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Reviews : Arsenal

FN Herstal Five-seveN Pistol

Although it’s best known for firing armor-piercing rounds, FN’s exotic handgun is also extremely accurate and fun to shoot.

August 01, 2004  |  by Dave Douglas

SS190 ammo won't overpenetrate, but it will go right through 48 layers of Kevlar at up to 200 meters when fired from the 10.2-inch barrel of the P90. The ammo achieves this armor-piercing performance by stepping out of the P90 at a velocity of about 2,346 feet per second. When fired from the shorter barreled Five-seveN handgun, SS190 ammo can penetrate 48 layers of Kevlar at 50 meters. Service, tracer, subsonic, training, and blank rounds are available and supplied in the U.S. by Olin.

Unique But Familiar

In addition to its armor-piercing capability and its design characteristics that prevent overpenetration, FN's 5.7mm SS190 ammunition has only 60 percent of the recoil impulse of a 9mm round. And that makes the Five-seveN a real pleasure to shoot.

It sounds weird to say it, but this pistol feels both unique and familiar at the same time. Maybe that's because it has the look of a highly updated version of the old Browning Buck Mark (FN is the parent company of Browning) or of a Colt Woodsman.

Remember, I said highly updated. The Five-seveN's texured polymer grip is very contemporary, and it's easy to hold in inclement weather or with sweaty palms. In addition, its palm swell and relieved thumb groove provide a correct and positive hold on the gun.

The Five-seveN's ergonomics are outstanding. You would have to try hard to get an improper grip on this gun. The shooter's hand rides high on the backstrap, locating it closer to the bore line to provide even less felt recoil. In addition, placement of the magazine release allows both right- and left-handed shooters to easily accomplish lightning fast reloads. Also, there is not a single sharp or grabby point on this gun.

But that doesn't mean it's hard to keep a grip on it when working the mechanism. Cocking serrations are on the rear portion of the slide and two small "ears" are provided at the very rear of the slide to make chamber checking easy with the first and second fingers on the slide and the thumb on the back portion of the frame.

Of course, no matter how good the ergonomics, a gun is useless unless it's accurate. Believe me, the Five-seveN is accurate. Its sights are outstanding. The rear sight is fully adjustable for both windage and elevation, and FN even includes a sight adjustment tool in the box. The sample I shot came with the standard three-dot system, but night sights are also available.

My only complaint about the mechanics of the Five-seveN is that, out of the box, the trigger feels a little stagey. I am sure this will go away when the gun has more rounds put through it. And anyway, sniveling about the trigger seems petty when you consider the results of my test firing. At 15 yards, this is a one-hole gun.

Armor Piercing

The vest-defeating capability of the Five-seveN firing the SS190 ammunition is very impressive. I was curious about it, so I pulled out two old Level II vests I had around the office for testing.

The first round I shot from the Five-seveN at 7 yards zipped right on through both the front and back panel of vest number one. So I placed vest number two over vest number one and shot it in a different spot. The round zipped through again, penetrating both front panels and both back panels.

OK, this wasn't a scientific test. But it was interesting. And I'd bet that if the LAPD had possessed a couple of the Five-seveN pistols at the North Hollywood shootout, none of us would have heard about it. It would have been over way before the news copters arrived on scene.

FN Herstal
Five-SeveN Tactical

Caliber: 5.7mm
Capacity: 20 rounds
Action: Double action
Barrel Length: 4.75 inches
Overall Length: 8.2 inches
Height: 5.4 inches
Weight (loaded): 1.7 pounds
Sights: Three-dot
Safety: ambidextrous
Price: $585

Sgt. Dave Douglas is the rangemaster of the San Diego Police Department, a veteran law enforcement officer, and a Police contributing editor.

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Comments (5)

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5

Larry/Novelette Petrick @ 10/26/2011 8:41 AM

four stars very well written.

Michael @ 1/17/2015 3:07 PM

I could not get past the first couple of paragraphs. All Five-seveN varients - ALL OF THEM - are, in the newest MK2 version, and the older ones available when this was first written - are single action pistols. There has never been a double action only five-seven. The hammer - which is internal, but NOT a striker - is always cocked when there is a round in the chamber. There is no decocker. You must empty the mag/chamber and pull the trigger to drop the hammer. So if an author does not understand the basic type of firing mechanism a weapon has - how qualified are they to review it? What a shame, it seems like a good article too.

Michael @ 6/14/2015 10:15 AM

I noted the quote "The Five-seveN pistol and the P90 subgun were introduced to the U.S. military market in 1996, and they became popular with special units, but law enforcement greeted the guns and the armor-piercing ammo with a shrug. Then came the North Hollywood bank robbery in which a couple of thugs wearing body armor withstood the combined firepower of dozens of Los Angeles police officers firing 9mm pistols. And FN started to get a lot of phone calls from cops." Um, the North Hollywood bank robbery was 1987 - the Five-seveN introduced in 1996. So if by after the shooting they started getting calls you meant 11 years at the earliest, ok. Wow - try to get some basic facts correct SOMEWHERE here. BTW 5-7s are single action only HAMMER fired guns, not double action only striker fired. This really could not have been a more poorly researched article.

Javier @ 12/5/2015 9:43 PM

Well the FN 5.7 isn't a $585 now and there are very to get and if you do get one it goes for no less than $1300

Don @ 11/21/2016 1:57 PM

Michael, yes there was a Double Action Only version. You are correct that they were not striker fired.

If you do a search for FN 5.7 DAO it will bring up links. BTW, the DAO models are very collectible now.

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