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SSD Exclusive – A Deeper Dive Into The FN EVOLYS Machine Gun

Yesterday, FN Herstal unveiled their new ultralight belt-fed machine gun, the EVOLYS. Here’s some additional information on the EVOLYS we thought you might be interested in.

Right up front it is important to note that the machine gun shown during FN Herstal’s unveiling is not exactly the same as the one that will be offered in the United States, which we’ll explain later on.

Having said that, it is being offered in two basic variants, the Ultra Lightweight Machine Gun in 5.56mm NATO and the Lightweight Machine Gun, a multi-caliber gun, currently in 7.62mm NATO, which can also be chambered for 6.5 CM as well as a conventional cased Next Generation 6.8 x 51mm round. Additionally, we are told the EVOLYS LMG can be adapted to other calibers.

Apparently, EVOLYS has been under development for several years. However, this current iteration is a refinement of a design submitted for the US Army’s Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) solicitation meaning that much of the engineering was already accomplished by that point for a similar machine gun. Consequently, the technology is more mature than it appears to those seeing it for the first time. What sets EVOLYS apart form that earlier effort is that there has been a significant amount of user feedback from SOF used in the current configuration. FN America assured us that EVOLYS was not created to satisfy any new government solicitations, but rather is the next step in FN’s line of machine guns, integrating multiple new features.

Conversely, FN has no intention of halting production of their existing designs (M249, M240, MK46/48). They will continue to support those designs throughout their lifespan while the company looks to address current and future needs. With one of every two machine guns on the planet coming from FN, they’ve got a lot of customers to continue to support.

The name hints at evolution and this new machine gun platform will be familiar to anyone who has had time behind FN’s M240 (MAG) or M249 (Minimi). While it breaks down in much the same way, with a receiver, recoil spring and bolt carrier group, you’ll note that EVOLYS features a monocoque construction receiver. Unlike the M240, it’s one continuous piece which helps control weapon weight. In fact, you’re looking at significant weight reduction with 5.5 kg ULMG & 6.2 kg LMG compared to a 7.5 kg M249 and 10.1 kg M240L.

Another interesting note is that there are no operator barrel changes with EVOLYS. They’re so confident in the metallurgy of the barrel that you won’t have to swap barrels during sustained fire. Barrel changes will require tools and about two to three minutes to accomplish.

Speaking of barrels, EVOLYS will be introduced with 14″ (para) and 16″ options, but other lengths may be added in the future.

It uses a tappet short stroke piston operating system with a gas regulator and, like other FN belt-feds, EVOLYS only fires from the open bolt. Controllability and reliability is enhanced by use of a hydraulic buffer.

FN Herstal has stated that EVOLYS was developed from the outset for use with a suppressor and we understand that the developmental team used at least the SureFire suppressors adopted by USSOCOM. Additionally, video shown by FN Herstal during the EVOLYS launch depict B&T suppressors which makes sense as they provide suppressors to FN.

Interestingly, FN also claims that their operating system prevents the gas associated with the use of a suppressor from being blown back into the face of the firer, even a left handed shooter.

Earlier we mentioned that the US and Rest of World version of EVOLYS would differ slightly. For instance, the version Herstal revealed is equipped with a SCAR stock while the US version has a backplate which also facilitates use of an M4-style collapsible stock. Further development of the stock is underway with concepts being evaluated to offer different comb heights without weight increases.

As one FN America executive related, “one hundred years in the waiting, we finally have a side loading, continuous rail machine gun.”

The real magic in the EVOLYS design is the patented lateral feed mechanism which still incorporates a feedtray cover and feedtray, but how they are accessed is completely different than other machine guns.

Instead, the separate feedtray cover and feedtray open to the left, swinging outward toward the business end of the gun. Of note, it can only be configured as left-hand feed.

This design facilitates one-handed loading and has similar round alignment pawls to the Mk46 and Mk48. You can seat the cartridge into the feed tray and the system will guide the cartridge into proper placement.

While belts can still be broken in the event of a runaway gun, FN informs us they have integrated a anti-runaway mechanism into the design. Additionally, the last link is automatically ejected at the end of firing so no need to clear the feedtray.

With the lateral feed mechanism, the top Picatinny rail is a single piece, running all the way from the front of the handguard to the rear of the receiver. This means optics and other enables can be mounted anywhere along the rail without having to worry about a front folding or side tilting feedtray cover. You can mount your optic where you need it and keep it there.

EVOLYS offers single (semi-auto) as well as sustained (full-auto) fire options, selectable at the ambidextrous thumb safety above the pistol grip.

Expect better accuracy than an M4 carbine. FN has regularly demonstrated 1.5 – 2.5 MOA accuracy, depending on the gun’s temperature.

Initially, EVOLYS will be built in Herstal and the company will evaluate US-based manufacturing.

FN Herstal plans to exhibit EVOLYS at DSEI in London in September, but it’s possible you may run into it at a range day before then as interest begins to pick up.

10 Responses to “SSD Exclusive – A Deeper Dive Into The FN EVOLYS Machine Gun”

  1. mark says:

    That sounds awesome.

    Lighter, more accurate, more controllable, faster to reload, better optics mounting.

  2. James says:

    Pipe dream- adapt it to 6arc and it might just meet the promise of the 6mm SAW and give them room for other x39 rounds. Problematic case maybe, but since we’re talking about 276 Pedersen(.284 but whatever) finally ,might as well pick up the other strays .Weird how some ideas keep popping up…..

    • Mitch says:

      I second that. Ballistics mirroring a 7.62 out to 600 yards, then a vast improvement out past 1000. Lighter ammo, smaller form factor.

  3. TheFull9 says:

    Those accuracy numbers are quite a lot better than the ones Sig gave for their NGSW-AR recently iirc; interesting.

    Excellent info as always SSD.

  4. Rob says:

    Ill take one of each…..

    The 6.5 and 6.8 will be a nasty variant on this platform….

  5. Zach says:

    Ive always had a thing for thick blondes

  6. Hodge175 says:

    Why in 2021 we are still humping around a 16 to 18lb SAW with a 3.5x MGO and a 24lb 7.62 GPMG also with only a 3.5x MGO on a weapon with a capability from 800m to 1000m is beyond me.

    So things the Army DOD does well, machine guns and their implacement and training are not one of them.

  7. Ivo says:

    Well, hopefully they are durable. Our FN Minimi 5.56mm guns wear out completely between 30k and 40k round. Warped receivers, worn out feed systems, ect ect. Not very impressed with the minimi. I love the FN Mag and that beast rocks, but the minimi not so much.

    Personally I like the concept of the british DMR and USMC IAR instead of the LMG on squad level. When you face enemy head-on the use for a light machinegun is debateble.

    After years of being gone we are in the process of getting the FN Mag back on squad level for combat engineers. Our main use is in a defensive position when performing engineer stuff (minefield, bridge demolition). The 7.62 makes a lit more sence.

    • AbnMedOps says:

      That’s interesting on the MGs. I confess to not having paid close attention to recent developments for Combat Engineers. I just knew the old doctrine blurb that “Combat Engineers have a secondary mission as Infantry”, and sort of assumed that the weapons distribution would more or less mirror some Infantry Table of Equipment.

    • James says:

      Old debate and I really can’t add much to it- the DMR / IAR vs LMG debate is something likely to be around a while. Some have used the DMR to really good effect in the support role. Listening to Chuck Pressberg and Larry Vickers both talk about using the HK21 almost like a DMR with the two round burst ….. Right now that lands us at the IAR in the m27 and m38 variants widely issued to help with volume and add flexibility. I have no doubt people will keep working the volume of fire, accuracy,power, and mobility sliders untill more or less settled , but this really makes some compelling arguments with the mobility and accuracy improvements as well as semiauto..

      Things are constantly changing still and what I call ” In-betweeners” will continue to pop up- as doctrine, technology, and need change so will the way weapon types are blurred. If you look around they’re everywhere,and gradually becoming defined weapon types themselves for the next gen of hybrids to build on. Some of them will look a lot like stuff we had a long time ago , and grumpy old guys like me will bitch about having tried that already. Some will be like something on a 12yo’s wishlist or in a movie. I keep thinking about those rockets on Chuck Norris’ motorcycle- I really think a 40mm Pike is smaller. Lol