The FN Five-seveN is a unique pistol that attempts to continue FN’s longstanding tradition of innovation and quality in firearms design. You could think of the Five-seveN as a pistol version of FN’s P90 personal defense weapon — it’s smaller and lighter than the P90, and it isn’t a shoulder-fired weapon, but it uses the same unique 5.7x28mm ammunition so it has low recoil and carries lots of ammunition. With the right loads (including some special commercial loads), the 5.7x28mm fired from the pistol will also penetrate Kevlar vests just like the P90.
This is all due to the fact that the Five-seveN is chambered for FN’s unique 5.7mm cartridge, which is central to the design of the pistol (hence the name “Five-seveN”). It’s a small bottlenecked centerfire round that looks like a shortened .223 Remington cartridge. The bullet diameter is identical to that of a .223 Remington, but the shortened case length allows the 5.7x28mm to be fired from a pistol.
Originally, FN Herstal had restricted sales of the Five-seveN pistol to military and law enforcement agencies, but that changed in 2004 (shortly after the expiration of the failed Assault Weapons Ban) when FN decided to start offering their weapons to civilian shooters in the United States. Some of FN’s weapons are currently being manufactured here in the U.S., but the Five-seveN pistol is still manufactured at FN’s main factory in Herstal, Belgium, just like the P90 and PS90.
I’ve owned a Five-seveN USG model since 2006 (shortly after they became available to civilians), and over the years I have had two different versions of the gun—I started with the large adjustable sights and then later switched to the low profile fixed sights (which I like much better). I’ve fired thousands of rounds through the Five-seveN without any issues of any sort.
As for terminal ballistics with the 5.7x28mm, there is a lot of info out there regarding lethal use of the 5.7x28mm in various shootings, and lots of hunters use the cartridge for hunting hogs and other wild animals, with good results. So we can conclude that the round is an effective option for either self defense or hunting (within limits). FN defines the Five-seveN′s effective range as being 50 yards, and that seems about right, because the round sheds its energy very quickly. The upside to this is that a 5.7x28mm bullet is less likely to cause collateral damage to a bystander in the distance.
Another benefit of the 5.7x28mm is that it has a very light recoil impulse, somewhere between that of a .22 Long Rifle and a 9-millimeter. It’s very easy to shoot the Five-seveN quickly and accurately. This also means the gun has tremendous appeal for anyone who can’t handle recoil very well (e.g. small women and elderly people). One small caveat: the 5.7x28mm is loud and it has quite a bit of muzzle flash (you can see some more pictures of that here).
As for sights, the Five-seveN has been produced with either adjustable sights or fixed sights. However, as of 2014, only the adjustable sights are being offered on new production Five-seveN MK2 pistols. I prefer the older fixed sights for a number of reasons. They’re not as tall as the adjustable sights, they’re more reliable (in theory) since they have less parts, they look better, and they work well up to 25 yards with standard 5.7x28mm loads. Typical self defense shootings take place at very close range, so the fixed sights are going to be better for defensive purposes. However, if you do a lot of target shooting at various distances and need more versatility, the adjustable sights are probably a better option for you.
The Five-seveN pistol has lots of personality—it contains all sorts of interesting innovations that deserve to be mentioned here. Aside from the obvious innovation in the caliber of the gun, the design of the pistol itself is also interesting in a number of ways. The slide is steel encased in a polymer shell, to reduce weight and corrosion; the safety device is located above the trigger, where it can be flicked on or off by the shooter’s trigger finger; the magazine feeds from two rows of ammunition, similar to an M16 or AK47 magazine; and the list goes on and on.
I’ll go into more detail on the safety device; there is one control located on each side of the gun’s frame, right above the trigger guard, so it’s ambidextrous. You can manipulate it with either your trigger finger or your offhand thumb, but it’s going to be a bit awkward at first. It does get better with time and practice, though, so it’s not a big deal. A loaded chamber indicator is provided on the top of the slide, and there’s also a magazine disconnect (to prevent the gun from firing without a magazine inserted); I think those are both good safety features, but some people may not care for the magazine disconnect.
The Five-seveN is pretty simple and easy to disassemble. The takedown lever is located on the left side of the frame, ahead of the trigger guard. At the front of the frame, there’s a Picatinny accessory rail that you can use to mount tactical lights and lasers, and threaded barrels are available for mounting a suppressor on the Five-seveN. Another positive is that the gun is shipped from the factory with three 20-round magazines, so you get two extras.
One potential con is the fact that the Five-seveN is a full-size pistol, so that is something to keep in mind. The overall length is 8.2 inches, and the height is 5.4 inches. The gun also has a sizeable grip in order to accommodate the 5.7x28mm ammunition. Still, the distance from the trigger to the backstrap on the Five-seveN is only 2.75 inches, which is identical to a Glock pistol with no backstrap attached. Speaking of the trigger, the Five-seveN is single action and it has a pretty good 5-pound trigger pull.
The Five-seveN is an extremely light gun. In fact, it’s lighter than any full size 9mm pistol on the market. When loaded with 20 rounds, the Five-seveN weighs 1.6 pounds; for comparison, a 9mm Glock loaded with 17 rounds weighs 2 pounds (roughly 30% heavier than the Five-seveN). At the same time, the Five-seveN carries more ammunition than a full size 9mm pistol. It has a flush fit magazine capacity of 20 rounds (compared to about 15-17 rounds for your average 9mm pistol), and an extended magazine is available that boosts the Five-seveN’s capacity to 30 rounds and only adds about 1.5 inches to the overall height of the gun (note: 33 round extended magazines are available for Glock pistols but they are much larger and more cumbersome).
In many respects, the Five-seveN is unlike any pistol that came before it, and even today there is nothing out there that is directly comparable to it in terms of the innovative design and unique capabilities.
o Relatively large gun
o Safety can be awkward
o Gun/ammo is expensive
o Easy to disassemble
o Low recoil
o Flat shooting
o Good sights
o Penetrates SBA (depending on ammo)
o Large magazine capacity
I should note that the Five-seveN is an expensive gun and the 5.7x28mm ammunition is expensive as well. An average price for the gun is about $1,000, and the ammunition currently sells for about $30 per box of 50 rounds. If you’re new to the Five-seveN, you might want to look into reloading the cartridge to save costs.
All in all, though, the Five-seveN is a fantastic firearm that lives up to FN Herstal’s reputation for quality. It’s lightweight, reliable, accurate, and boasts a lot of firepower. It’s also a lot of fun to shoot, and anyone can shoot it well.
Manufacturer: FN Herstal (Belgium)
Action: Delayed blowback
Overall Length: 8.2 in
Barrel Length: 4.8 in
Height: 5.4 in
Width: 1.4 in
Weight: 1.6 lb (loaded)
Magazine Capacity: 20 rounds (10 and 30 round magazines also offered)
Muzzle Velocity: 1,700 to 2,600 ft/s (depending on load)
Effective Range: 50 yards
For more information on the FN Five-seveN, visit FNH USA’s official website at www.fnhusa.com.
For more photos of the Five-seveN, visit our photo gallery.
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