October 18, 2023
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The FN15 Guardian aims for a coveted space amidst today’s pantheon of modern sporting rifles. Offering a lithe chassis and unimpeachable FN quality in a lightweight rifle with an MSRP less than a grand, the FN15 Guardian is designed for the shooter who is serious about his craft but doesn’t get just insane about it. These guys build most of the Free World’s machineguns. They know how to make quality firearms. It is obvious pawing over the Guardian that the FN mob did it up right. The materials and technical details are top-flight, creating a utilitarian rifle that will perform right out of the box. You could spend more or you could spend less. However, it would be tough to beat the Guardian’s capabilities for the money.
I’ll ask the question so your spouse doesn’t have to. What do you want an AR-15 for, anyway? Chances are most of us won’t be called upon to parachute into the Hindu Kush to rescue the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders any time soon. With 57 years on my personal Hobbs meter, I can’t run more than about 100 meters any more before my knees start threatening a boycott. However, that doesn’t mean I have no need of a top quality defensive firearm. Have you been watching the news lately? The entire planet seems to have lost its collective mind. The North Koreans are literally starving to death, while Putin’s Russians are traipsing all over eastern Ukraine like it was 1942. Meanwhile in the land of the free and home of the brave, we can’t keep track of who is actually crossing the border. Criminals go shopping by just taking stuff, and every other week we seem to be rioting over something or other. It seems like the perfect time to invest in a nice Modern Sporting Rifle to me.
With that out of the way, which one do we choose? These are the salad days for American gun nerds. You likely can’t buy a transferable machinegun unless your name is Gates or Trump, but otherwise the world is your oyster. The black rifle market is saturated. That means proper competition for our hard-earned cash. The selection and prices have never been better. At the end of the day, this all means we have decisions to make. You can get into a low-end parts gun for just north of $400 if you’re handy with tools and not too picky regarding pedigree. On the other end of the spectrum, you can drop four grand on a truly top-tier MSR. The sweet spot is superlative particulars at a $1,000 price point. That’s the space that the FN15 Guardian ably occupies. But why does it really matter?
Krazy Kevin’s Pre-Owned Parachutes
I freely admit to have leapt from entirely serviceable airplanes on several occasions. While I would love to say that this foolish practice was limited solely to my misspent youth, that would not be entirely accurate. It would appear you cannot outgrow stupid. Presume for a moment you felt a sudden insensate urge to try skydiving yourself. You subsequently sought out a reputable field liberally populated by like-minded lunatics. After a handful of tandem jumps you find yourself thoroughly bitten by the bug. It is time to secure a parachute of your own. Chutingstar.com will set you up with the Curv Complete System by Rigging Innovations. This is an all-in-one setup that includes a main canopy, top-quality reserve chute, and all the basics for the new skydiver just starting out. It will set you back $9,130. They take credit cards, and you can order online. However, $9,130 is an awful lot of money. Maybe you can do better.
On the drive into the airfield you passed a dumpy-looking storefront sporting a hand-lettered sign that reads, “Krazy Kevin’s Pre-Owned Parachutes.” You have a few minutes to kill, so you resolve to investigate. You park next to a lime green 1972 AMC Gremlin sporting mismatched tires and a hasp and padlock on the driver’s side door. You quickly survey the showroom, such as it is. Used parachutes hang from the ceiling and clutter up the floor. Many of them sport obvious dirt stains. A few of the uglier blemishes look vaguely like blood. You pick your way over and across the sundry detritus to the sale counter. The man behind the counter seems shorter than you expected. You start the conversation with a friendly, “You Krazy Kevin?” “Why indeed I am,” the man answers. His right eye sparkles with excessive personality. His left lurks mysteriously behind a bejeweled eye patch. One of Krazy Karl’s arms ends at the elbow. He angles his wheelchair up to the counter to better take your measure. “What can I do you for?”
“Tell me about your parachutes.”
“Well, we offer the finest pre-owned parachutes in the tri-county area. They are harvested from Air Force surplus auctions, burial shrouds, and the dumpster behind the airfield before being professionally refurbished and offered in our bespoke lineup. I do the refurbishments myself.” Krazy Karl sits up proudly in his chair, briefly exposing his matching bilateral lower prostheses. You take a moment to study a nearby example. One generous rip appears to have been repaired with dental floss. Another had clearly been approximated using an office stapler.
“You offer any sort of guarantee?”
“Nope,” Krazy Kevin confidently replied. “Neither expressed nor implied. I proudly use our products myself. That’s my highest accolade.” Krazy Kevin absentmindedly straightened his eye patch with his one serviceable hand.
So, what do you think? Do you pull up ChutingStar.com this evening after you get home, plop down the plastic, and spring for a top-quality new-made parachute from a reputable manufacturer, or do you trust your mortal soul to Krazy Kevin and save a few bucks? Feel free to think on that for a moment.
Who are you kidding? You flee Krazy Kevin’s Pre-Owned Parachutes like a Millennial running from responsibility. If you need some kind of mechanical thing upon which your life or that of your family might depend, you do it up right. Krazy Kevin might source you a surplus cargo chute if your mission be to airdrop cases of fake rubber dog turds to somebody you hate. However, if it is your soft pink body on the line, you are going to do that up right. The same thing applies to firearms. That’s where the FN15 Guardian comes in.
The FN15 guardian represents an interesting compromise. This is a no-frills gun built to an impeccable standard. That means no extraneous stuff to clutter up the chassis. The end result is exceptionally lightweight and as reliable as a mother’s love. The rifle is chambered for 5.56x45mm and operates via a pinned mid-length direct gas impingement system. This method of operation is obviously combat proven. The 16-inch CMV (Chrome-Moly-Vanadium) steel barrel is rifled one turn-in-seven inches to stabilize any conceivable bullet weight. The muzzle is cut 1/2x28 TPI if suppressors are your bag. The 15-inch free-floated handguard is dirty with M-LOK slots at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. The top rail is continuous from the muzzle to the charging handle. The entire assembly is rigidly indexed in place. The receiver set is forged 7075 aluminum hard coat anodized for long life and environmental resistance.
In what could be a potentially controversial choice, the FN15 eschews a forward assist. The legendary firearms luminary Peter Kokalis always thought the forward assist was mechanically superfluous. I have been carrying and shooting these Stoner rifles both in uniform and out for 40 years and have used the forward assist a couple of times. However, I likely agree with Pete. It’s probably not worth the trouble. FN got rid of theirs to cut down on weight and complexity while making the rifle more snag-free. On the subject of weight, the FN15 only weighs 6.6 pounds. By contrast, the M16A1 weighed 6.37 pounds. Compared to the M1 and M14 battle rifles it replaced, the original M16 was positively anorexic. The FN15 carries on that tradition. Furniture is a proprietary FN design with generous stippling. The collapsible stock cycles through six different positions to accommodate any habitus both with armor and without. I did note that the buttstock latch was pretty stiff. That will likely loosen up over time. The nicely textured pistol grip sits at a 19.5-degree angle. This is a bit sharper than the milspec version. This geometry tends to push your strong-side elbow down and out of the way as it should. The cumulative effect is comfortable, handy, and easy to tote.
I set this FN15 up for home defense applications. The Guardian shoots straighter than your dad discussing the facts of life. You need an accurate rifle for competition and to keep your skills sharp. The FN15 certainly delivers in that regard. As such, the optic is a Mepro Tru-Vision red dot sight. In addition to an unparalleled field of view, this thing weighs about nothing and is tougher than Margaret Thatcher’s backbone. The sight is shockproof and waterproof and runs about forever on a single CR123A battery. There are 16 manual brightness settings, four of which are NVG-compatible. If you already have enough to think about, the Tru-Vision also offers an automatic brightness system that will do the picking for you. The Tru-Vision takes a nap after half an hour of not moving and goes fully to sleep in either four or eight hours to help preserve battery power.
The Streamlight TLR8G is positively tiny yet offers 500 lumens of brilliant white light along with a green laser designator all in a military-grade chassis. The unit is easy to operate and feeds from a single CR123A battery that is available most anywhere. It is also smaller and cheaper than its competition. A Magpul AFG (Angled Foregrip) rounds out the package. This Spartan layout keeps weight in check while maximizing the FN15’s strengths. The end result is exceptionally maneuverable and straight shooting. The overall length is the shortest you can achieve in a rifle chassis without an NFA tax stamp. The FN15 takes corners like a sports car and goes bang every single time you pull the trigger. These are the guys who build M249, M240, Mk 46, and Mk48 belt-fed machineguns for Uncle Sam. They have also produced M16 rifles under contract for the US Army. They know a thing or three about how to make a rugged military-grade firearm.
So that brings us back to where we started. You have a decision to make. Perhaps you are first-time buyer just getting into black rifles. Maybe you already own a gun or two, but they are cheap and cheesy. If you’re looking for the sort of MSR that will never let you down but you’d sooner not hock a kidney to buy, the FN15 is your iron. The MSRP is a cool grand. That’s not chump change, but that’s not as bad as was once the case. Top end black rifles like the Steyr AUG and Galil cost about a thousand dollars back in the 1980’s. Accounting for inflation, the FN15 is still a fantastic bargain. If you are ever called upon to unlimber your black rifle for real, then something has gone grievously wrong. Before I draw down on some miscreant with murderous intent I will have exhausted all other options. However, as is festooned across my current favorite t-shirt, “If called upon to fight, you better fight like you are the third monkey on the ramp to Noah’s Ark, and brother, it’s starting to rain…” The FN15 Guardian has solidly dropped into that holy niche—the space reserved for reasonably-priced top-quality MSRs. It’s hardly cheap, but it’s not just insane, either. Properly accessorized, the FN15 Guardian will keep you and yours safe come what may. It is a great rifle done quite well.
FN15 Guardian Specs
- Caliber: 5.56x45mm
- Weight: 6.6 lbs.
- Length: 32.1-35.5 in.
- Barrel Length: 16 in.
- Operation: Direct Gas Impingement
- Magazines: Any STANAG M4 Box
- MSRP: $999
- Contact: FN America
About the Author
Will is a mechanical engineer who flew UH1H, OH58A/C, CH47D and AH1S aircraft as an Army Aviator. He is airborne and scuba qualified and summited Mount McKinley, Alaska, six times…at the controls of an Army helicopter. After eight years in the Regular Army, Major Dabbs attended medical school. He works in his urgent care clinic, shares a business building precision rifles and sound suppressors, and has written for the gun press since 1989.
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