FNX-9 9x19mm Pistol
By David Tong
The most recent development in pistols manufactured by the storied company Fabrique Nationale d’armes de Guerre, of Herstal, Belgium is the “X-Series” of the end of the first decade of the 21st Century.
The FNX replaced their first effort to build a plastic-framed pistol, the FNP. It differs from the earlier piece in that the FNX has fully-ambidextrous controls (safety-decocking lever, slide stop, magazine release), what appears to be an M1913 Picatinny rail system for accessory mounting and a magazine that holds 17 (rather than 16) 9x19mm cartridges. The basic FNX is also available in .40 and .45 ACP calibers.
In addition, the size and construction of the safety has changed from a smallish piece of folded sheet metal to a larger part made of molded plastic over a steel base. This is nearly identical in both form and function to the H&K Variant 1 USP pistol, which affords both Condition One “cocked and locked,” or a double-action first shot. Either mode can be used with the safety engaged. This lever is up for “safe” and swept downward one click for “fire.” Continued downward pressure, past fire, decocks the pistol.
The magazine also differs. The earlier FNP magazine has a deeper plastic floorplate that fits into an angle-cut magazine tube, while the FNX uses a more conventional, thinner base that parallels the barrel. The two magazines are not interchangeable, because the magazine latch cuts are different, although the tube’s dimensions are the same.
The operating system and method of construction are conventional fare. It is a typical Browning style short recoil, tilting barrel action with locking abutments at the top rear edge of the ejection port and a leading edge area of the breech end of the barrel. Unlocking is accomplished via an angled ramp that engages the barrel’s underlug upon recoil.
The plastic frame and trigger components are also 21st Century “normal.” Mostly comprised of stamped sheet metal and MIM parts, the trigger’s internal double draw bar ensures an even action stroke when fired either double or single action. The MIM produced hammer strikes the firing pin after the action depresses the pin’s coil sprung lock. The resultant trigger in single-action mode weighs approximately six pounds and reset distance is approximately 1/8,” fairly short by today’s standards. This is a decent effort to produce a system that is amenable to rapid fire.
Finally, the FNX has an interchangeable backstrap system with three increasing size inserts. These are attached to the rear of the receiver via a small, molded-in plastic tab and simply slide into place over a dual dovetail system. More on this later.
Here are some basic FNX-9 specifications:
The butt has an ergonomic shape. For such a large mag capacity, the front strap possesses a more pronounced curve than most other designs, which feel like slightly rounded rectangles. The grip angle is the popular 110-degree type, used by the 1911, the Beretta M9, H&K USP, CZ-75 and SiG-Sauer P-Series. For those of us used to that grip angle, this means that the sights come up easily with a natural wrist angle. The area behind the trigger is beveled to help shorten the reach to the trigger, similar to the “A1” 1911 and the CZ-75.
I like the overall size and shape of the pistol. The front of the slide and frame are narrow and beveled, easing re-holstering. The butt is commendably short, considering the 17 round magazine. The pistol is nearly as small as a Glock 19, while having the same magazine capacity as a G17.
The frame’s slide rails are thin in cross section, yet are longer than a Glock’s, for more extensive slide support. Their thin section should allow them to act as “crud cutters,” as well as allow the pistol to be used without lubrication. They are also replaceable in case of wear. The frame has a smooth area for the shooter’s hand’s web between thumb and forefinger. This allows for a snag-free grasp during a rapid presentation from a holster. The remaining molded-in checkering allows for a solid grip without being too aggressive.
The trigger has an open radius curve that makes reaching and manipulating it easier than just about all of the DA/SA pistols on the market. It also has a smooth face, which aids in using the pistol in DA carry mode.
The captive recoil spring system appears the same as a Glock, in that the “coils” are flat in section, but it differs from that design in that the guide rod is made of steel, which should add a skosh of weight forward for aiming steadiness with such a light pistol.
The sights are the nearly ubiquitous fixed three-dot type, with plenty of light in the rear "V" notch around the front blade. As a result, they are fast to acquire.
Finally, unlike a lot of other designs, the magazines are fairly easy to load to full capacity without the use of a loading tool, even though they have pretty stout springs. Witness holes on the rear spine confirm load status.
One ergonomic demerit is the thickness of the butt near the safety levers and the position of those levers is uncomfortably placed too low. I have relatively thin hands, but with my high handhold, I found the thick levers and frame to be a tad uncomfortable for the base of my thumb.
Another annoyance is the method of retention of the backstrap inserts. On the pistol I examined, the very small molded in plastic “spring” latch that retains the inserts doesn’t work. Merely racking the slide back to inspect the chamber moves the insert downward from its seat. There is a tiny hole in the back of each insert, which allows a small tool to depress the frame’s latch, but merely sliding the part down allowed it to be inadvertently removed. This latch does not appear to be easy to replace, so if it broke off or failed, one would probably have to return the pistol to FN’s factory in Virginia to replace the frame. A better solution would be to cross pin the part, although the S&W M&P pistol’s frame extension, with its 90-degree twist lock, is the best design I’ve seen so far for tool-less removal.
I also noticed a sporadic issue with the safety’s function. When the pistol has been loaded and placed on safe, occasionally when pressing the safety lever down to the fire position, the trigger in single-action mode would not operate and required two presses to drop the hammer. Not good.
As a result of these issues, I did not shoot the pistol for accuracy. Hopefully, FN can come up with solutions after I discuss the problems with them and later I can write a follow-up review of the FNX-9. Its combination of selective trigger carry modes, decent ergonomic package, big magazine capacity and handy size should endear it to shooters who like FN products.
Copyright 2011, 2013 by David Tong and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.