Is the FN Herstal Five-seveN 5.7x28mm Pistol Suitable for Civilians?

Black Five-seveN USG Pistol and black cartridge leaning against a black keyboard on a gray-to-white background

The FN Herstal Five-seveN pistol has been in the news quite a bit lately, so we wanted to do a factual—and honest—review of the pistol.   Black FN Five-seveN and magazine on a white-to-gray backgroundWhen it was released in 1998, the Five-seveN pistol was marketed as a companion firearm for the P90 submachine gun, which fires the same round. Both are designed around the 5.7×28 cartridge, which has a lower weight than standard intermediate rifle cartridges allowing soldiers to carry more ammunition.

However, the Five-seveN pistol has been controversial since it’s debut: Detractors derided it, calling it high-powered and unsuitable for civilian ownership.

In 2004, the Brady Campaign claimed that commercial ammunition available for the firearm penetrated level IIa Kevlar ballistic vests. In their attacks on the pistol, they called it a “cop-killer.” Investigation by the ATF found no commercially available ammunition fired out of the Five-seveN pistol was capable of defeating ballistic armor.

Even more recently, the pistol was allegedly used by U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan when he opened fire on personnel at Fort Hood in Texas. Again, the pistol was called a “high-caliber cop-killer” and even the Austin American Statesmen said, “One military expert commented it was a weapon that no doctor—not even a military one—would normally carry.” The newspaper was unable to provide a source for the comment and did not have an exact quote.

The actual Five-seveN Tactical pistol weighs in at 1 pound 4.5 ounces empty and 1 pound 11.6 ounces fully loaded. Indeed, one of the primary advantages of the Five-seveN pistol is it’s light weight. This, combined with the low recoil and muzzle rise, makes the pistol very easy to fire and keep on target.

5.7x28 and .22 Magnum comparisonThe 5.7×28 cartridge was initially developed as a low-weight, high-velocity round with an AP (armor penetrating) steel core bullet. Designers of the 5.7mm cartridge wanted a powerful round that was light weight so soldiers could carry more ammunition. The solution was the 5.7x28mm cartridge loaded with SS190 bullets.

SS190 bullets are not available for sale to the public, and are heavily restricted due to their armor piercing capability. Instead, SS195LF (28-grain lead free hollow point) and SS197SR (40-grain ballistic tip hollow point) are the only ammunition available for purchase.

It is frequently, and incorrectly, reported that the 5.7×28 is an extremely powerful round. In fact, the 5.7 is a relatively weak round, carrying less energy than the 9mm ammunition frequently carried by police and used by our own military in the standard issue M9 pistol.

On April 2nd, 2009, the Los Angeles Daily News reported on a shooting involving a Five-seveN pistol and  commented, “Authorities have noticed an increase in high-caliber weapons in Los Angeles. One of the most startling incidents was when a Fabrique National 5.7, an assault pistol used to kill big game…” They went on to quote LAPD Deputy Chief Michel Moore who said about the pistol, “You use it on large lions, tigers and bears.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

The 5.7×28 cartridge is not appropriate for use on anything except small game, such as squirrels and rabbits. Indeed, the ballistic performance of the 5.7×28 cartridge is remarkably similar to the .22 Magnum round. The table below gives a side by side comparison between various 5.7 loads and .22 magnum loads.

Edited: The following data was gathered from cartridges fired from a 16-inch barrel. Actual muzzle velocities in autoloading handguns are lower.

Cartridge Weight Muzzle Velocity Muzzle Energy
5.7×28 SS190 AP FMJ 32-gr (2.1 grams) 2,350 ft/s (716 m/s) 397 ft·lb (538 Joules)
.22 Magnum HP 30-gr (1.9 grams) 2,200 ft/s (670 m/s) 322 ft·lb (437 Joules)
5.7×28 SS197SR JHP 40-gr (2.6 grams) 1,950 ft/s (594 m/s) 340 ft·lb (461 Joules)
.22 Magnum JHP 40-gr (2.6 grams) 1,910 ft/s (580 m/s) 324 ft·lb (439 Joules)

So, if the 5.7×28 is such a weak round, how is the SS190 AP ammunition capable of defeating ballistic armor? The answer is the high velocity at which it travels, combined with the steel penetrator at it’s core. Most bullets, including 5.7mm ammunition available to the public, have a lead core. Lead deforms significantly when it impacts a ballistic vest, spreading out the force of the impact and preventing the bullet from penetrating the multiple layers of fabric. SS190 ammunition, only available to police and military, has a steel penetrator that, when fired at the high velocity of the 5.7×28 cartridge, is capable of cutting through kevlar vests because it does not deform as lead does.

Pictured below is the Five-seveN USG pistol, one of the later variants featuring a tactical rail and single-action trigger.

What have you heard about the Five-seveN? Good? Bad? Cop-killer? Great Pistol? Share in the comment section.


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 (119)

  1. The comparison to the .22 WMR needs a HUGE caveat – they are similar when compare in the platforms they are designed for!


    The 5.7mm round delivers that performance out of a 4.5″ barrel – for a .22 WMR to max out at the stats listed, it must be fired from a rifle-length barrel. The KelTec PMR30 fires a .22 WMR from a similar barrel length and lists expected velocity at 1230 fps – barely supersonic, for ~135 ft-lbs of muzzle energy. 1/3 of that in the 5.7mm.

    Effectively, the 5.7mm FN pistol puts the equivalent of a souped-up wildcat .22 WMR varmint rifle (that hits 20% harder than the standard WMR) on your hip.

    1. Hi. I realize that this is an old post, but I have a question. I don’t know if this will reach the person who said that there is a caveat with the comparison between the 5.7 and . 22 mag, but… There is an edit at the top of the ballistic comparison chart which states that all data was compiled from rounds fired from a 16″ barrel. Are you saying that that info is incorrect, or that the 5.7 achieves essentially the same velocity when fired from both 4.5″ barrels and 16″ barrels (which is, in theory, possible – depending on how much barrel it takes for the 5.7 to burn it’s full powder charge). It sounds as if you have experience with this particular round, and because I have none, I was hoping for your input, because I’m considering purchasing one.

  2. I have owned my Five seveN pistol for almost 2 years now and have become a HUGE fan since purchasing the firearm! It is everything good you’ve heard and more, NO BULL$#!T. Lightweight, high capacity magazine, accurate, low recoil, low muzzle jump, rocket fast ballistics, hard hitting energy, and the ability to add accessories… what else could you possibly ask for?… except the price! It’s not cheap but it’s good and I’ve learned over the years that ninety nine percent of the time, if it’s good it ain’t cheap and if it’s cheap, it ain’t good… like tattoos! I’ve carried it every day since purchasing it and even carry the pistol as a hunting sidearm. Although it’s not my primary hunting weapon, I’ve managed to kill several whitetail deer and a wild boar with it. As a companion to the pistol, I also purchased a FAB Defense, K.P.O.S. carbine conversion kit that allows you to non-permanently attach the unit to the lower accessory rail of the pistol and effectively turn your ultimate handgun into a sub compact carbine with a folding stock and accessory rail similar to an UZI or an MP7. Since I went with the Insight M6X light and laser on the accessory rail, and it’s now my EDC weapon, I wanted to be able to holster my weapon without removing the tactical light. Raven Concealment custom makes OWB holsters in Kydex with just about every modern pistol/light combo imaginable based upon their customer’s needs. Again, a little pricey but well worth the high quality product I received! The FN Five seveN is by far and away my favorite firearm to date and if you’d like to see more, go to FaceBook and find the page I created called “FN Five seveN Owners Club” and ask to join. There is a ton of information and pictures available there as well as members and other owners who will gladly answer any questions you may have about this outstanding weapon. Hope to see you there soon and enjoy shooting!

  3. Man there’s so much hope for this country yet. A sigh of relief to hear and see men like myself having honest conversation about things. Maybe it’s because I am AA. May because I’m born in raised in northwestern Pennsylvania.
    I enjoy my rights I enjoy my firearms. I enjoy training. Whether recreational or law enforcement. Was a deputy for a year. Don’t know how you guys truly feel but its just nice to visit a forum without men being racial or hardline or putting each other down.
    I know this has nothing to do with nothing but I’m a buy next weapon from this site.
    I was interested in what ppl had to say about a 5.7 round chambered semi. And you guys are talking about current events without bullying , without put downs, with out being racial one way or another. Maybe it’s the beer in me maybe not just very refreshing.

Leave a Reply to Casey Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit exceeded. Please click the reload button and complete the captcha once again.

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.