FN Herstal introduces the EVOLYS light machinegun in 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm NATO calibers: intended as a heir to the venerable Minimi/M249, the EVOLYS catalyzes FN's experience with the SCAR family of rifles in the form of a squad automatic weapon that can be operated one-handed if need be
Is it time for the venerable FN Minimi machinegun and its derivatives to be retired? The FN Herstal group itself would seem to think so: on May 6th, 2021, the Belgian company held a fully on-line presentation event to introduce the global markets to the evolution of their squad automatic weapon concepts: the EVOLYS light machinegun.
Available in two variants dubbed the FN EVOLYS 5.56mm and the FN EVOLYS 7.62mm respectively, FN's new light machinegun owes a lot to the Belgian company's decades-long experience with the SCAR series of assault annd battle rifles, both in terms of design – chiefly the receiver and the six-position retractable stock – and working system.
FN's new EVOLYS light machinegun is an open-bolt design, with an anti-bounce safety system for good measure, but features a short-stroke gas piston operating system and a hydraulic recoil buffer that keeps the cyclic rate stable on both variants and in all conditions: the rate of fire is 750 rounds per minute in all calibers.
The FN EVOLYS light machinegun is manufactured largely out of lightweight alloys and polymer addictive manufacturing (read: state-of-the-art, cutting-edge industrial-grade 3D printing), as shown in the presentation video.
The goal was to make the FN EVOLYS approximately 30% lighter than most competitors, and it was achieved: the EVOLYS 5.56x45mm NATO model weighs 5,5 kilograms (12,1 lbs), while the EVOLYS 7.62x51mm NATO tops 6,2 kilograms (13.6 lbs).
That's approximately one kilogram less than both the FN Minimi and most of its competitors currently available on the market; FN Herstal wanted the EVOLYS to be an ultra-lightweight machinegun that would handle like an assault rifle, highly mobile and well manageable in both point and support fire even on harsh terrains. The combination of low weight and manageable rate of fire make all those goals finally reachable.
In order to maximize maneuverability and controllability, the new FN EVOLYS light machinegun also features a three-position ambidextrous manual safety and fire selector with semi-auto and full-auto positions, and a redesigned feeding tray and cocking handle to allow for one-handed operation: the FN EVOLYS can be reloaded, and any potential malfunction can be cleared, without having to be laid down or for the operator to change position.
The FN EVOLYS light machinegun feeds through NATO standard M13 and M17 disintegrating belts and is compatible with the same ammo pouches used by the FN Minimi/M249 and all its variants (MAXIMI, Mk.46, Mk.48, etc.). The controls configuration and the adjustable cheek riser make the new FN EVOLYS a completely ambidextrous weapon, ensuring that any operator will find a comfortable position to shoot it.
The FN EVOLYS 5.56mm light machinegun features a 355 mm / 14" barrel and is 85 cm / 33.46" to 95 cm / 37.4" long overall depending from the extension of the stock.
The FN EVOLYS 7.62mm light machinegun instead comes with a 406mm / 16" barrel, and the overall length ranges between 92,5 cm / 36.4" and 102 cm / 40.15". The maximum effective range is 800 m (874.8 yds) for the 5.56mm NATO version and 1 km (1093.61 yds) for the 7.62mm NATO version.
The new FN EVOLYS definitely appears to be a sound alternative to the vast majority of modern belt-fed light support weapons, more in line with the specific needs of both conventional and special forces operating in modern theaters if compared with most of its competitors on the global market.
As lightweight and controllable as it's claimed to be, the FN EVOLYS light machinegun sure packs a punch in a small and portable package – and maybe, just maybe, it could catch the attention of those armes that are looking for lighter firearms and are pursuing said goal by funding the development of new weapon systems in non-standard calibers.