Belgium’s Fabrique Nationale (FN) and Colt have long been competitors on the American firearms market. For almost a century both companies have competed for military contracts, designers, and sales on the American civilian market. However, in the 2000s, FN dealt a blow that stung Colt: it won a contract to produce the M16 rifle and M4 carbine, designs that were almost inextricably linked to the Colt brand. The story of how FN regained a foothold in the American market in the 1980s and continues to remain a couple steps ahead of Colt to this day is one of clever corporate maneuvering and complacency on Colt’s part. Unfortunately for Colt, following its bankruptcy in 2015, it has not come close to even competing with FN globally.
The beginning of Colt’s downfall in the modern era began around the 1980s. FN began making inroads into the US military market again around that time, as a version of their gas-operated FN MAG was adopted as a vehicle coaxial machine gun in 1977, followed by the adoption of the FN Minimi as the M249 in 1984. FN had to build manufacturing facilities in the US to produce these guns, so they started competing for contract Colt had, notably the M16 rifle.