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.

Specs

  • 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

Initial thoughts

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 handguard on the FN 15 Rifle is simple and functional.
The handguard on the FN 15 Rifle is simple and functional.

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.

The author mounted a Steiner GS3 2-10x on the rifle for accuracy testing.
The author mounted a Steiner GS3 2-10x on the rifle for accuracy testing.

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.

BulletNumber of five-shot groupsAverage group (inches at 100 yards)Best group (inches at 100 yards)
Tula 55-grain FMJ53.53.25
AR 5.56 Independence 55-grain FMJ533
IMI M855 62-grain FMJ52.252
Winchester 77-grain BTHP31.10.9
IMI 77-grain “Razor Core” BTHP30.930.7

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.

Heavy 77-grain bullets produced the tightest 100-yard groups with the FN 15, thanks to its barrel's 1:7 twist rate.
Heavy 77-grain bullets produced the tightest 100-yard groups with the FN 15, thanks to its barrel’s 1:7 twist rate.

Final thoughts

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).

An FN rollmark is prominently displayed on the right side of the FN 15 Rifle's lower receiver.
An FN rollmark is prominently displayed on the right side of the FN 15 Rifle’s lower receiver.

 

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

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3 thoughts on “FNH USA FN 15 Rifle

  1. I purchased an FN 15 rifle in 20″ barrel, along with a Colt AR15A4. Both are exceptional shooters! No complaints. Either model will reach right out and touch…all day long…cheap ammo, expensive stuff, 55, 62 or 77 grain rounds…doesn’t matter. If you served in the armed forces before all the M-4 hype came about, THIS style of weapons platform is the rifle to own. If you want an M-4, purchase a Colt LE6920 or the FN 15 Carbine is any one of the varying configurations. You will not regret your decision.

  2. Thanks for the review! Having purchased an FN-15 Rifle myself about two months ago, I concur with everything you wrote. This rifle is very similar to the M16A2 I used back in the early 1990’s (which is why I bought it). It’s well-built, 100% reliable, plenty accurate, and for us old Army guys it also serves as a fun and quite literal blast from the past. Besides, I think 20″ AR’s are under-rated. While they may not be as compact as the M4 carbine, the 20″ barrel and its rifle-length gas system lends itself to increased accuracy, decreased recoil, arguably better reliability, and an overall more pleasant shooting experience. Sometimes “old school” is still the “preferred school”.

    I do agree, the trigger in this rifle is often coyly described by gun reviewers as “mil-spec”. Which is always code for “This trigger kinda sucks.” But seriously, it actually is a standard, mil-spec trigger. Which means it’s gritty, mushy and a bit crude. I imagine that if you were to install a nice aftermarket trigger in the FN-15 Rifle, you would have a scary-accurate shooter. For certain, the gun itself is intrinsically capable of shooting sub-MOA (with the right ammo, of course). But an aftermarket trigger would help immensely with that goal. I need to change mine when I get around to it.

    Just one point of slight disagreement. You wrote, “…it’s possible to build yourself a similarly-equipped AR from parts for a couple hundred dollars below the FN 15…”. That’s one of those things that’s sorta true, and sorta not true. When guys always say of AR’s, “I could build it myself for less money”, they pretty much ALWAYS neglect to put a dollar value on their time! But any economist will tell you that if you want to do a true apples-to-apples comparison on something like this, then you also have to assign some economic value to your time. In response to this guys will say, “But I build it in my free time, so there is no time cost.” Not true. Every hour of every day has a literal economic value to it. Just because we don’t understand or recognize this, doesn’t make it any less true. So, to find out the TRUE cost of building a rifle yourself, you have to assign some value to your time and then add that to the cost of the parts. When this is done, the price difference between “rolling your own” and buying becomes less than most people think. Aside from that, a factory-built rifle will almost always retain more value over time than a home-built rifle. This may be unimportant to some people, which is totally fine. But I know with myself, I sometimes get tired of a rifle and want to buy something new and/or different. In such cases, a factory rifle will generally retain better resale value.

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