking the SC1 down is easy, and simply requires the user to remove the forend using a takedown lever, then break the barrel downward and away from the block.
Adjustable Comb: The SC1’s stock includes an adjustable portion along the top ridge, allowing the shooter to adjust and fit their own cheek weld. “Fitting” is an important element to consider when purchasing a shotgun, because pointability, balance, and comfort are integral elements to success in clay games. Shooters would be ill advised to purchase a shotgun online without ever having held it, even if the firearm includes an adjustable comb. The SC1’s comb can be raised and lowered, but can also be moved from side to side. The process is simple, and only requires an included allen wrench. After adjusting the comb to my own personal comfort, I have shot over 1,500 rounds and it hasn’t moved an inch, even without loctite. The result of this adjustment and a number of other features has been an easy to shoot and tremendously comfortable gun.
Thick Buttpad: This is a small consideration, but adds to one of the more impressive elements of this gun: reduction of felt recoil. The generous (and squishy) pad helps to absorb much of the recoil, which has already been reduced by the ported barrels.
Adjustable Trigger: The SC1’s trigger pull is also adjustable to the shooter’s preference. Although the weight of the single stage pull is set somewhere between 5.5 and 7 lbs, the length of pull is adjustable. I’ve found the trigger to be very good without adjustment, but it’s nice that the option exists.
Ventilated Rib: Ventilated ribs serve two purposes: to reduce weight, and to help cool the barrel. I’ve found that the barrels do heat up significantly after about 75 rounds, but that’s to be expected.
Ported Barrels: This may be one of my favorite features of the SC1. The recoil reduction produced by the porting and buttpad on this shotgun is seriously impressive. I put around 600 8oz loads through this gun throughout a long day of trap, and didn’t have the slightest mark on my shoulder afterwards. It’s definitely noticeable when compared to other O/U shotguns that I’ve used, including the Browning Citori.
Back-Bored Barrels: Back-boring is a process by which the inside bore diameter is precisely measured. The ideal measurement reduces friction between the shot cup and the barrel. The result is that pellets are forced to a higher velocity, which reduces recoil, and results in better shot patterns by ensuring that fewer pellets are deformed during the shot.
Fiber Optic Sights: Yes, we know. You shouldn’t focus on the front sight when shooting clays. However, it’s very helpful to be able to get your cheek on the gun, line up, and have a point of reference. In this respect, the fiber optic sights are excellent. They’re very visible in sunlight, and come in a variety of colors. My preference is red, and it took me thirty seconds to swap out the green one from the factory.
Cracking Forearm: More on this later, but the forearm is going to crack on this shotgun. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. The issue is acknowledged by FN, and reimbursement for the full purchase price of the shotgun just takes a few days by mail.
How Does it Shoot?
Very, very, well. The gun is just about perfect for me. The balance, weight, low recoil, high visibility sight, excellent trigger, ejectors, and fit/finish all combine to make this a fantastic shotgun. Keep in mind that although this gun is ideal for my body and needs, it may not be ideal for yours: go and hold one before buying!
We’re about 1,500 rounds into this gun, and have never had a failure to fire or eject. Although ejection can be a bit slow since I don’t slam open the gun and may have over lubed occasionally, but shells always pop. I can fire this gun over and over again without any surprises at all. There’s certainly no question that functionally, the FNH SC1 is a performance firearm that’s purpose built to destroy clay pigeons.
It’s important to note that this shotgun is a tad heavy. Weight isn’t much of an issue for me, since I’m an avid gym goer and 6″1. However, after six hours of sporting clays, I can be fairly sure that my arms will be a tad sore the next day. 30″ barrels and a beefy stock certainly contribute to recoil reduction, however, so I’m not complaining. Buyers should certainly be aware that there are lighter guns on the market, like the 6 lb, 12 oz Browning Citori Superlight Feather. Personally, I find that a bit of weight is good in a shotgun: it helps my swing, and smooths my movement.
How Will it Hold Up?
That’s the question. Industry standards tell us that a $2,000+ O/U should last a lifetime, if not more than one. The SC1 has had… problems, in that regard. Users commonly report that the forend tends to crack into two pieces at between 10,000 and 30,000 rounds. This seems to be a a design flaw, potentially in the joining of the takedown lever to the forend, in the material used, or both. Typically, users will send their broken forend and shotgun to FNH for repairs. They might get a new forend, but since FNH doesn’t make many of these per year, supplies are usually low. People tend to get a mix of a repaired gun, or a total refund. This is unfortunate, but at least FNH seems to be making things right. Worst case scenario, you’re out a gun for six months at most. Best case scenario, they fix it- or you can spend your refunded $2,000 on a Browning. I have heard (but not verified) that FNH has fixed this issue in newer production models, but I am highly suspicious as they have not released information to that effect. Some speculate that releasing such a statement would officially acknowledge the problem to begin with, which is why they haven’t done so.
Red Hatchet Outdoors Says…
It’s a risk. On the one hand, it’s a tremendous shotgun that looks incredible and shoots even better. On the other hand, you may have to send it in for repairs, or be refunded your purchase price. If you’re willing to take the risk, you’ll end up with a slightly heavy, recoil reducing, comfortable, eye-catching piece of hardware that will impress you in the field. For me, it was too hard to pass up. I was looking into reviewing the Benelli Supersport as a clays gun, having fell in love with it for a number of reasons. When I decided to go for an Over/Under, the SC1 seemed like a fraternal twin. The aesthetic is modern, but also a classic- much like the Marlin 1895SBL 45-70 Govt 18 SS. It’s as eye catching as it effective… until the forearm cracks.
2,500 Rounds In, The Forearm Cracked
Yes, it happened. The forearm design features a large latch used for takedown, and eventually a crack appears directly down the center. I noticed mine because I was looking for it, before it split in half mid round. The FN representative on the phone acknowledged that it is a common issue, and that they are working on redesigning the forearm to prevent this from happening. Repair times can be as long as six months due to the slow pace of manufacturing for these shotguns. I opted for a full refund of the purchase price, which I had in hand just three business days after they received the shotgun and a copy of the receipt. It’s a shame that such a gorgeous firearm suffers from such a flaw, but FN is being a stand-up company. Unfortunately, they’re still putting out a product that has a near-guaranteed and fatal failure built right into the hardware. Purchasing one of these shotguns still isn’t a terrible ride though, since you get to put round after round through the thing before getting a full refund that you can spend on a more dependable if less eye catching shotgun like a Browning Citori.