After more than 20 years as a lawdog, I learned two things. First, bring enough gun to the fight. Second, keep an open mind. The FN Five-seveN demands an open mind; it is different from anything I have thought of using. The innovative handgun features a polymer frame and aluminum slide. It fires a hot bottleneck cartridge that generates unheard of high velocity from a handgun barrel—and a service length barrel at that.
The pistol and the cartridge are the result of a NATO program to develop a short-range personal defense weapon (PDW) for use by couriers and other personnel not normally engaged in frontline combat. From the pistol to the M1 carbine and stocked pistols, this requirement has been met in various ways. The maker recoups investment costs by offering a version to the public, and we scoop up a good product. Based purely on excellence of design and reliability, the FN Five-seveN is a winner.
The cartridge—the original 5.7 x 28mm loading, was intended to generate over 2,000 fps with a 28- to 31-grain bullet. The bullet was a steel core design. It was intended to penetrate body armor. Since recoil is a consideration for a fully automatic firearm, recoil control was handled by using a medium-power cartridge.
Recoil is light from the full-size PDW, and you are able to stitch up an attacker quickly. While fully automatic fire is most useful for firing at moving targets and dynamic entry, the defensive side is well served by a short, light, fully automatic weapon. When chambered in the lightweight 20-ounce Five Seven pistol, recoil is about half that of the 9mm Luger. The Five Seven pistol feels similar to the Beretta 92 in the hand, but much lighter. The FN pistol is a single-action design.
A lightweight, fast-handling handgun with a 20-round magazine capacity has much to recommend. The original penetrator cartridge is restricted and not available to civilians. It is tightly controlled even when purchased by law enforcement agencies. This is understandable. For hunting or personal defense the steel core penetrator load would be at the bottom of my list.
Today, there are civilian loads using both a standard FMJ loading and the V Max bullet. The original loading received its penetration from the steel core that simply does not give. A FMJ bullet of the conventional design will not offer this high degree of penetration. The pistol’s appeal to civilians might be the same as the Colt Single Action chambered for the .22 Hornet, or the Smith and Wesson .22 Jet revolver.
Here is a hot .22 centerfire for hunting small game and varmints. Flat shooting, accurate, and easy to handle, this handgun has much merit. The 5.7 x 28mm cartridge works much better than the earlier hot .22s with less fuss and bother. The semi-automatic action offers complete reliability. The hot .22s were prone to set back during firing, locking the revolver up. If you like the .22 Hornet, you will love the 5.7 x 28mm, strange as it may seem. So, the traditionalist and modern tactical shooter may find merit in this hot bottleneck.
The Five-seveN pistol is a light handgun but stable when firing for accuracy. A competent handgunner may make life hard for coyote well past 50 yards. I would say an accomplished handgunner might connect with the mangy dogs at 100 yards. Recoil isn’t a consideration; the trigger is good, and the sights adequate. Firing off of the benchrest for accuracy at 25 yards and pressing the rather nice trigger for a five shot group, results were excellent.
The Federal American Eagle loading will group five shots into less than two inches and the FN 40-grain V Max load is almost as accurate—1.8 inches for the Federal load versus 2.0 inches for the FN loading. Perhaps, with more time, I might do a little better, but this is encouraging. Again, I am perhaps off the deep end but this pistol, designed for tactical use, strikes me as a fine varmint gun.
For anyone needing a personal defense cartridge with light recoil fired from a proven accurate and reliable platform, the Five Seven Pistol and the 5.7 x 28mm cartridge are attractive. The pistol’s safety location and size work against concealed carry, and this isn’t the best choice. For home or area defense, the pistol has more merit.
As for wound ballistics the cartridge has greater power than the .22 Magnum. The .22 Magnum isn’t enough for personal defense. What was NATO thinking? They were thinking they needed a cartridge that would penetrate body armor and which would be controllable from a PDW spitting out a dozen rounds with a single touch of the trigger. It is much easier to use a short firearm and get a squirt into the target that it is to make a single hit with a 9mm pistol.
If for any reason you cannot handle the 9mm, the 5.7 x 28 is an alternative. It is flat shooting, accurate, and a joy to fire. I think the majority of users who purchase the Five-seveN pistol and its unique ammunition will find the combination a pleasure to use and fire, plink, and target shoot with. Few will find a practical application that isn’t covered better by another handgun. But do not sell the Five-seveN short; as a disaster gun it has much merit.
My spouse has difficulty firing a powerful handgun for several reasons, and I would like for her to have something larger than a .380 ACP and more useful. She is able to pepper a target—or multiple targets—quickly with the Five-seveN. Another good point, even with FMJ loads, the caliber isn’t overly penetrative in the home. We may be on to something.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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