ABOVE: FMR Unique RS1 Commando
We tested a French rifle (match barrel, bolt, action, beam) designed for the civilian market and produced under the 94 years old brand “Unique.” Acquired in 2001 by Stéphane Rolin, owner of the FMR Armory, Unique continues to prosper by producing modern and innovative long weapons.
The Unique small arms manufacturer was formed in 1923 in Béhobie under the name Uria & Arenas Frères by José Uria (1896-1973) and became MAPF (Manufacture d’Armes of the French Pyrenees) in 1928 when it was installed in Hendaye. It remained a family company with the management of Antone (1925-1987), José Marie (1924-1989), Josétcho, Jean-Pierre and Philippe Uria. The factory closed in 2001, and FMR (Fabrication de Munitions et Rechargement) redeemed the Unique brand. FMR Unique is managed today by Stéphane Rolin, who also runs the FMR Armory near Paris in the department of Seine-Saint-Denis. After buying ammunition manufacturing machines, this entity now manufactures ammunition for the civilian market, FMR bought the Unique brand and its stock to supply the many Unique weapon owners with spare parts to provide after-sales service.
Today, this French brand continues to exist thanks to a product whose durability is ensured by an entrepreneur who believes in certain principles: strength of innovation, quality of the finished product, competitiveness of the range and passion for a French independent production. It is not easy, with the competition of all foreign brands, to resume the manufacture of long weapons with the purchase of a brand and its production machines and then to succeed in making the operation viable and profitable in the long run. This is what Stéphane Rolin succeeds with in the takeover of the Pyrénées Atlantiques brand. Unique continues to exist, the manufacture of actions type TGC (now RS1) and match rifles resumed to provide a range of precision rifles intended for recreational shooting, long-range shooting, Bench Rest or police snipers. There are quite a few French manufacturers today; we have four main producers of long weapons (plus some small marks): Chapuis (with Manurhin), Verney-Carron, PGM Precision and FMR Unique.
A Concept Adopted by Several Brands
Unique has produced many weapons throughout its history, including, among other things, police or military pistols (handgun models 10, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 29, 21, C, F, L, RF51, RR51), competition handguns (DES 69, DES 96, DES 32U, DES 2000U pistols) or precision long rifles for the 50m disciplines or the 300m ISSF (Match 66, Biathlon T791, T2000, T3000, X-concept). Unique rifles are sold to sport shooters, hunters, municipal police, national police, customs, the National Forest Office or during occupation to Wehrmacht officers.
Several brands produce long guns similar to the FMR Unique RS1 model. These are PGM Precision (Precision Military and Police Weapons) with the Ultima Ratio, PGM 338 or Mini Hecate, Hecate II, the German brand Unique Alpine (TPG 3, UPG, JPR) and the Swiss brand Brugger & Thomet (APR 308). These brands all use the concept of light alloy receiver and floating barrel. The German distributor of the brand Unique Alpine decided a few years ago to produce its own rifles taking over the design of the RS1, the modularity with all the interchangeable calibers, the innovations and all the technology of the French brand. Unique Alpine has registered its trademark and logo, which is the perfect imitation of that of Unique France. This brand from Germany sells its products in 14 countries and offers four different models, including hunting versions, which FMR does not manufacture, but which was produced by Unique before being bought. These German weapons are of high quality, and they are sometimes distinguished in competition.
Button Rifled Match Barrels
Today, the manufacturing of precision rifles is carried out partly in Hendaye in the Pyrénées Atlantiques department in the southwest of France and partly in the Paris region in Bercy and Pantin. Stainless steel match barrels are produced in Hendaye (on machines bought from Unique) from 30-inch (75cm) bars drilled by an extra-long two-lip drill (like a foil blade). This hole is then machined by another tool, a special borer cutter. Then comes the finish made with a mandrel coated with diamond powder to obtain polishing and a perfect diameter. The tube thus prepared is then rifled with a tungsten carbide button, chosen for the desired caliber, drawn in force inside the barrel by a hydraulic machine. The bench where this is done is equipped with a mother screw and a pantograph to finely adjust the desired rifling. The barrel is then annealed in an oven in order to remove the stresses created by the process. Then it’s straightened with the press and a laser followed by the outer definition of the barrel to get the desired profile.
This barrel production process is long and complex, but it is the only one that guarantees the desired accuracy for match guns. That’s why FMR Unique has rejected the option of cold-hammered barrels. According to Stéphane Rolin, “Many manufacturers throughout the world practice the rifling of their barrels by cold hammering. This process has the advantage of a very low cost, extremely rapid manufacturing, but the barrels produced by this method are not barrels that can be described as ‘match’ because of the tensions created by hammering.”
In order to carry out the chambering of the Unique barrels, a floating mandrel machine is used with a roughing tool for the first pass. The body finish of the case and the neck of the case are obtained with another special finishing tool. The free-bore is machined in stride, according to the request of the customer if he wishes that the bullet comes in contact with the grooves or not. The headspace adjustment is custom-made according to the use of the weapon (police, long distance, bench rest, etc.).
Stainless Steel, Hardened Steel, Ergal and Duralinium
Bolts, receivers, beams and other parts of the RS1 are all manufactured in the Unique factories of the Paris region; various mounting and adjustments whose headspace are made in Paris-Bercy and Pantin. Each piece receives a suitable surface treatment, sandblasting, micro-blasting, polishing, anodic oxidation, tanning and painting. The receiver is anodized, the barrel is matt black bronzed, and the beam receives a matte black paint. The weapons are then tested and sent to the bench of Saint-Etienne or Liège to be tested and receive their test bench certificate.
The materials used for manufacturing are selected for their qualities: the barrels are made of stainless steel, the locking ring (barrel nut) and the cylinder head are made of hardened high-strength steel, the receiver is machined from aviation grade Ergal ( zinc alloy, magnesium, copper, aluminum), and the central support beam is Duralinium (aluminum alloy, copper, magnesium, manganese). All other parts are machined Duralinium or black synthetic material. The action can be ordered in stainless steel to further improve accuracy, a choice that bench-rest shooters can make.
What are the strengths and qualities of the RS1? It is completely modular, with a removable floating barrel, without any contact with the receiver, for an optimal vibration. The barrel is held by three side screws that close the receiver on the extension of the barrel to hold it securely. When disassembling, the three screws are loosened. There is a fourth screw that slightly spreads the housing to allow extraction of the tube. The design is the same as the PGM Ultima Ratio. This original design, intended to produce accurate weapons, is easily removable without special tools and maintained without complications, making them very attractive rifles for snipers. They also have the ability to quickly change calibers with interchangeable barrels, bolts and magazines (Krico, AICS) from standard calibers (7.08 Rem, .308 Win.) to long calibers (.30-06, 6.5-.284, .30-284) or magnum (.300 WM, .338 WM, .338 LM), keeping the same beam, optics, stock and receiver. Few manufacturers offer this capability. Unique Alpine offers it with its TPG-3 A4 chambered in .308, .300 WM and .338 LM.
To maintain its optical mounting, the manufacturer advises to tighten the housing screws always with the same force or with a torque wrench. It is also possible to adjust the firing pin pressure as well as its length. The FMR stock mounted on the Sniper versions is adjustable in height for the cheek pad, for the buttplate and also for the rear pod. The inclination of the buttplate is also adjustable. FMR offers all of its models in the original adaptation of a Tdi Sniper stock or a Magpul PRS.
We Test an RS1 Commando 7.62×51 NATO
Four RS1 models are in the catalog of the French manufacturer: RS1 Commando, Sniper, Micro and RS1 .22 LR. The latter is to be considered separately since it receives the set of action and barrel type CZ 452, which guarantees excellent accuracy, but it can also use multiple accessories such as stocks, rails, optics or bipods. The Sniper version is very popular since it can be prepared with a heavy barrel from 45cm to 71cm. The Commando is usually delivered with a barrel of 45cm or 51cm while the Micro is lightened and mounted with a short or very short barrel, 25cm to 45cm, with integrated or thread mounted silencer. The three models are available in many calibers: 6mm, 6.5mm, 7mm, 7.62mm or 8.6mm, from 6mm Norma BR to .338 Lapua Magnum.
In order to understand the Unique rifles of today, we chose to test a Commando model that was well-equipped and well-placed in terms of price (2500 euros, about $3000). This is the flagship model of the RS1 range that is very successful because of its PGM friendly SWAT look, its retractable stock and its short barrel with muzzle brake.
The RS1 Commando is built like the rest of the products around the action of the match T3000 or TGC hunting rifles. It is machined from a block 220mm long and 40mm wide, from a reinforced alloy, and it has a steel bolt, ribbed longitudinally to function even when dirty or in cold weather. This bolt is locked directly by three tenons in a stainless steel barrel which is button rifled, a process mastered by Unique for a long time. Holes for evacuating the booster gases are drilled in the bolt cylinder and also in the receiver. This one is screwed onto the center beam. The magazine housing is machined in two parts in a resistant synthetic material, Delrin, and it supports an AR-15 / M16 type handle.
Adjustable Timney Varmint Trigger
The central beam, measuring 440mm long on the model tested, supports the action, the bipod mounted at the front lower end and the retractable stock type mounted on an axis that fits to the back of the beam. This allows the shooter to disassemble quickly by a simple wheel located on the right side. If you opt for optical rings with quick disassembly, it is possible to divide this weapon in no time into five separate parts: barrel, receiver, stock, optic and bipod.
On the Commando, Unique uses quality match barrels of 45cm or 51cm length equipped with a single-chamber muzzle brake in the caliber selected, short, long or magnum. At the front left of the receiver, we find the three large screws that allow the tightening of the barrel and on the right side a smaller screw to spread the receiver to allow barrel removal.
The Timney Varmint trigger is set short and light; it weighs 1.260kg on the weapon presented, and this weight can be lowered to 1.0kg. On request, you can install a Remington 700 trigger adjustable from 50 grams to 800 grams but this is charged extra. According to the requirements of the buyer, Stéphane Rolin delivers its RS1 without ejector to improve the chambering of the cartridges and to improve accuracy.
This Unique rifle is 90% made in France (barrel, receiver, bolt, beam) while the accessories are foreign, such as the trigger, the bipod or the stock of the Commando and Micro models. All RS1 rifles are precision guaranteed by their manufacturer. Tests performed at 100, 200 and 300 meters show what they are capable of.
Leupold 6.5-20×50 and Warne Rings
For our tests, we mount a Leupold Vari XIII 6.5-20×50 scope with a Duplex reticle, very bright and very pleasant to use with sharp clicks—that with Warne American collars. The sighting is good with a special cheek pad on the retractable buttstock. It is also possible to mount low rings and place the shooter’s cheek directly on the M16 style stock, but it is less comfortable. The position of the shooter is good with the well-known grip of the M16 and an angle memorized by most shoters (available with a wide variety of shapes). The off hand is placed under the beam to support the whole, so the aim is then excellent. The Sniper stock allows more settings and more comfort.
With the RS1 Commando in .308 Winchester, we got these results at 100 meters and 200 meters using the Leupold: 9×18.20mm on five shots and 15.5×11.5mm, with 150 grain Sierra bullets Match. Then 200 meters: 15.9×18.4mm on five rounds and 20.9×17.4mm with 168 grain Sierra Match bullets. With an RS1 Commando in 7.08 Remington and Speer bullets of 175 grains, we managed on five shots an H + L of 21x17mm, with a maximum gap of 22mm. The weapon does not move, the 7.08 Remington and the .308 are comfortable, and the muzzle brake reduces the recoil. The trigger is light, crisp, short and clean, without being a Bench Rest rifle.
This RS1 Commando version is delivered in the caliber of choice, even in magnum caliber, with a Unique match barrel, a Weaver or Picatinny steel rail, a muzzle brake, a carrying case and a set of allen keys. All that remains is to install the bipod and optics you choose. This is definitely a good choice for the shooter if he wants to go in for shooting medium or long distance.
The .338 Lapua Magnum Available on Request
Unique can provide to its customers a choice of receiver material whatever the model chosen, Commando or other, magnum or standard. The stainless steel was developed at the request of some customers, but the use of ergal (7075 T6 51) has no impact on the strength of the weapon since the bolt locks directly into the barrel extension. The .338-caliber conversion can be mounted on an ergal case simply by changing barrel and bolt. Feeding cartridges is done without the magazine, cartridge by cartridge.
After the final assembly of the weapons, the tests were carried out in the Pantin workshops, and the customer can visit the manufacturer. The new manufacturing methods and the strict adherence to the dimensions make the parts interchangeable including barrel and bolt. “Today the production allows a total interchangeability of parts because we have improved the manufacturing quality without changing the dimensions of the different elements,” Rolin said.
The variety of Unique rifles is growing rapidly with the regular release of new models and the constant improvement of existing versions. An RS1 rifle with McMillan stock and another with match stock for the ISSF 300 meters are in the catalog, as in the old days of Unique, present in competition with the X-Concept.