Last year, FNH USA finally began selling complete ARs on the American commercial market. The company has been manufacturing a number of arms for the United States military for quite some time, including the M16/M4 series of rifles and carbines, the M240 machine gun, and the Mk 19 grenade launcher. The first models introduced to the consumer model at large were the FN 15 Carbine and the FN 15 Rifle.
The Carbine and Rifle are basically semiautomatic versions of the short M4 and long-barreled M16A4, respectively (the Carbine has a 16-inch barrel to remain outside the realm of NFA items). I’m not much of AR guy, but I really dig the 1960s-era “Space Age” look of black rifles made back when they were considered the gun of the future. However, I’m not so committed to that aesthetic that I’d want a gun without some modern features. The FN 15 Rifle’s 20-inch-long barrel, detachable carry handle, railed upper receiver, A2-style buttstock, and polymer “clamshell” handguard practically called to me from the FNH booth at SHOT 2014. A few months after the show, I had one of the rifles in my hands for testing.
- Caliber: 5.56x45mm
- Barrel: 20 inches, button-broached, chrome-lined
- Twist rate: 1:7 inches
- Method of operation: Direct impingement
- Gas system: Rifle length
- Weight: 7.97 pounds unloaded
- Buttstock: Non-collapsible A2 pattern
- Sights: Detachable carry handle, A2-style front post
- Upper receiver: Aluminum, hardcoat anodized, railed flattop with forward assist
- Lower receiver: Aluminum, hardcoat anodized, non-ambidextrous fire controls with A2-style pistol grip
- Muzzle device: A2-style flash hider
- MSRP: $1,149
The FN 15 Rifle I was sent looked and felt very well-made–as it should. Despite the stock’s “archaic” styling I found it to be functional enough. Further, since I’m not one who likes to hang lots of accessories off the front of their gun, the rail-less clamshell handguard was perfect for me. People looking to purchase a long-barreled AR and immediately start customizing it with the latest AFGs, sling mounts, and lasers should probably look elsewhere.
The lack of ambidextrous fire controls on a complete, non-entry-level AR is a bit odd—even if it’s channeling the M16A4. If I could change one thing about the lower, it’d be to add ambi controls. In any case, since I’m a righty, it didn’t impede my use of the rifle in any way whatsoever.
Taking it to the range
I shot 700 or so rounds through the FN 15 Rifle in my time with it. I experienced no malfunctions whatsoever, whether I was rapid-firing one mag full of steel-cased ammo after the other or group-shooting from a bench. I did not clean the rifle at any point (sorry FNH USA).
I tested several different STANAG AR-15 magazines with the rifle, and all of them functioned and fed without issue. All of the mags I used also dropped free after depressing the mag release. Below is the list of magazines I used when testing the FN 15. All were 30-round models unless otherwise noted.
- CAA Mag17
- Magpul Gen 3 PMAG
- Lancer L5
- Lancer L5AWM
- Troy Battlemag
- FNH USA-marked aluminum GI
- C Products 10-round aluminum
- Heckler & Koch translucent polymer
The trigger on the FN 15 Rifle left a bit to be desired. It could stand to break a bit lighter, though it didn’t feel like there was a huge amount of take-up or overtravel. I’d estimate that it broke in the six- to eight-pound range. Other writers haven’t been too keen on the gun’s trigger, but it felt functional enough.
Overall the FN 15 was very pleasant to shoot. I didn’t expect much recoil out of such a heavy (relatively speaking) gun chambered in 5.56, and the rifle delivered in that regard. I could shoot it all day if I had the ammo or money to do so.
With its 20-inch barrel, I was expecting some pretty impressive groups—or at least better than I’m used to with a shorty AR. After some cursory plinking with the carrying handle attached, I threw a Steiner GS3 2-10x on top of the gun. Five-shot groups at 100 yards yielded the following results.
|Bullet||Number of five-shot groups||Average group (inches at 100 yards)||Best group (inches at 100 yards)|
|Tula 55-grain FMJ||5||3.5||3.25|
|AR 5.56 Independence 55-grain FMJ||5||3||3|
|IMI M855 62-grain FMJ||5||2.25||2|
|Winchester 77-grain BTHP||3||1.1||0.9|
|IMI 77-grain “Razor Core” BTHP||3||0.93||0.7|
As you can see, the IMI and Winchester 77-grain loads performed the best out of all the contenders. My groups with the 77s were the tightest groups I’ve ever gotten from an AR-pattern gun, and I was very happy with the rifle’s performance. Obviously the barrel’s 1:7 twist rate worked as intended. With a better trigger, I’m confident that I could get sub-half-inch groups at 100 yards.
I enjoyed my trial period with the FN 15 Rifle. A few things could be improved, namely the trigger and fire controls. I’d also like to see its MSRP a hundred or so dollars lower—it’s possible to build yourself a similarly-equipped AR from parts for a couple hundred dollars below the FN 15 Rifle’s MSRP (and it must be noted that FN 15 Rifles and Carbines are indeed selling for well below MSRP online).
However, it’s still a well-made, fun, and accurate rifle that harkens back to a simpler time, when shooters weren’t worried about whether or not their AR could mount the latest combination bipod/laser/backup thermal sight to one of 100 different mounting points on their gun’s handguard. It combines some “retro” features with modern options, and is ready to punch 5.56-sized holes very close to one another right after you take it out of the box. If you’re looking for an excellent long-barreled AR out of the box, the FN 15 Rifle is a great choice.
Images by Matt Korovesis