Production on Belgium’s semi-automatic pistol – the FN Five-Seven – began in 1998 after five years of design work. The pistol is manufactured in Belgium and its name aptly reflects the 5.7mm diameter of the weapon’s bullet. The design was based on – and developed as a companion of - the FN P90 which was introduced eight years earlier. The FN-FNP is another Belgium semi-automatic pistol.
A number of pistols from around the world are part of the extensive Firearms and Ordnance Gallery at the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL. As you step into witness the Gallery, you get a feel for the power that is housed within.
Both the FN Five-Seven and the FN P90 have several similar design features. Their polymer base contributed to their light weight yet still they have the capacity for a large magazine. Both weapons feature ambidextrous controls and a low recoil. Depending on the cartridge used, these two pistols have the capacity to penetrate body armor.
- Empty: 1.3 pounds
- Loaded: 1.6 pounds
- Length: 8.2 inches
- Barrel Length: 4.8 inches
- Action: Delayed blowback
- Muzzle Velocity: From 1,700 to 2,130 feet per second depending on model
- Effective Range: 55 yards
- Max. Range: 1,651 yards
When the FN Five-seven was first produced, sales were limited to military and law enforcement agencies only. But in 2004, sales were opened up to civilian shooters. Most civilian purchases are for personal protection, competitions and target shooting. Civilian purchases are only available with sporting ammunition. Some gun control organizations have opposed this transition to civilian sales, including some here in the United States.
Design of the FN Five-Seven began when NATO issued a request for a weapon to replace the current 9 x 19mm Parabellum cartridge used on a number of pistols and submachine guns. They were asking for two different designs – one was to be a shoulder-fire weapon and the second a handheld weapon. Both would be designated as PDWs – or Personal Defense Weapons. The purpose of a PDW is to offer an individual protection when facing dire circumstances, such as direct endangerment from the enemy.
Once NATO formally provided a preliminary outline of specifications, FN Herstal was the first to respond. They developed both a shoulder-fire weapon – the FN P90 and a small, but high velocity cartridge weapon originally referred to as the ‘SS90’. The ‘SS90’ featured a 5.7 x 28mm cartridge and went into production at the same time as the FN P90, but production ceased in 1993 when a shorter, but heavier projectile was designed. This new design was known as the ‘SS190’. Though still a 5.7 x 28mm, the changes in the projectile allowed for convenient use with the Five-seven, which was being developed at that time.
After completion of the design, NATO began conducting various tests on both the FN 5.7 x 28mm cartridge and Germany’s HK 4.6 x 30mm cartridge. Though results favored the 5.7x28mm cartridge, German delegates – along with others - refused to accept NATOs standardization of the 5.7 x 28mm. The process was halted and both cartridges were adopted by a number of NATO countries, each choosing based on their personal preference.
Since the year 2000, the FN Five-Seven has been adopted in military service by a number of countries throughout the world. Even today, the pistol is utilized by over 40 nations worldwide and has seen combat in the Afghanistan War, the Indonesian Offensive, the Mexican Drug War and the 2011 Libyan civil war.
The FN Five-Seven is still in production today and is used in the United States by a number of law enforcement agencies.