F1 Firearms FDR-15 (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
F1 Firearms FDR-15 (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

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F1 Firearms doesn’t really do basic ARs. Except when they do. Except not really. The F1 FDR-15 is about the most “Plane Jane” AR-15 in F1’s lineup. When it comes to the most important parts of the gun, it’s anything but.

I often hear people say that “AR-15s are all pretty much the same.” Perhaps these people have fantastic amounts of money, or just don’t care what their dollars buy. I prefer that each of my pennies gets me as much value as it can. For my money, the differences matter.

There are a few places where the differences matter a lot in an AR-15 rifle. Those places are the bolt carrier group (BCG), the barrel, and the trigger.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

F1 puts some work into their BCGs. They’re well machined, super slick, and pretty pretty. I know it sounds goofy, but pretty actually matters on the BCG. A slick BCG, without tool marks and without rough edges, makes for less friction and longer life. The carrier itself is 8620 AQ steel and the bolt is the tried-and-true 158 Carpenter steel.

Beyond the materials, it’s also machined and put together well. The gas key screws are hella staked, and every part in the BCG is slick and polished. F1 spent time here, and here’s where it matters.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

F1 gives the shooter several options on the coatings. This one is coated with their Mystic Silver Chromium Nitride coating. This coating is super durable and super slick. These are excellent materials and a legit high performance coating which will help the gun run longer and with fewer malfunctions.

Durability for an AR-15 rifle should be measured in tens of thousands of rounds. That said, hundreds can give a shooter a good idea of what’s going to happen down the road. Run it hard, look for excess carbon build up and see if anything goes wrong.

I appreciate the range therapy provided by this review, because I needed it. The good news is that both you and I, dear reader, were the beneficiary. TTAG’s editor Dan handed me a box of 500 rounds of M193, and some interesting “Pack and Load” range ammo from Fort Scott Munitions (review pending).

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

I took it all out the next afternoon and shot it. I shot it all. Sure, I did Mozambique drills, I ran to cover and fired from multiple positions. I spent some time doing target transitions as well as some slow unsupported aimed fire. But mostly I just did one mag dump after the next.

I used 30-round PMAGs, 30-round GI metal mags, and a couple 60-round Surefire magazines. I sprayed some CLP in the gun before shooting and that’s it. I just let it rip. I had zero malfunctions of any kind. I shot it all, about 700 rounds, in one stupid-humid and hot afternoon.

The gun ran perfectly. For an afternoon I forgot whatever the heck is going on in the rest of the world. It made me happy. This gun is not particularly expensive, but whatever the cost, that afternoon was worth it. Plus, a quick dip in the ultrasonic cleaner and the BCG comes out looking like new.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

Next in line for parts that matters is the heart of every rifle, the barrel. F1 has their own barrel cell, producing 416R stainless barrels like this one. Since F1 has its own machine shop, you can get any barrel with a variety of options, if you so choose.

This gun is about as close to “MIL-STD” as F1 gets, so this particular 16″ model is a medium contour without flutes and chambered in the Goldilocks .223 Wylde. Each barrel is air gauged and drift gauged. You can find all about their barrels and options on the F1 Firearms website.

F1 advertises their barrels are “Sub MOA.” Sure, but no barrel exists on its own. With the right ammunition, this gun ranges from a good bit over 1 MOA groups to just under 1 MOA groups. After I finished venting my frustrations on pieces of hardened steel, I cleaned the bore of the majority of the fouling and got down to shooting groups.

Using a Caldwell Stinger shooting rest and a Nightforce SHV 5-20X riflescope on a LaRue mount, I shot five-round groups averaged over four shot strings at 100 yards. The worst shooting round was — as it usually is — M855 green tip. This round, made by IMI, averaged 1.5″ groups.

The best shooting round was the Federal Premium Gold Medal .223 69gr Sierra Match King, printing very consistent .8″ groups, on average. With the same average group size but a larger standard deviation was my last box of IMI’s 77gr Razor Core ammo, which shoots well in just about anything I put it through. I’m going to miss that ammo.

Finally, we have the trigger. F1 pulls a hat trick there with their basic blaster by providing a Hiperfire trigger. There’s no “Mil-Spec” trigger option, but the Hiperfire Heavy Gunner trigger is leaps and bounds above anything thing I was ever issued by Uncle Sugar, and for zero extra cost. This one is an upgrade on that, for an upgraded cost as well. Take your pick on what you want, none of them are bad.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

As for upgrades, this particular gun also includes the optional F1 Flat Faced Stainless Steel muzzle brake. I hate pretty much any muzzle brake on an AR-15, but if your goal is to turn recoil into blast and sound, this one does the job well.

With the medium contour barrel and the brake, center mass mag dumps as fast as I could pull the trigger weren’t a problem. I usually pull brakes and attach suppressors for most reviews, but I kept this one on. It kept the muzzle down, but didn’t require a double-up on the ear pro when shooting outdoors. This model of brake isn’t available in the drop-down menu, but can be included upon request.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The free-floated handguard is M-LOK compatible. One of the best things about the handguard is the solid connection to the barrel nut. Like some of the Seekins Precision models, it has dual screws 270 degrees around the handguard. That’s rarely important, but sometimes it is when you need to bridge night vision devices.  Sometimes you need that one or two slots forward of the receiver. Nobody likes to bridge a receiver with an optic, but this makes the best of a bad situation if you have to.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

My only disappointment with the hand guard is that it doesn’t stylistically flow into the receiver itself.  They function perfectly together, but don’t look like they go together. Of course, it’s F1, so if you want something else, there are other options available.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

What is absolutely basic is the pistol grip and the buttstock. How this stock came to be the standard for the M4 and its variants I’ll never understand. It’s always floppy on every gun I’ve had, and no part of it fits the shooter well. Fortunately, this is not the standard stock that’s listed on their website, and I’m guessing this T&E model got what was lying around.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The same can be said for the standard pistol grip. I sand the finger groove off all of mine, or replace it with a Magpul product.

Both of those pieces of furniture tend to be user preference items, and you can easily swap them out when or if you want to with the aftermarket product of your choice.

Probably the first thing I’d change on this gun is the standard charging handle. A big boy latch is very helpful for anyone wearing gloves or doing a lot of dry fire practice, which is what we should all be focusing on anyway.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

F1 did good with their FDR-15. It’s nothing fancy from a company known for everything fancy. This time, instead of skeletonized parts and beautiful external finishes, F1 Firearms put the work in on the details that are the most important, and it shows in the performance of the gun.

Specifications: F1 Firearms FDR-15 Rifle

Forged MIL-SPEC FDR-15 receiver set
Match grade 16” 1:8 stainless steel barrel – alternate lengths available
Available in 5.56 NATO, .300 Blackout, 7.62 X 39, .224 Valkyrie
NiB bolt carrier group – all F-1 Firearms BCG’s available
Hiperfire EDT2 Heavy Gunner trigger
F-1 Firearms Flat-Face, Angle-Face or F-1 Firearms Slay-AR compensator
12.75” C7M handguard – all F-1 Firearms handguards available
Magpul MOE adjustable buttstock and MOE pistol grip
Flag and star cutouts on magwell available
Black – Type III hard anodizing
F-1Firearms 100% Lifetime Guarantee
MSRP: $1,200 (base model)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * * 1/2
A good Type III anodized black(ish) finish is standard through most of the gun. Extra points for the BCG and barrel finish.

Customization * * * * *
This is the base model, but you can get just about anything you can dream up from F1.

Reliability * * * * *

Precision * * * *
Very good but not exceptional. A more rigid buttstock would have helped a bit, but just under Minute of Angle was possible with a couple of different ammunition types.

Overall * * * *
Very good, but not amazing accuracy and a handguard that doesn’t flow aesthetically into the receiver keeps this gun out of five stars, but just. Overall, F1 Firearms has put out a reasonably priced (in the current market) rifle that includes premium parts and coatings for the most important aspects of a working gun. It’s a very solid rifle and a lot of fun to shoot.

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