[Review+Video] FN 15 Patrol Carbine: Classic Excellence

While most of us would love to own a real full-auto M4 or M16, that’s a dream that isn’t likely to come true. So what is the next best thing?

Some would say a Colt AR-15, but I say it’s an FN AR-15. And so here it is, the FN 15 Patrol Carbine!

FN 15 in the wild
FN 15 Patrol Carbine

Does this civilian version of the M4 live up to the name? Is it worth the price tag?

GunPrime sent one to Johnny for testing so that we could find out! Be sure to take a look at his video and subscribe to the Pew Pew Tactical YouTube channel.

Table of Contents

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America’s Rifle, Brought To You By Belgium

Many of us are fully aware of the story but for them of you that missed it, you might be wondering why the most American of rifles is not made by an American company.

Back in the day the AR-15 was designed by ArmaLite, but sold the rights to Colt before the Army adopted the M16 in 1964.

M16 Vietnam
M16 in Vietnam

Fast-forward 20 years and in 1983 Colt’s patents on the AR-15 platform expired, opening the market for other manufactures to build their own without paying Colt.

5 years later the Army was looking for a new batch of M16A2 rifles, FN won the contract by undercutting Colt by $57.50 per rifle. Since then the vast majority of M16s in American service has been made by FN. They even picked up the contract for M4 rifles starting in 2013.

Putting on that Uniform Is the Only Way You’ll get to shoot a real M4.
M4 carbine with a KAC RAS quad rail handguard

Just to be clear though, all of the FN rifles were made in South Carolina — but the company was owned by FN.

And so here we are today and I say to you: The best M4/M16 style rifle you can own is one made by FN.

899
at GunPrime

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Range Report

Johnny took to the range to test out the FN 15 Patrol Carbine and came away from it floored by the quality and function of this classic rifle.

Everything about the FN 15 lives up to what you would expect.

The fit and finish are outstanding, the parts run flawlessly, and even the branding is subtle but sexy.

FN 15

With an MSRP of around $1,200 and a street price of $900, you are clearly not paying for a budget rifle. But you are getting what you pay for.

…It is kind of old school though.

It’s Not “Dated” It’s “Classic”!

While FN makes models of the FN 15 with M-Lok rails and free-floated handguards, the Patrol Carbine is much closer to the M4A1 with a quad rail made by Midwest Industries, a front sight block, an A2 grip, and the M4 adjustable stock.

FN 15 range ready

This is a very bare-bones rifle, no ambi controls or extended releases to be found. Even the box it comes in is basic cardboard.

FN 15 in the box
(gloves not included)

None of that is a bad thing though, what you are getting is an ultra-reliable and durable rifle for a good price. The fit and finish are perfect and the function is flawless.

From steel case to brass case the FN 15 ate everything that was thrown at it and did so from just able every AR magazine maker on the market.

FN 15 every magazine
Magazines tested with the FN 15

There isn’t much else to say about this rifle. It ran, it’s great, and it’s classic. A single negative point on it was the trigger, while FN says it’s “smooth” it really isn’t.

There are ways and brands that made a great milspec trigger, but this was not one of them. This was very… milspec in its roughness and feel.

Upgrades?

If you want a classic rifle or use this as a base for an M4 or SOPMOD clone, then go for it!

SOPMOD 1.5 Clone (4)
M4 SOPMOD 1.5 Clone

But if you want to use this as a personal go-to rifle, you might want to flesh this out with some upgrades. The top of our list would be the stock and grip.

AR-15 Grip All
All of the Best AR-15 Grips we’ve tested!

The quad rail, while durable, strong, and great for mounting lights, lasers, and more will wear on your hand. If you don’t get rail covers for it, consider some gloves.

Editor's Choice Shooting Glove
42
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

And of course you’ll want some optics. If you want to go with a classic, an ACOG is what you need.

Trijicon-ACOG-Models-Top-Down-View
Best ACOGs

But for a more general use or HD optic, consider a red dot or holographic sight like the EOTech 512.

376
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Don’t get us wrong though, the irons included on the FN 15 are solid and accurate, but they are irons.

FN 15 rear iron sight
FN 15 rear sight

Even if you do upgrade with an optic (check out Best AR-15 Scopes & Optics), you’ll still have a top tier folding backup sight.

A Couple AR-15 Optics
A Couple AR-15 Optics

By The Numbers

Reliability: 5/5

Maybe the most worry-free rifle I’ve ever worked with. It runs. 

Ergonomics: 3.5/5

Controls are fine, but until you fix the foregrip situation, it’s like grabbing a pineapple. 

FN 15 quad rail
FN 15 quad rail

Accuracy: 4/5

No AR carbine will get you a mile-shot award, but the FN-15 will get you on target for the distances it’s designed for. 

Customization: 4/5

The entire AR aftermarket is at your disposal. Other than being limited to the short guards, you got options. 

Value: 4/5

If you can find it at the lower street prices, ton of value. If you have to pay full retail, just whisper “buy once cry once” to yourself. 

899
at GunPrime

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Overall: 4/5

Crazy solid rifle. Reliability out the wazoo. And that quad rail will allow you to rock a bipod and harvest those IG hearts. 

Conclusion

The FN 15 Patrol Carbine is far from fancy but it’s one of the best made and most reliable ARs on the market today. Accuracy is good and the finish is one of the nicest I’ve seen. However, the quadrail is retro and you might need gloves to comfortably shoot it, but all-in-all the FN 15 is a winner.

FN 15 up hill both ways
FN 15 shoots up hill both ways

Made by a company with hundreds of thousands of military and civilian AR-15s under their belt, you can trust this rifle when everything else fails.

From a patrol rifle, to a ranch rifle, to blasting steel targets in the back mountains — this rifle is one you can count on.

How do you like your FN rifles? Colt Vs. FN? Let us know in the comments! If you’re ready to upgrade your classic rifle, take a look at the Best AR-15 Upgrades and the Best AR-15 Optics!

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8 Leave a Reply

  • Jonathan E. Sandahl

    I would have a rifle made by FNH USA over Colt any time. I've had failures with two Colt firearms that I have used, one was my issue M16A2 in boot camp and the other was a 1911 Officer Special 3". The former had a particle of sand in the sear so the hammer would not lock back, the latter had the ambidextrous safety lever snap in half; a carbon inclusion in the metal caused it to break while being fired. It was like a tiny bit of charcoal or pencil lead was in the steel.

    4 months ago
  • AJ

    FN website says this model is available for law enforcement only. How do you call this a civilian version?

    4 months ago
    • W

      Just saw that too. Found them in stock online and went to FN's website to compare the price to the MSRP, and now I'm worried I'll end up on some kind of list if I try to buy one. Nothing about it seems to violate any gun laws I'm my state, so pretty I'm confused.

      3 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      We saw that too, no idea why it's marked as LE only. It's widely available from retailers and distributors.

      4 months ago
  • Mark B

    I have the FN M4 rifle and I love it. Over 5000 rounds through it and never had a fail. Use provided carry handle, iron sights, and it just rocks. Same rifle I carried during 2 of 3 deployments into the sandbox. I prefer the 20" barrel, I've always shot better using the long barrel vs carbine length.

    4 months ago
  • Brian

    FN makes some of the best barrels for the AR platform, they are more accurate than most. I miss the M-16 A2 I used in the Army back in the 1990's.

    4 months ago
  • Jesus is Lord

    I would cover up the rails with knights armaments rail covers add a vertical grip and carry handle keep it simple. Love the rifle similar to mine but mine has what I said. Loving the old school look more than the new school just my thing.

    4 months ago
  • Ben

    Quad rail with larue index clips is the most comfortable for me.

    4 months ago
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