Recently I got my hot little hands on one of the new FNH USA rifles for 2015. This one is the FN 15 DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle). It’s designed to shoot accurately. More specifically, it’s designed to shoot longer and heavier projectiles accurately. Does it? Let’s find out.
What makes a DMR a DMR?
If this rifle claims to be for a designated marksman, then it needs to have marksman-like features and do marksman things exceptionally well. Let’s take a look at the specific characteristics first, then later we’ll get into more detail on accuracy performance.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice that the whole rifle is longer than the typical AR-15. That’s because it has an 18-inch, match-grade barrel. It’s hammer forged, chrome plated, and chambered in 5.56mm NATO, so you’re good to go with either .223 Remington or 5.56mm military ammo. Partnered with the extended-length barrel is a mid-length gas system. The longer barrel provides extra velocity over the standard 16-inch barrels with most ammunition, while the longer gas system chills out the recoil action noticeably. AR-15s chambered in 5.56mm don’t have much recoil to start with, but this one takes soft shooting to a whole new level.
Capping the end of the barrel is a SureFire ProComp 556 muzzle brake. The brake has large side ports, which make the rifle somewhat loud near the shooter. There are two small ports on the top of the brake pointing upward and slightly back, presumably to keep the muzzle from rising and enable fast follow-up shots.
The muzzle brake is plenty effective. While shooting offhand or from the bench, I could detect no real muzzle jump, so staying on target was easy. As nice as the muzzle brake is, the first thing I would do is put a 5.56mm suppressor on this rifle, perhaps something like a SilencerCo Saker 556. Yes, it would make a long rifle even longer, but I’m thinking the combination of the 18-inch barrel, mid-length gas system, and a silencer would make this an exceptionally fun gun. The included brake is not suppressor compatible, so I would probably mount a standard flash hider for a suppressor mount. I really can’t imagine that this rifle would start jumping from recoil if I switched from a brake to a flash hider.
Next on the list is a Timney Competition Single-Stage trigger. A long list of things contribute to accuracy potential, but the inclusion of a quality trigger is probably the best bang for the buck in wringing out all the inherent accuracy potential of any rifle. The DMR trigger pull measured 3.25 pounds, each and every time. There is no take-up, just a crisp break.
On a rifle like this, a free-floated barrel is a must, and this one uses the Midwest Industries SSM M-LOK 15-inch forearm. I’ve used plenty of KeyMod rails before, but this was my first shooting experience with the M-LOK system. Many of the benefits are similar. The rail has a small diameter and lots of air flow to release heat buildup from the barrel. Picatinny rail is only present along the entire top of the receiver and 15-inch rail. The top rail slots are numbered, so you can remove and re-add optics or lasers without loss of zero. The sides are smooth, with M-LOK attachment points running the length at the three, six, and nine o’clock positions on the rail.
The idea is that you put M-LOK rail segments only where you need to attach things. The rest of the rail remains smooth and lightweight. FN includes one M-LOK segment that you can place where you want.
I really, really like the handguard. Its circumference is significantly less than traditional front rails. I can easily wrap my hand completely around the hand guard, and my thumb still overlaps my fingers by a good half-inch or more.
There are some other included features that may not directly affect accuracy, but they help make the FN 15 DMR a rifleman’s rifle. The buttstock is a Magpul STR collapsible model. It has a large and smooth cheekweld area with battery storage compartments, quick-detach sling points, sling slots, and an angled rubber butt plate. My favorite part of this buttstock is the locking feature. A lever releases the stock to move between six positions. Once you select a position you like, you can squeeze a secondary lever to “lock” the butt stock in place. A little extra pressure on the release lever allows you to move it again.
You’ll also find a Magpul MOE pistol grip and Magpul trigger guard suitable for gloved-hand use. While we’re talking about Magpul accessories, the rifle includes one Gen 3 PMAG.
FNH USA includes a set of Magpul MBUS Pro front and rear sights so you can start shooting right out of the box. This rifle screams for quality optics, so these flip-up sights make an excellent backup sight solution once you add your favorite optic.
I spent most of my time with this rifle experimenting with different types of commercial and hand-loaded ammo, just to see what it was capable of. FN claims it’s a 2 MOA (minute of angle) rifle with factory match-grade ammunition. If you’re not familiar with minutes of angle and other distance shooting obscurities, that simply means that it will place all shots within a two-inch circle at 100 yards. I found this 2 MOA guarantee to be a pretty significant understatement.
First, this rifle offers a 1:7-inch twist rate consistent with its advertised DMR mission. The faster twist rate will shoot light bullets just fine, but also stabilize longer and heavier bullets. I shot plenty of standard 55-grain bullets and a number of 77-grain loads to see how the DMR performed with each.
I shot all rounds from 100 yards and measured five-shot groups. To get a better sight picture, I mounted a Nikon Precision AR Optic 2-7×32 scope. The 7x magnification gave me a far more precise picture at 100 yards than I could get with the standard iron sights. Here’s a summary of what I found.
As you can see, I had no trouble at all shooting more accurately than the 2 MOA accuracy guarantee. But that’s OK, I would always prefer companies to be conservative with marketing claims. Exceeding customer expectations is a great thing for both buyer and seller.
The big surprise for me was the American Eagle 55-grain FMJ ammo. This is a low-cost practice round, commonly available in local stores and online. Thinking my good groups were a fluke, I fired a bunch of five-shot groups and got similar results consistently. Not too shabby. Note that this is the AR223 part number, not the M855 steel core version. I’ve found M855 of most any brand to be noticeably less accurate than standard jacketed lead projectiles.
What didn’t surprise me too much were the results from the IMI 77-grain OTM ammo. We tested that here at OutdoorHub a while back and found the results to be exceptional. Five-shot groups less than an inch at 100 yards? This is the type of ammo the FN 15 DMR was made for.
I was fairly careful building the handloads shown here, but due to the great powder shortage of 2013-2015, I used what I had. I also used standard small rifle primers, not benchrest primers, which would have almost certainly yielded even better accuracy. But I won’t complain about 1.17-inch groups using off the shelf components and previously fired brass. As soon as I can find some, I’m going to build some 77-grain Sierra MatchKing loads with H4985 and benchrest primers, then we’ll see what this rifle is really capable of.
The DMR name of this rifle pays homage to FN’s history of making combat rifles for our armed forces. Over the past couple of years, FNH USA has launched a slew of rifle, pistol, and shotgun models aimed at the consumer market.
This particular rifle certainly has the specs for law enforcement or military use. It would also make a great competitive rifle. The mid-length gas system is perfect for controlled rapid fire shooting and the 15-inch rail offers plenty of real estate for short and long range optics customization.
MSRP of the FN 15 DMR is $1,899, but you can find them for about $1,650 if you shop.
As you would expect from a rifle in this price point, fit and finish are outstanding. Everything that needs to line up perfectly does. My rifle arrived properly lubricated in all the right places. Simply put, this is one of those cases where you open the box and say “Wow!”
While true reliability measures only come with thousands of rounds, I used at least a dozen types of ammo of varying weights and velocities with this rifle. I had no malfunctions or feed errors of any type. As the rifle arrived lubricated, I did nothing to it through the duration of this evaluation.
You know how it goes—you get what you pay for. Can you buy a nice AR-15 rifle for less than $1,000? Yes. Is this one worth the approximate street price of $1,650? Yes. Just the Magpul add-ons and Timney trigger alone get you into that price territory. Factor in the match-grade extended barrel, SureFire muzzle brake, and overall performance of this rifle, and it’s money well spent.
Would I recommend it? Heck, I’m figuring out how to buy this one.
Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.
Images by Tom McHale