Gun Review: FN America FN15 DMR II

FN15 DMRII (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

As we all hopefully know by now, FN America is the current manufacturer of the US Army’s M4 service rifle. You can now buy that rifle in semi auto, as well as the M16A4 version. And now the FN15 DMRII, a quality nod to the US Army’s Squad Designated Marksman Rifles and the widely acclaimed program that fielded them. A brief background . . .

FN15 DMRII on Stinger Rest (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Early in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars the US Marine Corps and the US Army recognized a gap in their infantry squad’s equipment and training. At ranges from zero to around 300 meters, infantrymen on patrol were generally well equipped. At longer ranges, the snipers assigned to larger units proved capable. But beyond 300 meters out to the just beyond 600 meter mark proved deadly, especially in Afghanistan, where dismounted squads had little firepower and inadequate training for these distances.

The Marine Corps and the Army both began a Squad Designated Marksman program. They equipped one person in each squad with a heavily modified M14 to engage targets at these ranges, while still maintaining their primary role as a rifleman. In essence, they were riflemen first, Squad Designated Marksmen second.

The Marine Corps continued to use the M14 and its superior 7.62X51NATO round. The Army went a different direction, ultimately settling on a modified M16.

Those M16s included a heavier 20″ stainless steel barrel with a free floating handguard and a Harris bipod. The upper receivers were pulled from existing M16s as were many of the lowers, which were made by FN and Colt. Some receivers were also supplied by Armalite. All of the original Squad Designated Marksman Rifles (SDMR) were topped with the standard chevron reticle in a 4X Trijicon ACOG. All had 2-stage triggers. None were capable of burst or fully automatic fire.

FN’s new DMR II falls into that assault first, longer range support second role extremely well.

FN15 DMRII grip (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Just because they can (and should), FN upgraded the rifle’s furniture. Instead of the horrible, floppy mil-spec stock, the gunmaker opted for a MagPul STR adjustable stock. It’s what I put on my ARs, so no surprise that I like it on the FN15 DMR II. The gun also sports the MagPul MOE grip; again, what I put on my guns. There’s no uncomfortable finger groove, it has storage space for ear plugs, lube and a torx wrench, and it gives me a great hold.

FN15 DMRII rail (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

FN is particularly proud of the handguard: a free-floating slimline M-LOK compatible handguard . They claim their FN Rail System provides “extreme rigidity and less deflection ensuring that all accessories that are mounted will remain affixed without any shift in zero.” Perhaps that’s a bigger issue than I’ve been aware of, since I’m not aware that’s been an issue with free floating handguards at all, at least not for the last decade or so. Anyway . . .

FN15 DMRII BCG (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The FN15 DMR II’s receiver set is MIL STD 7075 T-6 Aluminum, Type III anodized. All of the internals save the trigger follow the same standard as seen in their US Army issued M4s. The safety — a traditional non-ambidextrous two position safety — was a little tight at first, but eventually slipped on and off with ease and surety.  The magazine release is also standard, non-ambidextrous, and works well.

The only disappointment on this rifle: the standard charging handle. Too small. Too hard to grab with gloves on. Too easy to miss. That said, given that FN was going for the look and the feel of a DMR, it makes sense that they kept the standard infantry rifle’s poorly designed generally crappy charging handle.

FN15 DMRII Brake (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The FN15 DMR II’s Surfire ProComp 2 muzzle brake is a big upgrade from the standard birdcage flash hider. If you like a muzzle break on a 18″ 5.56NATO rifle this one works just fine.  I don’t.

Equally, a muzzle brake doesn’t belong on a DMR. A standard A2 birdcage flash hider would have been more appropriate. Still, if you want it off, it can be removed fairly easily and replaced with the muzzle device or suppressor of your choice.

The DMR’s rifle’s primary role: carried by an infantryman during his daily patrols, guard, and assaults. It has to be exceptionally reliable. The FN15 DMR II is.

I did my standard “shoot it a bunch” test. The DMR II didn’t experience a single failure to fire, feed or eject through 500 rounds from multiple manufacturers, in multiple weights, with multiple projectile types. Just for fun, I buried the rifle in cedar mulch and shot it in the rain and the mud.

I felt real, real old when I did a few 3-5 second rush and drops with it. I wore out long before the rifle did (not a high bar). Again, the FN had no issues of any kind. Pull the trigger and it goes bang every time, and that’s the only time it goes bang.

FN15 DMRII group (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

When it comes to performing its secondary role — putting holes in targets farther away — the FN15 DMR II answers the call.

Using the IMI 77gr OTM (Mk 262) round, I scored an average of 1″ groups at 100 yards off bags with four 5-round groups. The Cap Arms 69grain SMK scored slightly better, with a .9″ average. The worst scorer was the IWI 55gr FMJ (M193) which printed a whooping 1.1″ average under the same conditions.

Any of those are good groups on a gas gun with factory ammo. The fact they are all so close together throughout different weights speaks well of the rifle as a whole.  That fast twist on the barrel clearly likes the heavier rounds, but I’ve also just been impressed with that IMI 77gr round in every 5.56NATO gun I’ve shot it in.

All shots for accuracy were done on a fouled bore, after 400 rounds of familiarization fire and without any cleaning of the rifle. All firing for accuracy was done with an Atibal Nomad 3-12X44 scope dialed to 11 and mounted on a Warne cantilever scope mount.

FN15 DMRII trigger (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

A good part of the reason for the DMR II’s accuracy: FN’s famous barrel quality. I’ve seen them perform well across a wide selection of their models now, and this 18″ version is no exception. Credit also goes to the DMR II’s trigger.

I didn’t read about the rifle before I fired it. I assumed the DMR II used the same trigger as FN’s other MIL-STD rifles. Surprise! The DMR II’s trigger isn’t MIL-STD, or even FN’s “enhanced Mil Spec.”  It’s an out-of-the-box Timney 3.5lb AR trigger, dropped into their MIL-STD lower.

In slow fire, the Timney makes a big difference in the accuracy department. But it also makes a big difference in fast fire.

Although the (completely unneeded) Surefire ProComp muzzle brake may help get the sights back on target fast, it’s the Timney trigger that helps keep the sights from leaving the target during the trigger pull in the first place. It’s a definite improvement over FN’s other already pretty darn good factory triggers.

FN15 DMRII right side (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Although pricey, the FN15 DMR II with an ACOG and a bipod attached makes an exceptional off-the-shelf capable, reliable SDMR for the army’s Squad Designated Marksman. It’s perfectly familiar to the average infantryman. At the same time, it’s capable of excellent accuracy at ranges just beyond most current service rifles.

Of course, that’s with a capable marksman behind the trigger. But even if that’s not you, yet, the DMR II is a comfortable, quality, reliable rifle for whatever you might need it for.

FN FN15 DMRII
Specifications
Caliber: 5.56x45mm
Operation: Direct Impingement
Mag Capacity: 30 Rd.
Weight: 7.03 lb.
Overall Length: 35″ – 38″
Barrel: 18″ cold hammer-forged, chrome-lined, free floating 1:7 twist
Muzzle device: Surefire ProComp 556
Receiver: Aluminum, Anodized, M1913 rail at 12 o’clock position
Trigger: 3.5lb Timney
Rail: M-LOK
Magazine: 30 round PMAG
Grip: Magpul MOE
Stock: Magpul STR
MSRP: $1,999.00

Style * * * *
FN has upped the game and set a new standard on what a Mil-Spec finish on the receivers and hand guard should look like.  Dark black, just a bit shiny, smooth and even throughout. There are no tool marks or blemishes inside or out on the rifle. Any “Mil-Spec” rifle that doesn’t meet this standard form now on scores at 2 stars or below. This particular rifle gets a bump on this category to 4 stars for quality furniture and the slimline handguard.

Customization * * * *
It’s an AR, so anything goes. Star withheld for lacking ambidextrousness.

Reliability * * * * *
It shoots anything wet dry or dirty. A gun worthy of Joe.

Accuracy *  * * *
It sits right at 1MOA using factory military surplus ammunition, but just barely under that with a more custom small batch brand. Very, very good, but not amazing.

Overall * * * *
The DMR II”s is pretty close to the rifle I’d choose if I was heading back to Afghanistan (and my 1SG let me pick my weapon). It’s got great furniture, very good accuracy and perfect reliability. If the Army broadens the Squad Designated Marksman Program, FN has made the logistics a non-issue. This one’s ready to deploy. On the homefront too.

comments

  1. avatar John in TX (Was CT) says:

    Any chance of you guys doing a review of the Atibal scopes, preferably with multiple samples from multiple sources of the same scope (mfg provided, purchased, borrowed from buddy)?

    Regarding the FN rifle- I like it, but it’s all going to come down to the street price. There are a lot of options at the $2k pricepoint, and it looks like it’s only at MSRP-10% currently. I might be tempted to pull the trigger (no pun intended) if it reached -20% ($1600 retail).

    1. avatar Bryce says:

      You can pick up the “Competition” model with 99% of the same features (barrel, trigger, brake, etc) for around $1200.

  2. avatar GS650G says:

    The upgrades alone are a few hundred dollars so it’s not crazy expensive like other AR rifles. I’m a .308 fan myself so in not a player on this.
    I just put The same muzzle brake on my AR10 and as soon as the weather breaks I’ll try it out.

  3. avatar Owen says:

    I wonder why they chose 18″ over 20″? Those inches help with velocity and the weight increase is small compared to an already heavier configuration.

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      At the end of the day, even a DM might have to get thru a door or un-ass a vehicle, and those four inches over 16″ make a big difference.

    2. avatar Accur81 says:

      Nice Olight. I’ve got a bunch of those.

      I have 9.5″, 16″, 18″, and 20″ AR uppers. In 5.56, 20″ stainless is the velocity king in my stable. 24″ is a bit longer for a rifle that will also need to do patrol / assault / close range work. The 20″ will accelerate 55 grain M193 above 3200 FPS and 77 grain 5.55 to about 2800 FPS.

  4. avatar Joe R. says:

    Thank you for the review.

    “Overall * * * *
    The DMR II”s is pretty close to the rifle I’d choose if I was heading back to Afghanistan (and my 1SG let me pick my weapon).”

    – even with the Timney Trigger? I haven’t owned one (a trigger upgrade ‘pack’ of any kind) but I’ve held them in my hand and shot them, but I don’t know if I’d trust any of them if I was actually ‘going [back] to war’.

    If you were away from your immediately-higher organization’s “armorer” would you feel safe slinging this thing through 5K-10K rounds? (and I don’t want to hear any “well, would you trust a mil-spec one that long” stuff).

  5. avatar TP says:

    Read it twice but maybe is still missed it; couldn’t find what length gas system and barrel profile. ??

  6. avatar emfourty gasmask says:

    That pricepoint puts them in the bracket with some serious competition.

    FN or not they are really running into boutique manufactures who are just as proven as they are. Seems like that’s all anybody will be paying for with this setup, truth be told.

  7. avatar Tim says:

    I got partway through the review, saw the bit about the lack of a “uncomfortable finger groove”, and thought, “Hmm… This must be a jwtaylor review!”

    Kidding aside, how was the balance on the rifle? I had an AR with a similar configuration (STR, 18″ heavy barrel) and it always felt very muzzle heavy and uncomfortable to shoot offhand. I recently swapped the STR out for a UBR Gen 2, which made a world of difference.

  8. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    Not sure why all the whining about the charging handle. I mean, you really shouldn’t need to use it very much. Once when you initially load the rifle, and then maybe once to unload it if you decide to quit before emptying your magazine.

    Otherwise, you should be able to operate all day without touching the thing.

    1. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

      Malfunctions are a thing. Murphy is always with us especially under fire. Take any rifle you want even if it proves 100% reliable in training and on the range once you get in contact and your life depends on it, it will sh*t the bed and throw some crazy malfunction like a friggin triple feed with 2 rounds hung up between the charging handle and BCG. Those big charging handles really help you get some oomph to move the bolt in that situation.

  9. avatar Sal Chichon says:

    The FN is nice… save for that Ruger AR-556 MPR shaped elephant in the room…

    1. avatar duroSIG556R says:

      and the ruger has an unshrouded firing pin thanks to the lawyers I imagine.

      1. avatar emfourty gasmask says:

        I mean, it has a $530ish price point, it’s not exactly going to break the bank to get a proper BCG from there.

        1. avatar Sal Chichon says:

          Agreed.

      2. avatar Sal Chichon says:

        Can you show me an example of where that stopped an AR 556 from working?

  10. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    I’m looking at a Colt competition that has a <moa guarantee for 700 through Cabela’s.

  11. avatar Bcb says:

    Interesting seeing the rifle be consistent across several ammo types. Do they run a standard m4/milspec throat length in these things?

  12. avatar Warren says:

    Impressive. I really like that one.

  13. avatar FlamencoD says:

    Sweet rifle but wow, $1999!? I did something similar last year – got another AR-15 but with an 18″ barrel for the additional velocity and free float slim aluminum hand guard. Differences are I went with a stainless steel barrel and .223 Wylde chamber and just have a nickel boron coated trigger, but mine cost 1/3 this FN rifle. I can shoot sub 1/2″ groups at 50 yards with the Magpul BUIS and 69 gr bthp. Rifle length gas system, premium BCG from Palmetto state armory, and magpul furniture. I prefer Bravo company furniture like on my Springfield Saint but the magpul MOE stuff works fine and I got a good deal.

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