with Lindsey J. Bertomen
Product Review: FNH USA FNP-9
I did an extended test of the FNP-9, a relatively new offering from FNH USA. At the end of the test, I can say without reservation that this is a winner.
I always advise carrying an off duty a gun with manual of arms similar to the one on the duty belt. With the FNP handgun series, officers can either carry the same gun on and off duty or a compact version of the duty gun while off duty. I recommend the FNP-9 on the duty belt and the FNP-9m, the shorter version, as the BUG (back up gun) or off duty gun. Let me back up a bit: If anyone ever asks, I first advise that officers ALWAYS carry a gun.
The FNP-9 is polymer frame high capacity auto-loading pistol available in 3 variants and two different sizes with a variety of finishes. I tested the duty sized FNP-9 DA/SA with a black polymer frame and a matte black stainless slide. It has a 4” hammer forged barrel, weighs 25.2 oz and has a 16+1 capacity. The three variants are DAO (double action only), SAO (single action only) and DA/SA (double action/single action).
FNH USA is part of the FN Herstal S.A. group, an organization with more than a hundred years in the firearms industry, including an affiliation to John M. Browning. Millions of Servicemen have covered down behind an FN tool on the ground, thundering in tracked vehicles and under a rotary winged canopy. FNH USA deliberately makes firearms systems for law enforcement, not simply handguns and long guns.
The FNP series comes in three law enforcement calibers, 9mm, 40 S&W and 45 ACP. The FNP-40 and FNP-9 are identical and fit the same accessories. My FNP-9 has an ambidextrous frame mounted safety, fixed three dot sights and a bobbed external hammer.
Unlike many DA/SA handguns, it has a relatively smooth and light trigger, with a consistent pull throughout its travel. Officers will find that the first shot transition is easier than similar duty guns. For the advanced shooter, the sear reset is crisp and very short, encouraging consistent follow up shots with a minimal take up. The FNP-9 is full of intangibles like its superior trigger “feel”.
This gun decocks to the half cock sear, which shortens the hammer travel on the first shot and prevents the hammer from resting on the firing pin. The finger contact area of the trigger is far enough from the fulcrum to give added leverage to the trigger pull. Additionally, the trigger linkage is slightly closer to the sear than the fulcrum. This gives the shooter the feeling that the trigger is being pulled to the rear, rather than pivoting in the frame, explaining the smooth light pull.
This gun has an external extractor that maintains tension using a coil spring and plunger. The extractor hook is very aggressive and I tested the reliability of the system with a variety of bullets. This system is inherently easy to keep clean, even at the end user level. Coupled with a generous ejector port and a shallow feed angle, the FNP-9 has made reliability the essential factor in its engineering.
All of the reliability would be pointless without the safe features of this gun. The firing pin safety plunger is cammed upward by the trigger linkage, which is guided in several places in the grip body. The fire control mechanisms are simple and easy to inspect when the gun is field stripped. The chamber is almost fully supported and beefed up by a generous block of steel. This gun could handle all manners of case head failure and still come up shooting.
During my testing, everyone that fired the FNP-9 commented on the “easiest magazine swaps in the world.” This was easily explained. The well is cavernous and the magazines have a long taper. The magazines are made of polished steel. Thus, the mags drop freely unloaded, partially loaded or full. Putting the Mini sized magazine tip into a Hummer sized parking space was really not a problem. The magazine release button does not protrude enough for an accidental drop and is reversible.
Manipulative drills like press checking and clearing stovepipes were also easy. One does not need to shift the grip to work the controls. The only design suggestion I have is to radius some of the sharper angles in the slide, including the cocking serrations. This is minor stuff compared to the absolutely superior shootability of this tool.
OK, I have had this gun for a little longer than a “normal” testing period. My ammo count is between 2500 and 3000 +P rounds, including Hornady 124 gr TAP CQ bullets, a truncated cone style duty round this gun liked especially. I fired several offhand sub 2” groups at 15 yards and used a sandbag for 25 yard tests. With the TAP CQ bullets, I shot a half dozen sub 2 – 2 ½” groups. With all other brands, none of my groups exceeded 3 ½” at 25 yards.
The standard sights for the FNP are the three dot kind. Both front and rear sights are dovetailed in, making them easily pressed out or drifted at the armorer level. The matte curved sighting plane was glare resistant and concealed holster friendly.
I can attest to the fact that this gun is an all day shooter as it comfortably handles duty rounds. During failure drills and “Bill Drills,” I could keep a rapid cadence while delivering timely hits.
The FNP-9 is a bit thicker than its contemporaries. The part that sticks out the most is the ambidextrous decocker, which only improves instinctive activation. Still, it proved suitable for IWB carry and most detectives will like the ratio of the weight to capacity. The magazines have huge floorplates and may be a bit thick for pocket carry.
Polymer guns are not created equal and this one has two design advantages over their competitors. First, it has backstrap inserts which change the way the gun feels in the hand. I picked the curved back which pressed the web of my hand upward. Users who like flat backed guns will probably use the other insert. The gun ships with both and it won’t take anyone much time to figure out what works best for them. Second, the frame flexes a bit while shooting. This is the same concept an experienced fisherman feels when picking up one of those new space age rods. Some feel OK but the really good ones can be identified with eyes closed. They just feel right.
I found this gun was an excellent instrument for instinctive shooting. With the flex in the frame and the form filling grip, I found the gun married with the hand better than any other duty guns I have used recently.
I shot this gun in the pouring rain and 100+ degree heat. If it would only snow around here I would report its utility in skiing weather also. The grip has enough strategic texturing for really bad days. I used CamelBak’s Impact CT gloves for the cold and wet weather and confirmed that this gun is suitable for gloved hands and bad weather.
What is the downside of the FNP-9? Few manufacturers make a holster for it and no one makes a level III, unless some one reveals one at the upcoming SHOT Show. For level II, I recommend Safariland’s 6285, a lightweight product that is particularly fast. This gun should be mounted in lightweight rigs that have off duty counterparts with similar operating systems. Perhaps BlackHawk! has a Serpa version for this one in the works.
I predict that the FNP-9 and its .40 cal brother will become a prominent law enforcement product over the next year. It is user friendly, accurate, and reliable. Department armorers will like it because its inherent design is wear resistant. It is a prime candidate for whole department adoptions simply because it can go from duty to detective to special unit assignments to off duty without a pause.
I commend FNH USA for a product for a simple and effective law enforcement product.