Read more at FNAmerica.com: https://www.fnamerica.com/products/collector-series/military-collectors-series/
Buy one on GunsAmerica: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=fn%20m16
I Want a True MIL-SPEC Rifle
How many times have you heard the term “MIL-SPEC rifle” thrown around in relation to the AR-15 platform? Well, MIL-SPEC is more than just a quality of material and sizing of the parts, let’s be clear; MIL-SPEC means that it is approved by a U.S. government inspector. Aside from a few (typically, very expensive) exceptions, a civilian will not be getting their hands on a true MIL-SPEC rifle. These inspections assure some important details, such as HPT/MPI testing of bolts and barrels, staked nuts on the gas key, .154” diameter pins for the fire control group, and M4 feed ramps. All of these ensure quality, durability and interchangeability of parts.
How Close Can You Get?
Until a few months ago, the closest you could get to owning a MIL-SPEC Rifle was purchasing a Colt LE 6920. This will get you close, but not quite there. At the 2016 SHOT Show, I had a chance to visit with the good folks at FN. They were showing the FN MILITARY COLLECTOR SERIES of rifles. These guns are only a few key deviations from what the military gets: the lower parts set is not full auto, the receiver is not drilled for the auto sear, and there is no automatic sear assembly. Other than these (very important) differences, the guns are identical to those delivered to the military.
The FN Military Collector Series M16
The lower receiver is comprised of hard-anodized aluminum, marked 5.56×45 mm. NATO. The fixed, A2 rifle butt-stock is attached to a MIL-SPEC buffer tube. The receiver has an ambidextrous selector (which I love), in order to support the occasional southpaw shooter, and to allow for shoulder-switching as needed to utilize cover. It also has the government UID Label.
The upper receiver is a flat-top with a MIL-SPEC M-1913 rail at the 12 o’clock position. Of course, it has a forward assist and brass deflector. The bolt and carrier are straight out of the M-16 rifle, including the HPT/MPI mark on the bolt. What does this mean? Well, according to the GAO: 18.104.22.168 Bolt inspection, the bolt shall be magnetic particle inspected in accordance with MIL-STD-1949, utilizing standard five turn magnetizing coil with a current of 200 to 300 amperes. Both circular and longitudinal continuous magnetization with wet fluorescent solution shall be used. The bolts shall be examined for evidence of cracks, seams and other injurious defects. 7.4.1 Test cartridge. One (1) high-pressure test cartridge shall be fired in each bolt and barrel assembly. Unless otherwise specified, the bolt and barrel assembly shall be tested concurrently. After proof-firing, cartridge cases shall be examined for bulges, splits, rings and other defects caused by defective chambers of the barrel assembly. The bolt carrier key is properly torqued and staked according to the government standard as well.
The barrel is a 20″ chrome-lined button-broached 1:7″ RH twist, with an A2 compensator. Again, this meets the designated specification: 3.4.4 High Pressure resistance. Each barrel assembly and bolt shall withstand the firing of one Government standard M197, 5.56mm high pressure test cartridge conforming to MIL-C-46936. After proof-firing, parts shall be free of cracks, seams and other injurious defects as evidenced by visual and magnetic particle inspection.
There are other little details, like the parkerizing under the front sight base- most commercial guns have the front sight base attached to the barrel before parkerizing the entire assemblage. This results in the outside of the barrel, under the rings, and the rings themselves not being parkerized, which can lead to corrosion under the sight base. The barrel is adorned with a Knights Armament M5 RAS adapter rail, with rail adapter covers and down handle, as per the current government contract.
The rear sight is a removable/adjustable flip-up design, with elevation adjustments from 200-600 yards. The front sight is a traditional military fixed-base with elevation adjustment.
The gun comes with one aluminum body magazine that has a low friction follower. The total package with magazine weighs in at 8.479 Lbs.
A Collector’s Gun
Since the 1986 ban on private ownership of new machine guns, most of us enthusiasts simply cannot collect modern military rifles, as all of the currently-issued rifles are select fire- either 3 round burst or full auto. Apart from the lower receiver parts (as mentioned above) this FN Military Collector M-16 is a perfect copy of the current military-issue M-16; the Auto position is even marked on the receiver.
Not Just a Wall Hanger (or Safe Queen)
Sure, this gun can be added to your collection and hung on the wall, or tucked away in your safe as a “Hey, looky-here!” I promise you, treating this rifle as such will deprive you of the best part of owning it: taking her shooting. From the moment I picked this baby up from my FFL, I could hear her calling my name, begging for a trip to the range. I am really not big on collecting- I am more of a shooter. To me, the most rewarding aspect of being a gun guy is experiencing the guns I enjoy, as opposed to owning the ones I want. To each his own, but I gotta tell you: if you don’t take this thing shooting, you’re missing out!
On the Range
I had a plan for this test, because I actually had a few specific questions I wanted answers for. How accurate would this rifle be with several types of ammunition and bullet weights? Would it run reliably with every kind of ammunition I could throw at it? Finally, would the extra weight of the 20” barrel, A2 Stock and Knight Arms quad rail be worth the advantages of those accessories? Or was this just another pretty face to show off to friends?
The first test was accuracy. To assist my old eyes, I added a Burris XTR II™ 2-10x42mm scope. This scope has the G2B Mil-Dot reticle that uses 1/2-mil hash marks between the 1-mil dots, allowing for precise hold overs and hold offs. It is also a first focal plane scope, so the reticle size increases or decreases as magnification is increased or decreased. I mounted and leveled the scope to the rifle and did a quick bore sight before heading out.
After arrival and setup, I fired 6 rounds at 50 yards, and was quickly ready to move to the 100-yard line. At the 100-yard mark I invested 10-12 rounds getting my zero. I then fired ten rounds from my lead sled that measured a mere .89” center to center. These shots were done with Black Hills .55 grain soft point ammunition. I found that the gun preferred heavier loads, but even 40 grain Winchester varmint loads performed acceptably.
My goal for the next trip to the range was to test performance. With this in mind, I selected 3 magazines along with 6 types and weights of ammunition. I ran several different drills with the rifle, along with some “Just for Fun” mag dumps (which are the best kind of mag dumps, if you ask me). I managed to get the rifle hot! The heat didn’t seem to phase the rifle a bit, and at no point did I even see a hint of a problem. No matter what abuse I threw at it, the gun performed flawlessly.
This rifle was a pleasure to shoot! The additional weight and barrel length made this a soft-shooting gun; I never even considered slowing down my shooting to keep control. Follow-up shots were effortless, and frankly the gun just ran like it was mounted to a table.
Like the rest of the gun, the trigger is MIL-SPEC. It has a 5.5 pound break with a minimal amount of take up. This trigger is designed to ignite military grade ammunition repeatedly, reliably, and consistently–even while dirty and suffering from lack of maintenance. While that wasn’t possible to test thoroughly in this review, I saw no reason to doubt the trigger’s effectiveness. There are better triggers, but this is part of the M16 package.
The AR-15 rifle has been around since before the soldiers carrying them today were even born. Unlike the first copies put into service, this particular rifle is a debugged weapon system. Is there room for improvement? Always! But that’s for another article on another day.
Not for Everyone (But a Must Have for Some)
Is this gun for you? I don’t know… but with an MSRP of $1,749.00, you will have to move past the legion of people saying “I have this gun that I built myself for $129.99 with internet parts- what a rip!” What I would ask myself is this: “Do I want to get as close as possible to a true MIL-SPEC gun? Do I want to have a military collection?” If your answer is yes, then I really don’t think you can do much better than this.