Since the invention of black powder, people have been developing better and better ways to launch flaming hot metal at each other: faster, farther, and more efficiently. The history of America could be told in chronological order by firearms development and actually would actually make quite a bit of sense, given the unique cultural importance of firearms in American history.
Names like Colt, Smith&Wesson, and John Browning are all household names, and all have a long and storied history in firearms development. Famous guns like the Single Action Army, M&P revolver series, and the 1911 and Auto-5 are known across the world as successful and historically significant weapons. But occasionally you get a flier or two; a gun that just doesn’t make it either due to poor design, bad marketing, or some other external force that prevents its success. Sometimes they’re just downright ugly. Regardless of what prevented their success, these guns often become historical oddities or simply part of firearms history that never became mainstream. We’ll call these: weird guns in history.
This will be the first weapon in what I hope to be an ongoing series on this blog, examining unusual and/or historically significant guns that for whatever reason just didn’t become big players in history, or aren’t that well known. The first of the series is a very recent design, hailing primarily from the early 2000’s during the SOCOM SCAR rifle trials: the Colt SCAR Type C.
The Colt SCAR Type C – Note the unusual safety selector and visible pin in the gas block/front sight assembly. The safety is on “SAFE” in this picture.
The Colt SCAR Type C was one of three primary submissions from Colt Defense during the early 2000’s SOCOM rifle trials. The success of the H&K 416 brought the idea of a short stroke piston AR into the forefront of military ordinance planner’s minds. At the time, the US Army owned the Technical Data Package (TDP) for the M4 series of weapons, and therefore any change to the platform would have to be done with their approval. US SOCOM wanted their own rifle/carbine that they could “own” and modify at their own approval, and therefore launched the SCAR (Special operations forces Combat Assault Rifle) program early during the War on Terror. They had perceived some short comings of the standard DI M4 carbine, and apparently believed that a short stroke piston gun would remedy them.
A series of Colt bolts coated in UCT (Universal Chem Tech) and standard phosphate finishes.
Because of governmental rules for soliciting contracts, open trials were ordered and several companies submitted their designs for what would eventually become known as the SCAR 16. Among others, Colt submitted three different designs, the Colt SCAR Type A-C (not very creatively named). Perhaps most interesting is the Type 3, which was probably the closest to what the SOCOM trial requested. It’s essentially a short stroke piston gun, with a UCT (Colt proprietary coating) coated BCG and fixed gas block. It also had a unique safety selector, which as you can see from the starboard side picture above, looks to be backward. That picture shows the weapon on “SAFE” not “AUTO”, because the safety moves like a 1911 safety: it pivots from the back, not the front like a traditional AR.
Weird, right? I have no idea what would have prompted Colt to do that, or use a fixed, non-adjustable gags block. It wouldn’t have taken a crystal ball to figure out that SOCOM would want to easily suppress these guns, and an adjustable, more user-servicable gas block would have probably been a better idea. It’s my opinion that had Colt had the LE901-16S or M.A.R.C.901 series of rifles at the time of the trials, they probably would have stood a much better change at winning the contract. Ultimately US SOCOM chose the FN SCAR, to be made in two varieties, the Light and Heavy, in 5.56 NATO and 7.62 NATO, respectively. The Colt 901 from a government standpoint may have actually made more sense in that it can use one receiver and use the magwell block to accommodate both 5.56 and 7.62 magazines, simply requiring the swap of an upper receiver group.
By all accounts the SCAR Type C was a well built rifle, that used several commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts, to include the VLTOR stock. If compared to today’s piston offerings, the Type C would be very competitive if offered at the right price. The UTC coated BCG, FDE color, and Colt roll mark would almost guarantee to sell, if only the gas block was adjusted and a normal safety selector used. But maybe that’s just me wishing I could actually buy one of these for the collection.
Remember: if you can’t be safe, be deadly.