NOTE: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW IS COPYRIGHT 2012 BY JeepGunner.com - James Bell Jr.
ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.
Fabrique Nationale Herstal (FNH) USA
PO Box 697
McLean, VA 22101 USA
After we completed our review of the FNH USA PS90, we received many inquiries asking us about the FNH USA Five-seveN. It's the companion side arm to the PS90 - chambered in the same 5.7x28mm round (hence the name Five-seveN, which also spells out the FN initials through the odd capitalization). We didn't have one, but after a good deal of work and several meetings with FNH and their PR agency during the 2011 SHOT SHOW, we arranged to have FNH USA send us one to review.
To recap, the 5.7x28mm round was originally designed to defeat military body armor, while also limiting over penetration of the target when fired from the P90. Neither of the currently available factory 5.7x28mm rounds will penetrate body armor when fired from the Five-seveN pistol - and in our testing, only the SS197SR has a chance at it from the PS90.
The SS195LF and SS197SR rounds
.45ACP 230gr ball, SS195LF, SS197SR, and a .223 JSP round for comparison
After the full-auto P90 was released in 1990, FNH wanted to make a companion sidearm pistol chambered in the same round.This makes sense - common ammunition, and in the restricted LE and military rounds, it is very capable.
Development took a while, but in 1998, they released the first version of the Five-seveN, which incorporated a double-action trigger. The original Five-seveN was designed for - and sold only to - LE Agencies and Military Units only. This version had no manual safety, and a very interesting bulbous trigger guard that works very nicely with gloves on.
They later released the Tactical version, which had a Single-Action trigger and the ambidextrous manual safety lever that is still present on shipping Five-seveN units.
In 2004 they released the Five-seveN IOM, which was available for general ownership. It retained the bulbous trigger guard, and it also had a rail under the barrel.
During the prep work for this article (back before we had a Five-seveN to test), I found that a gentleman that I am acquainted with by the name of Joe, has a Five-seveN IOM. He was nice enough to bring it to a local gun range one day, and I got the chance to photograph and shoot it. In terms of operation and feel in operation, it's basically identical to the shipping USG version. But the bulbous trigger guard, round magazine release, and the different grip texturing are the visible differences.
A Five-seveN IOM
The currently shipping version is the Five-seveN USG. It has a more conventionally styled (but still ample) trigger guard, and different grip texturing, plus a squared magazine release.
The currently shipping Five-seveN USG model
They are manufactured in Belguim and imported by FNH USA.
Here is a roundup of what we found with the Five-seveN.
The Five-seveN ships in a hard plastic case with molded section for the firearm with one magazine inserted, two more magazines in the case (for a total of three), a spent casing in a sealed envelope attached to the firearm (as required by some states), the instruction manual, warranty card, and a locking mechanism. A sight adjustment tool and a tool for reversing the magazine catch are also included. The case can be locked by the addition of a simple padlock.
The Shipping Case for the Five-seveN
The contents of the case. The sight tool and magazine catch tool are in the upper right of the section with the Five-seveN
The Five-seveN appears much like most other handguns - right down to the picatinny rail underneath the barrel. It has a polymer frame, and a steel slide - however the steel slide is covered in a polymer sheath. This gives it the appearance of being entirely polymer. The frame is available in Black, OD Green, or Flat Dark Earth - but all of these come with a black slide.. The operating controls - take down lever, safety lever, magazine release, and slide stop lever - are either gray (on the standard Black-frame version) or black (on the OD Green frame, Flat Dark Earth frame, and special all-black edition).
While the black frame is ideally better for normal concealed carry situations, in my personal opinion I find either the OD Green or Flat Dark Earth versions to be more visually pleasing. The factory was originally supposed to send us an OD Green unit for review, but they ended up shipping a black one instead.
The author later obtained an OD Green Five-seveN. Unfortunately, this color is now out of production.
The included magazines hold either 20 rounds (standard) or 10 rounds (for reduced-capacity magazine states). They load like an AR-15 magazine rather than a standard pistol magazine. Rounds are inserted from the top down, and rolled into the magazine until full capacity has been reached. Holes are provided for visual indications of capacity at 5, 10, 15, and 20 rounds. When the magazine is full, the top round will be on the right, and the bottom of a round will be visible in the 20 hole.
There are aftermarket 30-round conversions, but we did not test any of them for this review.
LOADING AND UNLOADING:
As standard for handguns, insert the loaded magazine into the grip of the firearm, and pull the slide all the way to the rear and let it go. A round will be stripped from the magazine and chambered.
A loaded chamber indicator is provided on the upper-left of the slide - a small silver stud that protudes very slightly when the firearm is loaded. It is easily felt, and protudes far enough that it can be visually detected - but not far enough to interfere with holsters.
A close-up view with the loaded chamber indicator retracted - unloaded
A close-up view with the loaded chamber indicator extended - loaded
To unload, remove the magazine, and rack the slide while pressing up on the slide stop lever. This will lock the slide open - and you can visually verify that the chamber is empty and the magazine well is clear.
The firearm itself is about the same size as a full-sized Glock, but the grip is more narrow and a little longer front-to-back due to the overall length of the rounds used in this firearm. It measures 8.2" long and 5.7" high, with a width of 1.4".
The longer grip (front-to-back) was was fine for me - but I have had a couple of people with smaller hands comment that it felt a bit large to them. However, they also commented that the light recoil compensated for some of that - they didn't feel like they needed a "death grip" in order to control the Five-seveN. It really is very manageable.
The only other complaint - albeit a minor one - was that the folks with smaller hands felt that the trigger was a little too far forward for total comfort.
I'm not a big fan of firearms with external safety levers, but I have to say that FNH really did this one right. The safety lever sits right where your index finger sits when held out of the trigger guard. It's very easy to activate and de-activate. No need to use your thumb - your finger is right where the safety is when it's where it should be if you have not yet made the decision to fire.
Statistics show that the recoil on the Five-seveN is about 60% of that of a comparable 9mm handgun. That seems about right, recoil is much lighter and follow-up shots can be made easily. Putting 21 rapid shots into the effective area of a sub-man-sized target at 7 yards was quite easy. Here is a shot of the first rounds I put through that IOM that we were able to borrow earlier - having never fired it before.
In addition, it is VERY lightweight. Much lighter than the Glock 21 I traditionally carry. It weighs in at only 1.3 lbs without the magazine.
A plus for left-handed folks is that the magazine catch/release button can be reversed to the right side of the firearm for activation by a left thumb, and the safety is ambidextrous.
It's a delayed blowback operated system. As the expanding gasses push the bullet out of the barrel, they also start to push the spent casing back, pushing the casing against the slide. The slide and barrel are locked together for a short distance, until the locking lug on the barrel catches on its mate on the frame, which causes the barrel to disengage from the slide. The momentum continues to move the slide backwards, causing the firearm to eject that casing. The recoil spring then overcomes this rearward energy and cause the slide to move forward, stripping another round from the magazine and pushing it into the chamber to repeat the process.
Unlike a Glock or many other polymer pistols, the Five-seveN is a true SINGLE-ACTION mechanism. When the slide moves to the rear, it fully cocks the internal hammer. Pulling the trigger releases the hammer, causing it to strike the firing pin, causing the pin to hit the primer, and discharging the round.
We were able to use a FDE Five-seveN for this photo which shows the internal components in the frame. The hammer is back in this shot.
The factory rates the trigger pull weight as 4.4 lbs to 6.6 lbs. Ours was right around 5 and a bit.
We encountered only one failure to go into battery in the first 100 rounds we fired, and that one was very early on. In the 500 rounds total that we put through it between velocity testing, target shooting, and just for fun we had no further failures. It fed both SS195LF and SS197SR with only that one issue.
The Five-seveN is available with either fixed three-dot "combat" sights, or adjustable three-dot "target" sights. The combat sights are a lower profile sight designed not to snag during the drawstroke.
In this particular firearm I found that I prefer the adjustable "target" sights. Out of many hundreds of drawstrokes during the testing of this firearm, I never had them snag or otherwise interfere. The Five-seveN ships from the factory with the elevation adjusted for the SS195LF round at 25-feet.
The Three-Dot Target Sights
There IS a difference in the point-of-impact between the two available factory rounds with this firearm. The SS197 round (40 gr.) hits a little lower than the SS195 round (27 gr.).
When we received it we started with two 10-round groups - one each of SS195LF and SS197SR.
10 Rounds of SS195LF Hollow-Point From The Five-seveN At 21 Feet
10 Rounds Of SS197SR From The Five-seveN Fired At 21 Feet
Since I enjoy it as much for target practice as I would for personal defense, I like to adjust the sights for the round that I plan to shoot in it the majority of the time - which is the SS195LF round in the case of this firearm.
In terms of the currently-available factory rounds for the Five-seveN, the SS195LF is customarily recommended. It's a lighter bullet, so it gives you better velocity out of the Five-seveN. Since velocity aids expansion and the SS195LF is a hollow-point round, that's a good thing. We measured an average of 1921.66 FPS out of the Five-seveN across several boxes of factory SS195LF ammunition. Velocities from the SS197SR round averaged out to 1739.56 from several boxes of factory ammunition. You can click here to see how we measured these velocities.
You will note that the velocities are lower than they were on the PS90. That's the difference between a 16.04" barrel in the PS90, versus the 4.8" barrel of the Five-seveN. The barrel has a rifled length of 3.7". The rounds are still screaming coming out of the Five-seveN by any definition.
There is a significant amount of muzzle flash from the Five-seveN, but keep in mind that you are shooting a carbine-designed cartridge out of a pistol. That's to be expected.
There is a lot of disagreement when it comes to looking at the 5.7x28mm round - especially from the Five-seveN pistol - for defensive purposes. There are stories and examples on both sides - those that indicate that it is highly effective, and those that say it may net be ideal. Shot placement is critical no matter that you are shooting.
In terms of defensive performance, we haven't done our ballistic gelatin tests, but we did get the chance to test a few rounds against some body armor. You can read about that here. That's against body armor, and the expansion wasn't bad. But it's clearly not the "cop killer" round that so many media outlets claimed it to be after the incident at Ford Hood.
Real-world performance means more than anything else. I won't go into the details, but it certainly appears from the Fort Hood incident that the 5.7x28mm round performs as a defensive round should. There is information that has been released if you look for it, and that can be analyzed on a purely functional basis - albeit a very unfortunate one. There were several victims that were effectively "out of the fight" after non-COM hits, and many others that didn't make it to a hospital. It's not a pleasant analysis, and I hesitate to even mention it, but the data is there.
With 21 rounds in a fully-loaded Five-seveN, and the reliability that our test subject demonstrated, I feel quite confident in the firearm.
It is very easy to disassemble and clean the Five-seveN. The chrome-lined barrel makes this even easier. Start by removing the magazine, and racking the slide to the rear, pushing up on the slide stop lever. Make sure that the chamber and magazine well are empty, then allow the slide to close.
Pull the slide back slightly, and pull back on the takedown lever.
Grasped thusly, it is easy to use one hand to pull the slide back and to reach the takedown lever and pull it back with your other hand
As long as it's not holding a camera
Once the lever is rearward, let the slide come forward and off of the frame.
The barrel with captive recoil spring is then easily removed from the slide.
That's all there is to it. Cleaning is easy using any brush for .22 or .223.
Being a pistol, it is appropriate to discuss the suitability for concealed carry as relates to the Five-seveN. I carried one for three months in writing this review. I carried it in everything from a Kakadu Vest, to a leather waist pack, to a Gould & Goodrich B803-57 three-slot pancake holster, to a Blackhawk Serpa CQC.
Gould&Goodrich B803-57 Holster
Being lightweight, it was easy to forget that it was there. I can't say that for the Glock 21 or the Glock 30 I normally carry. The G&G holster is my favorite pancake design for this firearm, and it's from a great manufacturer.
I carried the Five-seveN for 10+ hours a day in each configuration and it worked perfectly. It is a little larger, and that may be the only limiting factor in how you carry. The Blackhawk rig even works with their quick-detach system as a thigh rig, and when riding an ATV that's my preferred method of carry.
Blackhawk CQC rig for the Five-seveN. It can be used belt or paddle out of the box, and can also be hooked to their thigh-rig platform.
This one is my preferred method for ATV carry.
I am NOT a fan of magazine disconnect safeties. They are designed as a last-ditch safety in the event a LEO fails to retain their firearm. If they can hit the magazine release button and drop the magazine, the firearm is rendered no more useful than a brick. It blocks the trigger if the magazine is removed from the firearm.
My take on it is that if it comes to employing a magazine disconnect safety, you have already failed in your situational awareness and other firearm retention methods. You have had more than enough chances, and it should never have reached that point unless you were totally overwhelmed by superior numbers - and then you should have had your situational awareness up to where you didn't get into the situation in the first place.
The Five-seveN does have a magazine disconnect safety. According to FNH USA, it is there for import score purposes to satisfy the ATF.
The problem with having a magazine disconnect safety is as follows...
How Do You Perform A Safety/Function Check On A Firearm?:
You first unload it and verify that it is unloaded.
Part of that includes removing the magazine and leaving it out of the firearm.
Oops. You can't test the Five-seveN without a magazine in it.
FN does offer dummy rounds, but we were never able to obtain any. They are SS195 rounds with a FIRED primer and a hole drilled through the powderless case. I did find a source that handles them via mail order - for $50 for a box of 50. Ouch.
Just prior to this writing, A-Zoom announced that they are going to have dummy rounds for the 5.7x28mm round. We haven't seen them yet, but if you plan to get a Five-seveN, I'd strongly recommend that you get some of these.
In the meantime, take one magazine and paint the floorplate red. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER load any live ammunition into this magazine. Keep it with your clearning supplies, and use it for function checking after you have verified that your Five-seveN is unloaded.
Aside from that, there isn't really anything that I dislike about the Five-seveN, although I think that many users would benefit from moving the trigger back a hair, slightly reducing that pull length.
I will also add that there are two methods for deactivating the magazine disconnect safety that can be found on the Internet. Due to the factory still owning this firearm, we did not test or try either method. Doing so is at your discretion, but I did want to mention that it is possible.
The low recoil makes it very easy to place rapid, directed, shots into a target, and even folks with smaller hands find that it is not intimidating in firing. The adjustable sights let you set it up however works best for you, with whatever ammunition you decide to carry. The external safety is arguably the most ergonomic of any handgun on the market, and it is very well made and durable. I won't tell you what our sample went through, but it came out without a scratch.
The ammunition is capable, and I'm very happy with it in this role. I have demonstrated the Five-seveN during many concealed carry courses, and allowed students to get the feel of it. Most have come away really liking it - with the few exceptions being those with VERY small hands.
The Five-seveN is a great sidearm companion to the PS90. If you have one, you really do need the other. They are both extremely fun to shoot, and they can be highly effective. I find the OD Green and FDE to be a little nicer looking than the black, but that's just my preference. Your opinion may differ.
Please feel free to check out our companion videos to this review at YouTube.
-- James Bell Jr. - Editor - JeepGunner.com