Wednesday Night at the Gun Nut Hut: The FN Five-seveN

Creative Commons photo of the FN Five-seveN with a Sure-Fire tactical light by Malis.

For what it’s worth, I am deeply suspicious of all the high-tech, newfangled stuff these gun manufacturers are coming out with nowadays. It’s polymer this, tactical that, “Pocket Performance” blah blah blah. The AR-15 platform pretty much seems to have taken over the rifle market, at least as far as gun magazines and blogs go; every pistol looks like a Glock, promises “peace through superior firepower” and, oh, by the way, costs more than the Cold War.

See, I don’t like all this black plastic, y’dig?

Nah, I like the antiques. Give me a pearl-handled nickel-plated .25 Colt to haul out of my silk smoking jacket when the detective shows up to question me about the missing jewels; it’s just the right size that I can point it at him and say “I wouldn’t try it, Detective Hulksmash — unlike your brain, my gun’s loaded,” and then wave it fanatically while I puff on my cigarette holder and explain how I stole the jewels, where I hid them, and how he’s going to outsmart me. Now that‘s high technology.


There’s something fascinating about the trend in full-sized handguns in smaller calibers with extremely high-capacity magazines. Take, for instance, the Fabrique Nationale Herstal Five-seveN semi-automatic pistol, which uses a 5.7-millimeter-by-28-millimeter round, which is about a .224 for us Yanks. In addition to its reputed accuracy, corrosion resistance, and very low recoil (claimed to be 30% less than a comparably-sized 9, the big plus about the Five-seveN is, of course, that it’s the highest-capacity production handgun around. The eensy bullet means you can cram 20 rounds into a flush fit magazine, or 30 rounds into an extended magazine, assuming you work for NATO (or the local SWAT team).

Or Mexican drug lords; the FN Five-seveN is reportedly a favorite weapon of the most heinous of outlaws among our neighbors down south. Dr. Nadil Hasan used one at the Fort Hood shooting in Texas too. News agencies reported that the gun was nicknamed “the cop killer,” because of its ability to fire armor-piercing bullets (which are not available to civilian shooters).

American sport shooters and self-defense fetishists, however, are a different breed entirely. They’re kinda…er…size-obsessed. Having grown up as a nation on movies in which the M-1 Garand (.30-06 caliber), the Model 1911 (.45 ACP), the Peacemaker (.45 Colt) and the 12-gauge shotgun are not just tools but icons, they can’t bring themselves to wrap a hand around some fruity little European thing that feels like some kind of German vibrator. American shooters are still stung by the Vietnam War, where the conventional gun-enthusiast wisdom still says the M-16 was unreliable, which has its basis in reality but has been taken a bit far.

That is a discussion that, if you give a damn about, you can find much better-informed writers to inform you on. I hope you have ten freakin’ years to hear them never shut up about it, by the way.

The manufacturer claims that the 5.7-by-28-mm round from the FN Five-seveN “yaws” in tissue, creating a “larger wound cavity,” which makes up for the smaller bullet. That’s the same argument put forth in favor of the 5.56 NATO round, which is roughly comparable in size (though not exactly equivalent) to the .223 Remington.

And if you just got goosebumps over that, you’ll probably get excited about the fact that, according to Wikipedia, the round produces about 460 foot-pounds of muzzle energy — more than a typical load for a 9-millimeter Luger (aka 9-millimeter Parabellum) cartridge, a .45 automatic, and pretty comparable to a typical load of the .40 Smith & Wesson round that law enforcement organizations have been moving toward in handguns.

So is it any good?

Hell if I know. I’ll keep you posted if I can find a gun range willing to let me shoot one without shelling out the cool and sassy grand that FN is asking for it; that’s right, it’s got a $995 sticker price, which in California means a lot more than that out the door. So until someone steps up to let me shoot their Five-seveN, I will only look longingly at it.

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