If you like the elegant curves and "just-right" feel of that definitive fighting pistol, the Browning Hi-Power, you may be a little surprised by the look and feel of FN Herstal's new FNP9 duty pistol.
The Hi-Power's lineage is there in the FNP9, but the character and ergonomics are very different indeed.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing-simply different. When you said "handgun" during the time John M. Browning began his close association with Belgium-headquartered Fabrique Nationale d 'Armes de Guerre (now FN Herstal) in 1898, you meant "blued steel." Today, when you say "handgun"—especially in the police duty gun world—you're more than likely saying polymer, stampings, and exotic lightweight metal alloys. Functional? In the extreme. Able to garner the "warm fuzzies" and visions of "heft" and engraving? Hardly.
Based upon 100-plus years of design excellence, the P9 delivers exactly what it's intended to deliver, performance. No more, no less. If you need a "9mm projectile-launching platform," the FNP9 can do the job.
The P9 is a conventional double-action/single-action semiauto. Load a magazine (16 rounds of 9mm), insert it, rack the slide to chamber, and you end up with a cocked hammer. For safely lowering the hammer, the P9 features an ambi "decocker" on either side of the rear of the frame.
Other safety features on the P9 include internal safeties to help prevent firing should the handgun be dropped (a firing pin safety is in evidence) as well as what appears to be a lightweight firing pin, both of which will help prevent those little embarrassing accidents.
The initial double-action pull is actually lightweight and smooth, albeit "mechanical" feeling with clicks and a side-to-side play to the trigger movement that is simply a penalty we pay for today's drop-in assembly lines and plastic parts.
The single-action pull was very light and showed a consistent 3 pounds on my RCBS trigger pull gauge. Factory specs show it at 3.5 pounds, so ours does seem on the light side.
The list of standard goodies on the P9 is substantial and pretty much expected on a duty pistol today. Sights are steel three-dot types, with a tritium option. The ambi-decocker is a nice touch, and the slide release and take-down lever are both in the right spots. Also, the slide is serrated at the rear and there are molded-in checkering panels on the backstrap, frontstrap, and even the front of the trigger guard.
To prevent slide or hammer bite, the P9's "beavertail" area is more pronounced than on most designs. This also helps to keep the grip high and tight.
The trigger reach is a bit of a stretch in double-action mode for my smallish hands but certainly manageable. Which brings us to another interesting point about the P9. The factory has seen fit to supply a couple of backstrap inserts so the end user can change the contour of the rear of the gripframe.
A feature on the P9's external extractor also serves as a loaded chamber indicator. This is nice, but it's something I've never trusted in any pistol. All it really shows you is that there is a cartridge case in the chamber. Is it a loaded round? Who knows unless you check it yourself? A small point, but hey, you only have one life the last time I checked.
Like many duty pistols, the P9 offers a molded-in Picatinny rail on the dust cover and can accept no end of aftermarket widgets, including lasers, lights, and I'll bet even a siren soon. But there's something to keep in mind here: All that stuff adds weight and can affect the performance of a weapon.
A beveled mag well makes slipping the "law enforcement only" 16-round 9mm mags home fast and easy. The gun comes with two mags and a cool plastic case, of course.[PAGEBREAK]
A Bone to Pick
There's always something that takes the shine off a spanking new gun. Our FNP9 was no exception to this rule. It had one little problem.
When you decock the gun using the port (left) decocking lever, the raised, molded area around the slide release digs into the meaty part of your thumb and hurts like heck. Everyone who used it complained about it, and if I was keeping this gun, I'd go to work with a small file and start rounding some edges. Not a big thing, but somebody should take note at FN.
Bits And Pieces
The recoil spring on the FNP9 is a captive one, and the gun comes apart with no problem. Lock the slide back, turn the little lever down, release the slide, and take the whole bit off the front of the frame. The recoil spring comes out easily along with the barrel. Then you'll have four easy-to-manage parts to clean. Reassembly is, oddly enough, just the opposite.
While you have it apart, note that the slide rides on steel rails in the frame assembly. That's good. Also note the hammer assembly. The FNP9 is built so that a certified armorer can simply knock out a pin or two and take out that assembly, replacing it with a new one should the need arise.
As is usually the case, our range time was limited due to deadlines. Functionality was first rate, with no malfunctions noted. I did take the opportunity to lube the gun prior to firing. Hollow-points and ball ammo alike ran just fine. The FNP9 felt like any other high-cap "wunder nine," and I don't predict any surprises, even in the long term for anyone who chooses to carry this gun.
Accuracy hovered around the 2-inch mark at 15 yards from a wrested position, and I honestly don't think it will do any better. This is a fighting pistol, not a match gun, so you want it to run anytime, anyplace, and this FNP9 will do just that.
FNP9 Duty Pistol
Capacity: 16 rounds
Barrel Length: 4 inches
Overall Length: 7.1 inches
Weight: 22.5 ounces with empty mag
Height: 5.4 inches
Width: 1.34 inches
Trigger Pull: 10 pounds D/A 3.5 pounds S/A
Sights: Fixed dot (optional tritium)
Price: $456 (law enforcement)
Roy Huntington is the editor of American Handgunner, as well as a member of the POLICE Advisory Board, and the former editor of POLICE magazine.