FN's heritage speaks for itself. From the classic Browing Hi-Power pistol, to today's current crop of high-tech firearms, FN's reputation is that of a Cadillac of police and military firearms. Quality and workmanship is always first-rate and design innovation is an integral part of the process.
Since 1988, FN Manufacturing Inc. in Columbia, S.C., has been manufacturing the M16A2 rifle for the U.S. military. In order to hold this prestigious contract, the FN plant holds an ISO9002 certification and has consistently delivered the goods on time and with top quality.
The list of firearms available to law enforcement from FN is extensive. The P90 full-auto sub-gun is kind of a "mini-assault" rifle, configured in a bull-pup format. The proprietary 5.7mm round raised quite a few eyebrows when introduced and has since seen sales to law enforcement and military.
The P90's sister, the Five-seveN pistol, shoots the same 5.7mm round (looks like an abbreviated .223) and offers almost 2,300 fps from a handgun. The applications for such a weapon are obvious to anyone who carries a badge.
More conventional is FN's Forty Nine Pistol, which is a semiauto duty handgun, with a faint resemblance to the S&W Sigma series. However, the striker-fired performance of the FN has the benefit of allowing you to use the striker in a double-action mode.
FN's precision rifles, like the .338 Lapua Sniper, have established solid places in the arsenals of police agencies and military units due to their high quality and superb performance.
With all this technology and heritage behind it, FN realized there was a hole in its law enforcement product line. It needed a shotgun.
The police shotgun is a tried-and-true tool, even in today's increasingly high-tech police arsenal. There are times when stun guns, OC spray, and verbal compliance techniques fall short and a reliable load of "00" buck is called for.
At that moment, the delivery system is vital and has to be the most reliable possible. Over the past 75 years or so, the pump shotgun has proven, and re-proven, itself in the field. Dirt, snow, rain, filth, neglect, and worse are no stranger to the police shotgun and the pump action has established its credentials solidly.
When a really nasty job needs to be done, cops reach for their pump shotguns. Historically, that shotgun has been the Remington 870 and/or the Ithaca in various guises. With the introduction of Mossberg, there was a third contender. These days, Winchester also markets a police or "Defender" shotgun.
Basically mirroring one another, these various manufacturers all offer slight differences in features, but all are basic, pump-action shotguns, and the choice is more subjective than factual.
Now FN is entering the market. But rather than starting from scratch, it sought out an existing design that it could modify.
This is a wise decision. Not only does it make little sense to re-invent the wheel, having another manufacturer make a product allows FN to take full advantage of the other's experience in the arena. It even makes more sense when all of that expertise is in the family. This is why FN's Police Shotgun was manufactured by U.S. Repeating Arms (Winchester). U.S. Repeating Arms, like FN and Browning, is a member of the Herstal Group, a conglomerate of firearms companies.
Having said all that, why would FN attempt to enter a market already well-stocked with good choices? One answer is the fact that many agencies and the military like to bid "one contract" for firearms. If they can get handguns, rifles, and shotguns from one maker, it helps to make life easier all around. This way, agencies only have to deal with one rep, one factory training program, one billing process, and other conveniences.
So just how well did the FN Police Shotgun come out? Very well. The FN Police Shotgun is essentially a U.S. Repeating Arms Model 1300 Defender shotgun, with some modifications. The FN model has adjustable rifle-like sights from Winchester's "Camp Defender Model."
This gives the user the option of using the rifle sights when shooting slugs. Additionally, the inclusion of two screw-in chokes allows users to tune the choke for the best performance with slugs and/or buckshot.
If you read the spec sheet for the Winchester Defender and the FN Police Shotgun, they are identical, and that's not a bad thing. The Winchester Model 1300 has established a reputation for affordability and reliability.
The Defender's action has become famous for its smooth operation. The rotating bolt opens cleanly, allowing the slide to be worked easily and quickly. Upon closing, the face of the bolt rotates slightly, bringing the locking bolts into contact with those in the barrel. It's solid and secure and works like a champ.
The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope bases. I suppose you could also mount a receiver sight if you were inclined. The use of low-power scopes or red dot-type sights on police shotguns is becoming increasingly popular. With today's newest generations of sabot slugs, you can get upwards of 2,000 fps out of a solid copper, waisted-slug. Accuracy can be less than 2 inches at 100 yards and easily repeatable.
This kind of accuracy and power (possible with the slugs) turns the FN into a versatile platform with which you can stop cars, shoot through barricades, and even play the role of counter-sniper should the need arise. With most police precision rifle shots taken at well under 100 yards, perhaps the ability to penetrate a barricade may make the scope-sighted, accurate shotgun a real player on the front lines.
With a weapon like the FN Police Shotgun and a good sight, any patrol officer would be able to respond to an active shooter or barricaded "sniper" call with effective, accurate rifle-like fire. Think about all those videos of the North Hollywood bank shootout and tell me those LAPD cops wouldn't have wanted that ability.
"Manganese Phosphate on steel" is how FN describes the finish, but that's just fancy verbiage for "Parkerized." It's a soft-gray color that has been used on military arms for a century. The synthetic stock offers a solid grip and the heavily ribbed fore-end makes sure your hand doesn't slip during fast and furious shooting. Just don't "short-stroke" the pump, which is about the only pitfall of the pump design and is a problem with any maker's model.
Ammo capacity is pretty standard for a police scattergun. The FN holds seven rounds in the magazine tube and one in the chamber. It's also rated for 3-inch magnum rounds, but we've no reason to believe that such ammunition would ever be used in a police shotgun. This capability is a holdover from Winchester's sporting line, which shares the same action and offers the performance of the 3-inch shells for hunters.
The shortish length of pull-13-and a-half inches-allows the FN to be used when wearing body armor and also suits shorter-statured shooters. That said, however, one of our longer-armed shooters didn't have any complaints and we've found, historically, that slightly shorter is always better than slightly longer for a shotgun pull.
We confess we're always looking for a good reason to say that a gun is a "piece of garbage," report it to you, and then sit back and smile smugly. But we'll have to wait for another time. The FN Police Shotgun ran fine and was boringly predictable in its performance, ease of use, and accuracy.
The Winchester heritage no doubt played a role here. With many thousands of shotguns made and millions of rounds down-range, the design has had all the bugs well-worked out.
FN's addition of the rifle sights is probably a good idea, but frankly, we'd rather they be of better design. The rear "V" is rounded at the bottom and is neither an "express-type" sight that allows very fast acquisition, nor a precision "notch" or "V" that allows very careful work. Do they get the job done? Yes. But honestly, we'd rather see a simple bead for close, fast work (which is most likely what will be called for) or, a well-executed ghost-ring. What is there now is a compromise, and like all compromises, it doesn't do any one thing particularly well. During fast, close work, we found that the tendency to automatically try to align the front sight in the rear "V" slowed us down.
As a test, I removed the rear sight and we simply used the front post. Times went up appreciably, and frankly, our long-range stuff didn't suffer much at all. There's a lesson there and we hope FN listens.
Delivery of buckshot, slugs, and simple birdshot was as things should be. The supplied chokes enabled us to tune the delivery of the Federal Tactical buckshot so it would yield groups that completely stayed on the standard silhouette at 20 yards. This is terrific performance and possible due to a combination of the nature of the Federal round and the ability to change chokes simply by screwing in another one.
All-in-all, we found the FN to be extremely smooth to run, reliable with everything we ran through it, and a pleasure to shoot, with no surprises. It didn't pinch, bite, or cut any fingers and shows attention to detail. Like your Mom's apple pie, the FN was predictable and comfortable. Perhaps it might well be called "comfort food" for patrol.
FNH USA Inc.
Weight (empty): 6.5 pounds
Overall Length: 38.75 inches
Barrel Length: 18 inches
Action: Pump action/rotary bolt design
Gauge: 12 gauge
Capacity: 7-shot magazine
Stock: Black synthetic
Estimated Price: $399 full-retail (department costs will be less)
Roy Huntington is a long-time member of the Police Advisory Board, a former editor of POLICE, and the current editor of American Handgunner magazine.