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.


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Comments (119)

  1. I became an ardent believer in the Bullpup configuration some years ago after aquiring my first AUG. When the P90 became available I added it to my growing collection of Pups. It was a logical step to aquire the FN 57 chambered in the same 5.7×28 round. I’ve since added a Model 25 Savage bolt gun in 5.7 for varmit and small game.
    As noted in the artical the 5.7×28 and the .22 Mag have similar ballistics. It is worthy of note the 5.7 and .17HMR’s ballistics are an even closer match.
    I primatally us the Savage 93 in .17HMR for varmit hunting and on the several occasions that I’ve had the Mod 25 and Mod 93 side by side I have noted how simular they are within the 125 meter envelope. The 5.7 does seem to have the range advantage beyond 125 meters.
    I don’t disagree with the majority of the commenters who have commented here.
    I would however like to point out that our rights were not God give or even guaranteed by him. They were made by men. As such it is incumbent on us that if we wish to maintain them and continue to have them available to us in support of our nation and freedom that we are vigilant and active in the process for determining our governing body.
    Just being a cheer leader, and sounding off in ones comments isn’t enough. If you want to keep you Rights you must commit to being one of the “We the People”. God won’t take away or change these Right but if we aren’t vigilant and remain involved with the process Man just might.
    Merry Christmas and a good New Year to you all. May the joy of still living in a Free nation not be lost to us.

  2. The answer to the question posed by the article is YES, OBVIOUSLY. All weapons that can be wielded without causing undue danger or harm to innocent third parties (this rules out artillery, nerve gas, etc.) are perfectly suitable and desirable for possession by civilians. (By the way, domestic police are also civilians, though they like to pretend they’re military.)

    The whole point of the Second Amendment is to ensure that the general population maintains the capability to defend its rights against ANYONE who would take them away. Today, in the age of nuclear deterrence, the only force that can possibly threaten American freedom is domestic government in the US. Indeed, government enforcers scoff at our rights and are brainwashed to believe that government “authority,” rather than justice, is the basis of right.

    With the US government’s massive standing army — something our Founders warned against — the Second Amendment is more relevant than ever. With the aforementioned exceptions, NO weapon or ammo should be off-limits to Americans. Pistols with AP ammo should be readily available to all Americans of sound mind and non-predatory character.

    1. Along this line of readily available to all Americans of sound mind and non-predatory character…I agree. But how does ones government determine that? We need background checks and training for all gun owners…yes that sounds police state to some but how else do insure your fellow countrymen know your the type of person that should have a loaded gun. Don’t think this is just trolling…because with a national background check and mandated training I would think all firearms should be open to everyone that qualifies. Meaning if I want a tank, I should pass a background check, get proper training and maybe specify where I plan to shoot the ordnance so no three letter agency comes knocking…and then they let me buy a tank and ammo for it…simple. 🙂

  3. Thank you to all our veterans. Because of them we are free, yes alot of veterans return with scars both visible and invisible but the masses have less to fear from our veterans then others yes we are trained in weapons and tactics but so are civilians who pay money to recieve training because there afraid of zombies personally i want the person who is ” hyper vigilant ” to have a weapon if they were good enough to carry a weapon while deployed in defense of our country there good enough to carry a weapon and have my and my familys back once again thank you to all those who have served “families sleap peacefully in there beds because rough men stand ready to do violence on there behalf”

    1. First of all, Americans are NOT free. Government in the US does not respect any human rights at home or abroad. Every single part of the Bill of Rights is violated at the federal, state, and local levels each day by the police — backed up by “our” military, which stands ready to turn its weapons against the American people as soon as the order is given. It has done so many times in the past. So much for that oath to protect the Constitution, eh? The Constitution is dead.

      Also, why are you thanking veterans when you are a veteran yourself? And why should I thank veterans of any war fought since WWII? Whom did they fight who was a threat to me? Were the VC or the Taliban going to invade Iowa and take over the Wal-Marts and Best Buys? Gimme a break. I don’t sleep peacefully in my bed at night, and the reason is because America has turned into a police state, thanks to the “War on Terror,” the “War on Drugs,” and all who contribute to these anti-American abominations.

  4. A 5.7 doesn’t even compare to say a m92 PAP. A pistol that uses the 7.62×39 cartridge and 30 round magazines or bigger. However is it a public health issue? Absolutely not, very few people are injured or killed with either weapon. The fact of the matter is that gun free zones are public health hazards.

  5. Regarding the comments of Eddie Mark I would be more concerned with his aberrant thoughts regarding Vets. and LEOs; iIll-directed and without warrant. It is not Vets and LEOs we have to worry about. It is the prevailing and growing sentiment of liberalism that is the most corrosive element in the country. We are being sold out by those who are supposed to represent us. Or, perhaps, we ourselves are the most dangerous component of this equation. Case in point: Obama was elected twice. How could this have happened? The country is going Marxist-Socialist. Ignorance reigns.

    Course of action: Maintain your reason, be prepared (equip and train thoroughly), determine to live peaceably with those around you, but, be willing to act if necessary.

    1. The whole “liberal vs conservative” model of the US political cesspool is a tactic used by the ruling oligarchy to divide and conquer the American people. Both mainstream political parties are playing for the same team.

      Let’s suppose, however, that your concerns about “liberals” are accurate. The only reason that would be of any concern is that those liberals push for laws that are enforced by — get ready for it — LAW ENFORCEMENT. And the military backs up the police. Both varieties of jackbooted thugs are paid to use force and the threat of force to make you obey the politicians and their corporate masters.

    2. Oh woe is us. Who will we blame all our problems on when President Obama is gone?

      I seem to recall that we had a problems by the bushel under Bushwhacker I and Bushwhacker II damn near bankrupted the nation.

      But for now we have a whipping boy for every ill. Who are you going to blame next?

    3. Well, in this case I don’t believe the issue is explicitly one of Bush vs. Obama. Bush, you say doubled the national debt? By any stretch of the imagination or fuzzy math this is an incomprehensible statement. Let’s see? Fact #1: since the “beginning” through the end of the Bush (the younger) administration we had an accumulated national debt of nearly $9 trillion. Fact #2: from the beginning of the Obama administration through his seventh year the national debt has more than doubled. As it has been said, you are entitled to your own opinions but you are not entitled to your own “facts”. Reality, my friend, speaks for itself.

      Now for a dose of reality. What we need are citizens who genuinely strive for objectivity and honesty. Bush, in my opinion, was a big spender. Way beyond my comfort level. That is an objective recognition, coupled with my opinion, of the facts. Would, or could, you say the same about Obama? This could be the basis for starting an honest conversation. Wasn’t it Obama who said that Bush was irresponsible and unpatriotic for spending so much? I have the 2007 campaign video or you can just seek it out on Youtube. If an honest acknowledgement of this fact seems to be a put-off then please do not respond.

      There are probably a number of points that we could agree upon, but, without an initial gesture of objective understanding we really have no place to “go”.

  6. I think it is a great supersonic pistol because of accuracy and magazine capacity. You can can 20, 25 and 30 round magazines. I think that armor piercing rounds for it should be made available to the public with a background check and private sales restricted. I’d like to point out there is no such thing as a cop killer bullet. Only cop killing people. I’d also like to remind people of the two bank robbers in California in the 90’s that wore full body armor wielding ak-47s. Also what if Isis decided to armor up and do a mall massacre to ensure they lived longer and got a proper body count. Should we not have available to us the firepower to properly defend against such an attack. I have ap rounds for my. 308 but I won’t have my rifle with me standing in line so my daughter gets her pic taken with Santa. I am not a cop killer and my personal defense should not me reduced because cop killers exist. Body armor is available to the public and then so should the means to help negate its effects if used by a criminal or terrorist. Is 9mm gurza available to the public? Just curious if anyone knows. That’s my 2 cents.

  7. Shoot the 5.7 in ballistic gel and then a.45 acp and you will quit carrying the 5.7 round for conceal carry. It has such low energy transfer I wouldn’t use it to protect my life.

  8. I own two of the 5.7 pistols, and a ps90. Have been incredibly reliable firearms, and such that, i have made them my carry weapon of choice. I keep the ps90 in my truck for active shooter scenarios. Very well made, reliable firearms, and knowing that the penetrating power is there, its peace of mind.

  9. I just wanted to know more about the 5.7×28 SS197SR JHP 40-gr (2.6 grams) 1,950 ft/s (594 m/s) 340 ft·lb (461 Joules). I know that alot of people are concern about terrorist and mentally ill veterans that got out of the Army killing people, but what about the cops that kill unarmed civilians in this country? We are not safe from either one because there are too many policeman and policewoman that think they can kill us for no reason. I pray to God that we never lose the right to defend ourselves in our very own homes. They use the perpetrators of the streets to do their dirty work, and we live in fever, just because they worry about native citizens owning weapons. I hope that I don’t sound too paranoid, but this is just the way I feel about some of our law enforcement. May God bring peace to this world once again.

    1. You aren’t being paranoid. The police aren’t paid to serve the public, though the Powers That Be like to pretend as much. The police (and the military) are paid to make you OBEY those who make the laws — politicians and lobbyists. These enforcers are all too happy to do this, just as enforcers have been since time immemorial. Why? For the money, the benefits, and especially the cheap sense of power that comes from being associated with a large gang. American police and military have NEVER defended the freedom of Americans. They’re there to TAKE our freedom by enforcing taxation without representation and literally thousands of other unjust laws and regulations that criminalize victimless offenses.

    2. One more point, my friend: We can’t lose the right to defend ourselves unless we give it up. Each of us has to die someday — nothing can stop that. Whether it’s from cancer or a government thug’s bullet, it’s inevitable. But no one can ever take your freedom — your defiant state of mind that respects JUSTICE rather than “law” or “authority” — unless you let them.

      If anyone ever demands your weapons, be sure that all your other rights are next. That’s when there’s no longer any point in living, and it’s time to take some of the bastards with you.

    3. 50CalAl. You could not be more spot on. I Thank God that there are still intelligent citizens like you in this country though they are few and far between. keep that strong mind and convictions about our oppresive control thirsty government. I love and miss what this country used to be. Can’t stand what our government and country has become! God bless all who are like minded and keep your guns and rights close because believe me no matter how they try to word it or justify it they want to take them ALL

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