The French FR F2 Sniper Rifle

posted on September 18, 2021

It was born during the Cold War to give the French military an 800-meter precision platform in 7.62 NATO, but it ended up serving through to a more complicated era. When it entered service in 1986, there was still a Soviet Union and there was still, therefore, an ideological struggle between East and West – one that the French Republic had to be prepared to fight if it ever came to that.

A French sniper in Afghanistan armed with an FR F2 rifle that is equipped with the SCROME J8 telescopic site.

France’s NATO membership obligated the country to adopt standardized small arms cartridges and that meant 7.5×54 mm, a cartridge that had been in service for more than five decades, had to go. Along with many of its other small arms, France’s successful FR F1 (Fusil à Répétition modèle F1), a 10-shot manually operated bolt action sniper rifle, was chambered in 7.5 mm and it therefore had to be replaced.

FR F2 rifle S/N F.06385, an FR F2 that was recently imported by Navy Arms of Martinsburg, W.V. (Photograph by Jeff Hallinan of Collectors Firearms in Houston, Texas).

At first, Manufacture d'Armes de Saint-Étienne, better known as MAS, simply modified existing FR F1s to chamber the 7.62 NATO cartridge, but in the end the platform needed more than just a new caliber. After undergoing a partial redesign, the new rifle received the designation FR F2, and it went on to serve the French government’s military and police well into the 21st century.

FR F2 rifle S/N F.06385, an FR F2 that was recently imported by Navy Arms of Martinsburg, W.V. (Photograph by Jeff Hallinan of Collectors Firearms in Houston, Texas).

The FR F2 is built on a reinforced MAS-36 type receiver modified to feed from a 10-round double-stack, double-feed detachable box magazine, just like its predecessor. It mounts a 25.5" 7.62 NATO barrel with three-groove, 1:11.6" twist rifling, and it is equipped with a birdcage-type flash suppressor that also reduces whip harmonics. Unlike the FR F1, the FR F2’s barrel is fully enclosed by a polymer shroud that reduces its heat signature, a critical feature for a sniper rifle born in the era of thermal night observation devices.

FR F2 rifle S/N F.06385, an FR F2 that was recently imported by Navy Arms of Martinsburg, W.V. (Photograph by Jeff Hallinan of Collectors Firearms in Houston, Texas).

The F2’s adjustable bipod legs attach to the barrel at the point where it meets the receiver, using an overhead trunnion that allows the barrel to remain free floated. This feature allows the shooter to make vertical, horizontal and radial movements of the rifle to adjust to any terrain. Just like the F1’s bolt, the F2’s is largely similar to the MAS-36, in so far as it uses a pair of rear mounted locking lugs, but it does not include the distinctive bent-forward bolt handle of the MAS-36. Instead, it uses a straight bolt handle that lines up the shooting hand and with the F2’s wooden pistol grip.

FR F2 rifle S/N F.06385, an FR F2 that was recently imported by Navy Arms of Martinsburg, W.V. (Photograph by Jeff Hallinan of Collectors Firearms in Houston, Texas).

An SVT-40 style safety positioned behind the trigger prevents its rearward travel when engaged. With the safety disengaged though, the two-stage trigger breaks at a crisp 4.5 lbs. The wooden buttstock includes two dovetailed extensions and a rubber recoil pad that allow for the adjustment of length-of-pull, and a pair of eyelets secure a cheek pad to the stock comb. The rifle’s overall length is 47", and unloaded it weighs in at a stout 11 lbs.

FR F2 rifle S/N F.06385, an FR F2 that was recently imported by Navy Arms of Martinsburg, W.V. (Photograph by Jeff Hallinan of Collectors Firearms in Houston, Texas).

The ability to mount a variety of modern optics is another important characteristic that makes the FR F2 a versatile long range precision rifle. Angled horizontal cuts on the top of the receiver permit the attachment of one of five different types of proprietary scope bases, each of which are secured to the receiver by a torsion bar assembly.

A French sniper with the NATO Response Force (NRF) who is armed with an FR F2 rifle that is equipped with the SCROME J8 telescopic sight.

In French military service, the APX L806 or SCROME J8 scopes were primarily used, but Nightforce and Schmidt & Bender optics have been observed as well. The FR F2 can even mount the FÉLIN infantry combat system, outfitted with the SAGEM Sword Sniper electronic aiming sight, which provides a telescopic sight, thermal sight and laser rangefinder.

A French sniper armed with the FR F2 rifle secures the area during a visit of Mali's Prime Minister Django Cissoko at the Mali air force base near Bamako Jan. 19, 2013. Islamist rebels in Mali abandoned the central town of Diabaly on Friday after fleeing a French air strike, military sources said, while West African troops arrived in Bamako to take on the insurgents in Mali's north. France's total troop count on the ground in Mali could top the 2,500 initially announced, the French defence minister said on Saturday. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard (Image ID: 2E65JE9).

Although it did not end up becoming the cold warrior it was intended to, it did end up fighting the conflict that has troubled the last 20 years of world history: the Global War on Terror. From Iraq to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mali and Afghanistan, the FR F2 gave France an exceptional 7.62 NATO sniping platform for over three decades.

FR F2 rifle S/N F.06385, an FR F2 that was recently imported by Navy Arms of Martinsburg, W.V. (Photograph by Jeff Hallinan of Collectors Firearms in Houston, Texas).

Like every classic weapon, eventually, the FR F2’s time in service came to an end in Aug. 2018, when the French government announced that it would be replacing the FR F2 with a more modern 7.62 NATO sniper rifle, and ultimately the FN SCAR-H was selected. Fortunately for collectors, that does not mean that the FR F2 is now going to drift off into obscurity. Thanks to Navy Arms, the company founded over 60 years ago by Val Forgett Jr., the FR F2 is about to begin an all-new chapter of its unique history.

FR F2 rifle S/N F.06385, an FR F2 that was recently imported by Navy Arms of Martinsburg, W.V. (Photograph by Jeff Hallinan of Collectors Firearms in Houston, Texas).

Navy Arms has contracted to purchase and import the FR F2s being decommissioned by the French government. These guns have been released and Navy Arms has them in stock for immediate purchase by shooters and collectors. Navy Arms President Val Forgett, III, an avid military sniper collector, has advised me that Navy Arms is listing each FR F2 individually to account for the variations in condition and value of each gun. For more information, visit the newly updated Navy Arms website (www.navyarms.com) to see the rifles that are available.

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