“It’s not the size mate, it’s how you use it.”— Nigel Powers, Goldmember, 2002
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, albeit a very fast one as far as pistol projectiles go.
Some background: Developed by FN back in 1989, the 5.7x28mm cartridge was envisioned as a replacement option for 9mm submachine gun use. The idea was that a smaller cartridge that was lighter in weight and capable of defeating body armor (depending on the specific bullet used) would be a compelling option for NATO, Law Enforcement, and protection detail 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) that someone left in the dryer too long. It actually does fire the same diameter bullet (.224 inches) 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. We’ll talk about 5.7x28mm performance details in a minute. For now, just think small, light, and fast.
Full-Size Pistol, Downsized Weight
Probably owing to its military roots, the Five-Seven is all business on the outside. My sample was all black, and the exterior almost 100 percent polymer. If you prefer, you can order one with a flat dark earth frame. Of course, the important guts like the functional interior of the slide and fire control parts in the frame are made of steel. The net result is a pistol that’s exceptionally light and resistant to abuse. There’s nothing on the exterior to rust from rain or sweat, and everyday nicks and dings aren’t going to do much harm.
It’s a full-size pistol, measuring 8.2 inches long, 5.5 inches tall, and 1.4 inches wide. You’ll notice that the grip is long from front to back. That’s a result of the longer than average 5.7x28mm ammo that’s got to fit into the magazine well. The net result is a grip circumference that’s almost identical to that of the Beretta 92/M9—it’s just longer and narrower. The barrel is 4.8 inches long, and overall weight empty is 23 ounces. For comparison, that’s just a hair less than a Glock 19 compact 9mm.