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Fabrique Nationale Herstal, or, more simply FN. That manufacturer’s name conjures up, for those in the know, a long history of firearms production. Their long guns and military items are legendary, but we’re going to examine a 9mm pistol made by this storied company. Our review pistol is rugged and as Cousin Eddie might put it, this here is one good quality item, Clark. Gunshop owner friend Duane loaned me this gun to write about, and since it is on consignment (not a trade-in), we decided I would not shoot it. (Interesting observation…the last three or four used or consignment guns Duane has loaned had not been shot after they left the factory, this one included. Technically this will be a used gun when he sells it, but it’s brand new otherwise – the best of both worlds!). We will get into the particulars about the pistol shortly, but first let’s take a look at the FN company’s history and see if we can discover why this company is the number one exporter of military small arms in Europe, with its products being used by over 100 countries.
A Look At FN
FN is headquartered in Herstal, Belgium, and is owned by a holding company. The Herstal Group is in turn owned by the regional government of Wallonia. So we see that FN is, in essence, a government-owned business. What advantages or disadvantages this may bring to the table is beyond the scope of this review, so let’s continue our lesson. It should be noted first, though, that the Herstal Group also owns the U.S. Repeating Arms (Winchester) and Browning Arms companies and manufactures at least part of their respective lines. We see that the Herstal Group is an active firearms manufacturer on several fronts.
The American subsidiary, FN America, was formed by merging FN’s previous two American businesses and is located in both Columbia, South Carolina (manufacturing) and McLean, Virginia (sales and marketing). Both companies are under the FN management umbrella. A United Kingdom branch was opened, as well, so FN has a presence in not only Belgium and the U.S. but also in Great Britain. Here is a partial list of weapons manufactured by FN:
Autoloading rifles: thirteen different models, two submachine guns and seven machine guns. They include:
- The FAL, FNC, SCAR and FN2000 rifles;
- P90 submachine gun in 5.7×28;
- M2 Browning, MAG and Minime machine guns;
- Uzi submachine gun (built under license from Israeli Military Industries);
- M4A1 5.56 rifle (made under contract with the U.S.)
FN also manufactures, or at one time manufactured, at least nine different bolt-action rifles.
Handguns: too many to name. At last count, FN has manufactured at least 14 different models of handguns, including the one before me today. This listing includes the famous Browning Hi-Power 9mm pistol, no longer in production by FN but available as a clone/copy/derivative from at least nine other sources. One of their more popular handguns is the single action FN FiveseveN© in 5.7×28 caliber. They surely have sold a lot of those.
Shotguns: I once owned a Browning Sweet 16 shotgun…that gun was a jewel. FN also manufactures (or has, in the past) at least four different shotguns.
Other: I won’t go into detail about their helicopter and aircraft weapons systems, or the miscellaneous odds & ends that they also make, like grenade launchers…suffice it to say that FN pretty much has the firearms trade covered. But, when they start down this long road?
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Beginnings… A Little History
Located in Herstal, Belgium (near Liege), FN started production in 1889 by manufacturing 150,000 Mauser Model 89 rifles under contract for the Belgium government. FN’s much-publicized partnership with John Browning started in 1897. In an interesting side note, FN also produced automobiles, motorcycles and trucks until all motor production was finally phased out by 1970. The aforementioned Hi-Power was begun as a new design by John Browning, but as Hi-Power fans know was finalized a decade after his death by fellow firearms designer Dieudonné Saive. In another interesting historical note (I am a history buff, having seen so much of it), four pistols were recovered from the perpetrators of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It can’t be certain which one of the pistols fired the fatal shots that set off the chain of events that eventually led to WWI, but one of those four pistols was an FN Model 1910 in 9×17 (.380 Auto). This is only mentioned as a historical side note…it really doesn’t matter which of the four guns it was. When a company has been around as long and has sold as many guns as has FN, there are going to be some stories about their products out there – some good, some not so much. It’s all part of being a firearms manufacturer. Our culture focuses on negative uses of firearms but tends not to bring to light all the times that an FN (or other brand) of gun was used to stop a crime, but that’s a different article. We see that FN has had an impressive, storied past. Connected with John Browning long ago, the company has grown from its roots to a major player on the worldwide firearms stage.
An Interesting Twist: Marketing Practices
Before we look at the FNS-9, here is an interesting sidebar about the FN 5.7 pistol’s sales…After Ruger recently announced its own 5.7 pistol at an MSRP of $700 (less than half the MSRP of the FN 5.7, $1435), I began to see the 5.7 FN gun being sale-priced by a few different online sellers. Now, you can choose between the two and save a few bucks in the process. I believe that FN might be reviewing their pricing policy as a result of the competition. I was told by another friend who owns a gun shop that distributors had shelves full of the FN 5.7 guns, so something had to happen. How that will play out it anyone’s guess, but the consumer should be the winner.
OK…Now The Gun…
Let’s take a look at the FNS-9. Manufactured at the FN facility in Fredericksburg, Virginia, this pistol is one fine example of that company’s attention to detail and manufacturing prowess.
Here it is, in profile:
Note the fill-in below the slide serrations at the rear…I assume this is where the thumb safety would go, if this pistol had one. It obviously is available with such a device.
I am to the point where, when I see a “typical” polymer-framed striker-fired pistol, I give it a quick glance and think to myself “hmmm…another striker-fired poly wonder-gun” and then proceed to move on to other more-captivating thoughts. I mean, how many poly strikers are there on the market? But…when I see one done well, with attention to detail and craftsmanship evident, I look again with a critical eye. This gun is worthy of such attention, especially when viewed field-stripped for cleaning. Here are some examples…
Let’s look at the texturing on the grip. The “sticky” part consists of raised pyramids closely spaced. Center pyramids are larger than those at the edges. This system does make for a gun that sits well in the hand. The logo is prominently displayed in the center, as usual.
There is an additional one in the case in case this one doesn’t fit your hand. See the hole in the center? Press through the hole the sunken release button with a pointy object and slide the strap down and off – slide the new one up until it locks. The lanyard loop is part of the backstrap.
Notice no pyramids here, just parallel grooves. You can see the slight magazine well flare here as well. Another easily-seen feature from this angle is the ambidextrous magazine release, with its button on each side. This pistol is truly ambidextrous with both magazine and slide releases located on either side.
Frame & Slide
Notice the long front slide rail. The metal rails shouldn’t wear out but they are replaceable if that were to happen.
Note the QR code – I was unable to get it to read so I can’t say where it will lead you to.
Note how clean it is – no machining marks. Also note the beveled firing pin/striker block – this should allow parts to slide over each other a bit more freely, it would seem, in either direction. This is not unique to FN (I’ve seen it on other pistols), but it must work or they wouldn’t spend the extra money it most likely costs to machine and polish the edges of the block.
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The FNS-9 utilizes steel three-dot sights, with the front dot a few thousandths larger to draw the eye a bit more quickly:
Note how high it sits…this is a good thing if you find that most guns that use lower front sights cause you to shoot high. The taller sight forces the group to be a bit lower on the target, all else being equal.
Note the serrated blade to help quell reflections. Also note the U-shaped notch – a good idea for a carry gun (check out CCW insurance). This would allow slightly quicker front sight acquisition and centering. Both sights are in dovetails and are drift-adjustable or replaceable with night sights.
Barrel & Recoil Spring
Note the polished feed ramp…you should experience no feed problems here.
Easy out, easy back in with no looking, on hands and knees, for the launched spring. Been there, done that…no joy.
Field stripped for cleaning, and the gun with its included magazines and extra backstrap…
There you have it…the FNS-9, detailed.
Let’s look at the specifications, taken from FN’s website and my observations…
|Caliber||9mm (available in .40 S&W also)|
|Capacity||10, 12, or 17 Rd. - three 17-round magazines were included with my sample gun|
|Barrel||stainless, 4 inch, conventional rifling - lead bullets acceptable|
|Construction||stainless slide, polymer frame with replaceable slide rails; two interchangeable backstraps; 3-slot 1913 rail|
|Sights||Fixed 3-dot (3-dot green tritium night sight available for $10 more)|
|Action||Locked-breech, recoil-operated, no link|
|Trigger||Striker-fired double action, claimed 5.5 - 7.7 lb. As tested, 5 pounds, 10.8 ounces, avg. of 10 pulls with a Lyman digital trigger pull gauge|
|Controls||Fully ambidextrous slide release and mag release; takedown lever|
|MSRP||$639 (real-world, $375-$499)|
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To Sum It Up…
We are seeing several different off-shore firearms manufacturers setting up shop in the U.S. in order to build guns here. In terms of chronology, Taurus is the most recent to do so (as of this writing), building a complex in Bainbridge, Georgia. Other makers have built U.S. facilities. And so we come to FN…they have their Virginia factory, where this gun was made. It convolutes the “I only buy American” argument and complicates things for those who subscribe to that dictum. I don’t care so much where a gun is made (although I do like buying American), as long as that gun represents a solid value and is reliable. With FN’s reputation, that is not an issue. Since the late 1800s, this company has prided itself on manufacturing arms for the world’s militaries, so pleasing civilians comes naturally to them. I loved that Sweet 16 shotgun – talk about well-made – which leads us back to the gun at hand, the FNS-9.
I really wish I could have shot this sample, but that was not in the cards. At least I got to take it apart…that was a treat. When you look at as many guns as I do, you get a bit jaded by seeing some lesser-expensive (or even very expensive – I’ve seen both) models with random machining marks, mismatched parts, h-e-a-v-y triggers (check out my article on trigger pull gauges), etc. Looking at this gun was pure joy. My own personal handgun preferences include, among other brands, the European-made H&K, SIG Sauer and FN brands. Said preferences do not exclude American guns – don’t want to open that can of worms, as I own a decent number of American guns and believe in them – I’m just saying that those three manufacturers’ products tend to deliver the goods when the flag goes up, as many police agencies must believe, given their buying records. One local state police department carries the Sig P227 in .45 ACP with the P365 as a backup…this is just one example of many that could be cited. I know, it’s a Sig and not an FN, but you get the point. You tend to get what you pay for. If you are looking for a gun that will be passed from one generation to the next and beyond, look at an FN. It is interesting to note that several police agencies have adopted the FN FiveseveN as a duty weapon…evidently the 5.7 cartridge has a following. In terms of desirability, try to buy an FN Hi-Power now…I’ve seen them from $750 up to around $3000. Evidently, the FN logo on a pistol’s grip carries some weight.
Whether you agree with me or not, I think we all could agree that FN makes some good stuff…pick one up next time you’re at your local gun emporium. You might be pleasantly surprised! I wish you good shooting, and please stay safe. Until next time…