Sometimes, when a firearm comes to market, it has immediate positive reception, and other times, immediate skepticism and misunderstanding. The Five-SeveN by FN falls into both categories. This full sized, duty style handgun is a 20+1, single action only, polymer pistol chambered in the unusual 5.7×28 mm cartridge. The gun isn’t so much the source of skepticism, but rather, the 5.7×28 mm round it uses. Before delving into the review of the gun itself, a closer look at its chambering is necessary.
The first variant of the 5.7×28 cartridge was developed and used in the late eighties, through 1993. The variants we have available today began production in 1993. Starting with a proprietary casing, the bottle necked round was designed to be a potential NATO replacement for the 9×19 Parabellum cartridge. Obviously, it did not replace the 9×19 round, but there are some nations whose military and law enforcement agencies use the round. The round was designed to be capable of defeating body armor at intermediate distances, with a muzzle velocity of 2,350 ft per second when fired from FN’s P90 personal defense weapon (PDW). With the Five-SeveN pistol, muzzle velocities of 1700 ft per second are more common, due to the shorter barrel. The round variants produced for military and law enforcement use are indeed capable of armor penetration out of both the P90 and Five-SeveN pistol, however, those variants are not commercially available for civilian purchase here in the U.S.
The Five-SeveN pistol was produced starting in 1998. It was designed to be the companion sidearm for the P90 PDW, with ammunition compatibility. Here in the US, the pistol has been met with controversy. It was the victim of vicious half truth that stated the gun would defeat the body armor of law enforcement and military personnel. While some rounds are made for the Five- SeveN that are capable of defeating soft body armor, such as that worn by law enforcement officers, it is virtually impossible for civilians to find and buy. NO rounds from the Five- SeveN pistol commercially made are capable of defeating the hard, plate body armor worn by military personnel.
The pistol is large, yet feels nice in the hand. There is an aggressive texturing that makes positive purchase on the gun very easy, both with dry or wet hands. The trigger guard has ample room allowing operation with gloved hands as well. I found the slide release lever to be very conveniently located and had no issues with activating it, due to its location directly under the joint in my thumb. The safety on the Five- SeveN has received mixed reception as it departs from the normal location and method of activation found with most manual safeties. It is designed to be activated with the trigger finger, and is directly above the trigger. It is ambidextrous, which can allow you to use the thumb of your support hand to activate the safety instead, if you so desire. I simply used my trigger finger. It does take some getting used to, and if it were my carry gun, I would spend considerable time committing the step of activating the safety to muscle memory. NOTE: The gun does have a magazine disconnect safety, so for any dry firing, you will need a (unloaded!) magazine inserted into the gun.
Diving into the specs on the gun:
- The action is single action, not striker, as many believe. There is actually an internal hammer, and the cocking is done fully when chambering a round.
- Barrel length is 4.8″ and is a chrome lined, cold hammer forged barrel
- Trigger pull is listed as 4.4-7.87 lbs by FN. My gun comes in at 4 lbs, 6 oz.
- Sights are a 3 dot configuration, with the rear sight being adjustable for elevation and windage
- Sight radius is 7.0″
- Weight is 21 oz, unloaded
- MSRP is listed as $1,399 by FN, although a quick search showed pricing anywhere from $1,000-$1,700, depending on version, color, and new vs used.
A few other things that I found noteworthy on the pistol:
- The slide is steel, but it is covered in polymer. I’m not sure why this was done, but it stands to reason that it would cut down on weight, while offering increased durability.
- There are cocking “ears” at the rear of the slide in addition to the standard slide serrations. I didn’t pay any attention to them until a friend pointed them out to me and I realized I had been using them. I’m a fan!
- The rail under the barrel is MIL-STD 1913 for all the gadgetry available. Mine pairs well with a TLR-1 HL by Streamlight.
- The gun ships with 3, 20 round magazines and the standard documents, test case, and locking device in a hard case.
Shooting the Five-SeveN is comparable to a semi-automatic 22LR in terms of recoil. It is so soft shooting it belies the power of the cartridge. But, the muzzle flash and report quickly remind the shooter that this is no rimfire. Even in bright daylight, the softball sized fireball spouting from the muzzle is impressive, and brings out excited giggles with friends that have shot the gun with me. There is very little muzzle rise, so rapid, accurate follow up shots are ridiculously easy to achieve with this pistol. So much so, that I might consider recommending it as a home defense choice to someone very sensitive to recoil, especially since it has the cocking ears on the slide that would make chambering a round much easier for someone with limited hand strength.
One downside to this pistol is the price of ammunition. Even buying in bulk online, ammo prices pass the .30-.40 cent per round mark and is definitely something you will want to consider prior to picking up a Five-SeveN for yourself. I consider this highly unfortunate, as the gun is just so much dang fun to shoot! Part of the reason the ammunition is so (relatively) expensive is that there are only two manufacturers that currently load it in commercially available quantities: Federal and FNH. There are some “boutique” brands which machine and load their own unique projectiles, primarily for defensive use. These rounds are even more expensive, sometimes topping $2 a round. For those considering reloading the cartridge, I have bad news. In addition to very limited, and largely speculative, loading data, the 5.7×28 round’s case is coated in a special lacquer to facilitate reliable feeding and extraction. No one really knows what this lacquer is or how it is applied, though some forum contributors have found some solutions. I’m not saying reloading can’t be done, but it is going to be a much more involved project than most are willing to commit to.
So, should you get one? I’d have to say it really depends. As a self defense gun, it is larger than most people will be comfortable carrying, is expensive to feed compared to more common defensive calibers, and offers few ballistic advantages. However, it IS truly one of the most fun to shoot guns I have fired, unique, and is of the high quality we have come to expect from FN. It certainly would be my recommendation to think about spending the $1,000+ long and hard before buying the gun, but if you do, and decide to get one, I do not think you will be disappointed in the least!
As always, thank you so much for reading. If you found this review helpful, please pass it along to someone else you think might benefit from it, and consider following me on Facebook or Twitter. I appreciate any feedback you might offer as well. Stay safe, and keep shooting!