Putting a pistol caliber cartridge in a rifle is simple but a rifle round in a pistol? You gotta be nuts…
In a nutshell, the FN Five-SeveN is a big little handgun with a whole lot of attitude. Why? Mainly because of the unique 5.7x28mm cartridge that it’s designed to fire. While the FN Five-SeveN is not a small gun, the 5.7×28 bullet is small in caliber, but it is a very fast one as far as pistol projectiles go.
While gun enthusiasts are going nuts over rifles chambered in classic handgun rounds, we seem to forget that the opposite exists as well. Although not exactly a rifle round, the FN 5.7x28mm cartridge is also not quite a pistol round either.
Clearly, the Five-seveN is truly a unique kind of gun. It is a lightweight polymer pistol that shoots FN’s own 5.7x28mm round.
Developed by FN back in 1989, the 5.7x28mm cartridge was envisioned as a replacement option for 9mm submachine gun use.
Originally the 5.7x28mm was designed for the FN P90 Personal Defense Weapon, a compact and highly portable carbine, and, eight years later, the Five-SeveN pistol. NATO never officially adopted it, most likely due to selection process politics related to the battle between competing offerings from FN and German company H&K’s 4.6x30mm cartridge. Nevertheless, the two guns and the nifty little cartridge are in use throughout the world by dozens of military and law enforcement groups.
The 5.7x28mm cartridge looks a little bit like a .223 Remington (the standard AR-rifle cartridge). The diameter bullet (.224 inches) is the same that a standard AR rifle shoots, but the bullet is a lot lighter, usually weighing between 28 and 40 grains as compared to the standard 55-grain weight of the average .223 Remington cartridge. The cartridge itself is significantly shorter and smaller in diameter, measuring 1.6 inches long and .31 inches wide. This bullet is small, light and fast.
In the early 2000s, NATO conducted a series of tests with the goal of standardizing a personal defense weapon round and replacing the iconic 9mm.
The 5.7x28mm surely impressed—it was highly effective, performed at extreme temperatures, and could even be manufactured on the same production lines as the loved 5.56x45mm NATO round.
Effective range when shot from a Five-SeveN: 55 yards (maximum range of 1651 yards!)
Total Weight: 6.0 grams=93 grains (half the weight of a 9mm)
Projectile Mass: 28-40 gains
Velocity: 2,350 ft/s (FN 28gn, JHP)
The Five-SeveN is a full-sized pistol and a compact-sized weight. It has a nearly completely polymer frame, with some small steel internal components.
From the outside it looks similar to other striker-fired pistol.
Its a full size pistol, single-action pistol and the grip circumference is identical to the Beretta 92/M9. The barrel is 4.8 inches long with a weight of 23 ounces when unloaded. The magazine release and safety lever is ambidextrous.
The pistol is 100% polymer but the functional interior of the slide and fire control parts are made of steel. Which makes the pistol light and durable.
Disassembling the pistol is very simple and you can probably do it blindfolded with one hand. All you do is pull the slide back about 1/4-inch and slide the take down lever to the rear. The slide, barrel, and recoil spring lifts right out.
The trigger pull is roughly around 6 pounds.
Finally, last the Five-SeveN comes with three 20-round magazines.
While the grip is considerably thinner than most full-sized pistols and a bit long, which could be a bit uncomfortable for some hand sizes, it features ambidextrous controls that are conveniently placed for thumb or trigger finger manipulation.
Although the grip can feel a bit odd at first because it is so nontraditional, it grew on me as I manipulated the gun and actually shot it.
Adjustable rear sights for both windage and elevation, which is important because of the round’s uncommon ballistics.
Since the 5.7×28 cartridge is so small it is easy to fit a lot of ammo into a single magazine, especially when using a double stack-double feed design.
The design of the magazines is equally brilliant and lightweight. They hold 20 rounds and load in a similar fashion to standard AR magazines–you simply push the round straight down instead of maneuvering it in and under like in most pistol magazines.
Shooting the Five-SeveN is really a BLAST!
People that have shot this pistol say its very fun to shoot. The gun is loud, accurate with no recoil. Someone says the recoil is about 30% less than a typical 9mm pistol.
The Five-SeveN velocity is somewhere at 1550 to 1600 feet per second. While the average 9mm shoots somewhere between 1050 and 1200 feet per second.
Imagine the almost non-existent recoil of a .22 LR juxtaposed with the noise of an AR. The first few shots fascinated me yet confused me.
I had never shot anything like it and could easily tell it is one-of-a-kind.
The lightweight frame makes for a comfortable range session while magazines are a breeze to load.
Sadly the rigger is not the greatest but features a pretty crisp break and moderate pull weight, my groups were pretty consistent with how I would normally shoot a handgun; maybe slightly better at longer ranges – likely due to the high velocity of the 5.7 ammo.
I could see this gun being liked across the spectrum, from novice shooters to seasoned vets.
Looks and Accessories
The Five-SeveN has a sleek and almost futuristic look to it. It comes in either an all-black finish or a tan frame and black slide (my personal favorite).
The rail can be outfitted with a flashlight and aftermarket night sights are available for purchase as well.
Threaded barrels do exist for this gun and I can only imagine what a great time it would be shoot suppressed.
Practicality – Good for Personal Defense?
The 5.7x28mm cartridge was designed to meet a goal and in that role it is unequaled – but the Cold War is over and the need for armor penetration in an EDC is limited at best.
There is quite a bit of debate surrounding the topic of whether the Five-SeveN can be used as an effective carry gun.
The 5.7x28mm bullets, like “standard” AR-rifle ammunition, aren’t designed to expand like traditional hollow points. When they hit organic targets, they tend to fragment or tumble end over end, thereby creating a similar effect of making a bigger hole in the target.
On the pro side, it is extremely lightweight, has a decently heavy trigger pull and safety, very high magazine capacity, and effective stopping power.
Looking at the cons we have expensive to shoot ammo that is only available in FMJ, and the high possibility of over penetration due to such a fast round.
As with most things, it is a personal choice as to whether this is a viable carry gun or just a fun range toy to make your friends jealous. However, we tend to be on the side of the fence that says there are Better Options for Full-Size EDC.
By the Numbers
Nice grip texture, super lightweight, but an oddly shaped grip could be uncomfortable for some.
Better than most handguns, especially at longer ranges.
I had no issues with it jamming, ever. After doing some research I did not conclude that there were any known reliability issues and NATO testing definitely backs up the effectiveness of the round.
This category is lacking a bit because the gun is not very common and the design is unique. It might just be better to leave it as it comes from the factory and trust FN’s creative design.
I like the almost futuristic and very sleek look, but it does not necessarily look special, especially for the price.
This is the real kicker. The actual gun is expensive and so is the ammo. While it could make a great splurge purchase, it is not exactly a cheap plinker.
Really the only downside to this gun is the price, not only out the door of your FFL but also in trying to keep it fed. There is also the fact that although 5.7x28mm was a perfect solution the problem it was designed for – there just isn’t much of a need for it currently.
But, if you have the money and the desire, it will always turn heads at the range.
If you have the chance to shoot a Five-SeveN, you should. It is unlike any gun I have ever shot and is truly a remarkable weapon.
The unicorn of the polymer pistol world is definitely not for everyone but has surely caught the attention of many. An amazing combination of a lightweight frame, high-speed but low recoil round, and loud bang come together to make the FN Five-SeveN noteworthy and intriguing.