Even though FN has been making AR rifles for decades in the U.S. for the U.S. military, the company’s introduction of a civilian AR product line is relatively new. At least users do not have to worry about dealing with a new company that’s unfamiliar with producing quality AR rifles. This quality is evident in the plethora of FN 15 models available to the civilian market. Production currently takes place at the company’s Columbia, South Carolina, facility.
We all accept that professional competition shooters are some of the most skilled weapons handlers in the world—after all, that is what they do for a living—who get to expend time and ammunition to improve their skill levels to heights most can only imagine. There are reports of Tier One special operations units inviting world-class competition shooters to train with them in an effort to wring out any kernels of knowledge for running a handgun or rifle more efficiently. So, wouldn’t a rifle configured to perform at the highest levels of competition be a viable option for the rest of us? (Of course, a wary eye must be present to ensure that reliability and ruggedness are not compromised for the sake of “gaming” enhancements.)
Making The Grade
The FN 15 Competition rifle evolved directly from prototype rifles used by FN’s 3-Gun team. The 5.56mm FN 15 Competition features an 18-inch, 1-in-8-inch-twist, cold-hammer-forged, chrome-lined, match-grade barrel with a SureFire ProComp 556 muzzle brake attached. The minimalist 16-inch M-LOK handguard from Mega Arms defines the rifle’s aesthetics while providing plenty of real estate for support hand placement. The forend allows the barrel to remain free-floating for increased accuracy potential.
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FN decided to use an M-LOK handguard because it weighs less compared to a full-length Picatinny rail while still making it easy to add accessories as needed. Magpul’s MOE-SL buttstock and MOE pistol grip complete the FN 15 Competition’s furniture components. The lower receiver also sports a single-stage Timney trigger to enhance the shooter’s interface with the rifle. Weighing 8.1 pounds, the FN 15 Competition is one of lighter match AR rifles on the market, yet it features an 18-inch barrel, a full-length handguard and an overall length tha can be adjusted from 35.7 to 39 inches.
The FN 15 Competition’s upper and lower receivers are made from a billet of 7075-T6 aluminum before being given a distinctive blue hardcoat anodizing that helps the rifle stand out. The bolt carrier assembly is nickel-boron-coated for improved lubricity. An ambidextrous bolt release is also included. The upper receiver features a flattop configuration for mounting optics. Finally, no sights are included with the FN 15 Competition.
For the range test, I used a Steiner M5Xi 1-5X scope with an illuminated reticle with the FN 15 Competition. This was my first opportunity to evaluate the Steiner M5Xi, which is designed for both instinctive close-range/low-magnification situations with a variable-intensity, red illuminated reticle, yet it still allows shooters to engage targets with greater precision at longer ranges thanks to its 5X capability and Rapid Dot reticle. The FN 15 Competition, when mated with the variable-power M5Xi, is able to handle a variety of shooting scenarios with equal aplomb.
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The ammunition used for testing the FN 15 Competition consisted of Black Hills’ 77-grain Match load, Hornady’s 75-grain TAP FPD load and Federal’s 69-grain Gold Medal Match load. The emphasis was on heavier premium 5.56mm loads. This was a nod to requirement of greater accuracy and better long-range performance. The FN 15 Competition rifle kept all groups at 1 inches or smaller at 100 yards. The Black Hills, Federal and Hornady loads all produced sub-MOA groups. These accuracy results were obtained with the Steiner scope set on 5X magnification. The Rapid Dot reticle made it easy to get accurate hits on target very quickly. Velocity figures ranged from 2,600 to 2,700 fps.
I ran the FN 15 Competition at the Echo Valley Training Center. This training center’s layout and various steel targets and simulated barricades allow shooters to evaluate firearms from several different perspectives. I used the FN 15 Competition within the 100-yard bays while firing from barricades and engaging multiple targets, on a prepared firing position line with targets placed out to 300 yards and on Echo Valley’s “Jungle Walk” range. I ran numerous drills involving magazine changes and moving between barricades. Steel silhouettes were situated randomly from 35 to 310 yards.
The FN 15 Competition made short work of the drills by striking targets in quick fashion. I fired over 400 rounds during the evaluation. The rifle-length gas system and SureFire ProComp muzzle brake made for a smooth recoil impulse, allowing for rapid follow-up shots and smooth transitions between multiple targets.
The inherent modularity of the AR platform is its greatest attribute for adapting to individual preference, whether it is for competition, target shooting, military and law enforcement use or personal defense. The AR platform seems to be coming full circle in terms of returning to a sleeker, more svelte form. The FN 15 Competition is an excellent example of this.
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Generally speaking, there are minimal differences between ARs with labels like “Recon,” “SPR,” “DMR” and “Competition.” These ARs are designed to be effective in CQB encounters (where users will have to fired multiple rounds at very short distances) while still being able to offer precise fire out to 350 and 400 yards. Each seeks to minimize weight and keep the weapon’s profile sleek for better handling, all while offering superior accuracy and longer-range terminal performance than shorter-barreled ARs. To that end, the FN 15 Competition shines.
The benefits of the FN 15 Competition’s handling and superior accuracy are hard to deny. Make sure you check it out.
For more information, visit http://www.fnamerica.com or call 703-288-3500.