Mil-Spec and No Nonsense

The FN 15 Tactical Carbine FDE P-LOK is an under-the-radar MSR that performs above its weight

Mil-Spec and No Nonsense

Nimble handling and speed are advantages that can pay big dividends in a rifle. You may work a bolt like greased lightning and never break your cheek weld, but when the situation requires more than a single shot, a soft-recoiling semi-auto still crosses the finish line first.

Finding a semi-auto that keeps up with bolt-guns in the reliability race isn’t hard with modern CNC machining. The real challenge is finding a carbine-length model capable of delivering a bullet accurately at the distances encountered in a sportsman’s hunting areas. 

Admittedly, long-range shots are not the application FN America had in mind when it designed the FN 15 Tactical Carbine, but it wrings the most out of its 5.56 NATO chambering through a 16-inch barrel. It also features the kind of reliability we’ve come to expect from the company. If terrain and foliage enforce a distance limit and mobility is mandatory, this gun deserves a close look.

No-Nonsense Approach

Today’s modern sporting rifles attract accessories like a magnet collects iron filings. Your display racks no doubt hold examples wearing optics, backup iron sights, lights, lasers and stocks capable of storing spare socks and lug wrench.

Yes, it looks great on display, but a few companies do understand that a nimble and streamlined foundation upon which to build is what serious sportsmen and women want. That approach is readily apparent in FN America’s FN 15 Series. 

This solid-performing line of MSRs is no-nonsense with options pretty much limited to the stock, barrel profile and a few other items tailored for different applications — including California-compliant versions. All are tactical black, except the competition version, which has racy blue upper and lower receivers and the FN 15 Tactical Carbine FDE P-LOK. The latter is flat dark earth on the upper and lower, as well as the handguard. The pistol grip and buttstock are similar in color. The combination is well suited for blending into the desert or fall foliage. 

They don’t come in packages “complete” with scopes, bipods, lights or lasers — although you can certainly accessorize in the store. Included, however, is FN’s performance, manufactured to the same strict tolerances as the M4s it produces for our troops.


Receivers And Barrel

Both receivers are Type 3 hardcoat anodized and the flattop upper features a 1913 mil-spec rail for effortless and fast scope mounting. There is no annoying high-rise A-frame sight up front to compromise sight picture or mandate modification. A low-profile, mid-length gas block pinned to the cold hammer-forged, match-grade16-inch barrel keeps things out of the way and provides full free floating. 

The lower receiver is Mil-Spec — the company has some experience in that area — and set up for right-handed shooters. An ambidextrous safety is easy to install and omitted in the spirit of this no-nonsense carbine. 

The Picatinny-style rail runs the entire length of the 12 1/2-inch handguard at the 12 o’clock position. That’s 18 inches of total rail  up top, just in case your customers want to add magnifiers, night vision, cameras, TVs, etc. They can determine the weight and bulk they’re comfortable with. 

At the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock sides of the forend, slots with M-LOK technology allow other items to anchor. A bipod comes to mind immediately for the bottom. 

Rifling is 1:7-inch right-hand twist. Chrome lining ensures years of trouble-free service and the muzzle end wears the signature FN SCAR three-prong flash hider. 

Its 5.56 NATO chambering allows the carbine to also digest .223 Rem. cartridges safely. That’s a nice advantage. Don’t expect cutting-edge accuracy if you take advantage of the versatility, although range sessions with the sample rifle were somewhat surprising.   

The FN 15 Tactical Carbine FDE P-LOK comes with a 30-round PMAG. The mag release is on the right side of the gun and is not ambidextrous. In evaluating, it dropped freely and there were no failures to feed or any stoppages. The forward assist obviously didn’t get much of a workout at the range.

FN Combat Trigger

The “FN Combat Trigger” name does not do justice to its clean, crisp and grit-free break. Resets were palpable, even audible in most instances. Let-off weight sampled 10 times with a Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge averaged 5 pounds, 8.6 ounces. The standard deviation of 0.6 pound is an enviable mark, particularly for a factory-stock unit with a name that might mistakenly lead someone to the believe the company cut corners there. It did not, and it’s a pleasure to get behind and deliver follow-up shots. There’s plenty of room for gloved use, although there is no texturing on the trigger shoe face to prevent slippage in inclement weather.   


Grip And Stock

B5 Systems manufacturers the polymer stock, which is adjustable to six different positions. The carbine’s overall length with the buttstock compressed is 34 inches and fully extended it stretches to 37.2 inches. A generous rubberized recoil pad minimizes energy transmitted to the shooter, although that’s not a serious concern with 5.56 NATO. The company also employs a heavy H1 buffer weight to further dampen recoil.

The buttstock has a QD mount for sling attachment or removal — a nice touch if the carbine does double duty for home defense. Slots are also available for more traditional anchoring. 

The pistol grip is also polymer and made by B5 Systems. It’s standard AR-15 fare, although nicely textured to ensure positive purchase in rain, snow or mud.


At The Range

With only one 5.56 NATO load available for five, five shot groups, I theorized the FN 15 Tactical Carbine FDE P-LOK’s accuracy wasn’t going to reflect well. Surprisingly, the averages were about the same through 25 rounds at 100 yards, although there seemed to be a slight preference for the heavier bullets in the sample gun. 

The range session wasn’t without frustration, though. Winchester 5.56 NATO 55-grain FMJs averaged 1.2-inch groups. The load’s best came in at 0.7-inch and I couldn’t repeat the feat or come close. Warm barrel? Operator error? I’m surmising the latter, but there’s no denying the potential is there. Once properly broken in, who knows how far that number can drop.   

The .223 Rem. loads — American Eagle 50-grain JHP and Hornady 50-grain V-Max — averaged 1.3 and 1.2 inches at 100 yards, respectively. The smallest groups they turned in were 0.9-inch each, giving a slight edge to the heavier 5.56 round. Obviously, though, this carbine is not finicky about bullet weight, at least at 100 yards.


Overall Impression

FN America has a winner in its FN 15 Tactical Carbine FDE P-LOK, although it doesn’t get the publicity it deserves. It’s hard to make headlines when you’re a straightforward, bare-bones carbine with nothing more than reliable performance and accuracy enough to get the job done.

That is, until you get behind the trigger and discover the sub-MOA potential.

Give the FN 15 Tactical Carbine FDE P-LOK some space in your rack and customers looking for a nimble carbine capable of connecting at most hunting distances will take note. It’s not a tack driver at 1,000 meters, but it swings fast, follows up flawlessly and despite the lack of hype, looks pretty good doing it.   


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