Gun Review: FN 15 Tactical Carbine II Rifle

Gun Review: FN 15 Tactical Carbine II Rifle

My Combat Rifle students often bring homemade rifles. They always run into issues: malfunctions, broken parts and assorted failures. SMH. I always advise shooters to buy a complete rifle from a reputable manufacturer; a package that includes the trigger, sights, lower and upper and lower receiver, barrel, hand guard and birdcage flash hider. That’s because . . .

factory rifles from reputable manufacturers must meet stringent standards to ensure accuracy, integrated performance and end user safety. But most of all, they’re reliable.

Gun Review: FN 15 Tactical Carbine II Rifle

You have no idea when you might need your rifle: home defense, natural disaster, riot, neighborhood protection, hunting, etc. As the Talking Heads cautioned us, this ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around.

Whatever else you can say about your rifle’s capabilities in these dire circumstances, it must not fail. Which brings us to . . .

Gun Review: FN 15 Tactical Carbine II Rifle

The FN 15 Tactical Carbine II. It’s a complete factory AR-15 rifle, designed, manufactured and assembled by the Belgian company who makes The World’s Most Battle-Proven Firearms®.  True story!

The FN 15 TC II’s controls are AR platform standard; there are no ambi options for the safety selector, charging handle, mag release or bolt catch. FN’s fitted the rifle with a full complement of Magpul furniture, including a 30-round Magpul PMAGMagpul MBUS sights, a Magpul MOE SL stock and MOE pistol grip.

Two features add a modern look: the Keira Knightley slim M-LOK forend and the three-prong flash hider. The slim handguard makes the rifle easier to control than my IDF-issued military M4.

Gun Review: FN 15 Tactical Carbine II Rifle

The FN 15 Tactical Carbine II performed as a factory rifle should. Over the course of a month, I ran well over 1,000 rounds through this gun, from 45 grain Sinterfire frangible ammo to IMI 77 grain OTM.

At the risk of lowering the tone of this review, I can report that I shot the sh*t out of the TC II without a single issue. No malfunctions. No broken bits. Not a single cause for concern.

Gun Review: FN 15 Tactical Carbine II Rifle

To gauge the gun’s accuracy, I topped the TC II with a Primary Arms ACSS H.U.D Reticle 4-12×44 FFP scope [review coming soon] and shot groups off my range bag at 100 yards.

Of the rounds tested, CapArms 69gr SMK rounds delivered the best group at just over 1 MOA. That’s significantly — and reassuringly — better than 3 MOA group FN’s owner manual says owners should expect from the Tactical Carbine II.

Gun Review: FN 15 Tactical Carbine II Rifle

The result could have been even better if not for FN 15 Tactical II’s trigger.

Like the go-pedal on the aforementioned standard-issue M4, the TC II’s trigger is good enough to get the job done — and nothing more. It’s not great, not bad. IF you were going to modify anything on your go-to rifle — or any factory-issue rifle — that’s the best place to start. And, I’d say, finish.

Gun Review: FN 15 Tactical Carbine II Rifle

That said, a Timney drop-in AR trigger would add around $240 to the FN 15 Tactical Carbine II’s $1599 msrp.

Yikes? Understood. I can’t deny that the FN 15 Tactical Carbine II is not the most exciting or least expensive choice for a reliable AR-15.

But the TC II is a proven quantity — both by reputation and my own experience. Cool stuff you assembled yourself or total peace of mind? Either way, one way or the other, you’re going to have to pay.

Specifications: FN15 Tactical Carbine II Rifle

Caliber: 5.56x45mm
Length: 33.7″ – 37″
Barrel Length: 16 inches
Barrel Twist: 1:7
Trigger weight: 4.75-7.75 lbs
Gas system: Direct impeg- Mid Length
Weight: 6lbs 7.7 ounces
MSRP: $1,599 (about a hundred bucks less via Brownells)

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Reliability * * * * *
Zero malfunctions with over 1,000 rounds through the rifle in a month.

Accuracy * * * * 
Just over 1 MOA with CapArms SMK 69gr ammo.

Aesthetics * * *  
Even with the modern, slim M-LOK fore-end and three-prong flash hider, it’s nothing too special. It’s an AR.

Ergonomics * * * * 
Ambidextrous features would have been nice, especially at this price point.

Overall * * * *
FN knows how to build AR’s and the Tactical Carbine II show it. The rifle performs extremely well and will go bang when you need it. However, for the price point, it would have been nice to see a few more features.

comments

  1. avatar Dan l says:

    Id rather build a 600 buck psa rifle and put a 1k scope on it than buy a 1500 factory gun that has 500 bucks worth of parts (so you paid 1k for assembly and brand name), and then top it with a 200 dollar scope made in china.

    1. avatar Mahatma Muhjesbude says:

      Exactly, For almost 1700 bucks with taxes, etc. out the door It should NOT be bragging about just getting a ‘little over an inch moa. It should be closer to a consistent half inch c-c.

      I could put together TWO virtually indistinguishable from this FN carbines except mine would be slightly more tactically efficient and more accurate for the price of one of these. AND more reliable as i’d use a better BCG with a non jamming Relia-bolt.
      But I guess the FN name justifies price gouging and, of course, sponsors need to did DIY gunsmiths/builders to get their sponsorship bennies/kickbacks.

      1. avatar Paul bonenberger says:

        Then do it and post a link to your video where you put it through it’s paces and we will see how reliable and what kind of grouping you get.

    2. avatar troutbum5 says:

      FN and PSA use the same barrel manufacturer. I think the standard barrels are identical.

  2. avatar BLoving says:

    Y’know what? That’s a good point: do any of us REALLY want to bet our lives on a rifle we built ourselves? Or our homemade handloads?
    I’ve heard a number of arguments from several angles (legal liability, mechanical reliability) regarding why this is one of those matters best left to the professional.
    🤠

    1. avatar Bcb says:

      I’ve got near a 1000 rounds through my home built without a single hiccup after the first two rounds. The couple times I pulled the trigger without a bang was ammo related.

      I paid less and got a way better trigger too. I’d trust it to protect my or my family’s life yes. Sounds like someone trying to do a review to justify spending a sizeable bit of coin on a generic ar15. No judgement that is. If someone wants to pay premium without the build work for the same ol ar cool.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I trust my home made rifles and my own hand made rounds over anything I can buy from anyone. Especially the rounds. I’ve had many misfires from factory rounds over the years, and a total of one from my own hand loads, and it was from a failed primer.
      The bottom line is that I trust what I can see, feel, and most importantly, measure. I can do that better with what I build than I can with anything someone else builds.

      1. avatar Justin Case says:

        I agree, JWT. In fact, I believe my handloads are better than factory ammo for the same reason my mom’s cakes & pies were better than mass-produced store bought. It’s all about the level of detail and attention you can put into it’s creation when you can take all the time you want and know what you are doing.

        Just sayin’…

      2. avatar Nigel the Expat says:

        “I trust my home made rifles and my own hand made rounds over anything I can buy from anyone.”

        That. Right there.

      3. avatar Bcb says:

        Same here in the ammo. I’ve had one hand load fail to go boom. Bad primer. I know my loads shoot better then any I have bought too.

        Like you said, we’ve seen, felt, measured, and double checked every part of the system ourselves.

        That is true reliability safety.

        1. avatar Scoutino says:

          Same here. I trust my own work more than some unknown “expert’s” work. I also service my car’s brakes myself.

  3. avatar anarchyst says:

    I must respectfully disagree with the author’s premise that “homebuilt” rifles are any less reliable than those assembled by commercial manufacturers. It depends upon the assembler. The home builder can take the additional time to assure proper assembly and operation, unlike manufacturers that grab parts from bins for assembly and “slap them together” with time constraints.. In addition, in the case of AR-15 type rifles, those who machine 80% lower receivers themselves can hold to tighter tolerances, making a rifle that does not have the typical “slop” or looseness between the upper and lower receiver.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      The parts that affect upper/lower fit are already fully machined on an 80% lower. It’s too late to make changes to that.

      While a home-built AR can be better than a factory AR and often will be when done well, the assertion that they normally aren’t is almost certainly correct. I agree with Ron, that in my experience from seeing tons of people shoot tons of ARs, the home-built ones suffer issues at a much higher rate. Speaking in generalities as Ron was, home-built ARs generally are less reliable. Sorry, but taken as a whole looking at the average of all factory rifles vs. all home-built rifles, it’s just plain true.

      …Part of this isn’t really the builder’s fault, but the fact that many home-built rifles involve using components from many different manufacturers and, as modular as the AR platform is, there’s invariably some potential for mismatch from dimensional differences due to varying clearances and tolerances and blueprints, etc. Not every upper, barrel, barrel extension, bolt, bolt carrier, and barrel nut are going to play together in an ideal fashion when they come from different sources, and most home builders aren’t checking dimensions and squareness and everything else. Whereas you look at a rifle like this FN and they’re either making all of the aforementioned components in-house or contracting a company to make the parts to FN’s particular specifications, and there’s an advantage to that when you’re assembling half a dozen parts to each other that all affect the end product’s clearances, true-ness, function, etc…

  4. avatar Shire-man says:

    My goto course taking home built AR has over 8,000 trouble free rounds through it for 2017 alone. Cost abut $600 to put together.

    Home build hate is irrational and uncalled for. The same goddamned parts are in every AR on the planet.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      “The same goddamned parts are in every AR on the planet.”
      Whereas I agree with the overall sentiment of your comment, the above quote is not true. Not remotely. There is a vast difference among AR parts. The biggest difference out there I see is the barrel. The differences in materials, length, finish, and contours are pretty wide, and they make a clear difference in performance. There is also a difference in BCG parts, both in materials and finish. Those will definitely make a difference in long term performance. There is also a very wide difference in the quality of those parts, and little things, like how well the gas key is staked will directly affect the reliability of the gun. So can the gas port size. Lots of little things add up to a gun that works, doesn’t work, or works great.

  5. avatar Hank says:

    3 prong flash hider for a modern look? The first M16s had those and the only practical use for them was to twirl up spaghetti in order to deposit it in your mouth.

  6. avatar Klaus Von Schmitto says:

    “They always run into issues: malfunctions, broken parts and assorted failures. SMH…..”

    Bullshit.

    The ones I build are every bit as reliable as factory guns if not more so. SMH.

  7. avatar Jack says:

    A name brand will definitely resale better than a a frankenRifle.

    But a first rifle build is and should be awful. Bill Wilson didn’t build one 1911 and then called it quits. I would say it takes several builds, maybe even three, before a home gunsmith knows what a rifle needs to perform and which parts builders to avoid. What part to max out a budget on and where to go cheap

    1. avatar Matt says:

      I dunno, my first homebuilt rifle ($800 including optic) is a 20″ AR-15 in .223 wylde. Still shoots under .75MOA with PPU 75gr HPBT (most accurate round I’ve found in it) for 10 shot groups. I have 1400 odd rounds through it and zero malfunctions other then a few first round failures to feed because I didn’t seat the magazine all the way. My 10.5″ AR pistol was my next build and still working okay after 300 or so rounds (I’ve only taken it to the range 3 times). My 16″ upper also functions fine with about 500 rounds through it. The 18″ 6.5 Grendel upper I just built also appears to be working fine, but only 1 range trip and 100 rounds through it.

      I’ll grant you there is an element of luck to it in that blindly picking parts with nothing more than a parts list can sometimes make a good rifle, but not likely. On the other hand, there is no rule that you have to have built a few rifles before you can make a good one. Some people come by stuff more naturally then others. The first engine I rebuilt was working just fine (new head gasket, new piston rings, performance intake and exhaust manifolds, unshrouded the valves and cleaned up the ports) 110,000 miles after I rebuilt it and sold the car it was in. No formal automotive repair training. Just a manual, a pile o’ tools and strong mechanical inclination got me through it just fine.

  8. avatar David says:

    And some of those guys built their own rifle so they could afford to take a class from you Mr. Grobman. I would not be too harsh with them. Use it as a lesson learned. As for the rifle reviewed I wonder what the govt. pays for the exact same rifle? Id have a hard time paying over $1k for a general purpose AR-15.

  9. avatar Eric Lawrence says:

    The most important parts on an AR are the barrel and the BCG. Don’t skimp on those. Lowers are that one part that people pay way too much for. The difference between a $400 FN lower and a $200 PSA magpul kitted out lower is negligible. You could buy the PSA lower, as I did, and put a Geissele SSA trigger in it, as I did, and have a superior complete lower than the FN with the standard mil-spec trigger, as I do. Add in a DD M4A1 upper, quality nitride BCG and I have a rifle equal to the FN in quality, reliability, durability, and accuracy for about $600 less than the FN. Of course if you want the side of your rifle to say FN then you’ll need to go with the FN.

    1. avatar Will B says:

      Thanks for the product recommendations, Eric, but the price of those components (based on web site ads) totals about $1,900. I could be mistaken, but that seems to be hundreds more expensive than the FN, plus the time and effort assembling the build (and the absence of the FN thingie on the side). Is there a secret to getting less expensive prices for components that you would be willing to share?

      1. avatar Eric Lawrence says:

        Addition isn’t your strong suit is it.

        The secret is to be smart about your purchases, have patience and wait for sales or specials, know how to add, and not be the idiot who says “Oh my gosh it says FN/Colt/whatever on the side of the gun!!!!Take all my money!!!!!”

        I’m guessing you don’t have a long tack record of being able to do any of those things.

        1. avatar Will B says:

          You wrote: “I’m guessing you don’t have a long tack record of being able to do any of those things.”

          I asked an honest question and get this sarcastic cr*p. And by the way, the word in English is “track,” not “tack.”

        2. avatar Eric Lawrence says:

          Oh sweet Jesus we have a grammar Nazi!!!! Or in The Kings English, a navel gazing simpleton.

          Since you seem sincere, and a little slow, I’ll indulge you…

          PSA lower with Magpul furniture…$200 on sale
          Geissele SSA…$180 on sale

          Daniel Defense M4A1 upper…$650 on sale
          A2 flash hider and crush washer…$20 (the upper didn’t come with one)
          Nitride BCG and charging handle…$125

          If you add $50 for Magpul BUIS which I don’t have my rifle would come to $1250 to be similarly equipped to the factory stock FN rifle above. When you add a Geissele trigger to the FN to replace the terrible stock system the FN comes in at ($1500 + 180 for the trigger, let’s assume it was purchased on sale) $1680. That’s a difference of $430. Is the FN logo worth $430? I don’t think it is.

        3. avatar Mister Furious says:

          Holy shit; you’re kind of a pretentious dick.

  10. avatar emfourty gasmask says:

    Shilling for the industry now that people have figured out that reliable AR’s dont cost that much to build eh

  11. avatar Badgerman says:

    Mr. Grobman’s comments on Home built rifles are generalized and looses validity with me. Especially stating hey you Home built AR sucks, but let me sell you on this FN AR. Give me a break! I actually took a patrol rifle course, and guess what? A sheriff departments colt and a LWRC wasn’t reliable. The issue in not just home builds. All AR’s can have issues just like any mechanical firearm. Good luck selling your FN’s.

    1. avatar 16V says:

      “factory rifles from reputable manufacturers must meet stringent standards to ensure accuracy, integrated performance and end user safety. But most of all, they’re reliable.”

      Either Grobman knows slightly less than my retriever about guns, or he’s just spewing slimy sales nonsense.

      The easiest example that buries his preposterous assertion is the Remington 700 series. Then we can delve into the dozens and dozens of other guns that have made in the last 60ish years alone that fail at every one of those supposed attributes. He may be a good shot, but his integrity is obviously for sale.

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        Don’t be ridiculous. There is ZERO incentive for Ron to do anything other than share his frank opinion and experience with this rifle based on his experience teaching courses, his time in the IDF, etc. TTAG HQ loaned the rifle to Ron so he could test it out and review it, and Ron has returned it now that he’s done. TTAG’s only directive is Truth, and this is Ron’s. If you disagree with his opinion then by all means disagree, but the idea that his opinion was paid for is simply and completely wrong.

        1. avatar 16V says:

          “factory rifles from reputable manufacturers must meet stringent standards to ensure accuracy, integrated performance and end user safety. But most of all, they’re reliable.”

          So your position is that the above is TRUE statement?

          For decades, Remington was a “reputable” manufacturer. For decades, everyone who knew rifles knew the 700 to be an unintentional discharge waiting to happen. We knew through the grapevine, and now court docs, that the company has known about its design defect for decades. And did nothing about it. It has now been tried, and settled. They’re on the hook for fix all 6MM+ of their stringently-tested-for-end-user-safety-utterly-reliable-rifles.

          Defending ridiculous blanket statements proved demonstrably false beyond any doubt? Speaks to something as well…

        2. avatar 16V says:

          “There is ZERO incentive for Ron to do anything other than share his frank opinion and experience with this rifle based on his experience teaching courses, his time in the IDF, etc.”

          Oh yeah. Just like every other sluggo with a few interesting “bullet points” on the CV who has parlayed them into running a some kind of “class”, what he’s really angling for (desperately) is a job with some manufacturer, and a steady (generous) paycheck. Pretending that wasn’t the case (or he lost a bet, needs some publicity for his ‘operator’ class, whatevs) with this bright and shining “review” is, at best, disingenuous to anyone who has seen how the world/people work/s.

          Jonny Lieberman (of previous TTAC “fame”) is a prime example…

  12. avatar M1Lou says:

    I’ve built quite a few ARs over the past few years. My first two in 5.56 were flawless. The one shot under an inch at 100 yards. The other I never really grouped as it was a beater rifle. I gave them to my dad and cousin as Christmas gifts a few years ago. They still run without issue. My 16″ 300blk rifle also ran flawlessly. My 22″ 6.5 Grendel build has been pretty good and my 20″ 5.56 with a Larue barrel has had a few issues, but it was not because of the barrel, I just needed to play with the gas block.

    Now to the bad part. I’ve built a few stinkers. I’ve narrowed down the issues to mostly gas port size, or BCG. My 10.5″ 300blk pistol has a crappy BCG. It causes problems, but has smoothed out as the finish has worn. This BCG was purchased during Firearmageddon when parts were being pumped out at an insane pace and QC dropped a bit. I am planning on replacing it with something else. Everything else seems to work fine. My biggest POS is a rifle I built with a 16″ PSA pencil barrel(first issue with a PSA part). I can swap the barrel to different uppers and it will fail. Swap in a different barrel and it runs flawlessly. I measured the gas port and it should be fine, but it just doesn’t work.

    I think the main problem is people are probably building their AR, and then not really using it before heading to class. Then they have parts problems and breakage. You should test your home build before you go to training. 20-40 rounds is not enough. Put a few hundred through them to make sure they are working right, then go train.

  13. avatar Nigel the Expat says:

    Why is that MBUS mounted so far back on the rail?

    1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      Probably to allow for an operator light.

  14. avatar Larry Campbell says:

    I have seen both carbine and rifle used to describe this firearm. It is one or the other, not both. And paying $1,599.00 for an AR-15, especially these days, doesn’t seem very wise to me.

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