For a couple of years now, Belgium's FN Herstal has been working to secure a significant slice of the American market for law enforcement duty pistols. The Belgian company, which makes the legendary Browning Hi-Power pistol, launched its first polymer police handgun, the FNP-9 (9mm), back in 2006. The FNP is now available in 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and .45 ACP.

Family Traits

Each model in the FNP series of pistols has many features that are now standard on many duty weapons. These include an integral light rail and high-visibility sights with night sights as an option. But unlike many other duty handguns, the FNP series features a frame-mounted safety/decocking lever.

In addition to these very attractive features, the FNP comes with an interchangeable backstrap so you can adjust it to fit your hand. This is especially useful for the FNP-45, which some shooters would consider to be a large handgun. One great ergonomic touch on the FNP series is that the grip angle on these pistols is the same as the grip angle of a 1911.

Big Bore

The most recent incarnation of the FNP is chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. In other words, it's a serious fighting pistol.

The .45 ACP cartridge has been a favorite of the military and law enforcement for many decades. The problem with many duty weapons chambered in this time-tested caliber is that they hold only a few rounds, generally eight to 10. To address this issue, some pistol makers have made the grip size too large for many shooters. That's not the case with the FNP-45, which has that nifty interchangeable backstrap.

My test and evaluation sample of the FNP-45 arrived a few weeks back in one of my two favorite trucks, the "Big Brown" UPS truck. My other favorite is that multicolored beauty with the words FedEx on the side. When one of these trucks shows up at my home, I know I'm about to get something cool. And the FNP-45 is the definition of something cool.

The FNP-45 comes in a blue FN box and was shipped with three magazines; two of the magazines held 14 rounds while one held 15 rounds. That's a pretty impressive basic load. It amounts to 43 + 1 rounds of .45 ACP. This should be more than enough rounds to solve most tactical situations.

Great Grip

Like you, the first thing I do when I get a new pistol is take it out of the box and handle it. I was pleasantly surprised by the FNP-45. It felt great in my hands, and that's not usually the case. You see, I have fairly large hands and many polymer-framed 45s just don't fit or feel right. The FNP-45 felt good from the first time I handled it. It felt good enough that I didn't even need to change out the backstrap.

What impressed me most from my initial handling of the FNP-45 was the way the grip felt. The checkering on the frame of the pistol is nicely executed and, unlike those of other polymer-framed handguns, the checkering of the FNP-45 doesn't have that "plastic" feel. The FNP-45's checkering gives the shooter the same stability or grip as he or she would have with a metal-framed pistol, even with wet hands.

FN has kept the controls small and unobtrusive. The slide stop and takedown lever are located on the left side of the handgun. The magazine release is protected by a rise in the frame, reducing the chances that you will accidentally drop the magazine. The ambidextrous safety/decocking lever is mounted just aft of what most shooters would consider the "normal" 1911 position.

Fit and finish on the FNP-45 are both excellent, especially for a duty pistol. The slide moved back and forth on the embedded frame rails. The trigger action was smooth and consistent on double- or single-action. Trigger pull for the double action was around 11 pounds, while the single action broke cleanly at six pounds. While some may think that is horrible trigger pull, remember that this is a duty pistol, not a match/competition pistol.

Breaking down the FNP-45 was a snap. Here's how you do it: First make sure that the pistol is clear and empty. Now remove the magazine and lock the slide to the rear. Rotate the slide lock lever, pull off the slide, and remove the barrel/recoil spring assembly from the slide. That's all you have to do to field-strip the pistol for cleaning. The parts came out smoothly and reassembled easily.

Flawless Performance

Overall my initial impressions of the FNP-45 were favorable. The pistol has a lot going for it. It's light; it has excellent magazine capacity for a .45 ACP duty weapon; it has great features; and the manual of arms can be performed easily by anyone who has ever disassembled and reassembled a semi-auto pistol.

That's everything I could learn about the FNP-45 before taking it to the range. So it was time to load it up and do some shooting.

I chose Black Hills 230-grain JHPs, CorBon, Federal, Hornady, Remington 230-grain Golden Sabers, and Winchester. This is a fair mix of duty ammunition, and I thought it would give me a very good idea of how the pistol would perform as a duty firearm.

Initially, I ran several mixed magazines through the FNP-45 to test the pistol's reliability and make sure it didn't have magazine or ammunition sensitivities. I pumped more than 200 rounds out of it without an issue; this pistol just kept on shooting.

The next time I took the FNP-45 to the range, I tested it for accuracy. I shot it from both a supported bench and slow and carefully with a two-handed grip. I used the same mix of ammunition. This time I fired five- and 10-round groups. I used my range bag as the pistol rest; it's a solid rest and has worked for many years.

The FNP-45 did not seem to prefer one variety of ammunition over another when it came to accuracy. Five-shot groups at 20 yards from the rest consistently ran around two inches. The 10-shot groups opened up to three inches or so, the largest being about three and a half inches. I consider that good accuracy for a duty weapon that is a traditional double action.

When firing the FNP-45 offhand at 20 yards, I managed to keep 10 rounds less than five inches. Sorry I couldn't massage the trigger more gently to get better groups. It was pushing 90 degrees that day.

The FNP-45's accuracy is definitely up to par for duty. I am certain the pistol is capable of shooting sub-two-inch groups at 20 yards. FN firearms are known for their accuracy, and I am certain the FNP-45 will carry on that tradition.

Overall I think the FNP-45 is a solid pistol that would serve any department or agency looking for a big bore duty pistol. It's reliable, accurate, easy to maintain, and very well designed.

Scott Smith is a federal police officer for the Department of Veteran's Affairs and a contributing editor to POLICE.