FN FNC-80 from Heat

FN FNC by FN Herstal used by Lt. Hanna in the movie HEAT.
June 2, 2023  
|  1 Comments
Categories: Guns, Learnin'

One of my all-time favorite action flicks is Heat. It has realistic firefights, which is something Hollywood doesn’t seem to care much about. It features a remarkable cast of talented actors who took the time to train with firearms and learn tactics from experts…something else unusual in Hollywood. And the guns? The movie has many classics, some of which arguably became classics because of the movie, particularly the iconic Heat shootout scene. One of the latter, in my opinion, is Lt. Hanna’s (AL Pacino) FN FNC. 

In tonight’s Friday Night Gunfights

The FNC is never going to be as iconic as the "Right Arm of the Free World," but it is by many accounts an acceptable fighting rifle.

The FN FNC assault rifle (to use the common vernacular) is never going to be as iconic as the “Right Arm of the Free World,” but it is, by many accounts, an acceptable fighting rifle. The weapon is occasionally referred to as AKL-like because its operating system, which has a camming guide inside the bolt carrier, strongly resembles that of a Kalashnikov. This article originally ran in 2015. 

 

Lt. Hanna’s FN FNC-80: HEAT

Spoiler Alert: the movie’s over twenty years old, so I’m not too worried about spoiling anything for anyone. If you still haven’t seen it, it’s definitely one to put at the top of your watch list!

In this badass flick, some very iconic firearms are used. Today we’ll take a look at the carbine Al Pacino’s character, LAPD Robbery & Homicide Lt. Vincent Hanna, used during the heist shootout. When I watched it the first few times, I had no idea what the make/model it was, other than the fact that it was obviously not an AR-15-type rifle.

FN FNC assault rifle

Assorted models; the weapon is available in both semi-auto and select-fire versions. The FNC-80 version came a couple of years after the original FN FNC rifle, which had a few design flaws to correct before it was ready for prime time. 

I was very curious, and back then, Google was still new, so I hit the books and finally solved the mystery: it’s the FN FNC-80 (Fabrique Nationale Carabine) from FN Herstal. 

The FNC is an assault rifle that has been in service since 1979 with countries all over the globe. It’s chambered in 5.56×45. Although compatible with AR15/M4 mags, it initially fed from a proprietary magazine that lacked a bolt-hold-open tab. Original FNC magazines can still be found, but they won’t lock the bolt to the rear in an AR/M4. 

To find out more about the FNC, I first went to imfdb.org. It’s a great resource if you want to know every type of firearm you see in movies and TV Shows. The database is thorough and has fun facts about particular firearms in each movie. That was my first stop; then it was on to some others (Small Arms Review, et al). 

Lt. Hanna drops behind a car to reload his FN FNC during the Heat shootout scene.

Lt. Hanna drops behind a car to reload his rifle during the Heat shootout scene. This version of the Fabrique Nationale Carabine is the FN FNC-80. The FNC-80 is FN’s final pattern of the rifle series. Development began with the FNC 76 prototype, followed by at least one updated prototype in the late 1970s, and finally went into common distribution in 1980 (the same year as the Miracle on Ice, The Empire Strikes Back, and Operation Eagle Claw). 

Lt. Hanna’s FNC was modified with a shorter barrel, chopped by an armorer, and an A2 birdcage was attached. All the LAPD officers were only allowed to fire in semi-auto to limit collateral damage, while all of McCauley’s (Robert Deniro) crew went full auto during the firefight.

Kudos to Director Michael Mann for the realism aspect, which made it more enjoyable for people like me who appreciate accurate portrayals of weapons and tactics on the big screen. And Val Kilmer does an excellent combat reload during the shootout.

But back to Lt. Hanna’s FNC. Toward the end of the street battle, Michael Cheritto (Tom Sizemore) gets desperate after being separated from the crew. He grabs a young girl and uses her as a hostage/human shield. Hanna flanks Cheritto and lines up his sights, waiting for the right moment.

As Cheritto turns around towards Hanna, Hanna takes the shot, and the firefight ends with Cheritto’s body dropping to the ground. The shocked but unharmed hostage gets picked up by Hanna.

 

The Heat shootout scene was so good that more than one military branch of more than one country (including the USMC) reportedly used it to demonstrate how a "bounding overwatch" works.

Shoot move communicate. Heat’s street shootout scene was so good that more than one military branch of more than one country (including the USMC) reportedly used it to demonstrate how a proper “bounding overwatch” works.* In this scene Lt. Hanna puts and end to Cheritto (who is armed with a Galil) using his FN FNC-80. 

With its rotating sling swivel up front, ribbed barrel just behind the muzzle device, and stamped-metal-to-plastic handguard, the FNC adds a bespoke firearm to the film. It’s not a firearm you see much in movies, especially used by a main character.

Lt. Hanna (Al Pacino) kneels beside the body of Sgt. Bosko (Ted Levine) in the heat shootout scene right after the final bank robbery. Bosko was killed by CHris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer) during the gun battle.

Lt. Hanna (Al Pacino) kneels beside the body of Sgt. Bosko (Ted Levine) during the heat shootout scene right after the final bank robbery. Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer) kills Bosko during the gun battle in the street. Pacino’s character used an FN FNC, which is unusual, and like many of the other protagonists in the film (good guys and bad guys alike), did not use a sling. This was likely not an oversight, given how well the Heat shootout scene was written and choreographed, but we’re not sure exactly what that reasoning might have been.

Heat is an excellent movie that the 2A community can watch and enjoy without being nitpicky at what the actors are doing wrong, something my wife has to get used to. She often reminds me my expectations are too high for a non-serious TV show we’re watching. But Heat doesn’t disappoint, and that’s why it’s one of my favorites.

-Fifty Shades of FDE

 

An FNC-80 was also used (rather less memorably) by Vin Diesel as Xander Cage in the movie XXX.

An FNC-80 was also used (rather less memorably) by Vin Diesel as Xander Cage in the movie XXX. This one is fitted with C-More red dot sight and Beta-C magazine. The typical FNC-80 has no original Pic rail, but the upper receiver is designed to accept a scope and sort of lock it in place. 

 

FN FNC in use irl. 

FN FNC in use by Ukraine's "International Legion."

FN FNC in use by Ukraine’s “International Legion.” The FNC reportedly made up a large portion of the rifles donated by the Belgian government to support Ukraine in its war with Russia. The FN FNC was Belgium’s standard service rifle until replaced by the FN SCAR. 

 

Appendix 1: FN FNC Specs and Disassembly

The FN FNC is an interesting Cold War-era long gun. It is manufactured in both semi-auto and burst/full-auto versions; the latter were manufactured in large numbers, but many more were converted. It’s a (long stroke) piston-driven 5.56 gun with a unique, 2-position gas regulator located at the back of the barrel and forward of the receiver. It also has an interesting spring-loaded dust cover on the upper receiver, similar to the one later used by the Galil ACE. Its folding stock hinges much like the FN FAL, and disassembly is extremely easy. 

Specifications

  • Type: Assault Rifle
  • Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO
  • Weight: 8.47 lbs.
  • Length: 39.3 in. (stock extended)
  • Barrel length: 17.7 in. (with muzzle device); 16 in. (without)
  • Barrel twist: 1/12 in. 
  • Muzzle device: flash suppressor (rifle grenade adapter)
  • Feeding: STANAG Magazines and their successors
  • Operating system: long stroke piston with rotating bolt
  • Gas system: encapsulated (with spring-loaded dust cover)
  • Gas block: adjustable; flipping up the launcher sight cuts off gas flow through the block to launch rifle grenades
  • Firing pin: floating, with firing pin spring to eliminate accidental inertia impact
  • Extractor: welded
  • Front sight: fixed/winged blade front sight (elevation adjustable) with grenade launcher site behind
  • Rear sight: welded peep rear sight with 200m and 400m adjustments
  • Cocking handle: reciprocating charging handle on the right side
  • Upper receiver: stamped and riveted

 

Disassembly

 

A soldier of Ukraine's 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade (formerly the 47th Assault Regiment) armed with an FN FNC carbine, c. January 2023.

A soldier of Ukraine’s 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade (formerly the 47th Assault Regiment) armed with an FN FNC carbine, c. January 2023. Use of this rifle in Ukraine is relatively recent, but the Indonesians have been using it under license (first as the Pindad SS1, Senapan Serbu 1, then Pindad SS2) for years, and the Swedish Armed Forces use it as the Ak 5 (automatic carbine 5, Automatkarbin). The latter weapon has been modified for improved reliability in subarctic conditions. (It’s was also used for decades by various Belgian armed forces, particularly infantry units, which we’d have mentioned earlier, but we figured that was kind of a given.)

 

Appendix 2: More on the FN FNC-80 from Gun Jesus

The FNC was developed in the mid to late-70s in answer to NATO competition and standardization trials. This was partly due to a desire for something less expensive than the M16 rifle. The weapon performed poorly in its initial form, reportedly due to rushed development, but later saw some commercial success in export (primarily for law enforcement and infantry units) to Indonesia (manufactured under license by PT Bindad), Sweden (manufactured under license by Bofors Ordnance), El Salvador, Tonga, and at least a dozen others.

But we’re not going to bore you with our history notes. We’ll let Ian astound and amaze you with his astonishing erudition. 

 

*Shoot move communicate: “…fire and movement consist of individuals or fire teams providing covering fire while other individuals or fire teams advance toward the enemy or assault the enemy position.” MCWP 3-11.2 Marine Rifle Squad UNCLASS 27 NOV 02

Additional FN FNC-80 Resources:

A Kalashnikov for the West?

The FNC in America

ENERGA anti-tank rifle grenade

 

⚠️ Some hyperlinks in this article may contain affiliate links. If you use them to make a purchase, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. It’s just one way to Back the Bang. #backthebang 

 

 

 

 

Fifty Shades of FDE

Fifty Shades of FDE

About the Author

Fifty Shades of FDE is a full-time LEO in California with about a decade's service in a very large metropolitan agency. He’s a husband, father and firearms enthusiast. He is a supporter of the Second Amendment and a proponent of law abiding citizens’ right to defend themselves with concealed carry permits. He runs his @fiftyshadesofFDE page on Instagram and writes gun/gear reviews on www.fiftyshadesoffde.com - when he's not writing for Breach-Bang-Clear, of course.

1 Comment

  1. Daniel E. Watters

    At one time, FN offered a short-barrel carbine variant of the FNC, which looked just like the model seen in the film. It was also available as a semi-auto only Law Enforcement model.

    Reply

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