The 5.7 x 28mm FN Cartridge — One hot bottleneck!

FN Five-seveN right with magazine

After more than 20 years as a lawdog, I learned two things. First, bring enough gun to the fight. Second, keep an open mind. The FN Five-seveN demands an open mind; it is different from anything I have thought of using. The innovative handgun features a polymer frame and aluminum slide. It fires a hot bottleneck cartridge that generates unheard of high velocity from a handgun barrel—and a service length barrel at that.

FN Five-seveN left
The FN Five-seveN is so different it may be called a space gun – but it is reliable.

The pistol and the cartridge are the result of a NATO program to develop a short-range personal defense weapon (PDW) for use by couriers and other personnel not normally engaged in frontline combat. From the pistol to the M1 carbine and stocked pistols, this requirement has been met in various ways. The maker recoups investment costs by offering a version to the public, and we scoop up a good product. Based purely on excellence of design and reliability, the FN Five-seveN is a winner.

The cartridge—the original 5.7 x 28mm loading, was intended to generate over 2,000 fps with a 28- to 31-grain bullet. The bullet was a steel core design. It was intended to penetrate body armor. Since recoil is a consideration for a fully automatic firearm, recoil control was handled by using a medium-power cartridge.

Recoil is light from the full-size PDW, and you are able to stitch up an attacker quickly. While fully automatic fire is most useful for firing at moving targets and dynamic entry, the defensive side is well served by a short, light, fully automatic weapon. When chambered in the lightweight 20-ounce Five Seven pistol, recoil is about half that of the 9mm Luger. The Five Seven pistol feels similar to the Beretta 92 in the hand, but much lighter. The FN pistol is a single-action design.

5.7x28mm V Max cartridges with blue tips
The V Max loading is a good choice for all around use.

A lightweight, fast-handling handgun with a 20-round magazine capacity has much to recommend. The original penetrator cartridge is restricted and not available to civilians. It is tightly controlled even when purchased by law enforcement agencies. This is understandable. For hunting or personal defense the steel core penetrator load would be at the bottom of my list.

Today, there are civilian loads using both a standard FMJ loading and the V Max bullet. The original loading received its penetration from the steel core that simply does not give. A FMJ bullet of the conventional design will not offer this high degree of penetration. The pistol’s appeal to civilians might be the same as the Colt Single Action chambered for the .22 Hornet, or the Smith and Wesson .22 Jet revolver.

Here is a hot .22 centerfire for hunting small game and varmints. Flat shooting, accurate, and easy to handle, this handgun has much merit. The 5.7 x 28mm cartridge works much better than the earlier hot .22s with less fuss and bother. The semi-automatic action offers complete reliability. The hot .22s were prone to set back during firing, locking the revolver up. If you like the .22 Hornet, you will love the 5.7 x 28mm, strange as it may seem. So, the traditionalist and modern tactical shooter may find merit in this hot bottleneck.

5.7x28mm bullet and cartridge side view
The 5.7 JHP doesn’t expand, at least at pistol velocity.


The Five-seveN pistol is a light handgun but stable when firing for accuracy. A competent handgunner may make life hard for coyote well past 50 yards. I would say an accomplished handgunner might connect with the mangy dogs at 100 yards. Recoil isn’t a consideration; the trigger is good, and the sights adequate. Firing off of the benchrest for accuracy at 25 yards and pressing the rather nice trigger for a five shot group, results were excellent.

The Federal American Eagle loading will group five shots into less than two inches and the FN 40-grain V Max load is almost as accurate—1.8 inches for the Federal load versus 2.0 inches for the FN loading. Perhaps, with more time, I might do a little better, but this is encouraging. Again, I am perhaps off the deep end but this pistol, designed for tactical use, strikes me as a fine varmint gun.

For anyone needing a personal defense cartridge with light recoil fired from a proven accurate and reliable platform, the Five Seven Pistol and the 5.7 x 28mm cartridge are attractive. The pistol’s safety location and size work against concealed carry, and this isn’t the best choice. For home or area defense, the pistol has more merit.

expanded bullets
These are expanded V Max loads.

As for wound ballistics the cartridge has greater power than the .22 Magnum. The .22 Magnum isn’t enough for personal defense. What was NATO thinking? They were thinking they needed a cartridge that would penetrate body armor and which would be controllable from a PDW spitting out a dozen rounds with a single touch of the trigger. It is much easier to use a short firearm and get a squirt into the target that it is to make a single hit with a 9mm pistol.

If for any reason you cannot handle the 9mm, the 5.7 x 28 is an alternative. It is flat shooting, accurate, and a joy to fire. I think the majority of users who purchase the Five-seveN pistol and its unique ammunition will find the combination a pleasure to use and fire, plink, and target shoot with. Few will find a practical application that isn’t covered better by another handgun. But do not sell the Five-seveN short; as a disaster gun it has much merit.

My spouse has difficulty firing a powerful handgun for several reasons, and I would like for her to have something larger than a .380 ACP and more useful. She is able to pepper a target—or multiple targets—quickly with the Five-seveN. Another good point, even with FMJ loads, the caliber isn’t overly penetrative in the home. We may be on to something.


The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog. "The Shooter's Log", is to provide information - not opinions - to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decicions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (25)

  1. 22 TCM is a product from ARMSCOR. They offer single and double stack 1911 pistols as well as adapters kits for Glock pistols and a bolt action rifle. Their 22 TCM round is a shortened .223 case bottle neck that runs 2000 fps from 5 inch barrel with the felt recoil of a 22 LR.
    Youtube has several videos of its performance Last month at the local range, two people tried a few rounds down range and went out and asked about buying one right there. It is fun on the range and explodes small vermin.

  2. Wish more companies made the rounds…Federal is the only one…they make the FN ammo as well if I heard/read correctly…might bring the price of shooting these things down.

    1. Right now only FNH, hornady as I understand, and Federal make the round. The federal rounds are a little cheaper but have a lower FPS, for the price difference I will stay with the FNH version. The price of the rounds isn’t too bad, less than 5.56, at $20-$27 per 50count box. I have a AR-5.7, 50 round p90mag, that I have paired with the pistol.

  3. Having owned a 5,7×28 mm pistol for several years. I love it. I can carry it concealed and it will not print. No problem finding Ammo at all. Lost count on rounds fired after about 2000. One important thing. Have never had a miss fire or jammed up weapon. 25 to 100 Yards not a problem. Past a 100 Yards requires a bench rest. This weapons loves to be kept clean, and thrives on Lucas Gun Oil. In a self defense position? I would be hard pressed to use another weapon. You can run but you are not fast enough to our run this bad boy.

    1. Have you tried the AR-5.7 yet? AR-15 lower P90 mag closed bolt and the mag well is now you ejection port.

    2. Hey Riker, I will carry nothing but my 5.7. For a carry piece, i concider ease of handling, number of rounds and overall accuracy. My Sig MK25 fits my hand a little better. But the light weight and ease of handling puts the rounds on target. As a PDW, I find it comforting to carry in a CQC event. With this weapon, suppressive fire can give one extra time to X-fil. Longer range engagement is another option to actually shooting someone. The best handgun available today for PDW. Postive in the area of over penetration as well.

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