Friday, October 17, 2014

FN SC 1 Over/Under Competition Shotgun Review

FN SC 1 Over/Under Competition Shotgun Review

My quest for a quality and capable skeet, trap, sporting clays gun lead me to the FN SC1. It was not a lengthy thought process. To me the SC1 addressed all “have to haves” serious shooters have noted all while staying far clear of typical a five digit $10,000+ price range. The FN SC1 will continue to perform far above my skill level for some time and delivers everything the pro shooter could ask for in a sporting clays shotgun just shy of custom stocks and custom height vent ribs.

I am definitely not a pro shooter, but I can appreciate all the SC1’s features without feeling like I either wasted money on a shotgun too expensive or one which is not suited for competition. The FN SC1 delivers a real competitive sporting clay, skeet, and trap gun in a sharp looking package and great price.

Years ago, I shot skeet, trap, and sporting clays informally… many years ago. I was raised on upland and bird hunting with my Browning Sweet 16 gauge shotgun and it was the natural training zone for up and coming shotgun hunters. Beyond busting 1000s of blue rock clays with that gun in prep for each hunting season, I really did not have a lot of “formal” experience with clays shooting. To this day I still feel most comfortable behind Browning ergonomics which the FN coincidentally mimics a bit.

With the exception of some occasional bird and rabbit hunting over the years, I have not been a big hunting shotgun shooter either, but all that changed a bit in 2013. At last year’s Mercury One Charity Foundation God Guns and Giving event, Mrs. Pandemic and I got our first real taste of a world class Sporting Clays course at the amazing Elm Forks Shooting Sports complex and we were hooked.  Mrs Pandemic even asked that we invest in a few appropriate over/under shotguns. I bought her a Ruger Red Label and myself this FN SC1, however at this point we still have a bit more time behind the Ruger than the FN. Of course we both like the features of the $2100 FN a bit more than the $1000 Ruger after this last weekend of wringing the SC1 shotgun out at with over 300 rounds put through the gun.

Sporting Clays differs from trap and skeet in that with both skeet and trap you have a static set of shooting and trap throwing positions. Trap features a single center trap throwing house and skeet high and low trap houses on the left and right with skeet. Though challenging, the shooters basically work the same positions and clay throwing angles over and over again.  With Sporting Clays, some sadistic bastard sets up multiple stations where a set of two clays are thrown in the most challenging and difficult ways possible. Everything is totally random with clays going up, down, away and toward you at all different angles and speeds; heck, there were even some ground rolled “rabbit clays”. The Shooter moves from station to station via gun rack equipped golf carts as you would on any golf course and then shoots from a shooting stand.

An example of one sporting clays station at Elm Forks had a clays thrower hoisted about 90 feet in the air and 75 yards away in front of the shooter with the clay landing in a brush tree about 10-yards from your feet the other clay was thrown on report (gunshot) which then zipped from left to right at what seemed like no less than 200 miles per hour with a tiny 30-yard break window. Another station had a 4-story construction scissor jack which hiked a clays thrower 20-yards directly behind the shooter, but 40 feet in the air. The second clay was thrown straight up in the air 20-yards in front of the shooter after the report of the first shot. 

That position, by the way, required the shooter to start with the shotgun pointed vertically for any hope of hitting the first target. Another had clays thrown level with the skyline and were barely visible. Sporting Clays has all the sadistic long and short shots, fast, slow and the “you’ve got to be kidding me” clay targets one would expect of a real hunt. Of course with sporting clays you can train to actually begin hitting this insane shots.

Last year Mrs Pandemic and I enjoyed ourselves at the God Guns and Giving event, however borrowing other shooters guns or a different one of Elm Forks’ house shotguns at each stage was not the most optimal shooting experience. As you may know, you each shotgun shoots a bit different and you need time to adjust to each new gun that lands in your hands. We vowed to bring our own gun for 2014 and packed up the brand new still stiff FN SC1 with barely 100 rounds through it.

We only had limited time behind the new FN SC1. My lovely wife and I had escaped the day before the event while the kids were at school with our 12V electric Champion Wheelybird clays thrower and a case of clays. The rather windy day provided a frustrating environment for us to get our rhythm with a brand new gun. In the last dozen rounds, we finally found our points of aim. Though our pre-training was not confidence inspiring we both turned in respectable 52% and 65% hit score cards while at the Sporting Clays event and much of that thanks goes to the excellent shooting SC1.
Champion Whirley Bird
Electric Thrower
is the ONLY way to go for
practicing clays shooting.

FN also known originally as Fabrique Nationale has a very long storied base which dates all the way back to to 1889 when it was first founded to produce Mauser rifle for the Belgium government. FN was also the manufacturer of my beloved fine quality Browning A5’s which are still prized today if they feature the “Made in Belgium” stamp indicating manufactured by FN. From that point on FN and Browning had a very close design and manufacturing relationship with FN supporting production on the BAR, Baby Browning, Hi Power, and more. FN purchased the controlling interest in Browning and then Winchester Arms. Most people know FN these days by the defensive focused PS90 and SCAR rifles, however the SC1 proves once again that FN has not forgotten about the hunting and sport shooter.

There are a number of very nice competitive focused crossover shotguns on the market which tetter the fine line between a field over/under and full on custom fitted clays gun optimized for your sport of choice. The FN SC1 on one hand offers all the looks of the super fancy field guns in this case with your choice of blue, black or green checkered laminated hardwood stocks. I opted for the blue which looks incredible since the SC1 also comes with matching blue tipped Invector-Plus choke tubes and blue trigger. The quality is stunning and the looks are amazing. Neither my wife or I shot incredibly well, however we still receive compliments on the shotgun over and over and every single stage. Most people could not believe it was an off the shelf shotgun. Even some of the folks walking around with $30K custom Italian (aka spaghetti guns) shotguns were commenting on how loaded the FN was with features they had to add.

The fit was so tight out of the box that I was actually a little concerned that it was too tight, however after the first 100 round practice session, the action was flipping open on demand and shells were jettisoning backward about 10-yards. Of note, the SC1’s ejectors fire out the empty shells when opened and you can definitely get some distance. My wife and I started aiming the ejected empties and hitting each other with them. Similar to the operation of most typical modern over/under shotguns, the FN features automatic ejectors which only eject the empty, so if you only took one shot the live round will stay in the chamber.

The shooter can select which barrel they would like to shoot first via the tang safety; in most cases the bottom barrel is selected to reduce recoil and muzzle rise. During our initial 100 rounds, we tested first shots with the upper and then lower barrel, however we settled on the lower barrel.

One of the USA Olympic Shooting team members provides a few quick clays and shotgun fitting tips to me which were extremely helpful. Overall he was extremely impressed with the shotgun, but noted that it provided all the right adjustments for even a serious competitor who does not have the budget for custom stocks. The SC1 provides the shooter out-of-the-box adjustment for comb height, cast and length-of-pull, adjustable recoil activated single-stage trigger (5.5 to 7.7 lb. trigger squeeze).

The features to support whatever trap, skeet, sporting, or hunting on the FN SC1 Over/Under shotgun go on and on. Most competitive shooters prefer a wide rib, so FN included a 10mm wide ventilated rib complete with fiber-optic front sight and brass mid-bead. Fn delivered lightweight 28” and 30” barrel options which have been back-bored for more uniform patterns and ported to reduce recoil and muzzle rise.  At 8.2lbs, the Fn SC1 feels light when shouldered and quick on target. I highly doubt I would have delivered the clay brakes I did with my old browning A5.

FN even includes a custom blow molded fitted case with tools, two Skeet Chokes (in gun), and one each of full, modified, and improved cylinder chokes for field work.

The FN SC1 Over/Under is an simply awesome shotgun for the money. To get into a competition level shotgun with an adjustable comb and trigger jumps right into a limited number of shotguns in the $3000+ range and ramps up quickly from there. FN has just packed features into this stunning gun. Admittedly, $2100 is not chump change, however it is a the equivalent of just the taxes on many competitive clays guns out there. At this price though and with the near weatherproof sealed and laminated stock and stainless receiver, I was not particularly worried when it started drizzling a bit last weekend. I was not walking out in the rain with a $30K gun, but one with just decent cleaning would have it sparkling new again.

The price is definitely one of the things I love about this gun. I would even feel great taking this into the field on drier days and I don’t feel bad using it, setting it in the rack and even having it get a little wet. The gun looks amazing, shoots as well as it looks all in a package I can afford with features I will grow into. I think FN has a real winner in the SC1 across the board from hunting to all areas of casual and competitive clays shooting and for me it happens to coming in my favorite color - Blue.

12-gauge 2 3/4"magnum
10mm ventilated top rib
Ported, vent rib with Invector-Plus™ choke threads
30 inches
Blue, black or green checkered laminated wood
Adjustable for comb height and length of pull (Blue or black only)
Adjustable, recoil activated single-stage trigger
5.5 to 7.7 lb. trigger squeeze
Tang safety doubles as barrel selector
White mid-bead and fiber-optic front

Designation: FN SC 1™ Over/Under
Bbl./Choke: Invector-Plus™
Overall Length: 46.38" with extended chokes installed
Sights: Ventilated top rib with white mid-bead and fiber-optic front
Ammo Capacity: 2
Weight: 8.2 lbs. (empty)
Street Price $2100

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Wheelybird Clays thrower - $299 - 12V Foot pedal operated


Unknown said...

I have been through 2 Gray FN SC1's. There is a major problem with the forestock cracking/breaking. The 1st one I had cracked completely in half longways while shooting trap, the second started to crack and had to be sent back. This is known issue and FN says's they are sourcing a new wood distributor. I owned the gun for 2 years and have waited 1 of two years for replacements. I would not recommend purchasing an SC1 for a few years so that it can be tested in the field.

Unknown said...

nice post

Basshole said...

Problems have been fixed. Check with FN