Prize Fighter: The FN 15 Competition 5.56 AR – Full Review

The FN 15 Competition from FN is tailor made for 3-Gun shooting. It is designed to be fast, reliable and accurate. Image courtesy of the manufacturer.

There are plenty of famous and long-established gun manufacturers in America but in Europe, few stand out more than FN (or by their original name Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre). This Belgian company was first established in 1889 to produce military small arms, a tradition that continues to this day as FN is the largest exporter of small arms in Europe. The company also produces in Columbia, SC, numerous small arms for the U.S. military including M4/M4A1 carbines, M16 rifles, MK46, MK48 and M240 machine guns, and the MK19 grenade launcher. FN’s parent company, the Herstal Group, also owns Browning and Winchester and indeed the company itself had a decades-long relationship with John Moses Browning and the development of civilian firearms as well.

Given this long and distinguished history that has so well served the needs of both the military and those of hunters and sportsmen we must ask, what would a combination of the two look like? We now have our answer in the FN 15 Competition rifle. Competitive shooting is a popular and entertaining activity that is growing in popularity. In fact, the first Gold Medal won by the US at the Rio Olympics was in shooting. 3-Gun competition hasn’t made it to the Olympics yet but it is an unquestionably challenging and athletic shooting sport.

The blue anodized billet receivers mark the rifle as a competition model from FN. Image courtesy of the manufacturer.

From the tip of its muzzle brake to the end of its buttplate, the FN 15 Competition offers a lot of capability to the serious competitive shooter. Image courtesy of the manufacturer.

SPECS

  • CHAMBERING: 5.56 NATO
  • BARREL: 18 inches, chrome lined 1:8 twist
  • OA LENGTH: 7 inches (collapsed); 39 inches (extended)
  • WEIGHT: 8.1 pounds
  • STOCK: Magpul six-position
  • SIGHTS: None/Rail
  • ACTION: Semi-auto
  • FINISH: Blue hard coat anodized
  • CAPACITY: 30+1
  • PRICE: $2,249

The FN 15 Competition was tailor made for 3-Gun from the ground up. As the name implies, competitors must shoot their way through a series of stages that offer different types of challenges involving different-sized targets, movement, cover, and distances while switching out between pistol, shotgun and rifle. The fastest and most accurate wins, and ranges that host these events continuously strive to offer interesting and tough stations.

This is an AR semi-automatic rifle chambered in 5.56×45 NATO (although the receiver is marked multi-caliber) with a direct gas impingement system of operation. Unlike the standard FN 15, which is built to the exact Mil-Spec criteria as the US Military contract rifles FN produces, the Competition rifle is completely unique starting with the billet upper and lower receivers. Made from 7075 T651 aluminum they are hard coat anodized in a deep blue, called FN blue and which the company uses for their competition guns and shooting team colors.

The author topped the billet upper receiver off with a TruGlo TruBrite 30 Hunter scope for accuracy testing.

The match-grade barrel is 18 inches and chromed lined and made with FN’s cold hammer forging process where a steel blank is hammered around a mandrel creating the lands and grooves as well as the chamber of the barrel and producing longer life and improved accuracy. The rifle length gas tube moves the gas hole closer to the muzzle, providing less dwell time—the amount of time the bullet spends in the barrel after it passes the gas tube and before it exits the barrel. This shorter dwell time reduces the amount of gas and fouling that goes back into the chamber to operate the bolt helping to reduce wear and tear on internal parts as well as perceived recoil.

The low-profile gas block also allows for the use of a handguard that keeps the barrel free floating, helping to improve accuracy. The rifle’s accuracy potential is also aided by the use of a heavy profile barrel which also places more weight at the forward end of the rifle than a standard barrel, helping to minimize muzzle climb for faster follow up shots. The 1 in 8 inch twist rate is also a good compromise between the more common 1 in 7 and 1 in 9 and properly stabilizes both lightweight and heavier bullets.

The handguard rail system on the FN 15 Competition is a 16 inch Mega Arms rail system which incorporates Magpul’s M-LOK technology. M-LOK stands for Modular Lock system and it uses elongated slots along the length of the handguards that allow the user to install rails and accessories anywhere along the bottom and sides using a steel cammed T-nut and Allen wrench. The Mega Arms rail also features 16 inches of Picatinny rail on top for multiple optics and back-up sight mounting options. This will especially appeal to 3-Gun shooters who often use a magnified optic for long-range shots and an offset secondary iron or red dot sights for close-range targets.

The heavy barrel is topped off with a SureFire ProComp 556 muzzle brake.

The barrel is topped off with a Surefire ProComp 556 muzzle break which is designed to reduce recoil and muzzle climb. Unlike some other compensators, the ProComp is designed to keep the shooters next to you from getting blasted by gas and noise. It is also melonite finished for corrosion resistance and features pilot holes at the 3 and 9 o’clock position to tune the break for the user’s individual shooting style and/or load.

The billet lower receiver on the FN 15 Competition features an integrated and oversized trigger guard for easier gloved use. The magazine well has been flared for faster magazine changes. The controls are standard for a right handed shooter with the exception of an ambidextrous bolt release. Located on the right side of the receiver, the release is actually extremely well placed above the magazine catch and can be activated with the trigger finger.

The handguard is a free-floated 16-inch Mega Arms rail system which incorporates Magpul’s M-LOK technology.

The upper receiver has a Picatinny rail flat top design and a standard dust cover and forward assist. The design of the upper and lower receivers is also very well done and attractive and the blue finish is impeccable. Internally, the FN 15 Competition comes standard with a 3.5 to 4 pound single stage Timney trigger. The bolt carrier (but not the gas key or bolt itself) has been Nickel-Boron (NiB) coated, which prevents corrosion and adds a high degree of natural lubricity.

The furniture on this rifle includes the large and ergonomic Magpul MOE Grip with an aggressive surface on the sides, a large beavertail, internal storage and serrations at the front and back. The six-position Magpul MOE-SL buttstock is an attractive and well thought out design as well. With a snag-free profile, it has easy but firm length of pull adjustment, ambidextrous quick detach sling attachment points and a rubber buttpad that helps keep the rifle on the shoulder.

The magazine well of the lower receiver is generously flared for high-speed magazine changes.

Best of the Best

This rifle is basically an FN custom built gun for their competitors, now available to everyone. It was first seen and used in 2015 at the 3-Gun Nation Finals and it was this same FN 15 Competition that was used by FN Pro Team shooter Mark Hanish to win first place at the 2016 3-Gun Nation Pro Series Qualifier match in Virginia.

The rifle employs a standard direct gas impingement system of operation, and the bolt carrier is nickel-boron coated for lubricity.

“The FN 15 Competition has seen its fair share of professional-level shooting events already with its debut at the 2015 3-Gun Nation Finals and again when I earned the first-place slot at the 2016 3-Gun Nation Qualifier to move on to this year’s finals,” said Mark Hanish, Sr. Director of Commercial Sales for FN America, LLC and FN Pro Team competitor. “The superb balance, crisp trigger, and recoil mitigating systems designed into this rifle make it blazing fast for close paper targets and rock steady for precision offhand shots.”

On the range, the rifle did indeed perform as advertised and functioned flawlessly out of the box with zero maintenance. Recoil was virtually not an issue and the heavy barrel combined with the muzzle break made it easy to stay on target for fast follow-up shots.

3-Gun shooters tend to use lower magnification optics, so I opted for the new Tru-Brite 30 Hunter scope from TruGlo. This variable 1-4×24 scope features a 30mm tube for an extreme field of view that allows faster target identification and engagement. It is built tough but won’t break the bank and has good light transmission. At the lowest setting, it can easily be used with both eyes open. I was concerned how well it would perform at distance, since I typically test for accuracy using a higher powered optic, but apparently needlessly. I did like that it features easier and faster to set 1/2 MOA windage and elevation adjustments and included mounting rings.

The rifle is a real shooter, as this 100-yard group with HPR ammo the author achieved shows.

For accuracy, I tested the FN 15 Competition at 100 yards from a stable bench rest using a mix of range- and match-grade ammunition. The results at just 4X magnification were impressive with at least two groups coming in at or under MOA. In 3-Gun speed counts for more than absolute precision but it is nice to see that this competition rifle is well capable of extreme accuracy.

In 3-Gun competition, there can be a fair amount of movement as competitors must run from one target area to the next on some stages while engaging multiple targets. These bursts of activity are not prolonged but can be taxing for those not in better shape. Here is where we must express a bit of a quibble. While the heavy barrel does produce solid accuracy results, a much-needed feature on a competition rifle, it also helps bring the rifle’s weight to over 8 pounds. And this is before you add optics, sights, sling, and a full magazine. A heavier rifle like this will induce fatigue faster for some shooters, so better hit the gym as well as the range.

The price of the FN 15 Competition reflects its custom nature and precision construction. It may seem high at $2,249 at first glance but it is firmly in line with many other high-end precision AR rifles. Also, keep in mind that this is the rifle FN’s own shooting team relies on to win championships. FN offers shooters here a custom competition rifle backed up by one of the largest and most renowned firearms manufacturers in the world. Sounds like a winner to us!

To learn more, visit https://fnamerica.com/products/rifles/fn-15-competition/.

To purchase on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?Keyword=FN%2015%20Competition.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Jayson June 30, 2017, 9:29 am

    That’ll be my new EDC if it really collapses down to seven inches!!

  • Kevin June 19, 2017, 10:19 am

    Break……unbelievable

  • BOhio June 19, 2017, 6:55 am

    Given how ubiquitous the AR15 setup has become, the germane info could have been provided in a MUCH shorter article.
    As in: price, bore twist, trigger type/weight, overall rifle weight, unusual or atypical features, and legitimate accuracy testing results. All the rest is filler, and apparently the author is being paid by the word. Anecdotal comments re: a couple of groups at/under MOA is worthless, esp. considering this rifle is meant for serious competition, and costs $2.2k. (My Valmet M76 in .223 could produce the occasional sub-MOA 5-shot group at 100y from the bench — with iron sights — but that doesn’t constitute a reasonable testing protocol …)

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