ABOVE: After a thorough evaluation, the FNS 9 stands head and shoulder above many other 9mm handguns.
A Superior Polymer Pistol
The FNS 9 9mm self-loading handgun is Fabrique Nationale’s entry into the lucrative polymer frame striker fired service pistol market. These handguns are the most popular police service type and also have become very popular for personal defense and concealed carry. While the FNS 9 is going against formidable competition, the pistol gives up little, if anything, to any competitor and has advantages over most. The FNS is a locked breech, recoil operated, striker fired design with a magazine capacity of 17 plus one rounds. FN has previously introduced a line of double action first shot handguns. The S in the FNS stands for Striker Fired. While there is nothing new about this type of handgun, the fact that FN Herstal is manufacturing a quality polymer frame service pistol is good news.
Fabrique Nationale D’Herstal, often referred to as simply FN, is among our oldest manufacturers of firearms. The company produced the Browning Auto 5 shotgun, the Browning High Power 9mm pistol, and many other famous designs. FN also manufactures service grade firearms for military use, including machine guns and a respected AR-15 variant. FN enjoys an excellent reputation for reliable and rugged firearms. The FNS pistol is manufactured at a modern facility in Columbia, South Carolina. The pistol features a polymer frame and a steel slide. The slide configuration is unique to the manufacturer and resembles other FN products. The pistol locks up by butting the barrel hood into the ejection port. The pistol unlocks by means of angled camming surfaces at the bottom of the barrel. The trigger action is a double action only type. When the slide is racked the striker mechanism is partially cocked. By pressing the trigger the striker is driven to the rear of the slide against spring pressure until the sear breaks and the striker is released. This results in a lighter trigger pull weight compared to a double action first shot pistol that must both cock and drop the hammer. There is little take-up in the trigger and trigger reset is very fast. The FNS trigger breaks at 7 pounds trigger compression and clean.
The pistol’s metal parts are attractively finished in a deep Melonite finish. (The slide is actually dark finished stainless steel.) This finish is far more durable than conventional blue finish. The slide features forward cocking serrations that are ideal for gloved hand use or a worst case scenario. The controls, the slide lock and the magazine release are fully ambidextrous. These controls not only make the handgun attractive to the left handed shooter they also give any combat shooter a handgun that is fully capable of ambidextrous use if the situation calls for firing around a corner to firing from cover with the ‘wrong’ hand. It is not uncommon to see students allow the support hand thumb to contact the slide lock during firing exercise. This will not happen with the FNS. FN has designed a slight but noticeable guard around the slide stop that prevents inadvertent manipulation. The magazine release is well designed and offers brilliantly fast magazine changes. Coupled with a tapered high capacity magazine that aids in rapid insertion in high speed drills, the magazine release makes for a handgun that is very fast during high speed drills. The FNS features the requisite firing pin or drop safety. This firing pin block locks the striker until the trigger is fully pressed to the rear. The trigger face is a two part design. The FNS will not fire due to lateral pressure on the trigger but will only fire if the trigger is pressed to the rear. The barrel is four inches long, and manufactured from stainless steel.
The sights are good examples of service grade handgun sights. These sights may be adjusted by drifting with a brass punch if need be. The three dot configuration with white outline is a good design for rapid acquisition during combat drills. The sights offer real precision to 25 yards or so in practiced hands. The pistol is supplied with two changeable frame inserts, which may be described as flat and arched. The frame features a standard rail for use with combat lights or laser accessories. The frame is aggressively stippled and pebbled for abrasion. Adhesion when gripping the handgun is excellent. Finally the trigger guard is well designed with sufficient clearance for gloved hand use. When all of the features of the FNS 9 handgun are totaled we find a credible service pistol with much to recommend.
For the firing evaluation we collected a number of loadings, including full metal jacketed or ball ammunition, jacketed hollow point 115 grain weight, jacketed hollow point 124 grain weight, and +P variations on the JHP. The choices included the Black Hills 115 grain ‘Blue Box’ remanufactured load, the Black Hills 115 grain JHP or EXP loading, the Black Hills 115 grain +P, the Black Hills 124 grain JHP and the Black Hills 124 grain JHP +P. This wide variety of loads clocked 1,050 to 1,300 fps over the Shooting Chrony chronograph. In every case there were no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject. The FNS 9 is approaching 1,000 rounds of various loads without a single stoppage of any type. Beginning with the ball load, combat groups were fired at 7, 10 and 15 yards. The FNS 9 gave good results. Trigger control is vital and the FN pistol’s trigger is crisp and offers a sharp let off. There is little take up and then a smooth 7 pound trigger compression and a rapid trigger reset. The cadence of fire is never set by how quickly you are able to press the trigger but rather by how quickly you are able to regain the sights and aim again after recoil. The FNS pistol gave good results. The trigger action is notably more useful than any double action only striker fired handgun in
The Black Hills Ammunition 115 grain EXP is loaded as hot as possible without resorting to +P pressure, yet breaks over 1,200 fps from the FN’s 4-inch barrel. This is a top running personal defense load that has demonstrated good expansion in personal testing. The FNS 9 gave good feed and cycle reliability and never failed to exhibit good accuracy with this load. The Black Hills Ammunition 115 grain +P load uses a controlled expansion bullet for this high velocity number. The balance of expansion and penetration is ideal for service use. Recoil was not noticeably greater than the EXP, but velocity was superior by about 50 fps. The 124 grain JHP is a good choice for those favoring a heavier bullet. A heavier bullet often produces more momentum and will function in a dirty gun and in all circumstances. This is the standard NATO weight bullet. Finally, the Black Hills ammunition 124 grain JHP +P was tested. In firing a single magazine of each of the credible defense loads, each was impressive. The quality control, clean powder burn and accuracy of these loads are excellent by any standard. The 124 grain JHP +P would be this author’s choice of a 9mm service load if back in uniform or deploying the 9mm for serious business. Recoil is slightly more than the standard 124 grain loading, but hardly of consequence in the service size FNS handgun. This is a loading that may be counted on to function, feed and fire in handguns and carbines and always deliver
Absolute accuracy is relative and much depends on the shooter. The intrinsic accuracy of the FNS 9 pistol is high. It is up to the shooter to translate this into practical accuracy. In firing during combat drills the double action trigger of the FN handgun is an advantage. When moving from one firing position to the other there is never a need to decock the action or engage a safety; simply remove the finger from register with the trigger. At normal handgun engagement ranges – 5 to 15 yards –the pistol gives excellent results. When firing off of a solid bench rest at 25 yards, the Black Hills Ammunition 115 grain FMJ and this shooter delivered a 4 inch five shot group. An effort with the Black Hills Ammunition 124 grain JHP, proven accurate in several handguns, gave slightly better results with a 3.6 inch best group. This isn’t a target grade handgun but a service grade handgun and the results exhibited are clearly more than adequate for personal defense. This is a formidable handgun well worth its price.